Shan Mohammed - Employers Need to Focus on Upskilling and Reskilling of Employees

An Avid HR Transformation Catalyst & HR Practitioner with versatile experience of 19 years in leading & managing Talent acquisition, Digital HR Transformation, Employee Experience, Talent Strategy, Performance, Rewards and HR Operations initiatives with a focus on productivity, efficiency, profitability and achieving organization's Human Capital Strategy. 

1. Tell us about your background and journey.

An Avid HR Transformation Catalyst & HR Practitioner with versatile experience of 19 years in leading & managing Talent acquisition, Digital HR Transformation, Employee Experience, Talent Strategy, Performance, Rewards and HR Operations initiatives with a focus on productivity, efficiency, profitability and achieving organization's Human Capital Strategy. 

I’m an IT Graduate and Postgraduate in HR and IT. I’m currently working with Reliance Industries Limited as Sr. General Manager – Human Resource & Head - Hiring and Employee Experience Platform. Prior to this, I have worked with Bharti Infratel, Dalmiya Group and few other major players in IT/ITes industries.

2. What is your opinion about remote working?

In my opinion, Work from home/ Remote working is need of the hour. Due to Covid-19 pandemic calling employees to office until and unless any emergency, would be a mistake. Employers need to focus on Upskilling and Reskilling of employees.

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

Keeping employees engaged during the COVID-19 pandemic can be a challenge, but we use various ways to keep them engaged and motivated. 

Some of them are - 

  • Encourage health and wellness for Employees & their Family members.

    Our employees' health should be a topmost priority. At the end of the day, if our employees get sick, they won't be able to perform at their highest level. We have started multiple initiatives like Symptom Checker Tool (inhouse build tool based on ICMR and WHO guidelines)– Yoga session, Counselling etc.

    During the Lockdown, each employee needs to fill Symptom checker for himself/herself and their family members. If anyone have any symptom then our medical team immediately get in touch with them. If required, we have arranged RT-PCR test for them and take care of their medical need. This initiative is one of its kind and we appreciated by employees.

  • Host virtual meetings, casual hangouts and Fun Sessions.

    Many remote teams maintain regular communication through video calls, instant messaging, email and web conferencing platforms. When the whole team is working, a voice or video conferencing call can go a long way to encourage group collaboration.

    We have plan out virtual get-togethers for non-work-related chats and fun. Casual video calls to keep employees engaged and excited to be part of the team.

  • Encourage personal connections within teams.

    While you want to be professional with your team, keep in mind that your workers are still human. They have loved ones, celebrations, and bad days like everyone else. As an employer, you need to recognize their strengths, weaknesses, and interests to better connect with them.

    Remember that engagement is not simply ‘Keeping Tab’ but nurturing personal connection.

    Remote employees will feel more engaged and committed to the company and their role if they know you care about them not only as employees but as people.

  • Keep the lines of communication open.

    Employees sometimes feel that their team isn't around when they are in need, and vice versa. While it's impossible to expect everyone to be available 24/7, knowing that they can reach out to their colleagues and stay in touch through digital communication helps virtual workers feel more connected.

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

Understanding the development needs of an employee starts with recognising that no employee enters your organisation as a perfectly formed staffer. In fact, as your company’s needs evolve due to digital transformation, it’s impossible to consider that any employee entering your business could be entirely prepared for its future needs. 

According to a survey, sixty-eight per cent of employees prefer to learn at work – giving organisations a great opportunity to drive employee development activities. Traditionally, candidates were hired based on their educational background and work experience. 

Today, the rapid development of technology has significantly decreased the shelf life of formal education and changed hiring requirements. Even tech giants like IBM, Google, and Apple no longer require a college degree to recruit.

Employers are now looking for potential leaders rather just candidates with solid technical skills, which will nonetheless need to be fine-tuned frequently to keep up with technological advances. Soft skills like creativity, adaptability, problem-solving, and critical thinking are also becoming increasingly desirable, if not imperative.

We are using various methods for skill development like Learning Challenges, Learning in flow of work etc. We encourage employees to identify their learning area and support them to achieve their target in skill development.

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

Around 15-20 Years ago, HR department—often known as “Personnel Department”—was responsible for keeping records, ensuring companies followed compliance with labour laws, and determining wages, compensation packages, and other benefits.

Over the years, the HR department has evolved tremendously, thanks to the emergence of technology and HR Technology service provider like SAP, Oracle, Workday etc that automate much of the work traditionally done by HR professionals, the HR department that exists today looks almost nothing like the ones that came before. Not only these bigger giants, there are technology players who are specialize in one of the HR Function like Gloat,, SumTotal, Kronos etc.

They’re also payroll processing/outsourcing companies who charge and manage the employees themselves, this give the employer to focus on the more important areas for employee development.

And HR leaders, for example, may be hesitant to embrace new HR technologies simply because they fear they will ultimately be putting themselves out of work. By investing in new HR technologies and platforms, however, HR professionals can provide even more valuable services to their companies while improving team morale and, by extension, productivity.

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

According to Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, “Outstanding leaders go out of the way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.”

“What is leadership” - If you google the term 'Leadership,' you will find endless leadership definitions by the great minds and leaders. After working with some good leaders in my career and being in a leadership position myself, the understanding I have developed is that - 

“Leadership is the confidence and courage to make bold decisions with integrity and compassion to deliver the result.”

Some of the core competencies or qualities while hiring for a leadership role are as follows:

  • Innovation - An innovative leader is not a creative genius with thought-provoking ideas but gives others the freedom to develop their ideas. You would always find people with great ideas who lack the will, determination, and fear of taking any actions.

    But innovative leaders are not one of them as the innovative leader, Steve Jobs himself said, 'Innovations distinguish between a leader and a follower.'

  • Visionary - A visionary leader is far-sighted and driven and inspired by what a company can become. Visionary leaders work hard for the greater good and keep themselves updated with time and change.

    Ensuring a vision for the future with perseverance and keeping everybody invested in the process is what a visionary leader does. According to John C. Maxwell, “People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.

  • Decision-Making Skill - Good leaders are decisive and know how to help the organization, employees, stakeholders, and customers. You would never envision a leader who is unclear and uncertain. Good leaders are aware of the fact of how their decisions can make or break businesses.

    They evaluate a given circumstance many a time before coming to any conclusion. They collect the necessary information required before making any announcements. Also, they do not believe rumours but examine a situation or a problem themselves before deciding.

  • Strong Communicator - Excellent communication is the key to good leadership. An effective leader knows how to put across his message. They are good orators and communicate to get his/ her work done. They are not harsh; they choose words and expressions which suit the situation and allow others to express their thoughts and ideas.

    They understand how important it is to have good communication skills.. They are very conscious and learn from others’ behaviours, which gives them a deep understanding of human complexities.

  • Integrity - Integrity is a core quality that every leader must possess. You cannot run any business successfully if you lack integrity. Self-development author Brian Tracy says that whenever he holds a strategic business meeting, the first value every executive agrees on is integrity.

    Business leaders know- Integrity is the foundation of good leadership, and one must stand for their beliefs. No matter how hard a situation, a good leader inspires with his principles without compromising; they refrain from making false promises or take shortcuts, choosing thoughts and action over personal gain. Delivering the said promises as ethically and morally grounded is necessary to pay the dividend in the long run.

7. Which is your favourite book and why?

Measure What Matters by John E. Doerr, The book is about using Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), a revolutionary approach to goal-setting, to make tough choices in business.

It is an excellent read on implementing OKRs by the master of them. The google/intel/bono case studies are all detailed and provide a lot of examples on how you can implement these in your own organizations. John Doerr built on the method he learnt at Intel under the great Andy Grove and then helped more than 50 companies implement those OKRs with a lot of success. 

The system obviously works but the true challenge is influencing the leadership in organization to follow such a methodical approach. This book should help with that cause hopefully.

- Interviewed by - Sanjana Jain

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