Interview With Anshu Gupta: Trader of Shared Values

How do you look back at your professional journey that you have thus far traversed? Please share some enriching experiences that you have come across.

 

I have thus far traversed two decades in my professional journey, and, I believe it has been truly fantastic. Over this period, I have observed significant changes in technology. In the late 90s, in the business we were in, HR Shared Services or global operations was all about cost reduction. However, in today’s scenario, cost reduction no longer remains a factor, and, it is more about how we can effectively adapt to technological changes with a focus towards reskilling older people, who can make the journey from the prevailing processes which are heavy on transition to those which are knowledge-intensive.

 

We are also bringing in robotics into picture in an attempt to become a subject matter expert in the delivery so that we can imbibe best practices both within and outside the organisation, and, the proof of the pudding is the cost, which can be controlled the more we get into our delivery. The cost arbitrage will cease to exist within 3-5 years from going live into a process. But, if we have competent people who are aided by the right technology, we can continue to cover the journey in a more simpler way, and, that should enhance stakeholder experience. The other factor besides tools and technology is that we need to be up with the pulse of the business, and, one should be very clear about customer expectations. Rather than telling customers what we can offer, we must understand what customers are looking for, and, how we can accommodate our offerings as per their requirement.

 

How has working across industries made your professional journey more interesting?

 

Working across different industries is entirely a different challenge. I have the experience of working in retail, manufacturing, service and telecom industry, and, I guess each industry has its own challenge, and, the composition of the workforce becomes a major factor. You need to determine the type of workforce present in your organisation, and, the basic factor is how the workforce can adopt to newer technology changes. If the workforce is not connected to technology, I believe the process will remain rudimentary, and, would continue to be labour intensive. But, if the workforce is able to adopt to advancements in technology, then I believe it ensures a better future for the company.

 

In short, every industry has its own challenges and outcomes, and the composition of the workforce remains to be a major factor, and the key to the future can be found in an ongoing commitment towards learning aka professional training and development. By way of technology upgradation, I believe employees become more valuable to their team, customers, and the company. In fact, they now have opportunity to play a bigger role in the industry with a world of newer career opportunities. Companies should also focus on continuous learning of its employees, and alongside, employees should also embrace the learning since the world is moving fast, and the people who remain still stand to be bypassed. "In today's complex business environment, learning is not just a nice thing to do-it is essential for staying on top of things... None of us can afford to remain stagnant in our knowledge."

 

How different have the two experiences been for you- setting up HR Shared Services from the scratch in an organisation to managing well-established HR frameworks?

 

While both these experiences largely vary, starting from the scratch is like a greenfield project. It has its own advantages and disadvantages, since you are unaware of the business case, you have to make certain assumptions; the technology landscape is one which is clean, and, can be adapted as per the requirement of the organisation. When you hire people with the right skillset, there is no need for reskilling, but it requires a lot of change and resistance management. A lot of investment is required in the initial build-up stage.

 

Running a matured shared service centre has its own pros and cons. The pros are limited change and resistance management, SLAs and KPIs in place, and, it is more about running BAU- but the challenge before you are to research, plan and implement the new technology. People are already in place, and corrective actions can be taken to reskill them.

 

Stakeholder requirements would be subject to constant change because they have been habituated to a pattern of delivery, and, they are therefore curious to know from shared services with regards to on time service delivery and reduced costs. Thus, it is a mixed bag in both the scenarios, but the one thing which is common is understanding the stakeholder requirement, and, having a workforce hired or trained for effective management of the service delivery.

 

Having been long associated with the shared services sector, 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?

 

HR plays a very crucial role, and business HR is a conduit between the business requirements and the shared services. Since the shared services normally operates from a co-located point, I believe it is important for the business HR to play an important role in the shared services as they are responsible for interpreting the requirement from the business, and then work with shared services to see how the requirement can be fulfilled in the form of flawless delivery. Secondly, business HR also plays a crucial role in change and resistance management, it helps the business to adapt to the newer ways of working, and, also plays an important role in understanding the challenges faced by shared services in the concept of SLAs/KPIs and reverse dependencies. Thus, the playing field is equated from both the ends - the business as well as the shared services.

 

Since business is key, the challenges are to map the ever-changing requirement of the business and, shared services, which traditionally is one size fits all, needs to be moved towards a more segmented and on demand delivery, so that there could be a fair mix of standard delivery. The other challenge would be how businesses can complement shared services with more business knowledge so that shared services can imbibe them on a daily basis, and, ensure that the delivery is not purely transactional, but more of an output based rather than effort-based delivery.

 

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?

 

There are instances where inspiration came from the technology space, vendor space, employee space, peers, colleagues, and from managers. So, it is very difficult to name a single source of inspiration. The list of people who inspired me is really long, and, these are not people to whom I reported to, but, people with whom I work. It is a fair mix of people right from the person at the shop floor to the CEO.

 

I also believe that the main source of inspiration is top down. If your top management and your stakeholders are convinced and supportive, you can equally relay back how you are delivering the results, which I believe works as a major source of inspiration. Since the inspiration flow is two dimensional- top down initially to help percolate the last person in the organisation, and bottom up, to see whether the people are happy or are facing any issues, and, unless we have a motivated and a skilled workforce, irrespective of how inspired we are, we will not be able to deliver the best results. So, it is a top down approach to create a framework and a bottom up approach to ensure that the people are aligned to the framework.

 

“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?

 

HR is more a combination of inside out and outside in view. We always try to understand market behaviour, and, how the competitors are doing so that we can measure the pros and cons and take corrective steps. Machine learning, robotics, cloud platforms are in these days, and, companies should not be a part of rat race when deploying technology. Rather, it should be a factor of what suits the current scenario for the organisation, and, how the organisation is able to imbibe that change both in terms of variations as well as infrastructure management, while keeping the ROI in mind. Companies should have a proper business case towards deploying the technology, so that the ROI can be realized after a certain period. The pattern today is that a system should be cloud based, should be able to integrate in current business requirement, and there should be more of self‑service, analytics, and, less of reporting. Today, people do not have the time to read reports, and therefore, it must be seen as to what can be easily interpreted out of the report along with the combination of healthy human capital portfolio, which talks about end to end life cycle process. This presents an overview of how things are going from people and process aspects.

 

As a part of the Ericsson family, what will be your focus for 2018? What organisational goals have been set by you?

 

The focus for 2018 is based on a few parameters like enabling people– to reskill, to support emerging technology, enhance customer experience towards self-service, move from transactional to robotics, move from rigid delivery scope to segmented and user‑friendly delivery, and, last but not the least, ensure that the cost is comparable and we are able to provide best in class shared services at reduced cost. The vision for 2018 majorly include analytics, services- enhanced customer experience, segmented delivery, incorporating best practices within and outside the organisation.

 

Up, Close and Personal

 

What inspired you to steer your career towards HR?

 

My movement towards HR was not by choice, but by chance. When I began my career, I worked on a project which was more into insurance and healthcare, wherein I was required to do human capital analysis on HR which really excited me, and, hence my HR journey was set on course.

 

How do you like to spend your free time?

 

I believe the best time is the time spent with family. So, whatever little time I can gather during workdays or weekends, I prefer to spend it with my son, my wife and my parents. This keeps me energized for the coming days.

 

Please share some of your experiences of travelling to different places. What have you gained from these experiences?

 

Travelling was one of the main success factors that helped me to understand the culture, and thus the requirement better. I would say delivery in each country differ vastly, but the core of the delivery remains the same be it UK, US, China, Manila, Poland or any other country.  The delivery also depends on how we plan and execute the project. There is also a huge impact of culture. People and environment in locations is more about being proactive. In Europe, it is about aligning to the fix pattern of work and adhering to the guidelines. In Americas, it is a mix of Asia and Europe. But, these are reflections and nothing can be generalized. Its more an outcome of situation and environment. So, I believe it is a combination of different cultures, and, if we try to force fit culture into standard delivery, we may face many failures. We should make the strategy and analyses so that we are able to adapt to the different environments accordingly.

 

What was your learning from the B-School?

 

I joined B-school after a corporate stint of 10 years, and, I believe that it was the right approach, since I could relate to the industry challenges and form a co-relation between the curriculum and the industry. There is no right time to go to the university, and, one can easily be a part of B School after gaining relevant experience, since it helps in picking the best streams.

 

Has someone from your family deeply inspired your values and growth as a human being?

 

I firmly believe the values comes from one’s family and my parents have played an integral part. Fortunately, my father was an HR professional for nearly 40 years, which has incidentally helped me a lot, and, the work culture, ethics, ability to deal with people, availability to manage stakeholders, and inspiring teams comes from numerous discussions I had with my father. So, the time I spend with my father provides me with a lot of enriching experience to me, which I can directly relate to work, and, I would say my family has played an instrumental role in my life.

 

Who would you credit in your life as a great influence in shaping the man that you are today?

 

The credit goes to my family who believed in me and provided me the strength towards achieving my goal. I believe the biggest supporter and the biggest contribution to my success would be my teams, because unless you have a great teams, colleagues and peers you will not be able to make a difference.

 

Rapid Fire

 

Favourite Quote: Fail fast, correct fast!

Leadership style: Hands-on

Current Professional Goal: To continue to learn

Favourite Book: The God of Small Things: Arundhati Roy

Favourite Movie: 2001: A Space Odyssey

Life is…‎ Difficult, but it gives lot of opportunity to make it simpler

Family is… Strength

I strongly believe in…. Work ethics

The most important thing I do on Sunday…. Spend time with family

I deal with setbacks by… Learning from experience 

3 Things I never leave home without… Mobile Phone, wallet and laptop.

 

HR Perspectives

 

  • Some gaps that HR Organisations need to bridge

Interpreting the business requirement and how it can be supplemented with simpler HR process and it should not be the other way around a process should not dictate the requirement instead you should dictate a process.

  • Common errors companies commit while designing engagement practices

 

Lack of understating the requirement! It is good to monitor and try to adopt what other companies are doing, what technology advancement they are coming up with but unless one knows its own environment no best practice will help. So, it’s the responsibility of the company top management to understand the need and availability and then gradually adopt to the new practices and technology advancement.

 

Buzzer Round

  • A mysterious benefactor wrote you a check for 1,00,00, 000 and said, “Help me solve a problem! What would you say?

There is no problem worth 1 crore!

  • What’s the one dream that you have tucked away for the moment?

Global vacation and learning a new language.

  • Is there something that people consistently ask for your advice on? What is it?

How to manage stakeholder expectations? How do we upskill delivery capability to match with stakeholder needs?

  • When was the last time you astonished yourself?

When I woke up at 4 AM without using an alarm for an entire year!

What do you value most: free time, recognition, or money?

Free time

  • Are you living your life purpose or still searching?

Yes, I have a purpose, and, I firmly believe one’s life purpose consist of the central motivating aims of your life.

 

Learning Points

 

HR professionals should try to grasp the knowledge on below important aspects:

  • Financial planning and forecasting
  • Talent development
  • Leadership hiring, Talent acquisition and market knowledge
  • Leadership Skills & training
  • Learning and development
  • Compensation & Benefits Benchmarking
  • Robotics and Artificial Intelligence

 

HR professionals need to adapt and work on following aspects:

 

  • Speaking Ability: I believe ability to speak in front of a large crowd is a key HR skill and can make you successful HR professional.
  • Reading ability: The ability to “read” people is another important key HR skill. One can learn to notice and interpret some common expressions, postures and micro-expressions that reveal subtleties about an individual that will then allow you to better understand how to deal with them.
  • Listening: Another important HR skill that I consider in the last of my list is “listening.” I believe one must have the ability to put aside his or her agenda and to listen and “hear” what another person is saying and how they are saying it.

IN BRIEF

Name: Anshu Gupta

Age: 41

Title: VP & Head HR Global Operations

Organization: Ericsson

Experience: 20+

Years in HR: 16

Education: MBA, B. Com, Certified IT professional

Section 8

Awards and Accolades

PeopleFirst HR Excellence Award 2018

"Winner" for Leading Practices in HR Transformation

 

Excellence in Transformation

SSON - Shared Services and Outsourcing Network

May 2018

 

Excellence in Digital HR

NDTV & Mercer Employer Excellence Award 2018

April 2018

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