Interview with Kusum Shree Niraula on Human Resources Management
Kusum Shree Niraula is a Human Resource Management Professional and Psychosocial Counselor. She has completed her studies in India from Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi University, and XLRI, Jamshedpur. She is a certified NLP Practitioner. She has worked in reputed multinational organizations in her career such as Unilever, Cotiviti, Cognizant Softvision, and Accenture. Let’s dig up more about the HR scenario with Kusum here.
1. Can you please share with us your experience with human resource management systems?
I started my career from Accenture PLC and worked in Bangalore for close to 3 years. I wanted to be with my family so I came back to Nepal in 2014 and I joined Cognizant Softvision (currently the operations are closed in Nepal). Then, I moved to Cotiviti Private Limited and worked there for close to 3 years. I did a bit of consulting as an independent HR consultant for some time and then, I found a wonderful opportunity at Unilever Nepal Limited and worked there for 3 years. Now I have been working as an independent HR consultant and psychosocial counselor. It’s been 10 years that I have been in Human Resources and my core area of interest in HR lie in culture and wellbeing.
2. Employee engagement activities are a must in every organization. What sorts of employee engagement and HR activities do you suggest as an HR consultant?
For me, the meaning of employee engagement goes beyond employee events like organizing picnics, birthdays, or annual events. It is like- when an employee gets up early in the morning and if he/she is excited to go to the office and does his/her work with vigor and enthusiasm, this is called engagement. It’s about empowering employees and them finding meaningful work in their daily lives. Hence, an engaged employee enjoys the work, gets recognized, is empowered and enjoys work ownership, and feels committed to the organization. Employee engagement also includes leadership being in regular touch with the employees, one on one discussions, knowing each and every employee’s interest. It is very important to find what employees enjoy at work and find ways to engage them so that employees work wholeheartedly.
3. You have been engaged in reputed and multinational companies like Unilever, Accenture. What sorts of HR activities were held when you were in charge of HR?
I have worked in organizations where HR activities revolve around learning and development, wellbeing initiatives like an annual health checkup, team-building events, and culture interventions. Of course, there were regular activities like the birthday celebration, work anniversaries, Yoga, Zumba, reward and recognition, festival celebrations, etc.
4. As an HR professional, what changes did you notice about HRM today compared with the past? And what changes do you want to see in the upcoming future?
The changes that I have seen in recent years are in process automation, HR’s involvement in business decisions, and focus on wellbeing at work. In the past, there used to be a lot of paper works. If an employee wanted to exit, check-lists needed to be made but now everything is on a tool. Everything is automated from recruitment to employee exits. Organizations are more focused on employees’ wellbeing too. Maybe with the outburst of COVID, there is more emphasis on employees’ wellbeing- both physical and mental. They want people to be mentally and physically healthy to do their work and I think that’s very important. HRs today work as business partners and it is proving really well for both the HRs and the organizations.
Regarding the future changes, I would want HR to be the heart and brain of the company who would be working with the leaders to make strategic business decisions. I would want them to be actively involved in business decisions and that is where we can have a bigger impact in an organization because there has always been a concept of HR being limited to hiring and disbursing salaries but there’s much more than that.
5. What HR metrics and tools do you find best for the competency mapping of the human resources of the organization?
For me, Competency mapping is all about matching the people’s skills with the organization’s needs. One-on-one discussions with employees can help us bridge that gap by understanding their strengths and career aspirations. We can also have assessment centers which I feel are lacking in Nepal. That would have been really helpful and Psychometric tests are also important for competency mapping.
6. According to your perspective, why is HR planning important for an organization? How do you carry on HR planning as a freelance HR consultant?
We live in a very volatile world. We never knew that COVID would happen. Employees’ needs are changing and likewise for the organization too. New skills sets are required in an organization. We can just take a recent example of the big resignation, also known as the Big Quit which is an ongoing economic trend. So HR planning is important to balance the organizational needs and the employees’ interests. Everything is changing rapidly along with technology and the new interests of people. People have realized the importance of work-life balance after COVID. HR planning is very important to us to match the organizational needs and at the same time, to keep the employees motivated.
7. How can an organization make an effective appraisal system and what do you think are the benefits of performance appraisal to the employees?
We have usually seen the trend of employees’ appraisals done once or twice a year. The new trend is continuous feedback where you can constantly be in touch with the employees and try to see what kind of improvements are required at work continuously and at the same time, understanding the areas of interest for the employees. So, if you were to ask what would be an ideal appraisal, it would be with a regular touch with employees rather than just one checkpoint a year. Performance appraisals help acknowledge employees’ contributions and celebrate their achievements.
It is also about discovering the potential of the employees and giving them challenges for the next period. Discussion on areas of improvement needs to be dealt with sensitivity and care. Working collaboratively and finding ways for the employees to grow should be the core of employee appraisals.
8. What sorts of challenges have you faced while being engaged in the HR sector? Can you name a few and how did you cope with them?
I have mostly worked in IT companies and when there is attrition and at the same time new recruitment demands by the business, it becomes challenging. I have faced such events in my past and at that time, the intervention I took was discussing with the business head on hiring demands and finding alternatives like campus recruitment and reskilling the existing employees. I recall another incident where it involved an appraisal of an employee whose role had changed and there was a miss at the manager’s side as he was rated poorly based on his new role. He had spent only a month there. I had to pitch in and then explain the entire scenario, convince him and do the corrections.
9. What recommendation or message do you want to share with the recent graduates who want to pursue their professional careers in the HR field?
First and foremost, I would like to say - Welcome to the industry. You should be clear about your purpose, goal, and ambition in life. Your work should be meaningful at the end of the day. You should know where you are going and maybe you can just know the profession deeply by doing internships, by talking to the seniors in the college, talking to the alumni about the profession.
10. Any few words you want to share.
You need to remain true to your profession and if you are doing what you want to do in your life, your purpose matches with your aptitude and your personality then you can make a bigger impact in your and others’ life. You should always see what you can contribute to your community and society.
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