How do you look back at your professional journey that you have traversed thus far? Please share some of those enriching experiences that you have come across.
It has been 17 enriching years across industries and departments, and every experience has added to the expertise that I bear at this instance. Working in sales, distribution, HR, L&D not only exposed me to various facets of business and people, it has equally contributed to my growth. Media (India Today / Ten Sports) enhanced my creativity and my confidence to interact with people across industries. The Insurance industry broadened my horizon and exposed me to the market terrains across India. Sales and distribution put together taught me the art of networking, understanding my target market and audience at a micro level to maximise my targets and set newer benchmarks. This exposure to people and terrains helped me spot and hire talent in the HR and distribution role in Bharti AXA. It taught me the importance of acquiring the right talent for the right job, setting up offices across locations and hiring in big numbers. This provided me with an edge to understand the ‘full circle’ of talent acquired to talent developed to talent replaced. The exposure in sales, distribution, HR and employee development carved a fuller picture for me to deliver in the role of Head-Learning & Development, S&D Airtel. This role further taught me the importance of how technology, data and innovation can result in the transfer of rich knowledge to lakhs of people across the distributors, retailers and employee development projects like 3G, Apple and the like. This helped develop a global approach and contributed to the scale we achieved. A natural progression was my own venture. Being involved in every aspect of my business gave me the ability to connect all the dots and look at the Big Picture.
The famous quote, “The whole is more than the sum of its parts”, aptly sums up my journey. In my current role at Client Associates where we are in the “Growth Mode Stage”, I am very excited to use my knowledge on expanding teams, career paths, talent development, learning plans for high performing teams, enhancing technology and innovation.
How has working across industries made your professional journey more interesting?
From media to insurance to telecom to a training company and to financial services at Client Associates, the journey has been one which is interesting and enriching. The learnings across industries and with high quality teams has simply been humungous. One common feature across all these industries was “Deep People Engagement”. A learning that has helped me plan, spot and engage with People/talent.
How different have the two experiences been for you- setting up HR from the scratch in an organisation to managing well-established HR frameworks?
Establishing HR for the first time is a lot easier than bringing about a change in organisations, particularly in companies that have decades of legacy. At Client Associates, it is an interesting stage of moving from tactical to Strategic HR. Aligning the Strategy and the OD piece with Vision 2022. Enhancing the technology, career planning, talent development on the basis of role holders, ’maximizing potentials’ would be part of my design. However, Learning Plans for High Performing teams, Talent acquisition (scaled up), coaching-mentoring, skill building would be an enhancement from the current stage.
Having been associated with the wealth management industry what is your understanding of the business, and how big a role does HR play in this sector? Were there any sector specific challenges and opportunities experienced by you?
The wealth management industry around the world is witnessing a multitude of change due to weak economies in the developed world to strong growth patterns in developing markets such as China and India. The size and growth in the UHNI/HNI segment of the global wealth management market is particularly attractive. But acquiring good talent in a good market is a tough ask. Given the nature of business, performers do not move so easily. The opportunity, we see at our end is certainly more optimistic than the industry. Client Associates is in a sustained growth phase. Our Vision 2022 envisages a four-fold growth across all parameters – assets, revenue and team. The talent that joins the company at this stage becomes an integral part of the growth story of the organisation.
Who have been your figures of inspiration during the professional journey? What are some of the values and ideologies with regards to which you think, leaders should definitely walk the talk to win stakeholder confidence?
During my professional journey, I have come across different sets of leaders who have been both inspiring and thought provoking. From each one I imbibed a different quality of leadership and style. What was common to them all was their clarity of vision and the ability to lead others by inspiring them into action without compromising on the essential human qualities of empathy and compassion. They always created an environment that was conducive for others to develop into leaders.
My own approach as a leader is to envision the role/assignment I take up, 'in its entirety'. A clear vision and planning is very crucial for the success of any task, whether personal or professional. In addition, a detailed breakdown on tasks to be delivered followed by the final step of execution to perfection within the set timelines should lead to success and winning stakeholder confidence.
“Best HR practices are built on a futuristic vision.” What are your views on the same and how have you practiced this during your stint with various organisations?
The key factors that will impact us in HR in the future are the same as today, but, the strategy to address these would depend on their relative importance at various points in time. The key factors are globalization, information and data, technology and managing multiple generations at work place. A CHRO today has a demanding role more than ever before. Beyond domain knowledge she/he has to innovate, push the envelope, and, be ready with the “right solutions at the right time” in sync with the company needs. With the increasing number of millennials, the engagement levels need change, distinct Employee Value Proposition and relevance to fair feedback will gain more importance. The HR needs to develop a methodical feedback model with pre-defined format and timelines.
As part of the “Client Associates” family, what will be your focus for 2018? What are the organisational goals that have been set by you?
Aggressive hiring and talent management at a micro level is our focus area. Our hiring mix is clearly planned and geared towards our Vision 2022. Talent development upskilling is nurtured with an aggressive learning skill plan. Our goal is to be ranked amongst the “Best places to work” in the Private Banking Industry in India. We at Client Associates have designed a clear mandate to spot new talent and grow our existing talent for next levels internally. We have earmarked clear engagement practices for existing employees and another set of enhanced practices for the new hires. We have mandated floating one third of the positions as IJP’s before engaging with the outside world.
Up, Close and Personal
What inspired you to steer your career towards HR?
I believe one of my key strengths is understanding people and organisations and I supposed that I could add value to the HR function in a meaningful way by being a bridge between the two.
How do you like to spend your free time?
Relaxing with my family and kids or listening to light instrumental music while reading a book.
Please share some of your experiences of travelling to different places. What have you gained from these experiences?
Coming from an army background has given me the opportunity to live in various cities within India and made me more adaptable and accepting of different people. In addition, travelling across the world has exposed me to new cultures and ideas that have broadened my horizons further.
What were your learnings from the B-School?
Though it is difficult to describe a multi-faceted learning experience in a few words, I will share the key aspect. B-School taught me to simultaneously Zoom in and Zoom out of a problem so as to arrive at an ideal combination of strategic and operational thinking. In effect, I became a person who does not ‘miss the forest for the trees.’
Has someone from your family deeply inspired your values and growth as a human being?
My parents have indeed inspired me with the values of openness, compassion and empathy while my paternal grandfather ingrained in me the value of giving back to society which has helped me grow as a human being.
Who would you credit in your life as a great influence in shaping you as the woman that you are today?
My parents and my husband have been the greatest influences in my personal and professional journey and are instrumental in making me the woman that I am today.
Favourite Quote: “What goes around comes around”
Leadership style: Transformational
Favourite Book: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Favourite Movie: Top Gun
Favourite Place: McLean, Virginia
Life is… Precious
Family is… Everything
I strongly believe in…. Honesty and Compassion
The most important thing I do on Sunday…. Spending time with my kids
I deal with setbacks by… Working harder and being optimistic.
Things I never leave home without… Smile, Faith and keys
Some gaps that HR Organisations need to bridge.
Primarily between two things - acquiring talent and bridging skill gaps. Some HR managers believe the answer is to simply hire outside talent. While this seems to be the obvious choice to bring on a new hire for an open position, it sometimes overlooks opportunities that we may have this talent in-house. We are already walking the talk on one-third internal talent growth that we do not talk about “the skills gap” on a macro level. But we design towards micro level solutions role holder wise.
Common errors companies commit while designing engagement practices.
Organisations while designing engagement practices see their employees as “Resources” and that limits their roles and possibilities. It is important to assess people and identify their strengths and the possibilities which could be created using such a strength. This is reflected in some of our senior management which comprises of several individuals who joined the organisation at an early stage in their careers and have now developed as one among the top industry professionals. To elaborate, it is not about what ‘we do’ but ‘why are we doing it’ that is important. Similarly, high performing teams need a different level of engagement practice they cannot be equated to our budding one while planning. We need to know the stage they are at and the passions that drive our people and engage accordingly.
A mysterious benefactor wrote you a check for 1,00,00, 000 and said, “Help me solve a problem! What would you say?
Can I understand your problem before moving ahead?
What’s the one thing that you’re deeply proud of but would never put it on your resume?
My Parents for the love and freedom they gave me... to be what I am today.
What’s the one dream that you’ve tucked away for the moment?
A trip to Kailash Man Sarovar
Is there something that people consistently ask for your advice on? What is it?
How do we plan the key milestones in our career journey?
When was the last time you astonished yourself?
When I did 11 continuous laps within 2 days of getting back to swimming after a gap of a year.
What do you value most: free time, recognition, or money?
Free Time, an absolute luxury!
Are you living your life purpose or still searching?
Life is all about continuous revelations.... Still searching
1. Life is a process of continuous learning. We have to keep learning from our surroundings, we have to adapt to the newer generations, technology and inventions.
2. A positive attitude and solutions approach can help you overcome all odds and barriers.
3. Family and friends form one’s lifeline. You derive your strength from them during happy and tough times. Always find time to care and surprise them.
4. ‘Push your limits’! You will be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.
Name: Reema Chopra
Title: Associate Director – Human Resources
Organisation: Client Associates.
Experience: 17 years
Education: MBA, Graduate from Protocol School of Washington DC, MICA Alumnus on Digital Marketing and Communications
Does your organisation support you in maintaining work-life boundaries?
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