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“The business continues to throw a lot of existential questions to the HR fraternity,” Aparna Sharma
Prajjal Saha | HRKatha | New Delhi | Thursday, 09 April 2015

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The country head, human resources, at Lafarge India, has recently launched her first book – ‘Reality Bytes – The Role of HR in Today’s World’. A ready reckoner for HR professionals and aspirants, peers in the industry have termed it as a crisp, practical and contemporary book that helps readers understand the nuances of the complex world of human resources.

Sharma speaks to HR Katha on her experience as a writer and her candid views on the HR function.

Excerpts... 

How and when did you think of penning this book – Reality Bytes: The Role of HR in Today’s World?

This is the fruit of my labour over a career span of more than 18 years. My constant quest for learning and sharing knowledge has inspired me to pen this down.

I think today’s students are ill-informed about the HR function. There are several preconceived notions that have been floating around. For instance, it is a common belief that the HR function is best suited for women.

When my publishers approached me to write a simple book, I took it as an opportunity to clear these misconceptions.
My objective was to help those students who are sitting on the fence unable to decide which discipline of management to opt for.

Do you mean this is like a ready reckoner for all HR aspirants?

The Book Cover

The book has something for everyone — whether an HR student, a budding HR manager, a line manager who needs to understand HR to be able to efficiently manage people or even a teacher or an entrepreneur trying to understand what HR is all about.

The competitive edge for any organisation is its ‘people’ and in today’s dynamic times, managing people turnover is as critical as business turnover. Having said that, I strongly believe that formal education in HR is ill-equipped to face and deal with the realities of the workplace. This book has been written to achieve this very purpose.

The book is meant to be a simple contemporary ready reckoner covering the employee life cycle in an organisation. The objective is to help the reader to think and find his/her own solutions based on the learning from each chapter.

While writing this book, I was careful not to propound theories since they already exist and can be referred to easily.

The book had to be a simple, handy, comprehensive, contemporary reference bereft of jargon for even non-HR professionals to read and comprehend. At the same time, I have taken special care to make it a practical read by sharing small caselets, which explain the subject very succinctly and also force the reader to think and apply the learning.

How do you think the role of HR function has changed in the last decade? Has HR managed to be part of strategic business decisions or is there still some distance to be covered? 

The role of HR has significantly changed in the last decade, especially with respect to expectations of the business and business leaders from HR.
Business partnership of HR has emerged as a strong role and so is the emphasis on HR Analytics and bringing in metrics for measuring delivery and performance.

However, I do agree that there is much ground to be covered with respect to being seen as a strategic business partner. It varies depending on the industry, the HR leaders and the role played by them.

The business continues to throw a lot of existential questions to the HR fraternity and we need to significantly ‘up’ our level of preparedness.
My humble submission is that when we as HR professional get a ‘seat at the table’, we need to ‘sit on the table’.

Why are HR professionals so guarded in their approach? Their very function is to deal with people. Don’t you think HR professionals should be more outspoken and approachable?

This is a generalised statement, and I do not agree with it. One cannot have a broad-brush perspective on the entire function/fraternity.
It completely varies from professional to professional.

However, I would say that HR folk have become savvier over time. Like a good batsman knows which ball to hit and which to leave, HR folk have also refined their discerning ability with respect to responses and reactions while dealing with complex issues.

I am a firm believer that there is less need for ‘HRSpeak’ and more for ‘thinking through’ and action.

What are the issues that plague the HR function today? How has technology and data changed the rules of the game?

The classical industry issues still remain be it war for talent, changing expectations from business leaders in the VUCA environment and low-level of preparedness of HR professionals to deal with the changing expectations, the need for capability development and skill upgradation or complete reskilling of professionals within the HR community.

The intervention of technology has further enhanced the rate of change in this complex environment with a whole lot of ambiguity thrown in.

Various metrics and HR analytics have added the much needed zing to the function. However, I would say these are still early days. More remains to be done and seen in the years ahead.

I am a firm believer that there is less need for ‘HRSpeak’ and more for ‘thinking through’ and action.

From a gullible small-town girl, then an IAS aspirant to an HR leader and now an author—how has life changed for you on the personal front?

Situations, circumstances, environment, age and sometimes compulsions have changed. However, believe me, I haven’t changed as a person at all.

My core belief is intact — that of a seeker and learner with loads of passion, to give back to the world all that I have learnt in my journey so far.
Being in HR was not by design or default but more by accident. However, I have thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it.

Similarly, I wanted to write someday soon, and it finally happened. I think this was the divine plan!

© 2016 HR Katha
Last modified on Thursday, 09 April 2015

2 comments

  • Comment Link Paresh Pandharkame. Saturday, 11 April 2015 posted by Paresh Pandharkame.

    Congrats on the Book release.. very few HR professionals write about their Experience ...
    All the best

  • Comment Link Neeraj Chandra Friday, 10 April 2015 posted by Neeraj Chandra

    HR is like a Head of family ( Organization) to understand his children's ( Employees) behavior in different situations and train,guide them time to time either one to one or in group for his/her development keeping in mind the need of his family (Unit).

    " Give a smile to some one in the morning,
    To make his/her day glad.
    He/ She may be helping hand to you in the evening,
    When your own heart is sad."

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