“Things you need to learn before they close the board room door on HR professionals”

Kishan Dutta

Commercial Director

The Manappat Group


In today’s new age economy & fast pace of automation and the world wide network which opens up a global market place, technology plays an important role in all business. Technology is however genetic to any business for survival but those companies will outpace their competition who have the right people who can intelligently apply the technology for a positive business outcome.

Apart from globalization and technology, optimization, human intellectual capital & entrepreneurship are game changers which decides the very influence of the business in today’s highly turbulent & competitive market place. Successful companies will be the ones which are the most adept in attracting, nurturing and retaining individuals who can drive a global organization that is responsive to its customers in a highly competitive and accessible market place.


I was recruited as a HR director for a British company in Dubai in the year 2003. This position was in the top leadership grade and all my predecessors were British nationals & it was the first time an Indian was inducted at an executive leadership level.

I was lucky to have been groomed by a very senior person in IT named Mr. Anal Jain, the Global CEO of Britisher and under whom I was working as the Global HR Head in the late nineties in India. My orientation was painful & embarrassing at times when I realized that the level of discussions going on at the board level was at a different plane and as the HR head of the business, I had to elevate the function and my own competency to that strategic and visionary level as was expected out of my position. I used to travel with him overseas, watch plays and do pub crawling at night together.

And then like a Rubik’s cube everything started falling into place but it took 2 years of intense grooming to start seeing the picture clearly. I used to sit through the interviews he took of country heads, assimilating the way he greeted the candidates,  the nature of his questions,  his analysis & assessment and tried to compare it with mine & revisited the differences to see where I forgot to pick up the missing links. These acquired skills helped me to recruit my own CEO in one of the companies I later would work with.

So some of the tips I write below is actually a heady mix of 3 of my roles in the corporate world representing HR in the executive Board and my key learning’s:-

A) First understand the business @ the macro and micro level. What is the nature of your service or product? Who are your key competitors? What is your pricing strategy & who are your clients? What are your business plans, your vision, your strategy & key objectives?

B) The ability to read Balance sheets, understand profits & loss statements, industry benchmarks on cost, profitability, compensation & benefits strategy (specially for different countries)

C) Who are your clients? What is your marketing strategy? Your work winning strategy? How do you segment the market?

D) What are your key risks in the business especially from the HR perspective? What is your risk mitigation strategy?

E) What are the productivity benchmarks (ROI) for HR in your business? For instance what is the expected revenue from each staff member? What should be your salary cost as a % to total revenue? How much is the acceptable rate of attrition?

F) What are the innovative compensation strategies for different grades / different levels of performance etc so as to create an entrepreneurial and performance oriented culture?

G) How to create an inclusive culture in a diversified work force having different nationalities? How to bind them on a common set of values & priorities? How to engage them productively?

H) How do you manage your external constituencies and how do you influence them positively for a predicted business outcome? How do you manage your stakeholders, your investors, your statutory bodies, etc.

The above are illustrative but are core to any senior leadership role. There are many other like employer branding, talent & succession, use of technology and together they catapult HR from a transactional service to an impactful strategic business partner and which helps keep pace with the ever changing business models in different socio, politico & economic environments.

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