Abhishek Mittal: The HR Interview

The Asia Pacific region is huge, both geographically speaking as well as from a business perspective. A few weeks ago I presented an interview with an HR professional based in the region. The focus of the interview was primarily on recruitment, which you can imagine can be a tremendous challenge!

In today’s HR Interview, I have the pleasure of speaking with Abhishek Mittal, another locally based HR professional. His focus as a consultant is to provide guidance and resources to support an organization’s talent management needs. This requires a deep knowledge of the culture he’s working within, as well as the HR maturity of the client company. He’s also an active blogger, having been in the game since 2005! 

I’m honored to have Abhishek as a guest on the Creative Chaos HR blog.

State your name. rank, and serial number (aka who you are and what you do).

Photo of Abhishek MittalAbhishek Mittal. I am a Senior Consultant with Towers Watson. I live in Singapore, but work with clients across South East Asia. I am passionate about making a difference to my clients’ organizational performance by developing effective people strategies.

I am active online networker and you can find me at my website Mumblr, on Twitter, or LinkedIn.

How do you help clients reach their respective strategic objectives?

I have developed number of solutions for my clients to address business needs like employee engagement, culture transformation, change management, managerial effectiveness, talent management and employee value proposition development. I focus on bringing a data-driven and evidence-based approach to HR.

This essentially means that I must understand the business direction and strategy first, develop an appropriate solution and build a clear business case that shows the impact of the HR interventions on business outcomes.

You originally started on the Sales side of the business (at Oracle) before transitioning into Human Resources? What prompted that move?

Yes, I started my career in a sales role at a website design start-up back in my college days. After my MBA, I did a stint at Oracle. As I developed an understanding of corporate HR functions, I felt that this was a function waiting to be transformed. And people from non-HR backgrounds will be a great fit because they can bring multi-disciplinary thinking to HR. This was the best career decision I made and I love what I do now!

What is the #1 misconception people have about Human Resources in the market that you serve? How do you overcome that?

Many companies in South East Asia traditionally view HR as an administrative function and the focus has been on administrative efficiency. While that is a good thing to have, HR functions need to show value beyond that. Towers Watson’s data shows that talent management is the top workforce challenge for Asia to realize its growth potential. So, HR has a very strategic role in ensuring “organisational readiness” to exploit these growth opportunities.

To overcome such misconceptions, HR functions need to demonstrate real value-addition in strategic areas like talent management, workforce planning, employer branding, employee engagement, learning agility, change management and even leveraging predictive modelling to provide inputs to business strategy.

You cover a diverse population in terms of geography and maturity around strategic Human Resources. How do you accurately assess and address their respective needs?

Everybody says that Asia is different, but even within Asia the countries differ greatly – from developed economies like Singapore to upcoming ones like Indonesia or Thailand. It is very important to recognize the differences in HRM maturity as well as cultures.

Early on in my projects, I try to spend time with HR & Business leaders in my client organizations to understand where they are, where they want to go and how fast. If this is not done properly, we might have a case of the organization moving too fast or too slow, yielding unoptimized outcomes. For instance, a client in Singapore might have sophisticated needs around Employer Branding, so that they can attract the best in a talent-hungry economy. Whereas, a client in Cambodia might still be looking at setting core HR systems in place to manage the workforce.

But everywhere you go, it is critical to show the business impact of the interventions you are proposing. I recently worked with a large regional bank here, who had been doing Employee Engagement surveys for a number of years. Sensing that there isn’t a strong executive commitment for the initiative, we conducted sophisticated analytics to show how engagement affected business outcomes like profitability, attrition, customer satisfaction and absenteeism. We were even able to out an estimated dollar value to the lost opportunities, which immediate made the senior management take notice.

Broadly speaking, where is the Human Resources profession headed?

I feel that the HR profession is headed in the right direction and making great progress on being a strategic partner to the business. I see two key themes accelerating this change. Firstly, we in HR would need to exploit analytics to provide deep insights about effective workforce management. We will have to move from an intuition-based approach to an evidence-based approach. There are great examples of how companies like Google and several others are using data to predict managerial effectiveness drivers, labour market scenarios & workforce planning, candidate assessment etc. We have to constantly ask ourselves if we are putting our money on the right things, and answer that question using data. Secondly, bringing multi-disciplinary skills to the HR function will drive improvement. For instance, there are companies which are leveraging Marketing professionals in their efforts on Employer Branding. Or others who use Conjoint Analysis (a popular market research tool) for determining the distribution of Total Rewards.

What are some of the ways in which you keep up with current business or HR related news and info?

There is a great Human Resources community on Twitter. There are HR professionals, academics, thought-leaders, news aggregators and consulting firms. This is my top source for keeping myself updated on the latest HR trends, news, research etc. Apart from that, my interactions with people who visit my blog and on LinkedIn are a great source of learning.

You’ve been blogging since 2005. What made you decide to do this?

I picked up blogging back in 2005 as a hobby, writing about all kinds of topics. A few years later, I decided that the blog was a great way to build a community and have discussions on topics of professional interest to me. Hence, I added more focus and started blogging exclusive on HR-related themes. Overall, my blog is a great tool for self-development for me.

How do you stay committed to blogging?

I must admit that with the emergence of micro-blogging (mainly Twitter), I have gone a bit slow on blogging. But, I still manage to take out time from my hectic schedule to blog about once or twice a month. But, I am constantly on Twitter – sharing and consuming information. I think one becomes committed to professional social networking if one sees its value-addition and the network advantages it brings. If one thinks about it as “one more thing to do,” it’s hard to stay committed for long.

What’s the next challenge for you, professionally speaking?

After spending considerable time on bringing great Employee Engagement approaches to my clients, I am now focusing on bringing leading practices around Employer Branding, Talent Management and Workforce Analytics to my clients. I think these are areas which will enable me to make an even bigger impact for my clients and develop myself as a professional too.

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