Somnath Baishya currently heads up Human Resources for Intuit in India. He partners with the business to drive the True North Goals on Talent in a geography that has been key to the success of Intuit.
His foray into HR began when he joined XLRI, after his Bachelors in Technology (Hons.) from IIT. Experiencing organization journeys during different phases such as a startup, scaling up (across capabilities & geographies) and transformations driven through changes in business strategy have provided Somnath some of the most diverse, complex challenges and learnings as an HR professional. Prior to Intuit, he has been with Tata Motors, Infosys, Nokia and Adobe.
During his over 18 years in HR, he has been actively engaged with academia globally to help bright minds learn about and make confident strides into the corporate arena. He has been on various HR and Industry Forums speaking regularly and shaping thoughts.
Here’s what we found about Somnath Baishya in a close encounter with him!
The 1st Job always holds a special place for an individual, where did you start your career?
My professional career started with Tata Motors (then Telco). I had the opportunity to join their newly set plant at Lucknow which was into manufacturing LCVs and the Tata Sumo. Even after nearly two decades of working with different organizations and teams, those two years have a special space – my first set of friends from the corporate world; first boss and first mentor; first hiring experience; first salary … many firsts!!! There is also a collection of moments which mattered big then, but seem stupid and laughable now.
Could you share your learnings of your 1st job
Working in a factory environment which was being set up and in Lucknow and at a time when corporate climate there was in a state of infancy, was really a spicy recipe. It was a baptism by fire. One of my first learnings was how to operate in an unstructured environment, Plan A was essential but Plan B was survival. Things were extremely volatile in the factory environment.The other key realization was that there wasn’t a ‘one size fits all’. I remember leading a training module on Time Management with our Engineer Trainees and Managers. However, on one occasion due to a slowdown in production, we had to keep our Operators engaged. I volunteered to run the same module with this audience. Within a first few minutes, I realised I had hit wall. What worked great with the other employees was disaster here. I had to shun my slides, shift from a classroom to a circular seating, roll up my sleeves and switch from English to Hindi. It worked magic.
Working with the TATA’s also instilled two fundamental learnings which I have valued ever since.
Firstly, the importance of ethics and integrity. The TATA culture lived it. Secondly, the importance of processes. There was a documented approach to almost everything. The thick files with pages ranging from the fresh white, to pale yellow and fragile brown captured it all. These were a boon during crises moments, change in personnel etc. Knowledge retention was fortified.
As an individual gains experience, they are given people management responsibility. Can you recollect who was your 1st reportee & the experience of handling your 1st team
Strange but true, I started as a manager from Day 1. I had a direct reportee. She was also in her first job. I should be frank to admit that I was too busy getting my feet in, the manager bit was more of an organization structure thing. What made it possibly easy for me was that she was easy to work with. A few summer trainees also got assigned to me – it was fun to get folks from college in the mix.
My first team responsibility surfaced when I relocated to Pune to take a regional responsibility at Infosys. I was leading the HR team at Pune. When I started there were 4 people and we doubled the team gradually. Being out of the corporate set up, I was the senior most in HR out there. I also picked up additional responsibility to manage the Mohali centre and had a remote team member out there. The team was a bunch of young minds – very diverse personalities. Great part is that most of them are still connected 13 years hence and we still have lot to laugh over.
What are your suggestions for effectively managing teams?
It is extremely important for a leader to accept diverse styles, thoughts and aspirations. As a leader one is expected to create a vision, a dream which is inspiring, yet achievable. A leader is not expected to solve it out for the individuals in the team but enable them to find ways past the bottlenecks. Trusting individuals and believing that the success of the leader is through the success of the individuals in the team is an important cornerstone. Team members must be enthused to work with the leader, as much as the leader is enthused to work with them.
Acquiring talent for organization is an art, how do you go about doing it so well?
The process of acquiring talent, more so the passive talent starts much before the actual hiring starts. Campus engagement today is a ‘Business As Usual’ terminology but a decade ago it was the differentiator. I remember how with my team we managed each campus as an account, we decentralized the recruitment team to be closer to where the customer was and engaging with them round the year towards a mutual win-win. In 2006, I had the opportunity to lead hiring programs for university talent in UK and USA. We learnt the hard way, when in career fairs in the midst of the in-demand employers, we had a challenge with footfall. But then we created a unique value proposition which the other employers were not providing – travel, earn and work a few months in India. This was a game changer and helped build a global workforce.
In all these years of service, can you share with us, one of the toughest situations you have had to face at your workplace?
I believe nothing is more difficult than having the hard conversation with an employee asking him or her to leave the organization, at times even when the employee is at fault. The repercussion of such a decision is overwhelming – it impacts the family. There are a handful of instances where I have lived through these high emotion moments.
Social media is an important tool in today’s world of talent acquisition. Can you please give us some inputs on how to utilize Social Media to acquire and engage talent?
The power of the social media in hiring is there to see. Reach outs on job opportunities, reference checks and recommendations are hygiene now. It is interesting to see the amount of data intelligence that is leveraged from the social media to catalyse talent acquisition today. Social presence is built over time. Social presence needs to be smart and snappy. Social presence also needs to be honest. Talent acquisition professional need to be smart and agile to spot the patterns and differentiators and not get carried away by the jazz in the profile. Engaging with passive talent is a long haul investment – it needs to be done in a sustained manner. It is not just the content, people also try spot the right smell, the right feel about an organization and the opportunity.
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?
Today as I see many of my erstwhile team members thrive on successful professional careers they have crafted for themselves, I do feel extremely proud to have been part of their journeys during their early days as a manager.
Finally, your suggestions to the new age recruiter?
In a super connected world, success lies in widening networks and staying connected with potential talent on a continuous basis. He/she needs to have an active social presence and a strong social brand. This builds confidence with passive talent to engage. He/she needs to be agile – it is like hunting, you need to get your attack ‘spot on’, before someone else grabs your prey. Smart conversation, crisp and loaded with the differentiators and high impact content is a must. It is also not about getting the numbers done but creating the right candidate experience – even for the ones who are not selected.