Compiled by Yamini Sequeira


Darshi Talpahewa describes the imperatives for strategic human resources

Q: How do you view the evolution of the human resources (HR) function?

A: HR, which was previously the administrative function of managing personnel files, has been transformed into a strategic occupation. It is increasingly recognised as having the potential and capability to contribute more to an organisation rather than being a mere administrative function – such as how to recruit the best talent, and nurture and retain people.

Indeed, HR has evolved to a level that it is now tasked with identifying and executing the development interventions required for employees right up to the C-suite level. These strategic initiatives benefit business with HR leaders being at the forefront. Strategic HR is not limited to large companies; it is practised by startups, proprietorships and small businesses.

Q: Which pillars need to be in place for HR to be a partner at the strategic level?

A: Understanding the business of an organisation, knowledge and expertise in HR, and good communication.

With regard to the first pillar, it’s important for HR professionals to be knowledgeable about the business of an organisation – i.e. to see how human resource strategies can best add value to the business model, budgets, customers, markets, products and so on. This will help them understand how to support both the sustainability of the organisation and its bottom line growth.

Secondly, a strategic HR partner needs to possess a good knowledge of and be an expert in the this field including an understanding of organisational development – the ecosystem in which human resource management and development take place. In addition, one must be knowledgeable about regular HR functions, and operational and regulatory human resource frameworks.

Thirdly, you need to have good communication and rapport building skills, to strengthen and support the other two pillars.

Q: How enthusiastic are employees when it comes to availing themselves of training opportunities?

A: Employees are always eager to learn. Companies engage in gap analysis of employee skills and competencies so that their training needs are identified and key performance indicators (KPIs) drawn up, which in turn are evaluated at the performance appraisal stage.

Furthermore, companies encourage employees to share the knowledge they gain with their colleagues and special forums are initiated for this purpose. More employees can benefit in this way and it is cost-effective.

Q: What are the top qualities that a good HR head should possess?

A: An HR professional needs to be agile, willing to change and quickly adapt to it – and be a continuous learner, decisive leader and strategic thinker. No matter how hard you work, you’ll not succeed if you’re unable to work smart.

Working smart is the key to success. Impartiality is a must-have virtue. It’s very important for HR leaders to be impartial at every stage of the decision-making process.

HR is partly a function of the heart where you need to have empathy to understand the situations and emotions of other people. This is where training and mentoring skills come into play. Empathy, patience and understanding are crucial traits.

Q: To what extent do HR departments rely on scientific measurement tools to evaluate employee performance?

A: Scientific measurement tools vary from those for psychometric analysis to performance management and companies increasingly depend on them.

For example, to recruit the best talent that will fit job roles, in addition to face-to-face interviews, the final decision can rest on the outcome of psychometric analysis. Moreover, if there’s a need to evaluate employee performance, you can do so by setting KPIs and having a competency framework for the different levels or skills – and basing the outcome on the responses received to the criteria.

The smart use of scientific tools for performance and talent management will define the next generation’s leadership of today’s organisations.

Q: What role does the work-life balance play in terms of retaining employees?

A: It is important to understand how you can achieve this balance. I would think that it’s something you need to achieve yourself.

Depending on the nature of the job, you need to organise your life in a way to achieve a work-life balance that best suits you while organisations have an obligation to support employee wellbeing. It should be understood that you work to live, not live to work!

Q: How can good or bad HR policies influence company performance?

A: Sound HR policies bring many benefits such as removing uncertainty, and streamlining processes whereby equality and fair play are given pride of place.

Employees are able to know their rights and obligations clearly, and how they should conduct themselves. It brings transparency and good governance. Good HR polices motivate employees, help retention and ensure that they contribute positively to the growth of the business.

On the other hand, an unfavourable HR policy lacks clarity when there’s room for discrimination or it isn’t compliant with the law. This demotivates employees, which translates into poor customer service and in turn leads to a loss of business.

The interviewee is the Head – Group Human Resources and Corporate Communications, Head – Group Legal and a Member of the Group Management Committee of Hayleys Group