7 Mantras for HR Professionals

28 March 2017, Posted by Rajan Kalia

I am sure that there is no single way to do things. There are many ways and you find your own path by walking on the roads you deem fit or make one yourself. I am sharing the road I have travelled and sometimes these reflections might help you on your road or the road you want to take. Maybe some learnings from here will help you find a new road.

Start by going into depth: I learnt this early in my career. One of the ways to become Head of HR is to start by picking up your area of interest and start going into its depth. Start by looking at the origination of the term itself. Find out how this science started or how this came about. For example if you are interested in compensation, start by understanding how first structured compensation came into play, how was it used, who used it, what was the purpose of structuring it, what were some of the problems faced early on and how were they resolved. This helps you whenever someone wants you to share your views on these topics. When problems are posed to you, you can look at it from the frames it has been looked at earlier and also look at current context. Apply all the learnings and come up with a new, fresh solution. The deeper you go the better your foundations will be. There should be at least two areas where you should build a deep knowledge in HR to the extent you can write about them and can hold on your own with the Best in the field. Rest of the areas you should know enough about but may not be in the ultimate depth. Know much more than other functional heads and sufficient to raise doubts essential for success.

Get to work in different areas every 2- 3 years: It is sufficient to get exposure in one area of HR for anywhere between 2-3 years. You should learn for one year, implement the next and see the results next and learn enough from them to tweak things. You should try to get the opportunity to move within your organization and if you believe that the organization is not able to rotate you, you should ask for it. If you see not headway there, move to a place which gives you the same. Moving every 3 years gives you enough learning and make you hone the skill, you may not be a master yet but you are getting exposure to variety of things. You will be able to figure out where does your interest lie and which area you want to build your expertise in.

Learn the Business: Work as an HR Business Partner in that area of business which touches the customer on a daily basis. You will get to know the business up, close and personal. There is no better shortcut than to learn business this way. If possible, try to do the role of the front line person for couple of days, you will quickly learn the ropes and also understand what motivates people. Try and do it once every year, if you cannot do the role, try and sit with your frontline employees once a year and listen to them. Do nothing but listen; their stories will guide you to develop the most insightful HR policies and interventions. These will directly improve the business and you can really play a major role in revenue enhancement, customer satisfaction and cost regulation. Once you have learnt these things, try and distill the business vectors and see which are the ones impacting topline or bottom-line. Those are the only two lines any CEO/Business Manager really cares about; your insights will align the HR policies and these lines beautifully.

Build Allies: This is easy said than done, business only respects you if you can add value. No value add, no respect. Most often HR is seen as a road blocker, value destroyer and the department saying “No” most of the times. You can overcome this by spending more time with your customer, both internal and external. Once you spend time with your internal customer, you will be able to empathize. Your empathy will lead to better acknowledgement and recognition of their problems and hence faster resolution of issues.

You need strong allies in management teams to second your proposals/changes and views, without those you are not going to create any impact either in your domain, with employees or with management.

Create a team of Ayes and Nays: Build a team which is smarter than you but still respects and listens to you. Your team should have people who challenge your view points and shares perspectives different than yours and you should have people who like your perspective and argue for it. This team will give you enough balance to do the right thing in all trying situations and yet be committed to the final call you would have taken. Invest in this team, give them time to listen to their personal issues, remove roadblocks for them from business and from other team mates. Help them to be successful, they will remember you for life and will be willing to work in your team anytime.

Constantly raise your bar: Before the business comes and raises the bar on your team, raise it yourself, share with business before they ask you, things you would like to do and contribute to the bottom-line. Build capabilities in your team to delight the customer always, your team members should be customer oriented. The ones, who do not understand that HR is a customer service department, make them understand or change them. Old HR order has to give way to new one which helps the employees to be more capable, helps them to perform better and makes them employable for future and not give them skills for today. Build a team of people who are never satisfied with their work and want to up it the very next day, not next year.


Still be a softie: People still expect the HR department to be someone who will listen to them, empathize, fight for their cause and make sure that fairness prevails. You have to be their Union leader with the management and make sure that you ask for things which they have yet not thought through and be one step ahead in understanding the undercurrent and emotional aspect of employees. Sometime even they will not understand it themselves. Be able to understand it.

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