Ravi Shankar - There Is No Exercise Better for the Heart Than Reaching Down to People and Uplifting Them (Executive Vice President - HR & ES Jindal Steel & Power)

While formal education still holds its own rooted place in the formative years of any individual, however we have myriad examples who have taken the other route in marking their identity as stalwarts of their own fields. Considering examples of several college and school dropouts who have excelled exceptionally well in their respective fields despite having no formal education, have a signature attribute in common and that’s “Passion”.

Tell us about your background, journey & upbringing.

Born in a conventional and educated family in the historically rich city of Patna, Bihar, I was brought up by my parents; father who was then an Electrical Engineer in the Bihar Electricity Board and Mother as the homemaker. I had the most balanced out upbringing that calibrated in me the values of being independent individual on one hand yet valuing & nurturing relationships and family ties, on the other.

I had always found myself utterly encouraged by my father’s work ethics and morals who had never failed to inspire us with his enriching thoughts that he executed with immense confidence and conviction. Maybe that brushed off on me contributing to my growing years and instilling the principles that has been my identity since then. Having a humane approach, connecting with people and helping them transform life came in very organic to me.

My mother ensured that I remained true to myself in identifying my passion and chasing dreams, come what may! From her, I learnt to remain grounded yet firm, lean to help others in need yet retain a sturdy composure and keep pushing limits to make way for realizing bigger dreams.

How did you narrow down on this profession?

Hailing from a society where being a job holder was greeted with immense respect and acknowledgement, I aspired to be in a profession where not only would I be able to carve a recognition for self as an independent individual but also would facilitate others in being self-dependent too. HR is the only profession that caters to this aspect of addressing the job needs of people and I’m proud being a part of such genre that extends its services for people.

My intense fascination towards Human, Psychology and Emotions beckoned me to take up MBA with Human Resource Management from LNMI. However my first venture was in a marketing firm with Kilburn Reprographics Ltd in 1993 and after having worked there for few months, I gave in to my ultimate calling and got myself associated with Jindal Strips Ltd, now JSPL, as Management Trainee - HR. Even though the remuneration was half of the former compensation as a Marketing executive, still it manifested greater joy and curiosity in me, leaving me to bask in the glory of intense satisfaction.

I personally believe that there is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down to people and uplifting them. So having opted for a profession, “Human Resources” has enabled me to remain effortlessly “Me” and offer my best services to people around.

Being a people’s person, I love interacting with them, paying keen ears to their concerns whether professional or personal, motivating them, helping them with solutions, enabling them to traverse through the crests and troughs in an organization and offering them an overall positive experience, keeps me on the go.

All these attributes is intrinsic to me and ultimately led to amplify my passion towards HR rendering me to remain focused in the profession ever since I commenced my journey because when you do what you love & vice versa, then everything flows in naturally.

It seems onboarding, even in 2021 is a long drawn out process behind the scenes. How do you envision this changing in the future?

Every process in majority of fields has embraced the computed way of working by adhering to multiple software and tools. The ‘Employee Life Cycle’ has also been walking parallel with Digitization, more so given the current ongoing pandemic where virtual working has been the reigning concept and companies have adopted and adapted to such interfaces.

In the various stages of Employee Life Cycle, right from Employee Attraction, Talent Acquisition, Onboarding, Growth and Development, Retention and Separation, each of this process has been digitalized in today’s working context to honor and grace the new incumbent as well as the parting employee.

Using a live stream platform on social media handles, we may introduce the new hires by providing a video tour of the office, with the introduction of coworkers, explaining first-day expectations, and giving a general sense of day-to-day life. The materials can be gamified to make employees more inquisitive towards the new organization. Transforming written documents into interactive webinars and online modules would further augment the onboarding process to offer a seamless transition besides being a versatile and dynamic approach.

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Google, Adobe and most MNCs have a strict policy around sharing ex-employee data. How can one approach background checks in this situation?

Background checks are usually done to ensure that the new entrant is organization fit and possess values that would safeguard against any hiring risks. It’s a proactive approach adopted by organizations to invest in a better talent resource besides minimizing any reactive repercussions like employee turnover. However, if MNCs like Google, Adobe, etc. have a threshold on their people policy of sharing ex-employee data, in those cases, I believe we should explore ways of tapping into the employee background from a combination of platforms, majorly being LinkedIn recommendations that would give a sense of the employees’ behavior or conduct from his associated colleagues & informally touching base with the candidates’ ex-colleagues / colleagues.

Also we should follow the BEI’s (Behavioral Event Interviews) format for assessing candidates’ behavioral traits and the responses could offer us potential insights with respect to one’s credibility and trustworthiness, therefore having a say regarding their fitment in the role.

We can also go for a Salary benchmarking ready reckoners that would highlight the pay practices in other organizations of the similar industry as a measure towards ensuring pay parity.

So I believe with a mixed approach, we would be able to comprehend candidates & their background better.

Several global companies have come out and thrown their support behind not needing a formal education. What is your opinion about this?

While formal education still holds its own rooted place in the formative years of any individual, however we have myriad examples who have taken the other route in marking their identity as stalwarts of their own fields. Considering examples of several college and school dropouts who have excelled exceptionally well in their respective fields despite having no formal education, have a signature attribute in common and that’s “Passion”.

People who are driven by passion are invigorated by a force of vision that energizes them to achieve their dreams. Such people end up challenging the status-quo and are generally the change enablers of some extraordinary inventions. But for the common lot, having a strong educational background and academic credentials is inevitable unless they exude palpable creativity and dynamism in their demeanor to take it in their stride.

Delivering at workplace is purely related to one’s determination, passion and ability to walk that extra mile. Therefore, in my outlook, if education is complemented with passion towards the work, then it leads to exemplary results.

However, education system should be made more practical and customized as per present day requirements.

What advice do you have for aspiring HR professionals?

In the world where everything changes with the blink of an eye and we are introduced to nuances and paradigm shifts, where Digitization has taken over with its promising tools for business results that we have eventually started to undermine the value of “Simplicity”.

Everything can be replaced but there is no replacement for human touch. I personally feel that in-person connect has a greater impact on people that creates a stronger bond that seeps even beyond any professional association. This human touch sits deeply ingrained in the minds and hearts of employees as one would never forget the experience or feeling of being attended to on a personal note. Employees are the first customer of any organization and the biggest stakeholders. If organization does not have happy and satisfied employees, it will not be able to deliver performance-oriented results. Therefore, being HR professionals, we should always ensure to have a one-on-one connect with our employees no matter how adept we get in handling varied tech-tools.

Another advice that I would like recommend for aspiring HR professionals is to keep reading good books. Books are not only best companion but they are non-judgmental and also give you perspectives. Books not only help one to keep abreast with the trends but also are the silent contributor in one’s self-growth and development. Therefore remaining embracive to learning opportunities and investing in continuous development is the precursor for achieving success in any field.

Which is your favourite book and why?

Although I have read several books but nothing has touched my heart the way, the pious Shrimad Bhagavad Gita did. It still continues to enamor me with its rich lessons. Knowledge and Wisdom when passed on from one generation to another offers an enriching platform to widen our horizons and view life from different perspectives. The Hindu epic Bhagavad Gita is profused with important teachings when inferred to with all consciousness can offer every answer to its seeker.

HR professionals can truly be benefitted from the philosophy of Bhagavad Gita, which serves as a guide in Human Resource Management. It strings together the various facets of personal and professional lives and is an ode to the ideal values expected from mankind. It depicts the Art of management like - self management, conflict management, stress and anger management, transformational leadership, motivation, goal setting and many other aspects of management which can be used as a benchmark to increase HRM efficiency and effectiveness.

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