Ekta Puri is the HR Director at Rapido. She has also worked with other established names such as Jana Small Finance Bank, Radio Indigo FM,Deluxe Entertainment Services Group and General Electric
In Ekta Puri’s own words on recruitment automation: “I would say that anything which can be AI-enabled is useful as a tool to make our lives a lot easier.”
The future of recruitment is going to highly leverage automation. Recruiters today are focusing more on evolving hiring functions. This is where recruitment automation adds value.
Hey Ekta, so glad to have you with us! Could you give our readers a brief about yourself and what your role at Rapido encompasses?
I have been a part of Rapido for the last two and a half years. I joined Rapido when COVID hit the entire country. I started my role as the Head of Compensation and Benefits. And recently I’ve been wearing multiple hats where I also manage the business partnering vertical. We have coined the word People Champions for it.
That’s great! From a typical day or week’s perspective, how do you divide your time to focus on multiple tasks?
Let me brief you on what the People Champions do. Within the Total Rewards team, we have multiple job families. This team works on compensation and benefits along with working on the HR operation, payroll and compliances People Analytics and the central level of engagement. At the same time, they work on internal communication also. When it comes to People Champion, the team is the primary base for the entire Business group. They work very closely with the business team and also liaise with the HR COE Teams.
The HR functions at Rapido entails 3 more verticals:
- Talent Management,
- Learning and Development,
- Talent Acquisition.
All of them mutually co-exists.
Now, coming back to your question on how my day looks like. Most of my work is concentrated on the business side because my role focuses on interacting with businesses, understanding business concerns, and reverting back to the Compensation and People Champions team to resolve those concerns.
Most part of post-pandemic has been to engage with people and ensure that one has maximum talent attraction thereby minimising the loopholes in retention and attrition.
What would you say is one of the most important motivating factors of being an HR leader?
Sure. I would like to give you a reflection back in the time when HR started to evolve in India. In my initial days, HR was not as important a function in any given organisation. However, gradually HR was able to make a remarkable move. And the reason was that they could show the science of making the business profitable.
So, how does HR directly hit that profit line? The role starts right from the first stage of hiring to ensure that wherever the business strategy takes place, in terms of meeting business goals by having the right set of people in place. They are more proactive than reactive. Proactively, we try to gauge people first and understand what kind of benchmark, benefits, compensation, and interventions we need to do to ensure that the right talent is always motivated and they are showcasing excellence.
One significant thing which I have enjoyed in my career so far has been that you get to work with people’s challenges, you get to work with the human mind, and you get to understand them. At the same time, whatever move you’re going to make has a direct impact on an employee’s efficiency and productivity. And that’s exactly what are the key markers for any organisation.
There have been a lot of changes that people across industries have faced post-pandemic, including the recruitment industry. What would you say has been that one crucial challenge that you faced during the early days of the pandemic?
The early days of the pandemic were such that people kind of felt at every point in time they were looking for some sort of arrangement of work from home. I think as an HR we have never really struggled on the efficiency part but rather what we have faced was the challenge to create a work-life balance for our employees.
And I think that’s one challenge which organizations globally have faced because somewhere the expectation was that people need to deliver, people need to perform but there weren’t any timelines for their break. There weren’t any timelines for how much time they can devote to themselves, outside work. There weren’t any water cooler talks; there weren’t any lunch conversations. And I think all that has created a vacuum in people’s life where they started to feel that they need more human interaction than just talking about work targets, goals, and OKRs.
So, I think that was a crucial challenge that we faced initially.
Like any other organization, we also invested in engaging with our people. We tried to bring in a lot of virtual classes. We tried to introduce meditation, yoga and some fun activities, calling comedians to make sure there is a release of energy; where people get to interact and have their face time with each other. These were some things that employees were missing which we tried to create through virtual experiences.
The other thing which I would mention is during the early days of the pandemic, a lot of employees were going through structural changes at an organisational level. That brought in job security fear in people’s minds. At Rapido, we wanted to support the workforce we had at that point in time in whatever way we could. And I think that has worked completely in our favour today. When we speak to our employees, they appreciate that part. The company has stood with them during a global pandemic.
And we have invested the entire energy in looking at new product lines. What can we do? How can we utilise the current workforce in bringing up something which we wanted to do long back, but we couldn’t because of several factors? So that shift in mindset has worked in our favor. And I’m sure many organizations out there would probably be using a similar strategy.
Being an HR, one thing which just goes without saying is taking care of your workforce, taking care of your people at the end of the day.
You ended that answer on a very touching note. Speaking of work-life balance, what are some of the things that you do to reboot or step away from the work?
I think it varies from person to person. But what I generally do is even when I’m with my team, we catch up casually and it’s okay not to be okay and talk about it. It’s not necessary that every time you meet you have to be in formals, you can be in your pyjamas and you’re just talking over a call, in a relaxed way.
It’s okay to sometimes move out of your meetings and say, “hey, I think I need to be somewhere. I won’t be able to take up this meeting.” Because I think the more we put it on ourselves and say that “I need to deliver”, the more pressure we are putting on ourselves. Doing things before time shouldn’t be a pressure.
I think sometimes expectations are set in our mind. We tell ourselves that “no, I have to do this. I cannot say no to my manager, I cannot say no to my people. If I don’t do this, this is going to spoil my reputation.”
I think it’s all in our mind and the moment we tell ourselves it’s okay to have some “me-time”, we will start looking inwardly. You can define timelines for everything else out there and what works well.
I do define my to-do list and there are times when one or two things get spilled over for the next few days and I’m just okay with it. I don’t try to be that harsh and strict on myself. I know that sometimes there are deadlines that are concerning, some escalations you have to handle the same way. But I think on your priority metres somewhere that flexibility can be there.
On a personal level, what are the 3 most productive tools that you use to organize your work?
I use Google sheets as it gets shared with my entire team which helps them to see what is there in my chart. At the same time, they also sometimes feel that there is something that has to be moved up on my priority or beat on the escalations, that they want me to handle first.
Other than that, on the communication front, there are times when I create a Slack channel for the entire team. There are always things which you don’t need a meeting scheduled for. It could be just a quick conversation where I just put in a poll on Slack or a question and allow the team to answer it. By the end of the day, I get to know that, “okay, this is how this could have been resolved”.
I think these are the two things that work well for me.
Do you think recruitment automation has become mandatory in hiring today especially when you're assessing candidates or you are interviewing them?
I would say there are so many operations that can be optimised with automation. Manually doing these is wasting quality resources. I would say that anything which can be AI-enabled is useful as a tool to make our lives a lot easier. Recruiters can work as recruiters instead of doing backend operations.
The moment we do that, we’re able to apply our minds. We can be a bit more strategic; other than, say, typing out on excel sheets. So why not use it? And that’s what I would say the technology era is – about making use of the technology and making your life easy, doing quality work and delivering.
Any particular stage where you feel like the process would be easier if automated, or maybe it's automated but you feel like it could improve?
I have used multiple tools in my career so far and I’m sure these days in the market there are a lot of tools. However, the tool that helps with the filtration of Job Descriptions at the recruiter level helps.
Also during interviews, automating the calendar is something that recruitment automation tools can help with. That’s always been a challenge for a recruiter when it comes to finding time out in the stakeholder’s calendar. So, if the calendars can be in sync with the tool, I think that’s something that can help recruiters quickly schedule interviews.
I have also seen that when the feedback is shared there are dependencies. Every role would have a different competency that you might want to build from scratch. And not every skill would be required from 1 to 5. It could be that some of the skills you need are at a mediocre level, and some other skills you need are at a beginner level.
Some tools can define the entire skill metric and help the recruitment team select candidates based solely on skills. The skill metrics and competency mapping are already available within the organization. Making use of it and then customizing it on the basis of their requirement is something that would help the entire hiring team very well.
Three hiring trends that you are noticing that you feel are only going to be gaining momentum in the coming years?
Passive hiring is something common these days. I would define it as a process where you are building a pipeline for the key roles in your organization, and you kind of tap into the market with people who can be your potential employees in the future.
This will be the kind of rise we expect.
Because organizations these days are working on smart vision where they just don’t want to be reactive. Instead, they’d like to be proactive.
The second is defining internally some of those green positions of your organization which will be churning out in the market. These positions could be where you may or may not be able to arrest the attrition. They are so dynamic that every time you would see that there’s always attrition out there in those positions or there is a requirement which keeps on increasing for that position. It could be for some companies it’s a sales position, or for some companies, it’s a marketing role.
The third thing which I think plays a big role in recruitment is AI. I think most of the companies these days have already moved towards it. They’re just trying to work around with certain automated tools. Some of them have already started using these smart solutions. And I think that’s going to be the future of entire recruitment where things are going to be more automated.
Lastly, if there's any piece of advice that you would like to give upcoming HR professionals what would it be?
Well, this is something that I keep telling myself and whenever I talk to people in my team. One or two things that work in any profession and especially in HR is we need to be more proactive than reactive. And this can only happen when you keep your ears and eyes open all the time, understand your people’s needs, understand where they are coming from, and understand their psychology. Otherwise, whatever we do, we are just trying to be the most brilliant HRs in the organization without data points.
When I say that you need to keep your ears and eyes open, it’s not just internally, it’s externally. See worldwide what is happening and from where you can bring in the best practices. Read as much as you can and grasp as much as you can. It could be through blogs, or books that help in analyzing people’s behaviour and experiences because this eventually helps build you as a strong professional. It also helps you think out of the box.