Protima Achaya comes with around 20 years of experience in HR. Her primary focus has been in Talent Acquisition with experience in translating business strategy into Talent Acquisition plans and process innovation. She manages teams in multiple locations in India and APAC.
In her current role, she heads the Talent Acquisition and People Operations functions for the APAC region in NetApp. As the Talent Acquisition leader, she develops and drives the hiring strategies for the APAC region and also manages the Global Mobility and Alternative Workforce programs. As part of the People Operations function, she plays a critical role in building a delivery model that provides global, scalable and consistent operations and processes to employees and managers.
In her past roles, (Cisco, Sasken) she also has played roles in L&D, C&B and as a client facing HR business partner.
Here are the excerpts of the interview.
How do you think has HR evolved over the years and how do you see the role of HR as a business partner?
With technology permeating every corner of organizations, the field of HR has also been undergoing constant reinvention. From an operations standpoint, HR was viewed as a process centric function focused primarily on keeping employee records, keeping track of regulations and compliance, defining salary ranges and benefits. Fast forward to today when HR is expected to move in step with business, focus on employee experience and culture. HR teams have evolved to become strategic business partners driven by these insights from real-time data. Technology has created a shift in how Human Resource teams use analytics to discover insights into talent readiness and leadership skills. It is an empowered function working along with business to define the talent strategy for the company. Today its agenda is to create a unique culture, a competitive work-environment and a robust strategic talent acquisition program.
Do you think companies need to address outdated talent acquisition strategies and focus on training, automation, upskilling and nurturing existing talent?
We are now in a world where technology shifts are so dynamic that skills are becoming obsolete at an unprecedented pace. Organizations need to look at newer ways of approaching talent acquisition. It has to be holistic and forward-looking: A blend of sourcing new talent, with a strong leaning on hiring people who have the ability to learn new skills and adapt to new technologies which may not even be defined today, mobilizing internal talent and also leveraging the alternative workforce. Lightning-fast innovation has led to the evolution of roles and workplaces. Therefore, reskilling/upskilling and training of existing talent must be an integral part of the hiring strategy.
An important trend that can’t be missed is the use of social media for talent acquisition. It is no longer optional to use social media and networking sites for sourcing candidates; it’s a great opportunity
With organizations being disrupted from every angle - from emerging technologies, economic uncertainty, to changing demands of customers, do you think conventional talent acquisition and hiring models have to change to meet the changing needs of businesses?
We live in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world. As a response to changing economic climate and customer environments, HR ought to tailor its talent acquisition strategies to optimize the hiring processes. HR needs to think analytics, automation and trending technologies. An important trend that can’t be missed is the use of social media for talent acquisition. It is no longer optional to use social media and networking sites for sourcing candidates; it’s a great opportunity because your prospective employees frequent these media.
Do you think recruiting is tougher in 2019? Or is it easier with new technologies and hiring solutions?
Shifting applicant pools, constantly changing the technological landscape, and a talent-driven job market are a few challenges facing the recruitment space in 2019. Becoming data-driven to stay competent is more important now than ever to attract top talent. Companies also need to be vigilant about their employer brand, especially in the age of social media. Today, every candidate invariably googles you before applying for the job.
What are the top strategies that you follow at NetApp to win the war for top talent?
A close partnership of Talent Acquisition with business, as one high performing team, drives the whole approach to hiring. Understanding business and keeping in touch with where the business is headed and hence the kind of talent that would be needed to achieve those goals. Talent Acquisition is proactively searching for the talent not just for today but talent that would be relevant three years later. The Talent Acquisition team keeps in touch with what are the shifting needs of the jobseeker, what excites them and what is that they look for in a fulfilling career. Business leaders work in step with Talent Acquisition, talking to candidates and defining the charter of the role, tying in their skills and experience directly to the goals and vision of the department and the company. Thus, showing the direct impact they can make.
Agile isn't just for tech anymore, it's transforming how organizations hire, develop and manage their people. How can HR organizations leverage the power of agile practices in recruitment and hiring?
Agile methodology is very much a part of the talent acquisition approach to support business strategy. Agility in HR translates to providing the same services – hiring, development, performance management – in manners responsive to the continuous changes in culture and work environment. Ongoing planning, leveraging data and analytics to address possible bottlenecks and pain points towards predicting the success factors, constitute the new approach to agility. In HR, we “test” each step to validate that the progress is in the right direction (this is similar to the “sprints” in the agile process) and that the hiring manager is in agreement that we are finding good enough candidates.
What are some of the hiring strategies that you follow at NetApp to identify soft skills?
The need to assess soft skills is as important as the right experience and technical skills when hiring a new candidate. NetApp places a lot of importance on this and it is an integral part of the interview framework that we provide to the hiring managers. As we look for mindsets that can adapt to change, open to learning new technologies, collaborating across teams … assessing soft skills becomes extremely important. We have a detailed articulation of the Leadership framework and the soft skills that NetApp regards as crucial for success which is line with the business roadmap as also the culture and values that NetApp stands for. A guide with sample questions to lead the interviewer on how to probe for these attributes in a conversation with the candidate, is also provided. NetApp also takes new hiring managers through an interviewing skills program … this ensures that we do have a consistent approach and understanding of the soft skills that would make a candidate successful in NetApp
With Artificial Intelligence set to impact every aspect of HR and talent acquisition in particular, how do you see the rise of next-gen technologies and its role on HR in general?
AI and next-gen technologies are moving from just automating transactional activities to now using the data and analytics to be able to predict the best fit talent - something that has been traditionally a subjective process relying on the interviewer’s judgment/instinct when talking to a candidate. Right from sourcing the right candidate, providing useful insights in the selection process, to gamified approaches to candidate engagement, unbiased decision-making and autonomous execution, the next-gen technologies can help in empowering the recruiters. AI can never truly replace the human element in HR and Talent Acquisition, but it can help build efficiencies; the focus needs to be on optimizing the combination of human and automated work. The power lies in how we make the best use of new technologies whilst building out the strategy.
The need to assess soft skills is as important as the right experience and technical skills when hiring a new candidate. Netapp places a lot of importance on this and it is an integral part of the interview framework that we provide to the hiring managers
What aspects of talent acquisition do you plan to improve or implement in the coming year?
The focus is going to be on the experience of the candidate. How can this be made top-notch at every touchpoint. The way we engage with them at the initial conversation right up to the day they onboard.
What's the future of talent acquisition? What are the top challenges HR organizations face when it comes to talent acquisition and recruitment?
Talent acquisition in the future would be a mix of retaining/reskilling existing employees and balancing that with creative approaches to their engagement with the ever-shrinking external pool to be able to stand out in the job market as an aspirational employer. Talent Acquisition should look at embracing technology judiciously to automate transactional and repetitive processes and allowing the recruiter to use their time in candidate engagement and spending time with the business to understand the business better. Finally, technology can help leverage data and analytics in planning the hiring. Talent strategies would need to be able to flex and respond real-time to engage the job seeker better.