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HR Transformation Strategist | TedX Speaker | Shalu Manan

 Shalu Manan

Shalu Manan

"Always listen to your inner voice & believe in the power of your dreams." Shalu Manan

Building an early foundation:

I have always been inclined towards “the path less taken” as I feel that it brings out the best in me, pushes me to think big and make the most of what life throws my way! I did not plan my career the way it has turned out now. In the former years of my career, becoming an HR Transformation Strategist was not on the horizon. Right from preparing for engineering entrance exams, to surprisingly expressing my interest in more ”real” professions a night before the entrance, I have always listened to my inner voice and believed in the power of my dreams. I have been blessed with parents who have always supported me through thick and thin.

This decision fundamentally taught me that when we make “unpopular” decisions and face obstacles through the obstacles, we could either give up or choose self-belief to move forward. My decisions always taught me that there is no shortcut to success and people who are willing to work hard, learn from mistakes and are humble to accept that they don’t know everything, will always get results.

I had a very interesting combination of education, something most people don’t choose! I selected the road less taken which eventually led me to Genpact in 2001 as I started working as IT Help desk Analyst. When I thought I will be a technologist managing networks and servers, a bend in my career took me to a position to drive six sigma linked process excellence for HR and training.

This role helped me realize that I loved working with people and making things better for people by using the power of process, technology and data. The rest as they say, is history, I have spent the next 17 years focused on learning and leading almost every aspect of human resources function in a large enterprise. My current role of driving transformation for talent supply chain is a culmination of my passion to make things better for people by designing solutions that help accelerate fulfillment cycles that staff right people at the right time with the best experience.


Beyond the barricades:

Early in life, I learnt the golden mantra to focus deeply on your strengths in such a manner that they become the primary influencer of your success. As I complete two decades of my career this year, I see immense value in loving what you do and doing what you love- you cannot inspire others to be better if you are not in a better place with yourself. Your job is as big as you make it or as small you think it is.

My experiences have also taught me to never run away from the things you are afraid of because they are bound to come back and bite you! We really need to learn to accept criticism with grace and at the same time, have a thick skin to realize when criticism is not coming from a good place, but is only extended to put you down and break your confidence. One ought to acknowledge what one does not know and keep pushing to learn more.

Lastly, life has certainly taught me that there’s no shortcut to success, and if you fall down, you have to dust yourself and get up to “live another day”. If you have decided to break the barriers, challenge assumptions and biases with your less chosen path, you will have to work hard and prove yourself at every step. A lot of times, people will not understand or share your enthusiasm but if your loved ones stand by you and you believe in your cause, you have got to keep your eyes on the end goal, undeterred by resistances that try to block your way.


Defining D&I – Why is it important in the workplace:

I worked as a D&I leader in 2015 under one of my best bosses and mentors, Sasha Sanyal who was the global head for Strategy at that time. We worked on our organization’s gender diversity and inclusion strategy. I believe if we want more women to join the workforce and many more to stay working, we ought to include men in the retention conversation. Another step to build inclusion is to have senior leadership actively endorse and walk the talk. If the CEO sponsors the effort and you have your company's senior leaders participating in key initiatives across hiring, then it makes a big difference.

Having measurable goals on diversity added to leadership scorecard is another way to create visible impact. The world is balanced so setting up targets for all leadership positions to have equal representation is key. I strongly believe that one cannot be successful until one chooses to be authentic. For encouraging diversity at work, organizations need to respect the differentiating strength each person brings, instead of expecting everyone to work in the same manner or expecting women to “be like a man” supporting them with strong development and coaching. Creating a safe space to manage unconscious bias in men and women on this topic and creating inclusive parental policies will have a far reaching impact. Lastly, women have to support more women to step up and do more. We have to encourage, coach and be in their corner especially when self-doubt and leaving the workplace seems like an easy choice.


Transformation of the HR industry:

HR is far more technology and engagement led than it has ever been. Traditionally HR has been seen as an administration team of employee services in a lot of companies. Only when HR plays the role of a strategic partner, companies can truly become competitive and agile. People are the true assets of an organization and HR function with the business leaders make people more agile, productive and engaged with your brand. In this case, unless HR team is a strategic thinker and is invested in leveraging technology, being employee centric, focused on experiences of people, there is no room for a growth culture, competency growth, compensation, reward, recognition, or for that matter, building a company that one can be proud of.


I think HR leaders and managers should invest in their skill building, they ought to be more comfortable with data, technology and digital ways of working and connecting. They have to make efforts to connect and engage with people- helping them find meaning in the work they do, drive purpose and inspire their team to be better every day to be able to keep pace with this crazy, fast changing world that we all are a part of! HR leaders ought to go beyond managing compliance on labour laws to make administrative activities more delightful experiences for employees. They have to lead with an innovative approach to help transform people practices that help companies stay relevant. Today, companies who are on their paths to prosperity are the ones where HR actions are well aligned to strategic actions and business objectives.


Powerful lessons from my mentor:

I truly believe that a mentor plays a very crucial role of a friend, philosopher and a guide in one's life. A lot of people have inspired me throughout. My parents definitely have a huge role in supporting me to be who I am today. The teams I’ve worked with have had a huge impact on me as they always pushed me to become a better version of myself.

In my career journey so far, I have worked under 18 bosses who gave me valuable leadership lessons. I firmly believe that a good boss or a mentor can help you navigate through the obstacles you face in your career and have one of the greatest influence on your holistic development and growth. For all the awesome bosses, coaches and mentors I have been blessed with, I believe in pay-it forward! Every year I mentor at least 5-7 women, be their sounding board, coach them on key skills and hopefully play a role in their career choices.  It truly feels great to share my lessons and learn from their experiences. 

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