Article (July-2016)


Mastering one's destiny through self-belief

Niharika Mohan

Designation : -   HR Director

Organization : -  India & South Asia, Schneider Electric, Gurgaon


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It would not be an exaggeration if I said that my small town upbringing instilled in me very early on that nothing works like hard work. I grew up in Jalandhar in a very close knit family and it was here that I learnt the values that decades later helped me follow my professional dreams in Delhi, which although is bustling at the seams can also make you an anonymous entity.
There is no substitute for disiplined work just as there are no shortcuts in life, this has always been my mantra. Work smartly, walk the extra mile, contribute, take risks and the results inevitably follow. With this belief etched strongly, I have relentlessly pursued my goals and hope that whatever success I have achieved until now, is just the tip of the iceberg. 

Pushing the Boundaries
In every endeavour, I believe one must constantly push boundaries, while keeping the big picture in mind. It is also equally important to continue exploring new domains, value adding, developing insights, contributing to boost business and simultaneously improve the working lives of people. 

After finishing my school from Jalandhar, I moved to Delhi University (DU), doing BA Honours in Psychology from Lady Sri Ram College. By 2000, I had gone a step further and completed my Masters (MA) in Psychology, also from DU. During the final years it became clear to me that human psychology was my forte and by extension the domain of Human Resources, since I was passionate about people and intrigued by simple human behaviour.

It was a field that was increasingly becoming relevant in modern corporate life and if managed well, Human Resources has now come out of the shadows or rather small rooms in back offices to have an immense impact on business outcomes. The right man/woman in the right position can make the difference between success and failure. 

Before graduating I got a break in GSK (Glaxo SmithKline Beecham) as an Organizational Behaviourist Trainee. Working there between June 1999 and May 2000, I was determined to leave an impression on my first workplace. Research on a new concept and developing a psychological tool to assess emotional intelligence of senior managerial staff was  I hope a decent initiation into the field. These formative years will always stay relevant for me since they served as a preparatory ground where I learnt the ropes about HR. 

Thereafter, I moved to the software industry, working with Tata Consultancy Services for five years as HR Business Partner (August 2000-March 2005), gathering experience in the multiple facets of HR. This was the place where I got my hands dirty and exposed myself to the different domains in HR. But most people thrive on new challenges and since I am no exception, I then moved to Compensation and Benefits, working as Consultant (April 2005-April 2008) with Hewitt Associates. For me, it was a paradigm shift, from line to consulting but something I took on eagerly.

In today's constantly evolving world, to keep learning is a necessity and it was no different for me.  In April 2008, I joined the global MNC, Schneider Electric to establish the Rewards Solution team. This was a personal milestone for me since I was responsible for setting up the function and the next five years were spent stabilizing the division. 

But perhaps the turning point came when feeling the need to make a bigger impact on business I moved out of the Rewards team to take up a business partnering role. Such opportunities and flexibility are a big part of the benefits of working at Schneider Electric, here employees are not constrained within a single role if they have the talent along with the right attitude and are free to move into other domains in Schneider Electric offices.

These days I hold dual portfolios. As a member of the India HR Leadership team, I shoulder the twin responsibility as HR Head for Schneider Electric's Sales & Sales Excellence Business Units for India, Sri Lanka & Bangladesh, and also spearhead Schneider Electric's Diversity Initiative - a key global strategic priority. Given the range of Schneider's products and services, Sales is naturally a pivotal function. 

This yearning for new summits to scale, highlights my broad spectrum of experience in diverse HR practices over 17 years, which includes Organizational Design and Restructuring, M&A Integration, Compensation & Benefits, Change & Talent Management, and Diversity & Inclusion.

Addressing HR Challenges
The role of HR has today become pivotal in all big organisations. Fast paced economic environment, sifting talent in the market makes it imperative for the HR professionals to constantly re engineer themselves to provide solutions to the business which supports their needs. Some of the key HR challenges these days across organisations are :

  • Leadership Development and Succession Pipeline: Building and developing leaders for tomorrow and ensuring that the succession readiness is rightly assessed is one of the most crucial deliverables of an HR professional. This transcends the HR function to being the real strategic partner to business.
  • Engaging a workforce which is multicultural, multi lingual and multi generational. To provide policies, practices which are relevant to that sub population is the key along with ensuring all sections of employees are engaged and  work in unison (leveraging their respective strengths) for the common cause i.e the success of the organisation.
  • Measuring HR effectiveness and providing cost effective solutions: At a time where every dollar counts, to provide solutions which are cost effective and still efficient is a key challenge. Remarks regarding the role of HR in the board room can once and for all be put to rest when we can show HR metrics which directly impact business.
  • The last one which I will dwell on a little deeper ( its also an area of passion for me ) is  gender balance. It's a much talked about issue these days and a perennial problem for HR teams in traditionally-patriarchal nations, including India. While an equal number of women graduate from college there is a sharp decrease in the talent pipeline especially at the mid management level. Although women continue to juggle between work and home, organisations are increasing ensuring that they provide an ecosystem which is flexible and conducive to the women employees. Development programs which augment the leadership abilities of working women are a common practice across organisations. When so much is being done for us, we as women have an equal responsibility at hand to also contribute our bit and not misuse these benefits.

And here I would like to reiterate to all women whether they are juggling or just struggling to stay alive in this rat race, continue being ambitious, have belief in yourself and carve your own destiny. What also helps is to get your support structure in place, have a mentor/sponsor at workplace, seek help, and let go of the desire to be a perfectionist in all your tasks. Instead leverage your own personal leadership style and enhance your skills at periodic intervals. 

Speaking for myself, where my professional career is concerned, I believe there are higher peaks, more milestones and bigger challenges to be conquered in the years ahead. As Robert Frost once wrote, "The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep".