HR Leaders: The Enablers of Employee Growth and Engagement 0

HR Leaders: The Enablers of Employee Growth and Engagement

In an exclusive interview with All Things Talent, Anil Kumar Misra, Chief Human Resources Officer, Magicbricks.com shares his professional journey and his thoughts on leadership and the opportunities and challenges he foresees for HR technology. He further talks about the importance of ‘learning culture’ and why the retention of key talent is crucial for companies.

JOURNEY

With your rich experience of 20 + years of working across diverse industries, from Manufacturing to Hospitality, IT, E-commerce, Title Insurance & Mortgage and Consumer Internet Services, how eventful has your journey been like? How did your career transition with the changing paradigms of HR?

Over the years, having worked in multiple industries there has been significant learning across various paradigms. In the manufacturing industry, we were exposed to many best practices like Kaizen, Kanban, TPM, Quality Circles and many others. Handling trade unions is one of the greatest experiences one can get by working in this sector.

In hospitality, we learn that customer-centricity is the key to success. Having worked in hotels we get to know that keeping your guests happy is the most significant aspect of the job. There is no long product life cycle in this sector and feedback is almost instantaneous. In IT, we are constantly under pressure to engage and motivate people, optimal utilisation of resources is key to the business of consulting and client servicing along with managing span of
control.

The retail industry is completely focussed on the customers. Technology is literally passed into the hands of potential customers. Supply Chain Management and working in a cost-effective manner is imperative to the business.

There is something to be learned everywhere. Though every sector poses its unique challenges and learnings; the people practices remain the same in all industries – Attracting, Retaining and Developing.

The e-commerce, online industry is leveraging technology in a way like no other. The perceived traditional centres for business are shifting with augmented and virtual reality. There is something to be learned everywhere. Though every sector poses its unique challenges and learnings; the people practices remain the same in all industries- Attracting, Retaining and Developing. Furthermore, the multi-generational workforce, need to be invested upon well, addressing their career aspirations and developing the talent pipeline.

LEADERSHIP

How do you personally define leadership? As Chief Human Resource Officer, how do you apply that definition to your framework at Magicbricks? What are the biggest challenges you’re up against?

As a leader it is important to be action-oriented, creating hope for your colleagues. Leaders can define the rules of the game however, they need to allow the team to breathe freely and provide them with the required autonomy to perform at work. Personally, I believe in providing space to my team and always encourage them to take risks and learn from their mistakes.

The challenging part is embracing change in this fast-paced, super dynamic sector without impacting business negatively. Gen Y comes with high career aspirations and is constantly looking for innovative work. Hence, it is critical for leaders to provide opportunities and challenging tasks where they can perform and outshine.

Furthermore, how important is it for you to continuously motivate and empower your team members? In this era of disruption, what do you think is a leader’s role in delivering a great employee experience?

Undoubtedly, it is a very important aspect to have motivated employees at work as this has a direct correlation to productivity and employee morale. As leaders, we cannot be directing employees on what must be done, rather we
need to sensitise them and create a sense of urgency. We need to provide direction to employees and show what is in store for them.

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Motivation is not an extrinsic factor and cannot be thrust upon. In order to get the best results and value from the work of our teammates, it is important that we make their journey enjoyable and enable them to give their best.

The entire leadership team has to come together as a cross-functional task force and be part of the process. This has to be owned by all business managers and not seen as an HR intervention alone.

Coaching, counselling are few areas where the human touch is still required, apart from that everything will be automated in times to come. The biggest challenge for HR teams would then be to embrace the change and learn newer skills.

HR TECH

According to you, how advances in digitalization, artificial intelligence, communication and robotics can help in creating growth opportunities and generating new insights? What changes do you expect in the coming years?

Digitalization has helped advance in many HR practices like Recruitment, Performance and Talent management, Leave and Attendance management which was otherwise largely dependent on human intervention.

From onboarding to offboarding, technology has significantly reduced the need for constant human interface improving our efficiency and providing a significant amount of analytics that equips organisations with strategic
business insights.

Chatbots help us capture the mood of the organisation on a real-time basis; AR/VR has helped us create Experience Centers for our customers which provide an almost real feel of the property space.

Cross function collaboration has increased with the use of cloud-based technology platforms, thereby reducing person-based dependencies. Coaching, counselling are few areas where the human touch is still required, apart from that everything will be automated in times to come. The biggest challenge for HR teams would then be to embrace the change and learn newer skills.

HR Leaders: The Enablers of Employee Growth and  Engagement

When we talk about Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning on strategy, innovation and execution, how is Magicbricks undertaking some unique experiments in this area? What challenges have you encountered so far in implementing these strategies?

There is a new feature added on to online platforms almost every day. That is the rate at which technology is enhancing. At MB too, our teams work efficiently towards building new product innovations constantly. Catering to customer needs at the click of a button is the need of the new age e-commerce platforms.

We conduct regular hackathons and ideathons to get inputs into our developments. Chatbots help capture employee mood and engagement levels.

Most of the HR processes also have embraced technology, which enables the workforce to take up more strategic roles. It is only the fear of the unknown that restricts us from adapting to new changes. It is important that we take people along during these changes.

Socializing the concept of change is the only challenge which requires significant investment by HR as a change management process.

Motivation is not an extrinsic factor and cannot be thrust upon. In order to get the best results and value from the work of our teammates, it is important that we make their journey enjoyable and enable them to give their best.

CULTURE

You have said that a leader should bring a positive change to the lives of employees and act as an enabler in their journey. On a personal level, how do you ensure that? Also, how can we make sure that such talent is actively engaged in the organisational growth plan?

Leaders need to ensure they act as enablers to employee growth and success. They should be careful to use the authority to bring in positive results. There are many organisations where there is – no talk & no do; talk & some do, talk & no do. The most dangerous is the last type. The Leadership team is expected to walk the talk and work towards a common will.

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HR is responsible for owning and delivering the interventions, however best results are achieved when it is owned jointly with the leaders.

At our organisation too, this transition is part of the entire employee life. The importance of culture and organisation values needs to be taken into consideration as well. The selection process includes assessments for cultural fitment, during onboarding, KRAs are divided into 85:15 ratios of business goals and MB values, the performance management and talent development also have a significant proportion of values assessment.

HR Leaders: The Enablers of Employee Growth and  Engagement

LEARNING & DEVELOPMENT

The development of a learning orientation is seen as an organisation-wide responsibility but how can HR practitioners play a significant role in the promotion of learning in the organisation? Also, why is a ‘learning culture’ crucial to any organisation?

I believe that learning is a lifelong process and it happens best when it is self-driven. HR at our organisation supports employees to enhance their competencies by following a 70:20:10 learning model. Learning is a 2-way street and is equally the responsibility of the colleague as the management. In dynamic organisations like ours, openness to learning new things is very crucial as technology is ever-evolving. Employees are enabled to learn on the go and the focus is shifting from classroom training to bite-sized learning.

In dynamic organisations like ours, openness to learning new things is very crucial as technology is ever-evolving. Employees are enabled to learn on the go and the focus is shifting from classroom training to bite-sized learning.

We ensure to add an element of learning; special projects are assigned to all employees in their KRAs and people managers also have to invest time on employee development. Regular sessions are also organised where external speakers are invited to share their experiences and learnings with our colleagues to provide an external perspective.

TALENT MANAGEMENT

What are the HR trends you foresee when it comes to talent management, and retention of key talent with the global talent shortage? How do you keep star performers at Magicbricks from quitting?

The industry has become highly competitive and retention of key talent is crucial for companies. It is vital for HR to create jobs where employees are able to find meaning and value correlating to the larger organisation vision. Building a strong brand and providing a work environment that helps people grow and thrive are few areas that are
gaining importance.

At Magicbricks, the HR business partners regularly engage with employees to get a pulse of aspects that engage them at work and address concerns, if any. Regular connects are organized with the CEO, CHRO and business leaders to discuss various matters relating to their work at MB. Special learning interventions are held for a chosen
set of top talent every 6 months. Certain aspects of compensation and benefits are provided to this top talent to help better retention.

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Anil Kumar Misra is the Chief Human Resources Officer at Magicbricks.com. Before this Anil was leading the Human Resources function at Fidelity National Financial at Bangalore. Anil is an industry veteran with over 20 years of experience across diverse industries, from manufacturing to hospitality, IT, e-commerce, title insurance & mortgage and consumer internet services. He’s played multiple specialist/generalist roles within HR across sectors, in both fortune 500 Global MNCs as well as Indian corporates, with over 10000 employee base. In the past, he has held various leadership positions at Tesco, Capgemini, Just Dial, Patni Computer Systems and the Oberoi Group of Hotels. Under his leadership, companies have made to the list of “Most Preferred Companies to Work for in India.” Anil is a full-time PhD scholar of FMS, Delhi University, and has successfully completed the coursework. He got his Honorary Doctorate from University of Entrepreneurship and Technology in the USA for excellence in HR.

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