Umesh Hota is a senior HR generalist with expertise in merger & acquisition management, change management, employee relation, talent acquisition, retention & development, career and succession planning, creating and restructuring business focussed organisation in multi-locational, multi-cultural environment. Successful in transformation of business units by application of innovative OD & employee relation practices. Passionate about measurement / development of performance & competency and establishing competency based human resources management practices.

An interesting prediction by Mr. Umesh on the next big thing in HR – Industrial Relations, read on to find out about it..

Q: The 1stJob always holds a special place for an individual, where did you start your career? 

A: My first job has been very special to me. I started my career with Indian Aluminium Company Ltd (an Alcan Canada operation) at Hirakud, Odisha. This company was taken over by Hindalco (by then I left the company) and now that I am with Hindalco, the unit is now under my care.

I can’t forget my first visit to this unit in my current role. The second generation employees whom I had recruited, trained and stood beside during their days of adjustment to their workplace came out in groups. It was a touching moment, a time when I realised how precious these emotional earnings could be.

Q: Could you share your learnings of your 1stjob?

A: This is the place where I applied my learnings from B-School. Few frustrations, many exciting moments! It gave me an opportunity to experiment and test my assumptions & execute many projects which very few organisations (where innovation is the buzz) allow even today. My biggest learnings, of course, has been ‘don’t look at an easy way, look at the best way’ and ‘any job can be professionalised if you have the drive to do so’. As an HR professional responsible for employee well being, wonderful ideas can strike your mind if you are genuinely interested in people management and not doing it only for the sake of your living.

Q: As an individual gains experience, they are given people management responsibility. Can you recollect who was your 1streportee & the experience of handling your 1stteam?

A: It was initially ‘treading with caution’. All of my team members were older than me. How do I continue to respect without being taken for granted? was my struggle. However, I was fortunate, I learnt a different meaning of ‘respect for subordinates’. Getting result out of a team does not always require direction, putting people under pressure, close supervision etc. It is more about respecting the output and thereby, attaching value to the individual. That makes the person smile and stretch for an extra hour. Pointing out mistake with a context and implication gets more accepted. Your team has to perceive you as a well meaning person.

Q: What are your suggestions for effectively managing teams?

A: Each person is different in a team and no two teams behave the same. While there are some common principles, my first team taught me that the leader’s approach has to be tailor-made rather than ready-made to each individual and each team.

A team member gets a great level of joy when a leader makes the individual realize their area of strength (which they were ignorant about) by hand holding them and helping them grow. It’s not easy to trace, but our professional journeys provide us with many such opportunities. I call it aroma captured by an experienced nose.

There are many more suggestions, but I will conclude with a tip- a leader shouldn’t chase popularity but certainly, should work towards commanding respect. The latter requires consistency, perseverance and  patience.  At times, it comes with sacrifice of the former.

Q: Technology has made inroads in HR. Improved HR Ratios and Inefficiencies. However, How does a CHRO ensure that e-touch doesn’t reduce p-touch with employees?

A: I, vividly remember this dilemma clouding our minds when e-mail invaded workplace and much before that, when TV invaded our drawing rooms. But today you can’t think of life without these.

We used to have monthly health talks on sunday mornings in our club. With the most popular TV shows synchronising with this, the attendance dwindled. We stopped it only to substitute with an interview with our doctor and aired it through the cable network that we were managing. With improvements, this became one of the most popular TV shows and developed broader audience of the children and other family members. This is a very fundamental example of using technology to improve p-touch.

Opposing inroad of technology into our operation will only be counterproductive. Also as social beings, we have a strong need to be connected as humans. A need for personal touch for us, Asians are strong, which we should be mindful of. There are enough and more ways for us to innovate application of e-touch to improve p-touch.

There is, of course, a danger of being mechanical. We have to guard against it. We need to keep in mind that it’s the medium which is changing and not the purpose and basics around it.

Q: How has HR intervention changed from the day you started your career to now? (wrt employee engagement, retention, recruitment and policies)?

A: ‘Sea change’, I would say! HR has kept pace with the changes in other business processes. Lots of innovations have happened in the domain of HR.

However, I must mention that IR, as a field has not seen many changes. I spent more than a decade in roles and organisations, where I did not stay actively connected with IR. When I got back to a role with fair degree of IR content, I was surprised to learn that the field has not evolved. Possibly, we have ignored it. This is also correlatable with a few incidents we have seen in this landscape in the recent past. Now that the current government is focusing on manufacturing (where IR is more predominant), the HR fraternity has to rise up to the occasion and do a lot in sharpening the skills and bring in overall change in this critical professional field.

The next decade will be the decade of “IR skill set” till we get a balance. However, I notice a huge vacuum which bothers me.

Q: What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?

A: Well, it is unfair to ask this question with limitation of time and space. However, let me attempt doing justice to it. Leading and bringing in cultural transformation that brings business success has been the most rewarding experience in my life. I am fortunate to have had such opportunities multiple times. They are highly demanding, put you under stress, teach you to navigate uncertainty and take a risk. These experiments have put my managerial capabilities under test. Also, they have given me tremendous amount of joy and fulfilment.

Q: Finally, Your views on the traits that a new age recruiter should have?

A: Recruitment is the most important job of a manager, irrespective of the function. Your life is as satisfying as the capability of the team you have. Selection is the process which provides the opportunity to choose between your success or failure, contrary to the belief we may like to operate in.

The most important trait that a recruiter should have, irrespective of his/her age, is to be able to understand the attributes required to be successful in a particular role, including the cultural dimension and dynamics in the team he/she will work with. This is where we see a gap. Finding the right fit becomes easy if the gap is addressed. By selecting a wrong candidate, we do definite harm to the employee. It concerns me more. Loss to the organisation could be temporary and you can manage by leveraging others’ capability. For the employee, the damage could be permanent and at times irreparable.

Being able to understand the requirement of the job along with the context, is the most critical attribute. The importance rises with the criticality of the role to the core business.