Ms. Sharda Rana is a prominent personality in the Nepalese Human Resource fraternity. She leads the Human Resource Department of one of the leading Automobile companies – Sipradi Trading Pvt. Ltd. With over 20 years of experience in Human Resources, she is serving as a strategic partner to Sipradi in the capacity of General Manager – Human Resources. Her areas of expertise include HR infrastructure development, HR compliance, and best practices, and policy and procedure development. She also leads the training and development team and is responsible for the development of 1200+ employees.
1. Can you give an overview of your personal, academic, and professional experiences to someone who is meeting you for the very first time?
Being from an army family background, the virtue of discipline and sincerity is deeply rooted in me and is one of the reasons for where I stand today. I wanted to become a doctor but fate had something different in store for me. Soon after completing my BA from TU, I landed a job at Sipradi back in 2000. I found myself in the role of HR management soon after joining and since then there has been no looking back as the role was so much enjoyable and satisfying. Then I did my PGD in HRM to enhance my knowledge of HRM. My association with Sipradi is now over 20 years and it feels like Sipradi is my next home. At the time of my joining the company, we were only around 150 employees and today we are a large family of over 1200 members across our 37 Branches all over Nepal. There have been lots of changes over time but I along with my company have managed to evolve stronger to excel.
2. How have Sipradi Trading's talent acquisition techniques changed over the previous ten years? Can you give us some examples of how the strategy has changed over time?
Talent acquisition has come a long way over the years. We started with basic newspaper vacancies where we used to receive written applications. We were a pioneer in introducing an online application system in the private sector in Nepal. This helped us to expand our reach and increase the application base. We also shifted to regional local newspapers for our out of valley requirements. Later on, we focused talent acquisition efforts on various employer branding activities. College visits and presentations were conducted and nationwide tie-ups with various educational institutions were made to attract fresh young talents. Now we have shifted our focus from mainstream newspapers to acquisitions through social media, networking sites, and college recruitment. We also create our pool of talents through various skilled-based training and management trainee programs.
Our selection process has been through quite a change over the years. We shifted from one-step selection through interviews to the written examination and two-tier interviews. Again, we were one of the first private companies to implement a written examination as a selection criterion. Gradually, we have made the written examination more behaviorally anchored and position relevant. And as per the need of the hour, we have shifted from pen and paper-based written examinations to online assessments. We have also moved on from examination to presentation and group discussions for selected positions to better assess the candidates.
This way we have been able to reach the ground level through the use of technology with human touch and have modeled our talent acquisition efforts to the changing needs of the organization.
3. HR operations including attendance tracking, leave management, and paperwork is time-consuming yet essential HRM functions. How can this task be made more enjoyable while also being less time-consuming?
Thanks to technology all the above tasks are being automated in Sipradi which is easier for employees as well as saves time for everybody.
4. What effect do an employee's compensation and benefits have on his or her productivity? What are your thoughts on Nepal's recently enacted Social Security Act?
Compensation is one of the factors for the productivity of an employee but not the only one. Productivity depends on various other factors such as the work environment, clarity of what is expected, resources provided to employees, adequate feedback and support/guidance from the supervisor, etc., and of course, motivational incentives also play a crucial role in achieving exceptional outputs. Furthermore, career growth opportunities always bring out the best in any employee.
The Social Security Act safeguards various benefits for an employee but room for improvements is also evident. Government should be prompt in providing social security services to the contributors.
5. How has Sipradi Trading ensured Employees Engagement and Wellbeing before, during, and Post Covid-19? What is the ultimate goal of the company behind employee wellbeing and engagement?
One of the missions of Sipradi is to become ”Employee’s first choice”. So, any HR policy we bring in will always be for the well-being of the employees. Pre covid employee engagement was all about small and big gatherings, tours, branch visits, picnics, and events. Also, a full-fledged ISO 45001:2018 Occupational Health and Safety Management System meant that safety and health is the no. 1 priority for Sipradi. However, covid made us rethink our in-place engagement activities and focus more on the safety and well-being of the employees. During the pandemic, Sipradi had put out clear Covid Guidelines to ensure the safety of our employees as well as our customers within our premises. We were well equipped with oxygen, hospital tie-ups, and telephonic consultations for emergencies.
Vaccination was arranged for front-line workers who were providing service even during the lockdown period at first and gradually to all our employees. All types of safety gear were provided to employees who would come into contact with people from outside. Work shifts/Work from Home provisions were worked out to maintain proximity in the office for curbing the spread of Covid. All safety measures laid out by the MoH were strictly followed across our branches. All our employees were insured for the Covid and infected employees were taken care of for their treatment by the company. Paid leave was provided for the employee to recuperate fully to resume office. Even now we have been following all the mandated safety protocols and have been using online mediums for events as well as L&D.
6. Can you share some of the Learning and Development (L&D) practices you have implemented in your organization? How and in what way it has helped in achieving the organization's vision?
L&D is another core value of Sipradi and as we are in the automobile industry, the ever-changing automobile technologies demand our employees to keep learning all the time to provide the best experience to our customers. Regular upskilling training programs are conducted to elevate the technical skills of our technical team.
Starting from our onboarding stage, employees start to learn about the organization’s vision, mission, and core values so that settling into the work environment is made easy for them. In today’s global workspace, we want our employees to be competent enough to tackle any challenge that may arise and we prepare them for the same by providing various L&D inputs throughout their association with the company. We have a designated Training Function (Sipradi Training Center) to cater to all the L&D needs of our employees. Sipradi Training Center develops an annual training calendar to which employees are enrolled with recommendations from their HOD. We have a Library at the Training Center along with a virtual Knowledge Center where you can find learning material varying from technical workbooks, management books to literature books.
Senior executives in vital positions are considered for executive training in various renowned institutions such as HBS, AIT, IIM, and XLRI to prepare them for leadership roles. Similarly, our principal companies also impart training at their facilities to prepare our employees on their upcoming technology as well as enhance their functional capabilities.
7. What are some of your favorite human resource management technology, tools, and resources and how have they helped you to deliver better leadership?
Sipradi believes in automation and the use of technology in all its undertakings and HR is not an exception. We have been adopting automated attendance, payroll, and HRIS for almost two decades now and it has helped HR to focus more on HRD. Scientifically devised KRA and KPI’s of individual employees have enabled us to maintain a high-performing workforce.
Human resource elements such as HRD Policies, Standard Operating Procedures, and Logical Framework which have been institutionalized in Sipradi since age can be considered our intellectual property. These elements, on one hand, have served as tools to integrate Company’s Vision, Mission, and Values in HR Department’s bloodstream, positioning the department as Strategic Business Partner. This scenario has been highly effective in delivering quality leadership in the HR Department through a strong sense of purpose. On the other hand, they have served as a guiding factor to navigate Sipradians in their value formation along with the Individual-to-departmental-to-organizational level. Such uniformity of values has intensely aided Leaders from all levels—let alone HR Department—in Sipradi to lead their team towards what the Company is set out to achieve.
We have also integrated SharePoint as an avenue to record management system in Sipradi which has certainly enhanced the way HR data and information are acquired/logged, organized, and accessed via the feature of document cataloging and documentation process automation: resulting in higher accuracy of information being retrieved in a relatively short period. As information gets adequate and accurate, and accessible on time, it supports effective and efficient decision-making. Any decision made effectively and efficiently surely strengthens the leadership image of the respective authority as well as HRD.
8. How do you balance implementing strategies that are both favorable to employees along with business objectives? What has been the equation of Sipradi's HR team with the organization's union team?
As Teamwork is yet another core value of Sipradi, the participative approach is dominant in our work culture. We discuss and decide upon issues to make it win/win for both the employees as well as the organization. The overall organization goal and how the contribution from each of their roles is vital in achieving the goal is intimated to every employee so that everyone is valued for all the accomplishments.
We have an amicable relationship with our Union Team. The equation is very cordial as both parties have similar objectives when it comes to employee welfare and contributing to achieving organizational goals. Regular meeting to discuss current affairs/issues related to employees and operations helps us to remain on the same page and work collectively towards our common goal.
9. What are some of the HR trends that you have taken into account as someone working in the automobile sector?
We have been up to date with all the latest HR functional requirements right from recruitment to employee exit. However, one thing that we take pride in is our traineeship programs which are one of a kind in the automobile sector in Nepal. Developing our technical resources from scratch for which we have designed a Traineeship program for fresh technical graduates. The traineeship program extends for 6 months and during which time the Trainees will undergo classroom training followed by On-The-Job training for hands-on experience at our shop floor.
This type of traineeship program provides the real work experience and opportunity to check the adaptability to the work environment for any freshers resulting in a sort of psychological contract and helping to settle down and seek long-term career goals with the organization.
10. Your three suggestions to the aspiring HR leaders?
Embrace technology, focus on people, understand the operations and goals of your organization and be ready for the new generation of the workforce.
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