Interview with Ms Alka Gulati, Director-HR & Admin, Hughes Communications India Limited

We at Indian Institute of Management Rohtak, were really fortunate to have an interview with Ms Alka Gulati, Director-HR & Admin, Hughes Communications India Limited. She is an HR specialist and has led teams across industries and geographies, with exposure in Talent Management, Succession Planning, Resourcing and Performance Management.
Ms Alka Gulati, Director – HR & Admin, Hughes Communication India Ltd,
expressing her views during the 6th HR Summit at IIM Rohtak
 
1. Tell us about your experience at IIM Rohtak.
 
The 6th HR Summit held at IIM Rohtak was an event meant to bring industry and students together. The focus was to align the capabilities of students developed under the guidance of their eminent faculty with the industry requirements. This not only provided the platform for knowledge sharing of the best industry practices, but also brought forth an opportunity for networking and interaction amongst the industry professionals.
 
 
2. You completed your education in the late nineties and started your professional career at that time. The economic dynamics in the country have changed massively since then. What is your view on the change both from the perspective of an employer as well as an employee?
 
It is golden paradigm that “change” is inevitable. We often hear from our grandparents/parents that in the past facilities were different from what exists now. The same verdict continues at all phases/eras /decades. The working generations, be it Gen X, Y or Z continue to face the word “change” and progress by imbibing continuous learning and deployment skills.
When I started my career in 1998, production industry was at top. However, soon we saw the boom of back-end processing operations in India, followed by telecom/retail and now the e-commerce industry. Opportunities, salary and technology has increased enormously. Similarly for employers too, the opportunities for expansion in business and successful implementation of new strategies has increased too. Additionally, the span of Indian industries has increased in South East Asian regions and thus the markets have expanded for Indian employers.
 
 
4. You have worked in different industries in your career (manufacturing, banking, and EPC). Is there any difference in the role of an HR Head in these industries?
 
Out of five M’s in the operation methodology, Man stands common in all industries. Maslow’ need theory says that human psychology remains the same irrespective of the industry. The needs of human-beings grows from basic to self-actualization. The only change is with respect to occupational health and policies that are developed to provide comfortable work environment to the employees. I still remember the days when I used to work for DENSO Haryana, we had never heard about flexible timings. The inter-department work was aligned in such a manner that the shift timings used to be same for all the functions. However at Bank of America, each process used to work based on client requirement and we were free to work out of home or on-move till the time the work was being handled with perfection. As an HR Head, I have always worked on building customized processes, tangible & measurable KPIs, practices that lead to employee satisfaction/ talent growth /belongingness / bonding. If we really reflect on all the above points, MOTIVATION, GROWTH, DEVELOPMENT and SALARY are required by all the employees irrespective of the industry they work.  Having worked in different organizations and with different intellect, my heart still says that as human-beings we are all the same, with few shades of differences.  
 
 
5. In a fiercely competitive market dwelling in an economy like ours, practices like Mergers & Acquisitions have become a norm. How important do you think is HR in extracting the maximum synergy out of work forces that come from possibly two very different work cultures?
 
Organizations are growing by innovating different strategies, adopting different markets/product variants, and of course merging with or acquiring other business organizations. In case of alliances, mergers or acquisitions, HR department plays a pivotal role in building a common culture, creating uniform policies and processes, generating equality, reducing exodus/attrition of the key talents and managing key communications. Any kind of change creates ripples which remain in the organisations. HR has to be mature and participative enough to sense the acceptability of the people and also act as a link between management and teams to focus on any of the impending issues. HR department is always a friend, philosopher and counselor to employees who need to be transparent and equal for all. HR department understands the perspective of management/shareholders and simultaneously keeps an open ears to what the workforce interprets or understands. I personally feel that a merger or acquisition is like a marriage which shows positive results in times to come and goes through ups and downs before it settles down.
 
6. There is no one shoe fit for all strategy for an HR personnel. How do you cope with the everyday challenge you face in your work life, since they are bound to be highly individualistic in their nature?
 
Generally in most of the organizations, HR role is streamlined by defining transparent policies, processes and systems. However as we deal with people, all the above are not stone casted. As an HR professional we take into consideration compliance along with sensitivity of the issues. We represent to management suggestions to improvise and seek deviation. Maturity, speed and an understanding of what will get accepted and what won’t is critical for an HR manager. HR must work very closely with operational managers and should partner with them in aspects of manpower hiring, development, succession planning etc.
Joint discussions, formally writing mails, debriefing on common issues, creating communication forums, listening to people and using blogs for discussion on common points helps HR people set the right context and take decisions. HR has to coordinate on lot of activities, from ensuring that the results and decisions are arrived at to overseeing the implementation of actions.
 
7. You are an expert in Talent assessment, leadership development and performance management. These can be two sided swords. While they can motivate a person thereby creating a ripple effect in the organization, they can also demotivate someone to a great extent. So, how do you deal with this? Both motivating someone and correcting someone’s mistake?
 
These days organizations have good transparent processes and involve managers for talent assessment, development or performance management. As an HR expert, we introduce more scientific tools and methods in this field so that so called “halo and horn” effects can be reduced.  At the end of the day human nature is so complex that where the shoe pinches is difficult to know, until the employee spells the same out. Thus HR educates/counsels/guides managers on these aspects more so that they acquire the skills of human management and facilitate the softer aspects of people growth. HR also facilitates the multi-check processes in order to reduce the chances of mistakes.
At Bank of America, HR organize talent discussion forums and online employee feedback surveys. Approvals are garnered from different hierarchical levels to ensure that no unjust decision is taken and the feedback is provided to the employee both formally and informally. I believe if HR takes care of all the above issues than the chances of getting higher satisfaction score is more.
 
 
8. Any words of wisdom for the students.
 
Students are the future for tomorrow. Many a times we face a common challenge, that is, what we find in the organization was never taught in the classroom. The task looks like a big rock which is hard to move. At such times we need to recollect our Physics lecture which taught us about the lever which if well placed will move even the biggest of rocks. Reflecting on this example our education system grooms us well, what we need to do while working in the industry is that we need to apply the concepts. Also, one has to just keep going and not stop till one achieves success. Each time one has to reflect on the learning and build up on the same.

 

I for one, try to learn from my peers, colleagues, boss, team and also from my two daughters each day. I wish all the best to IIM Rohtak students.

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