Anirban Chakravorty - HR as a Profession Has Certainly Evolved Significantly Over the Last Two Decades

Highly Gifted human resources professional with expertise in policy formulation, recruitment, selection, compensation, benefits, performance management, HRIS, training, development, and career growth planning. A proactive leader, planner with an extensive background in developing, conducting and supervising training programs for employees using blended learning concepts, including stand-up, one-on-one and online training.

1. Tell us about your background and journey.

Born and brought up in a Bengali middle-class family in the steel city of India – Jamshedpur, I did my schooling from Loyola High School and further pursued my academics in the field of commerce by completing my B. Com (H) from Ramjas College, University of Delhi. 

Late 1990s saw a surge in private computer education with the likes of NIIT, Aptech and other such institutes offering alternate career paths in the lucrative world of Information Technology. I fell for this inner urge to explore Information Technology in conjunction with my knowledge of commerce and ended up doing an advanced diploma course from NIIT.

My career started with NIIT in Jamshedpur which offered me a faculty position to impart NIIT curriculum which I completed successfully. As time went by I was given further roles in Business Development which leveraged both my understanding of IT and Commerce – techno-functional. 

Later I worked for an IT Staffing Company leading to a stint working with IBM before being called back for an international assignment by NIIT. Post my international exposure, I came back to India to further my entrepreneurial instincts in the Computer Education arena and as destiny had it, was offered a role in the L&D section of Keane India, Hyderabad in 2007.

The initial 6 years of my career got consumed trying to understand the corporate world in specific to the IT Industry playing different roles. When I analyse the rather amateur roles with which I kick-started my professional career, I realized that most of them had one thing in common – they were all sub-sets of a broader discipline called Human Resources.

There was no looking back since 2007 as I committed myself to learn and grow further in the area of Human Resources and discover my abilities in transforming the Human Resources arena into a strategic function for my employer. 

The initial years of my now true career offered me great experiences in the Human Resources function including exposure to managing M&As, drawing up Talent strategies working both as an HRBP and overtime coming in and out of HR Centers of Excellence like L&D, Global Compensation etc.

Keane was acquired by NTT DATA in 2010 and ever since I have been working for this company currently discharging responsibilities as Head of HR for NTT DATA Asia Pacific.

2. What is your opinion about remote working?

There is a reference to two words in the question – remote and working. While commonly and in the context of professional work, remote means any location other than ones’ physical office and working refers to discharging your responsibilities on a day to day basis.

However, I feel working should be defined as effectively and meaningfully discharging ones’ responsibilities resulting in increase in productivity for our business and value for our clients. Hence, for me as long as we can increase productivity (internally) and bring enhanced value (externally) for our clients, the work location is secondary. 

The intent of any work location should be to foster an environment of safety and productivity for employees and hence if an employee displays higher productivity working remotely (in complete compliance of code of conduct), I see no adverse impact on business and hence would likely formalize such an arrangement.

3. How do you keep your employees and team engaged? What are some of the shifts in engagement strategies?

The first time I ever heard of the word “Engagement” was in context to “Marriage”. Thus the importance of engagement is when both the parties involved i.e. the boy and the girl find each other compatible and agreeable to a long term journey together. Therefore, such expression of engagement then logically converts to a marriage. Engagement is thus an expression of genuine “intent” and marriage that of “commitment”.

Hence when you take this concept further into a corporate world the application remains mostly the same. Engagement being a two-way process cannot be independently discharged by the employer (HR Leads this role) but has to be compatible to the expectations of the employee. 

Therefore, running engagement programs where both HR and employees co-create the program and thereby co-own the results of such dispensation are more successful to attaining the ultimate objective of increasing employee productivity as opposed to the general engagement customs of organizing annual days, birthday parties and team outings.

At NTT DATA we attempt to give our employees a sense of being a co-owner as opposed to just being a white collar worker. This is the shift in recent strategies around the subject of employee engagement. 

Application of a series of the erstwhile strategies may keep an employee busy and not distracted outside of the company business (thereby reducing attrition) but in my view such strategies failed in increasing productivity of employees. Reducing attrition does not lead to increase of productivity – and this something new era HR Leaders need to think about while charting out engagement strategies.

4. How important is skill development for employees and how do you do that?

Skill development and re-skilling of employees is a key to increasing the productivity of every employee within the organization. Within NTT DATA we encourage employees to decide a career path as an initial step post which skilling opportunities are identified to help the individual do well in the path of their choice. 

This not only results in employee satisfaction but indirectly leads to increase in employee productivity which is therefore a win-win situation for both the employee and the employer.

At times we conclude skill development to a very linear exercise that of providing training to employees. Even worse without understanding career aspirations we put a herd of individuals into a training room to undergo general and or common training. 

The key to skill development is not only to train your employees with new and relevant skills but to give them opportunities to apply their learning. If employees are unable to apply their learning, then it is as good as having a driver’s license without having a vehicle to drive.

5. How according to you has HR as a profession evolved over the years?

HR as a profession has certainly evolved significantly over the last two decades and more since I have entered into this discipline. From a complete back-office, administrative function of merely record keeping and reporting, it has now in many ways come up to sharing the table with business executives and providing consultations which become strategic inputs for business modelling.

6. What are some of the qualities you look for in a person when hiring for leadership?

My favourite line – “Values” underpin “Beliefs” and Beliefs underpin “Behaviour” and hence for me while hiring C-suite the evaluation is more on the value settings of the individual. While the business evaluates the individual’s skills for recognizing business related fitment, from an HR stand-point the most important element in a person is his or her “Values” which in other sense defines the person’s DNA. 

Alignment of the corporate values and the leaders value in general is a key to the success of both and hence is a key criterion for me during hiring decisions.

7. Which is your favourite book and why?

I guess I am not an ardent reader of books yet (at least would like to read far more than what I do now), however, in the recent past and specially the whole of last year under the unprecedented experiences from COVID19 some books like IKIGAI written by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles talking about the Japanese secret to a long and happy life has made me reflect a lot on myself and my profession.

As an HR professional and working in NTT DATA for the last 14 years and counting, gave me abundant opportunities to meet global colleagues and hear their experiences and expectations. 

I have realized that the majority of my colleagues in general ultimately want to have a happy & stress-free life – the majority of IT workforce world-wide suffer from various form of new generation lifestyle (sedentary lifestyle) ailments including but not limited to depression and anxiety, heart related problems, sleep disorders etc.

My challenge overtime would to be build a global workforce wherein every employee of NTT DATA is able to discover his/her IGAKAI to continuously deliver excellence in our services to our clients.

- Interviewed by - Sanjana Jain

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