An engaging conversation with Ashwini Mrinal Bhagat, Human Resources, State Street (Hangzhou – China)
Earlier this year I connected with Ashwini and during our conversation some very interesting perspectives showed up. Happy to share them below!
How did you get into HR – chance or choice?
Completely by choice, it was always an ambition to work with and for people.
In the last 14 years what is the one thing you love most about what you do?
The fact that on any given day I can be going from a simple spectrum of “what is this policy” to “tell me how should we design for future learning”. It gives me an opportunity to learn everyday.
What has been your biggest challenge so far? Share how you overcame the same.
It’s when I moved to China along with my whole family, I realized that whatever you have learnt in one context is not something you can apply in another context. Unlearning and accepting new ways of norm helped quite a bit, having a coach to speak to and seek awareness was a bigger help.
HR culture across organizations is different – based on scale and ownership – what are your thoughts on the same?
With every organization one walks into gives you different odour of culture, the HR team also portrays it differently. If I am to take it a step further the HR team many a teams are flag bearers of that and so ideally they should not be any different to what the company stands for.
Can you recall a time when things went downhill in your organization and HR was called to rescue?
This was a couple of years ago when we had our employee survey results, ideally HR should not be called for if they are partners with their businesses and that’s what happened here. HR and business together worked on a platform where employees could participate on what they were looking for as top needs.
Do you believe working closely with employees and building a good professional relationship with them is important to their retention, productivity and team spirit?
200% I believe in this, while technology is exceeding in all its aspects, nothing can change a pat of appreciation, that one greeting and organizations taking interest in your development.
Do you notice a marked difference in the HR culture of different organizations?
Yes. GHR (Global Human Resources) as I see it can be split into two broad categories.
1. High on process, low on human interaction – Unfortunately most organizations are highly process driven, and have step by step ways in which they get new employees on board and for most other HR functions as well. While process is inevitable, and highly critical for the smooth functioning of HR, not much consideration is given to the human connect in these spaces, making the process rather cold.
2. High on human interaction, process follows later – While these organizations understand the importance of process, they also value the human connection enough, to make it precede the process drivenness of the system. Making the new employee feel more at home, welcome and give them a sense of connection to the team around. There is an air of helpfulness and warmth in such workplaces.
Is unlearning a must, when you enter a new organization, new culture?
Absolutely imperative. Although i was growth focused and excited about moving to a new country, and had anticipated some amount of change, what I realise is the change was a lot more! And this meant, I had to be ready to let go of all i thought i knew about moving cultures, to become vulnerable and allow change to come in. A massive amount of unlearning had to happen before I could settle into the new system. It’s been an experience of deep learning and acceptance for me.
Do you believe the employees and those associated with your organization deserve to be appreciated for their roles and what value they bring to the table?
Appreciation is the Key – be it any generation!
What are the current options you are engaging in to express appreciation and why?
Family day celebration – to bring in their families and recognize them with awards and rewards, so the entire family feels connected to the organization
Birthday and anniversary wishes – through cards and gifts and Festival gifting
Surprise bonus / incentive – project based – to recognize team contribution
Travel / shopping vouchers
What is your biggest challenge when you are looking at gifting options?
Long term usability , recall value and connect
What is your memory of the best gift you’ve received to date and why?
Photo frame, one it was done compact and could sit on my table where I work, second, it could hold any an all memories that I wanted to.
What in your opinion is an effective way to de-stress a situation?
To have someone to talk to who understands – This is an organization context
Can you recall a moment when you / your team member were able to diffuse a tense situation at work? Elaborate.
This happens quite often at any place, we had a major mis-understanding between colleagues owing to grapevine and gossip of one person, we got them to together and allowed them to open up their part of the story and the whole situation looked very different and easy post that.
Three tips you would like to share with our readers – to bring in more joy at the workplace
Smile and greet, be it any part of the day and any level of employees
Appreciate ( monetary / non monetary ) whenever you can not just for good work but also for gestures / behaviours
Be there for your team in the hour of need and include all
The one person you look up to in life and why
Since the age of 5, She has been the only one “Mother Teresa” for just doing what she felt the most right about
One thing you love about yourself
That I ensure to make time then and there when someone reaches for help
The quickest way for you to de-stress is……
Write down what I am stressed about or just listen to soothing music
You feel most grateful about…..My family
Your favourite quote
Great leaders don’t try to be perfect. Great leaders try to be themselves. And that’s what makes them great.
About State Street
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Ashwini is also a TEDx speaker – catch her talk here