A career in human resources isn’t the typical destination of an Engineering Graduate working in production. Engineering + MBA becomes the holy grail for becoming strategy consultants or investment bankers or, in the true spirit of the degree, general managers.
I was once was an engineer, coder, doctor etc. and those, but I am not. I am an HR now. I know what my batch mates from graduation/ other B schools / business grads are thinking: “It’s a work/life balance thing.”; “He doesn’t have the capability for ‘real’ business.” And, of course, my favourite: “If he’s so interested in helping people, why doesn’t he just do social work?”
Yeah, Yeah Laugh at me, the HR! The one who celebrates the Bday, make Rangoli’s, make you dress in ethnic, organize picnic on weekends and what not! Yes yes, I was also on the other side before my present avatar. I was also tired hearing Managing Directors/ Business Heads/ CEO’s beat their chests like King Kong and loudly proclaim, “My People/ Employees are my greatest assets!”(Many forms/synonyms / sentiments could be substituted here) only to find most of them being hollow rather than a concrete executed intent & commitment.
Why would I then choose HR, you will ask and doubt my sanity? Well, the answer is simple—and obvious. HR today is in the middle of the most compelling competitive battleground in business, where companies deploy and fight over that most valuable of resources—workforce talent. A recent study published, which caused a huge furore, claimed that less than 6% of graduates are fit to be hired in the formal workforce. Less than 6%.
The cost of finding, hiring & engaging the right talent in the world today has shot through the roof. People would agree with me on the hiring & finding cost but would contest on the engagement cost. Engagement cost can and should be measured by the productivity loss from the scores of disengaged employees. This just highlights the plain apathy towards the employees in general. When you see today that baby boomers are vacating the corner office, there is a sudden void in the experienced manager category. At the same time, the millennial’s and Gen Z are now entering the workforce bringing new expectations to the workplace. Now you can see the gap in the system. Hence, The need to devote time, specialists and manage this so called” Greatest Asset’s” comes under the spotlight and since we are the ones who thrive in being in the spotlight, hence we are here! In short, HR as a function and I as a person are finally taking the steps to become a true strategic partner.
Talent Management today is truly a strategic differentiator and to stretch the argument, a make or break competency for corporates and HR professionals in general. The tectonic shift of HR, from tangibles (compensation, benefits, entitlements etc.) To intangibles (employee engagement, career paths etc.) is truly under way and has already caused some change in HR geography. A new HR professional is fast emerging- one who understand talent as well as strategy and business models, one who is empathetic and also number driven, someone who can coach on softer aspects while also building a marketing plan for employer branding.
The challenge that faces the HR is war for talent and that just does not end at hiring, rather it is just the start. The complete battle is to engage, retain and grow the talent and that for me, the ecstasy and agony of a HR professional. The ecstasy of being in the thick of the battle, the frontal assault unit, the alphas sent to make the damage is oddly satisfying. The agony is when we see someone leave/reject simply because we could connect/ cater to the need. Don’t get me wrong, by cater I mean a Yes or No. It’s just means an answer to clear the perspectives.
When in business school, the students like us are trained to seek and sound out, in financial terms, an under-appreciated investment (think of a penny stock giving handsome returns) and to create value in the system. Unlike, my peers in marketing who swear by brand value, in sales who swear by sales figures and margins or in finance, who search for bargains in equity, hedge funds, or new innovative ways to save cost, tax etc., I see value in identifying, attracting and developing the talent resources. I see HR as an under-priced, under-valued & under-appreciated asset, one which is on the cusp of significantly appreciate and return multi fold returns. A smart investor, if you may call me that!
One last thing: I am having a blast and there is no way I am getting out of this roller coaster!