Interview #7 Nilima Gandhi: "I did my bachelor’s in Chemistry and soon realized that my passion doesn't lie with chemicals."
Nice to meet you, friends and welcome to our awesome blog topic "Interviews with HR experts". Each week we receive lots of interesting stories, opinions and personal views on current developments in the HR sphere.
We hasten to share with you our new interview. Today our guest is an HR professional with 10 years of corporate and academic experience in the gamut of HR functions Nilima Gandhi.
Nilima is balancing her personal and professional goals perfectly. She is writing her doctorate thesis and simultaneously working as an HR Manager for Synfioo GmBH. She is also practicing design thinking for HR functions such as onboarding and recruiting.
Nilima is working on the area of virtual leadership for her Ph.D. and she studies virtual teams to understand the relationship impact on a leader and a follower. In her role at Synfioo, she is responsible for end to end HR activities majorly involving attracting and recruiting the best talent and creatively engaging them further. Before Germany, she worked in India and Oman with consulting companies including Accenture and PeopleStrong.
Synfioo offers a Real-Time Supply Chain Visibility Platform. They help customers build a more efficient and connected supply chain by monitoring intermodal, global transport processes in real time, making the entire supply chain more transparent and communicative, and providing all parties with actionable and targeted information at the right time.
Nilima is an Indian classical dancer, she studies the dance form Bharatnatyam and also likes mountaineering. Her last trek was at the Everest base camp in 2017 scaling 5550Mt.
So, let's start our interview. Read to the end to find out when robots will become our trusty assistants and how a Bachelor of Chemistry became an HR professional!
AO: Nilima, can you firstly share your thoughts on why HR is an important function in any organization?
N: Machines don't drive companies, humans do. Human Resource is the best asset and at the same time very complex to manage for any organization. Hence it is imperative to have expert professionals who can drive people agenda in the most mature and professional way. Also other than managing complicated functions such as recruitment and onboarding, Training and Development, compensation, performance management, I feel that HR plays a vital role in driving values and building an organizational culture.
AO: Can you name three areas that you feel need the most improvement, based on your understanding of common HR practices?
N: Job descriptions and work role expectations
In my opinion, there is still a lot of scope in the way job descriptions are designed. It should be done together by the HR professionals and the hiring manager, customized for each role rather than standardized templates. Hiring managers should be accountable. Currently, the major responsibility still lies with HR. This can further reduce the ambiguities with role expectations.
This is another grey area, many companies take a lot of efforts and use innovative practices for onboarding. However very few help in the entire assimilation process. The real struggle of a new joiner starts after the three months of joining when the “Honeymoon period” is over and performance pressure begins. This is when we need to introduce processes with the help of HR which helps in assimilation and healthy employee-employer relationships contributing to positive performance.
Handling resignation feedback and exit interviews
In my experience so far, companies plan the exit interviews only in the last week of the employee or some even on the last day itself. Also, the exit interviews are mostly just a formality and there is no action taken on the feedback received. If done properly and in advance exit interviews could be used as a powerful tool to bring in improvement and changes rather. This area should be given more focus to retain the right talent whenever possible and to bring in change in current processes with honest feedback by the resigned employee.
AO: Nilima, let's look into the future. Where do you see the HR industry in the next 5 years?
N: In my opinion, technology was anyways the number one game-changer for the HR industry but after the pandemic, it will further accelerate. We are partly introduced to the “Digital culture” so far, however, we will need to embrace this change rather sooner. We will have better apps and platforms to work on. Robotization and automation are inevitable. Also, the technology will help us find solutions for every HR function using deep learning and big data.
AO: What would you say are the biggest challenges of working in HR during COVID-19? and how do you deal with them?
N: In current times, the biggest challenge is managing the remote workforce. Engaging, motivating and conflict resolution are the major challenges with the remote workforce at the team level.
As per the recent research that was carried post in March 2020, at individual level workplace isolation, fear of fewer opportunities for learning or growth are some more challenges highlighted in general.
Fortunately at Synfioo, being more creative with team development strategies and having a communication plan works for me. We currently have various offline and online communication opportunities for the team. Even small attempts like getting a lifetime subscription of a popular online game for the team as an option for our regular office kicker and ping pong helped.
AO: Sounds good about a lifetime subscription of a popular online game, will keep it in mind:).
Can you name one (or several) HR experts whose work do you highly appreciate or take as an example?
N: It is difficult to choose, it's been a journey and many experts have influenced my style of working. However from a very scientific perspective Prof Dr. Gary Yukl’s work in the area of Leadership, I admire the most.
Gary Yukl is a Professor of Management at UAlbany (SUNY). He is a fellow of the American Psychological Association, the American Psychological Society, the Society for Industrial-Organizational Psychology, and the Academy of Management. Dr. Yukl is also the author of several books, including the highly influential text, Leadership in Organizations, 8th edition (Prentice-Hall, 2013) which is widely used around the world and was translated into several languages. He has received several awards for his research.
I recently also had a chance to interact with him personally during research and was impressed by his modesty, sincerity, and promptness.
AO: Cool, let's move to the next questions. How does the onboarding of new employees go into your company?
N: Recently we onboarded four employees during corona time. These employees had virtual onboarding. Our onboarding starts even before the employee joins and whenever possible we try to give an opportunity for our soon to join employees to be part of the team events. This has helped in building team rapport positively for us. Also, we have a buddy system, which helps the new joiner to settle well.
AO: What traditions your company has and what is your favorite one?
N: We have many supercool traditions such as movie night, pizza party, international food day, etc. other than our regular team events. One of my most favorite is cake meetings. We have a weekly meeting when all the teams meet together and transfer updates and knowledge, at the end of the session we all share a yummy cake!!
AO: Mmm, tasty tradition is always a good idea:) What is the most valuable professional development advice you have ever gotten?
N: As an HR professional one of the most important activities is to be change-makers or change drivers. That means we always have to be ready to first accept and adapt to the change. This was the very first thing I was advised during my initial days in consulting, which has been an important mantra for me since then. The second important advice I got was on personal development, one has to always keep updating to stay relevant to this industry.
AO: You already mentioned that your company experience switching to remote work. How did you prepare employees for such changes?
N: We at Synfioo, once a while used to operate from home before the pandemic. So fortunately we had the resources ready for remote work. Initially completely switching everyone remotely looked like a challenge. However, the process was smooth and we transitioned very fast together as a team to remote working.
We have a few daily, weekly, or bi-weekly inter and intra team calls planned which help in coordination. We also have a weekly newsletter published, where we get to be creative and share professional or personal updates.
AO: And the last question, Nilima. Did you work somewhere before becoming an HR professional, why did you decide to become an HR?
N: I did my bachelor’s in Chemistry and soon realized that my passion doesn't lie with chemicals. After my studies, I took up an office management job for a year, and during this, I was introduced to various HR processes by my supervisor. I really enjoyed assisting him in the recruitment and compensation area. I saw myself handling this independently and passionately. That is when I decided to master’s study with HR specialization and later on completing my doctorate.
That's all for today, guys. Thanks, Nilima for interesting answers to our equally interesting questions😁 See you at the next interview!
In case you would like to ask your own questions, write down them in the comments. Also, if you want to read an interview with a particular person, let us know.
Take care 😇