As one of the top-paying careers today, management is creating a platform for organized aspirants with a knack for leading the hierarchy with a chance to excel.
But many aspirants get stuck in finding the right path to start a career in management. That’s why we reached out to a management expert Ms. Prerna Rajan – Business HR Head and Vice President at Damco Solutions for an exclusive interview (A Day In Life of a Business HR Head) where she shares her meaningful insights about ‘HR management as a career and also walks us through how does a day in the life of business head looks like.’
Prerna holds 14+ years of experience as HR Head and she is widely known for her role in developing the performance-driven strategic and innovative HR Architect with a focus on shaping culture and building a workplace to support transformative growth in times of disruption.
Shiksha Online Interview Log with A Day In Life of a Business HR Head and Vice President – Prerna Rajan:
Through the interview a day in life of a Business HR Head, she shared her career journey with us and highlighted the in-demand qualitative and quantitative analytical skills, vision, and right direction to become a successful Business Head.
Please share a brief introduction about your role as a Vice President & Business HR Head at Damco Solutions.
Prerna Rajan – The first and foremost contribution of my role and daily goal in the organization as a Vice President & Business HR Head is to help my organization, Damco celebrates various wins and successes whether it’s winning in the social citizenship role, winning by giving value to the customers, partners and investors, winning in this VUCA world by :
- Staying relevant
- Remaining sensitive to the value desired by the receiver
- Staying receptive to external business and market trends
- Delving into the criteria business leaders use to trade-off
- Exploring Talent and org culture differentiators
- Being open to change to meet the needs of all stakeholders inside and outside
After evaluating these I see:
- How I can get the competitively superior talent in my organization
- How to create an org which is agile and has a competitive advantage
- How I can build a culture to keep people engaged and they can really work to maximise their potential
My job is to help Manager to become great Managers who are alternate talent managers
My job is to help Managers get the skills, capabilities, abilities to attract, assess, develop and retain, superior competitive talent
And, to do that it needs the creation of the environment, a culture of being engaged and bring oneself to work every day
What does a day in your work life look like?
Prerna Rajan – HR is a very vast and diverse function. When you think about a day in the life of an HR professional, you almost do not know where to start. A perfect day at work is when I know that I have helped in wins and successes by helping my team/company achieve our goals for the day, both operational and strategic.
I also spend about 30% of my time travelling meeting clients on strategy, operations, business, and most importantly about people. My mind is constantly processing each fact, data point, opinion, feedback to feed these into the business strategy, its impact on our people and the other relevant stakeholders.
Please shed some light on your career path and how you started your career in the HR field and grew to your current role of Vice President & Business HR Head?
Prerna Rajan – I did not start my career straight away in HR. I spent my 1st decade as an educationist, a role that taught me to be a trusted advisor and a coach. I joined the world of HR all thanks to my peers who told me to venture into a corporate HR role since I was all about people-centric business. Thus, I started my foray into HR, equipped with business lessons from XLRI to decode complex business challenges. Right from my 1st year in the HR field, I fell in love with the culture of the organization. My focus has always been to dig deep into business results and become a champion for customers, employees, and all stakeholders. And, till date I maintain the same approach and there has been no looking back. It’s been 14+ years since!
Entered the company undergoing rapid expansion; missing on organizational effectiveness, with no established HR practices and policies, took over HR transformation initiative activities and built the HR department from the ground up.
I also set up HR for US operations. Partnered with US consultants and senior executives to develop new business initiatives, foster employee engagement, and mobilize talent.
Partnered for more than 80% of the new business wins across the globe thereby adding significant turnover to the business.
Have direct involvement in the professional services business model towards expansion strategies with YoY increased revenue by 114%.
With 14+ years of industry experience, according to you, what skills or characteristics make someone a seasoned HR person? (Please share insights for beginners and mid-level experts.)
Prerna Rajan – First and foremost, the important thing is to:
- Get your hands dirty to understand the business, how business wins, how capabilities play a role, how talent plays a role, how org str, processes play a role, how to develop the knack and capability to influence Managers.
As an architect of the employer brand and employee experience, a seasoned HR person should always
- Partner with the business to develop people strategy to maximize performance
o Recognize and Structure People Elements to maximize performance
o Align People Strategy with Business Demands
- Partner with the business to execute on developed People Strategy
o Conduct a SWOT analysis to execute People Strategy
o Evaluate and discuss Performance and Execution challenges with Line Managers
- Partner with the business to maintain continuous alignment with People strategy
o Design and implement milestone-based HR transformation strategy with clear accountabilities and ongoing responsibilities for centers of expertise, strategic business partnering, operational execution, service centers, and corporate HR.
o Assess Success Metrics for People Strategy
- Partner with the business to drive and maximize business performance
What trends will shape Human Resource departments over the next five years?
Prerna Rajan – Digitisation and shifts in demographics are the two key things that will change the way we work in 5 to 10 years time. Following trends that will shape HR:
- It is no longer possible to sidestep data, evidence, and analytics that bring rigour and discipline to HR.
- Remote work to get stronger
- All-inclusive global talent market
- Human and machine collaboration
As the nature of HR and of work itself changes, predictions for future HR roles are
- HR data scientist/chief technology officer
- Virtual Cultural Architect
- Global Talent Scout, Convener, and Coach
- Data, Talent & Technology Integrator
- Modern Benefits Package
How did you keep yourself skilled and relevant in terms of knowledge?
Prerna Rajan – Instead of going for a typical HR certification, I decided to go for a certification in business management from XLRI, since I feel that laying the right people strategy, an HR professional should be equipped to understand the right business strategy. This approach has helped me
- To understand the power of our people and use Workforce Analytics to Improve Business Performance
- Ignite People Passion without burning them out
- Standout HR to fuel Business Results
- Be a credible activist, both for the employee and for the business as a whole
- Continue building meaningful relationships in the workplace
- Essentially, it’s not just your skills but your will, too. Your drive could determine how clever, successful and impactful you are on others and the world.
Which certification courses, skill development paths, books, or channels do you recommend to aspiring HR professionals for upskilling? Also, please suggest any course for those who are planning for HR leadership roles?
Prerna Rajan – I would like to give the book by Paul Arden, “It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be” to every HR professional. The author offers up his wisdom on issues as diverse as problem-solving, responding to a brief, communicating, playing your cards right, making mistakes, and creativity – all endeavours that can be applied to aspects of your craft at work.
Additional trends of the most popularly recommended HR professional books for gaining knowledge and insights are:
- Work Rules! Insights From Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live And Lead by Laszlo Bock
- Talent Management Handbook by Lance A Berger, Dorothy R Berger
- Do More Great Work: Stop the Busywork. Start the Work That Matters, Michael Bungay Stanier
- Love’em Or Lose’em: Getting Good People to Stay, Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans
- Why Employees Don’t Do What They’re Supposed To Do And What You Can Do About It, Ferdinand Fournies
- Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t, Jim Collins
Certifications have proven to be a valuable way to display your knowledge, qualifications, skills, achievements, and commitment to your profession.
Courses that are particularly interesting for budding HR professionals include
- People Analytics
- HR Data Analyst
- Digital HR
- Certified Professional (SHRM-CP)
- The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)
Other than many online management certifications and course from top B schools, would recommend the emerging HR leaders subscribing to follow industry leaders blogs, HR podcasts and videos
HR leaders need to become competent at building systems, culture, and capabilities. “Not just the workforce but the workplace. Would recommend them to subscribe to Gartner for HR, HBR magazine, and other top and trending HR magazines to tap top priorities and latest trends.
Building critical skills and competencies continue to top the list of priorities for HR leaders in 2021. Organizational design and change management also feature among the key objectives for HR leaders, as does building a bench of current and future leaders. None of these goals is new to HR leaders, but all have been made more urgent by the effects of COVID-19.
Being into the HR industry, which post-pandemic effects have you witnessed related to – hiring, talent acquisition, employee retention, learning and development, or anything else?
Prerna Rajan – The global remote work set up due to Covid-19 caused the digital economy to grow rapidly overnight more than ever before, with our significant focus on culture and the stresses of managing work-life balance. These challenges have put a new emphasis for HR professionals, this means the future of work will include developing a stronger focus and a more holistic view of employee wellbeing, that encompasses the emotional, mental and spiritual health of our people along with the physical. Gallup also reported two-thirds of workforce experienced burnout on the job.
This paves the way for a new HR role focused on well-being as a business strategy for increasing employee retention — and not just work role incentives.
A key metric of success for this role would be to build a strong sense of belonging ensuring that our people know their purpose and feel deeply cared for.
Last words – Do you have any expert advice for our readers?
Prerna Rajan –
- The creation of value
- Know your business and adapt digital HR
We hope this exclusive interview – A Day In Life of a Business HR Head and Vice President – Prerna Rajan will help you boost a career in management.
All the best!
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