Akanksha Purswani | Associate General Manager – HR | Schneider Electric India Pvt Ltd
Akanksha entered the HR field for its promise of variety, and HR hasn’t let her down ever since!
As per her, HR provides different experiences – working with people, whose outlook/ perspective/ motivation keeps changing (unlike a machine which will give the same output each time, given the same inputs and conditions). Every day is a new challenge, an exciting opportunity.
People remain the most critical asset for an organization, and HR provides an opportunity to work with them and for them – people across levels, geographies, career stages and different functions, which helps build a holistic perspective. HR provides a plethora of opportunities to grow as a generalist or specialist, across recruitment, training & development, engagement, culture, change management, etc. It also enables one to build transferable skills, thus providing flexibility to work across industries.
Points of differentiation
‘Diversity of experience’ is a differentiator that I bring to the table. I have worked across industries, roles and geographies – worked in Strategic HR Consulting, HR Business Partner roles in Sales & as well as Plant environment, and various Corporate roles – Talent Management, HR Transformation, HR Analytics, Change Management and Diversity & Inclusion.
There have been two key enablers in my journey – firstly, my knack for taking up ‘unconventional’ roles, which a lot of HR Professionals would not risk taking up. Secondly, I have been quite fortunate to have my organizations & leaders express confidence in me by selecting me for roles which were previously held by people much senior to me.
As a professional, I have learned immensely from each of these roles, and each of them have shaped me to become a stronger HR professional. This variety of roles has helped me build a good understanding of the business and industry, and also developed the capability to work effectively with people across all levels in the organization. This has helped me influence decisions that have led to more efficiency and effectiveness for the organizations that I have worked in.
Biggest Talent Priority to solve
My biggest talent priority would be to prepare my organization to leverage the digital trends in the industry – this includes:
- ‘Digital Disruptors’ – Building/ buying key Digital Talent that has the capability to challenge the status quo, look at digital trends and define innovative solutions by leveraging investments in technology (AI, IoT, Machine Learning, Automation, etc).
- Culture – Creating leaders for the future – leaders who promote an agile culture driven by innovation & collaboration.
- Organization Design – Designing an organization which fosters internal start-up ecosystem and is driven by agility. HR needs to support the Digital Business agenda, and also create a Digital HR agenda to be able to fully integrate with the organizational goals and ways of working.
The one thing I will change in HR
We must transition from being a “Business Partner” to “Business Driver”. HR professionals must develop better understanding of business to deserve a seat at the table. Instead of just being a ‘partner’, we must develop our capability to actually drive the business – to drive and/or challenge business decisions.
One way to do this could be to take up roles which work closely with the business (on the shop floor or in the market). This knowledge will help drive business better (better alignment of processes with business priorities leading to more effectiveness), and also build more credibility for the function. However, taking up such roles would not be enough; we will also have to develop the mindset of being a complete business professional, not limited to knowledge of only one function. There is a need to bring in more outside-in perspective in the function, to be able to really add value to our roles.
The one thing I will retain in HR
We must retain our role of “Paradox Navigator” – the ability to be unbiased and balance decision making to drive business results. We must continue to accept and encourage healthy debate that enables us to think of alternative and innovative solutions. This helps organizations change and evolve, it helps us keep focus on a variety of aspects (efficiency, effectiveness, innovation, culture, etc) and stakeholders (customers, employees, etc). Today’s digital world demands supersonic speed, and hence this skill is becoming increasingly critical to enable and encourage freedom, leading to organization agility. Hence, the ‘human’ in Human Resources must be retained and leveraged even more.
Vision for HR's future growth
For HR’s future growth, we need to stay relevant to the business, and at the same time, keep developing future-ready capabilities. We must keep evolving ourselves to be able to deliver effective and sustainable results. We must adopt an entrepreneurial mindset that will enable us to overcome resistance and align ourselves and our systems & processes with business needs.
We must look at our roles as enablers of business, and hence not limit ourselves within our function – we must learn from other functions (Finance, Marketing, etc) about how to anticipate/ identify external trends and adapt to them. This will help us build a holistic perspective and contribute to the organization’s success.
Lastly, we must bring about a shift in the way we look at organizational culture. To build a culture of innovation, we need to enable all managers to be disruptive talent leaders. We must leverage them as champions of culture, encouraging more entrepreneurial mindset, challenge the current state, and design innovative solutions. To drive any large-scale change, we need the commitment of people across the organization, not just a small set of individuals at the top.