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Why an HR Doesn't Get its Due in India and Why that May be a Bad News for You Building a strong culture and an equally strong HR function should be one of the top three priorities for a startup CEO

By Sarvesh Agrawal

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The eventual growth and success of an organization depends only on one thing - whether we are able to create a workplace that would excite best of the minds in the world to work with us and would help them grow and succeed individually.

Building a strong culture and an equally strong HR function should be one of the top three priorities for a startup CEO (other two being sales and product). Personally also, I want to work with people who are smart, committed, and genuine, working on a mission that is exciting, in an environment that is free from pretenses and friction. Who doesn't want that?

However, I understand my excitement on how crucial HR is for a company's success is not shared by everyone. In my experience of working with three companies before starting up and interacting with thousands of companies who we help hire interns, I have seen only a few examples of HR being taken as seriously as it should.

For me a consummate HR professional has almost all the skills that an entrepreneur needs to have. When he* goes out to recruit the smartest of the lot, he needs to be the best of the sales people. In building your brand as a great place to work, he needs to display all the creativity and oomph of a marketeer. In solving the day to day issues of employees, he needs all the empathy and patience of a customer service champion. His being an excellent event manager in organizing all the events.

He needs the precision of an operations team to ensure all the salaries are processed in time. In ensuring we are compliant with all the labor laws & regulations, he acts like a legal eagle. And I have not even mentioned the core HR functions - building a great workplace, performance appraisal, reward and recognition, and learning and development - things that only he can take care of.

Just the sheer diversity of skill set needed for an HR professional is proof enough that it should be one of the most important functions for a business.

If so, why doesn't HR get the recognition it deserves?

I do not have any data, but I feel it happens in the organizations where building a culture and a strong HR function wasn't among CEO's top 3 priorities and it was conceived and grown as a support function and not as a core business function.

How to Spot if an HR is Really Important Function in an Organization?

Three quick tests -

1. Does HR have complete authority in deciding who gets recruited and why?

2. Does HR have full ownership of designing and implementing a performance appraisal process that other units follow in spirit?

3. Is the company known for its culture?

If the answer to above questions is yes, then the organisation takes its HR seriously.

Else, even if you are not in HR, it is bad news for you to be in an organisation which has a weak HR function. Here is how it can impact you -

a. The quality of people you will be working with - if you have ever worked with a colleague who was simply a pain in the back, you know how frustrating and demoralising it can be. A strong HR function would do a lot better job of finding culturally aligned people who you would enjoy working with.

b. A broken or nonexistent performance appraisal process - a cause of heart burn among majority of us. Nothing hurts more than your hardwork and contribution not being recognised in a fair, objective and transparent manner. A weak HR function would mean that this process is left to the whims and fancies of individual managers or function leaders and is unlikely to be as scientific and evidence based as it should have been.

c. No investment in your learning and development - A weak HR function is likely to mean there is no formal and organised effort and investment by the organisation to identify next set of skills that you should learn to succeed in your role. And if you are not learning, you are not growing.

* - I used "he' to depict an HR professional, as against my common tendency to use "she', on purpose. I wanted to challenge the gender stereotype associated with being an HR professional.

Sarvesh Agrawal

Founder & CEO, Internshala

Sarvesh Agrawal is the founder & CEO of Internshala.
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