Vara Prasad Jayanthi is a seasoned HR professional with 15 years’ experience in the Information Technology/ General and Life Insurance industries. Presently, he is working with Careator Technologies Pvt. Ltd. as a Senior Manager HR & Talent Acquisition. Previously, he has worked at Star Union Dai-ichi Life Insurance Co. Ltd., Bengaluru as a Zonal HR Manager – Business Partner. Earlier, he has worked with SBI Life Insurance Co. Ltd. and IFFCO-TOKIO General Insurance Co. Ltd. He is an active member of the National HRD network (NHRD)  and the National Institute of Personnel Management (NIPM).

Sanjeev Himachali had an exclusive discussion with Vara Prasad Jayanthi, the excerpts of which are the following. 

Q. What do you reckon as the core competencies that an HR Manager should possess?

Ans: The core competencies that an HR Manager should possess are:-

i. Performance/ Hard Skills:

  1. HR Domain Knowledge
  2. Understanding the line of Business & Industry – Context
  3. Knowledge of Market Intelligence
  4. Strategic Thinking
  5. Living Company Values

ii. Behavioral/ Soft Skills:

  1. Result Oriented
  2. Effective Communication Skills and Good Team Player
  3. Being Proactive and Confident
  4. Ability to deal with uncertainty
  5. Maintaining the culture of the organization

Q. What is the most challenging aspect of HR? How do you handle this?

Following are the most challenging aspect of HR in today’s circumstances and following are the ways to handle:i

i. Talent Acquisition

  1. Need to understand the line of business/ Company requirements first.
  2. What kind of people are you looking for, with what background/ competencies will help your Company to grow further.
  3. Hiring the candidates who will fit into the respective roles.
  4. The absence of manpower is equal to losing a business opportunity.
  5. You need to constantly scout for people for all your open positions and anticipate vacancies due to non-performance/ behavioral issues, etc.,
  6. Reach out to social media, job portals, employee referrals, self-source, company careers section, database, etc., as a medium for recruiting candidates.
  7. Placement agencies must be the last option. Approach them only when you need manpower on urgent, niche or immediate requirement.
  8. Talent Acquisition should be open for all 365 days. Even though you don’t have any current requirement, still interview them and keep it ready in your database. You can use this database when the need arises.

ii. Retaining Talent

  1. You need to give a meaningful work with purpose to achieve Company’s vision.
  2. Employees look for career growth in future, provide them with the opportunity.
  3. Learning and Development must be a part of the developmental tool for the employees.
  4. Regular feedback on their performance.
  5. Create an atmosphere that they are working for a great organization.
  6. Constantly renew HR policies to suit all kinds of employees in the organization.
  7. Rewards and Recognition will motivate employees to stay.
  8. Need to create fun and joy at workplace to excel and be highly productive.

iii. Maintaining the Culture of the Organization

  1. No compromise on rules and regulations, business ethos, and values of the company.
  2. Need to communicate effectively what is expected of each one of them to perform and excel in different forums.
  3. Rules have to be clear and strict to refrain employees from committing the same mistake again.

Q. You have been a part of IT sector, handling the HR department therein successfully. How has the growth in Information Technology helped HR functions? Which HR technology tools do you prefer?

Ans: It’s a great experience working and being part of IT sector always. I always cherished my experiences in HR as it helped me in many ways:

  1. You need to be quick in your response and be proactive
  2. Understanding the technology in detail
  3. Understanding of the market, where talent resides and networking
  4. An open mind to seek information from others on different aspects of IT & Project execution
  5.  You need to be approachable to extend your support for the employees

SAP, SaaS or Oracle cloud-based solutions are some of the good tools. However, MS-Excel is one of the best and efficient tools.

Q. Talent acquisition is one of your core competencies. What is your experience with talent acquisition practice? What is the current trend in talent acquisition in Indian vis-à-vis globally?

Ans: I had a great time handling Talent Acquisition since the start of my career. Out of 15 years of experience, I handled TA for 12 years along with other responsibilities. It has been one of the most challenging function and I enjoyed chasing numbers both in Campus and Lateral recruitment drives.

  1. The Indian market is looking very positive for the talent acquisition, be it in campus placements - 100% campus placements already done/ completed by top business schools, later recruitment will also witness 15% to 20% growth in hiring in coming financial year as business outlook and GDP growth is showing a positive sign.
  2. If you look vis-à-vis globally, there are predictions that Indian Market will become the biggest economies in the world and it will overtake US GDP share globally by 2035.
  3. The GDP of India noticed 7.2% growth in Dec 2017, recently India ranked 100th position in ease of doing business and shown improvement in FDI.
  4. The hiring requirements are in raise in all the sectors like IT, BFSI, Automobile, Retail, Start-ups, Consumer durables, e-commerce & Pharma.
  5. IT companies are picking mostly concentrated on niche skills like IOT, Digitalization, AI, Machine Learning, Deep learning, Big Data, Analytics in middle level management.

Q. What interesting methods can be applied by HR dept. in an organization in the field of employee engagement and productivity improvement? Tell us about achievement in the field of employee engagement, productivity improvement?

Ans: Employee Engagement is viewed differently by different companies for different industries all together. Here, we need to talk about the impact than the list of activities what we do. As per me, Employee Engagement and being productive will arise at various levels:

  1. At Organizational Level:
    • Top Management/ CEO/ COO/ Head of the Department should always have the top down communication approach about the Organization’s quarterly results, expectations from the employees, his or her vision to engage with employees.
    • Public Talks, having U&I programs, Skip Level meetings, Dinner with CEO or Head of the department to understand the Pulse of the employees directly.
    • Being Transparent and creating a trust among employees by resolving queries, communicating effectively about the policies will have better engagement levels with the employees.
    • Open door policy, where employees can express freely and frank discussions happen with the management to understand the activities going on at the ground level.
       
  2. At Office Level
    • You need to provide them better and positive environment where employees feel they are part of the global organization.
    • Innovation and collaborative culture to be promoted within the organization where ideas are invited for better processes or products or services.
    • Having the flexibility to work on any projects/ departments etc., in his/ her free time or to showcase the talent that s/he is good at. This is possible only with such environment is promoted by every one of us.
       
  3. At Manager Level
    • Manager plays a very significant role in all employee engagement activities.
    • Manager should understand the employees’ area of interests with respect to the benefit of the company and provide the opportunity to grow.
    • Regular feedback on his/ her performance.
    • Should provide developmental tools to enhance their knowledge or skill and various ways of executing the tasks.
    • Counsel or mentor them regularly to increase the productivity or the performance bar with the employee.
       
  4. At Employee Level
    • Need to have an Induction program on the day of the joining or in a batch, about Company Vision, Mission, Values and Expectations or goals of the organization to be communicated in an effective way.
    • Through various HR tools, Surveys, internal polls, suggestion boxes etc., keep a tab on the changes required and make necessary changes either at the policy level or process level in the interest of employees.
    • Conduct morning meetings for quick discussions, standing meetings, to impress upon employees that they are here for big purpose.
    • Various celebrations like – Family Dinner/ Monthly Birthdays/ Festivals/ Informal get together/ Off site, etc. will refresh the young millennials.
    • Good Reward and recognition will motivate its employees in various ways. Showing their pictures in company magazine or internal portals will give great returns.
    • Effective HR policies like work life balance, flexible office timings, bring your family to office, Mediclaim coverage for Parents, Application for non-promotion, Good Leave policy – where employees can share it with others, tie up with well-known health centers to promote health and wellbeing, CSR activities, etc., are some of the engagement activities to boost moral responsibility.
    • Finally HR needs to have a discussion with employees at regular basis along with the Manager to understand the need of employees and extend support in terms of training, counselling, etc.  

My achievement in the field of Employee Engagement and improvement are as under:

  1. Close performance discussions with the employees along with the Reporting Manager, Training Manager and HR for better understanding and to bring the seriousness among employees and also to extend support from Manager or Training perspective.
  2. Communicating their clear goals again and again for the promotion and incentives with meaningful dialogue to promote competiveness and to create desire to excel.
  3. Know your Team Member, Knowledge Sharing, U Speak, 60 days feedback are some of the initiatives that brought change in employee behavior and led to improvement by resolving queries.
  4. Conducting various training programs like Accelerated Training Program, concentrating on the skill and will of the employee, training for line managers etc., helped in the overall development of the employee.

Q. In your experience, what is the most effective way taken by HR to resolve employee and upper level management conflicts?

Ans: The effective ways depends on the situation and sensitivity of the case. To resolve issues mainly related to either performance or behavioural, need to follow a process and principles of natural justice.

  1. Understand the case from the Management point of view.
  2. First, seek the explanation from the employee in written format and give him the opportunity to present his case in a stipulated time.
  3. The effective way taken by HR is to keep the facts in front of both.
  4. Which clause of the rule is violated by the employee to be communicated effectively with them.
  5. Put across to the internal committee based on the severity of the case.
  6. If it is proved, ask his final comments and views against the levied allegations.
  7. Take appropriate actions as per the rules and internal committee recommendations if required.
  8. Record the procedure for future and immediate reference.

Q. Tell us about a time when you led a complex HR project from inception to conclusion.

Ans:

  1. When I was working with IFFCO-TOKIO General Insurance, I got an opportunity to work on New Salary Bands/ Revised Pay Scales of the employees (all grades) while also considering re-designations.
  2. This project was to be kept confidential and I needed to work closely with the top management.
  3. Initially, when this task was assigned to me, I had lots of queries as I had never worked on Compensation and Benefits earlier.
  4. However, I took this up as a challenge in coming out with better pay scales across all the grades including the top management.
  5. During the exercise, I came to know many aspects of Comp and Ben. With each % change what would be the out flow for the company on Basic, PF, HRA and other outflows associated with Basic.
  6. I had to discuss with my Reporting Manager regularly again and again until we brought the rationale behind the pay scales with the ranges – min, medium and maximum.
  7. I presented my presentation to the mgt. about the structure, with 1% increase – what were all the changes that they could expect, what would be the out flow from the company, how monthly pay roll would look like, the effect on PF, Basic and other components of the salary structure.
  8. With the introduction of re-designations, introduction of new grades in to the system, how  could a new structure be laid out without disturbing the present.
  9. After so many corrections, discussions, presentations, at last, the final pay structure along with re-designations and introduction of new grades was presented to the board, which was approved by the board and implemented across the organization w.e.f. 1st April 2010.
  10. It was dream come true for me, got an opportunity to work on Comp and Ben and received appreciation for my work from my superiors and colleagues.

Q. How do you define company culture? What should an HR expert do to help maintain it as the company grows?

Ans: Company is built with an identity over a period of time with some of its core values. These core values usually come from the founders or CEOs. HR needs to ensure employees living those values at any point of time and at any level. HR should exhibit these values always and in every forum. If anyone is not following the rules and regulations and its company values, HR needs to set an example to others if required. We need to walk the talk to maintain the culture of the organization. The mind-set of the people is to be changed to drive the expected behaviour from each one of the employee.

Q. How is human resource planning significant for the overall business planning of an organisation?

Ans:

  1. HR planning is very significant in nature.
  2. Without the blue print, it is very difficult to execute your strategy and predict the outcome.
  3. In an organization, HR needs to understand its business/ company and its operations well before planning.
  4. While planning, HR should plan all its functions like – Talent Acquisition/ Employee Relations and Engagement/ PMS/ C&B/ Rewards and Recognitions/ HR Operations and Learning and Development for better employee satisfaction.
  5. Should be aware of history and same time what business demands and what company is aiming to move in terms of its growth/ geographical spread across, etc.,
  6. Discuss with the respective stake holders to know their previous experiences, check on expectations.
  7. HR must discuss with its Business Head or Head HR, his plans to move ahead and why s/he is thinking in this direction. Need to take a buyout from the concern head before moving further.
  8. HR Planning should be proactive and result orientated with time lines.
  9. HR actions therefore should be towards the planning and execution of tasks to ensure HR is going in the right direction.
  10. Need to have regular feedback and checklist whether things are in line as per the plan or not. With experiences, need to make necessary changes to suit the given requirements and move ahead.

Q. As a seasoned HR professional with over a decade of experience, what are your suggestions for the HR aspirants for their endeavours?

Ans: My suggestion to my fellow HR colleagues would be

  • Enjoy every bit of your work
  • Passion for work and commitment to complete the tasks on time
  • To show high integrity levels
  • Have a desire / aspirations to excel
  • Be aware of what’s going on in the Company
  • Be a life time learner and be open to criticism
  • Be a team player in a collaborative way.

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