Interview: Building bonds and integrating interests

He has over two decades of corporate experience working in India and Singapore across a wide range of sectors including Financial Services, IT, ITeS and Telecom. Widely known for his large network in the HR community, he is currently working with a noted organization, a leading Global Resource Management. Earlier, he had been associated with Satyam Computers, KPIT Infosytems, Syntel and IBM. Dinesh Gupta is Founder Trustee of the HR Interact Community. Through his long spanning domestic and global assignments, he has played a strategic role in recruiting and resource management. Apart from work, Dinesh is fond of gadgets, music and is an avid traveller, picking up new learning and integrating them professionally.

At the heart of all he does, is the simple belief that collective wisdom is more powerful than expert wisdom. An insight!

"To a certain extent, (with AI and robotics) jobs will get reduced which will have a negative impact, but while the robot will do the mundane work, the human employee will do the strategic work"

Corporate Citizen: Tell us about HR interact–an unconventional interactive system if ever there was one!

Dinesh Gupta: As it happened, I was already associated with the Human Resource Association India (HRIA) since 2006 when I started the Pune chapter, along with a couple of my colleagues. I supported HRIA for over ten years and then decided to move on to a new forum called ‘HR Interact’. Primarily because most of the forums are platforms for experts to share their experiences with the audience and it seemed like a one-way street. It was time for something different. So we thought let’s create a community of people who are interested in learning, sharing and connecting amongst themselves. And through this community, we aimed at building a model where each one teaches the other and everyone feels like a hero as he or she has inspired the group through the story that they have shared with HR Interact.

What is the objective of HR Interact?

The mission of starting HR Interact was truly to build a community and not a forum. We do not believe in the mindset that there are only a handful of people who can deliver knowledge and inspire others. HR Interact is a platform where everybody is able to tell their story. We believe in collective wisdom which is far more powerful than expert wisdom. And of course learning, sharing and networking is the essence of it all.

It is like you are putting your ears to the ground and then coming up with theory instead of top-down gyaan….

Yes. Traditionally, when a well-known orator delivers a talk, the audience may not be listening to it 100%. We ensure 100% attention as we typically do a workshop-driven model where everyone is engaged, leaving their mobile phones aside. The format is such that they have to interact actively in the workshop. Sharing is key to our essence. What we feel is, there is expertise in each of us and that should be tapped into.

We have conducted four programs so far. The first one was launched at World Café in March 2018, where we didn’t decide the topic beforehand. We asked the participants to discuss what they felt strongly about, and together they came up with 30 points which were a goldmine of debate and information.

It was a seminal moment as we realized that they didn’t want us to drive them. Instead they wanted to debate the issues relevant to them and hopefully benefit from a deeper insight into the same with the help of other participants who came from diverse companies like IT, non-IT, manufacturing, banking, insurance and so on.

What happens after such workshops? Is there any take home?

The workshops provide an insight into various corporate trends and issues and participants can go back to their respective organizations and put the theories to practice. Also, we have several HR heads who are associated with us from whom we take some mentorship.

The next meeting after the one at World Café was again an unconventional one in a large-sized hall, where we did not have any seating arrangement; instead, we made all the 150 participants stand in a circle and asked them to decide the topic. They were asked to write the same on the board and we got 26 topics in the first round. Then a group of 10-15 participants started putting their thoughts on the 15 flip boards with charts. Then they went on to the next board where they gave inputs for the next topic. This way all 26 topics got discussed vociferously and the summary was compiled in an e-book, which is all set to be printed... something rather unique if I say so myself

In another workshop model, we invited Business and HR personnel for a healthy collaborative dialogue session. Both the groups were given a paper to jot down points concerning them. Each group shared their expectation with the other. Expectations from the Business side were handed over to the HR and vice versa. For example, if Business said that this is my expectation, do you agree? If yes, how can you support a particular statement? An example here is, if the management says it needs 20 Java people by next Tuesday, it may not be possible in such a short span. You have to understand that while HR is there to help you, if you come with unrealistic demands, HR cannot fulfill the same. Hiring in haste may make you end up with a costly resource. This way expectations were matched with compensations. The business people were so thrilled; they said, “No one ever asked us what HR expected of us. It was always a one-way communication.”

How do you propose to take it forward?

At the end of the program, I ask participants to nominate volunteers for the next event. Sure enough, many people raise their hands and we filter a few of them and keep some for the next event. Then we brainstorm on the next topic and once we freeze on a particular topic, we ensure that those who volunteered are up front and in charge while we take a backseat because we want them to come forward, and take pride in feeling, this is my community, and I am making a difference. We want them to own the outcome.

What is the typical age group?

About 50 per cent is a young crowd. This makes for an interesting mix of people from the age group of 27-28 juxtaposed with those in their early 40’s. These include folks from companies like SKF, Kirloskar, Cummins, and assorted IT companies where we have a good foothold because of our prior experience. Sixty per cent of the constituency is that of HR from the IT Industry and so we are striving towards a judicious mix with other sectors like banking and manufacturing too.

Which was your first job in Mumbai?

My first job was with Infrasoft Technologies, an IT company. I moved to Pune and joined Satyam Computers. Then I joined KPIT and worked overseas in Singapore for a year. Subsequently I returned to join Syntel, then IBM, and now I am working for a large IT organization

"‘HR Interact’ a community of people who are interested in learning, sharing and connecting amongst themselves. And through this community we aim at building a model where he or she has inspired the group through the story that they have shared at the event"

When you joined IT, it was in a very raw mode, and now, what changes can you see?

Things have changed drastically. My expertise is primarily in recruiting and resource management. When we started, we hardly had any job portals to search for profiles and now, the job portals are dying because everything is on LinkedIn and social media. Job portals still exist, but they are not doing that great. So the availability of resources as well as the manner of calling people has changed, thanks to digitization and technology. Earlier, people were not mobile in terms of shifting from one place to the other. But now, even in Pune, you see people from all parts of the country. So digitization has led to globalization and people now move anywhere and everywhere for a job change.

What about job applications with false degree claims?

In earlier times, it was not easy to do a background check, but now thanks to the government and NASSCOM taking the initiative, things are simpler. For example, on NSDL, where, if I have joined IBM, I have to enroll all my education and experience details there. When I move my job from IBM to Accenture, NSDL already has my records. They do not need to do a background check but they still do a check in terms of a reference check and some basic details. Earlier, it was not that easy because applications were on paper; you had to go to the respective colleges or authorities to do a background verification. With digitization, double checking becomes simpler.

As to the root cause of fraudulent claims, I may not be able to comment on the ratio but yes, we at least have the capability to trap that root cause. In earlier times, data would take some six to eight months to reach you. Now it has become so fast that within three weeks you know the whole truth of a candidate.

What is your observation about IT professionals when you joined, and now?

They are very fast these days and they need attention; if not given the same, they move on. Compared to our days, when we used to do anything and everything that used to come to us, today they insist on doing what they feel like. Suppose I am a fresher in an organization and I want to work on design development work and not spend my time testing something that is already written, I will do just that. So they are pretty clear what their goal is. If they do not get the right opportunity, they move on. Learning- wise, it has become easy for them to grasp new concepts, thanks to the plethora of technologies.

With AI and robots, what is the future of the human employee and HR guy? What will be the scene?

To a certain extent, jobs will get reduced which will have a negative impact, but while the robot will do the mundane work, the human employee will do the strategic work.

With machine learning, I get to know which soft knowledge the individual has. For example, if we are hiring from a particular campus, what is the probability that X number of students will join. Machine learning will give out a whole lot of inputs eventually, which is now soft knowledge and tends to go with an individual. If I leave the company, the knowledge goes with me. Soon the machine will take care of it and prevent the loss of knowledge.

When we do our annual resource management planning, we typically know what the attrition is going to be on an average in a particular month or during appraisal or post appraisal time, because people are sad that nothing happened this time and they tend to resign. We know the trend when attrition is likely to increase. Ensure your recruiting engine is created before so that you don’t have a billing loss and you are able to handle the situation. These inputs will eventually come from our machine learning in a much better way. It has already started in large organizations. If you have offered me a job and are keeping a connection with me, you need to keep me appraised on whatever project I will be joining. This tool can take care of it and if there is any change or delay in joining, this tool will let us know.

What is the philosophy of this HR Interact?

Our tag line says it all: An empowered HR community. Please note, community, and not a forum. Co-creation is our philosophy.

By Vinita Deshmukh