Article: The Counsellor tells you how to plan your HR career


The Counsellor tells you how to plan your HR career

Planning your career right in the beginning can take you the place where you want to be
The Counsellor tells you how to plan your HR career

Our Expert, VIVEK PARANJPE, Consultant & Strategic HR Advisor to Reliance Industries answers to professional, personal and ethical dilemmas that we encounter at our workplace.

I am an engineer with a MBA (HR) with an experience of 17 years. I was fortunate to have got exposure in financial services, cement, software, and retail industries. At this point of my career (and 42 years of age) I feel a bit saturated. I find it difficult to plan my own career ahead as I am confused on what I should update myself on? What will be the demand in HR 5 - 8 years hence, so I can prepare myself accordingly?
Sachin Khadilkar, General Manager - Corporate HR, Garden Silk Mills Ltd

In normal course one can have a career of about 35+ years, so you are just half way through. I guess you are facing a mid-career crisis which is not unusual. A HR career in the knowledge economy is most rewarding since it considers human resource as one of the most valuable assets in the company. Update your knowledge and capabilities in various facets of HR like, C&B, learning and development, shared services, organization structure and design etc. Use reading and networking as tools to update yourself. It would be great if you can get a senior HR professional to mentor you. Consider teaching as a part time activity as teaching is one of the best forms of learning.
Do not get hooked on to the titles and position; focus on the role that you will enjoy most and which will bring more opportunities to learn. For true happiness, your aspirations should be commensurate with your capabilities, persona and knowledge.

I am working as a Product Manager for a HR products development company. I joined in October 2010, after completing my masters in HRD & Consulting from one of the top 10 b-schools in the UK. I have worked for 1.5 years as Business HR partner in a software firm followed by 6 months in my current role.
I am not happy here as there is a big difference in the role I was promised and the one that hold now. I report directly to the CEO, and am the lone member in the product management group. My knowledge is becoming redundant as I do not have avenues to discuss the latest in HR automation; and the company cannot afford to send us to any training programs at present. I always wanted to be a HR consultant or specialist but I lose out on potential openings in the core HR and consulting space because my current designation does not justify these roles.
Do you think I should quit my job? How do I project my candidature, so that the tag of product management does not hinder me from seeking a core HR job?

You are a very young and 6 months is too short a period for anyone to tag you as a product manager. This label should not come in the way for you to change the career track. I suggest you have a heart-to-heart chat with your boss and explain your concern. Explore the possibilities with him and if a role change, that satisfies you, is not possible in your current organization, than look outside.
Connect with appropriate head hunters. Highlight your 1.5 years of Business HR partnership role, capabilities, international exposure and academic credentials in your resume. You may also consider talking to your previous employer. There is a shortage of talented HR professionals; if you have the talent and are flexible, you should be able to get a role of your choice soon. Just be open and patient.

I worked in the recruitment side for 10 years and currently head the recruitment function in a global bank. People are recognized as key business drivers here which reflect in the several awards I have received for my contribution. But personally, I feel a void at times as my ultimate goal is to move into a generalist HR role. Given the urgent need in my organization, I do not see this movement happening very soon. But I know I will be more satisfied if I made the shift soon. How can one shift from a HR specialist role to a HR Generalist role, is it advisable to look at other organization because they make this shift possible, even while I completely enjoy my work in my present organization?

You seem to be enjoying your work and are adequately rewarded for your good work. But it is natural to want a change after 10 years in the same role. I am not surprised; however, what is the urgency? Certainly it is a good idea to move from a specialist role to a generalist role if your heart is in that. Start preparing yourself for this shift and take interest in other aspects of HR through networking and reading.
If you are a valuable resource for your bank, I am sure your manager will carefully listen to you and help you in the planning of your career. One way to initiate the role change is by making yourself dispensable. Work towards ensuring you have well institutionalized processes and systems, and a possible successor is groomed to take over from you. This will help your management to be far more open to accommodate your needs. The desired change will happen soon.

I am a HR manager in a mid-size manufacturing company. Last year the HR team revamped the performance appraisal system to focus on a balanced scorecard system along with a normal curve. We got a lot of pushback from line managers to this change. They told their teams that, “HR has asked me to rank you on a normal curve, and hence we have to rank you in this manner while personally I feel you are great.” Even after a large communication process why don’t managers own the process? This year’s appraisal is again upon us and I dread facing the line managers. Please advise.

Bell curves or omega curves are introduced to ensure performance is differentiated and distributed in the company to create a culture of meritocracy. Ideally it should emerge in the natural course. Since it does not, the organization forces the omega curve onto the business leaders. Leaders blame HR for poor rating given to employees, calling it an “irrational omega forced by HR”. Business leaders do not own up the performance ratings, and the employees are denied the right feedback.
The reasons for the bell curves not emerging in natural course could be many:
• Leaders play a safe and want to be “goody goody” to remain popular.
• Leaders’ sense of insecurity of losing employees who are rated poor.
• Performance rating is used for salary reviews, other incentives, etc. A leader does not want his performance rating to be the reason for denial of growth of his people.
• Performance goals are not set right at the beginning of the year hence leaders find it difficult to face the employees at the time of the evaluation.
• Lack of role clarity, reporting lines, etc may be the cause for poor performance. If the leader has not addressed these issues he finds it difficult to face employees and give the poor rating even if it is warranted.
• Lack of regular reviews, feedback, and coaching, to help people succeed, results in leaders’ inability to face employees and give appropriate rating.
You have to fix these issues upfront. Forcing the bell curve will not help and push backs will continue to occur. Start with the top 10% leaders and managers, and cascade it to the middle and lower levels by making the system a part of organizational DNA.

Vivek is a Senior HR professional with over 35 years of experience, ranging several leadership positions, in India and abroad. He leads his consulting practice since 2003 and presently works as a Strategic HR Advisor to Reliance Industries, and is also an independent Director on the Board of Motilal Oswal Financial Services Ltd. Prior to this he was based at Singapore for several years where he was Director HR - Operations at Hewlett Packard for the Asia Pacific Region.
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Topics: C-Suite

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