HR management as a launch pad

Sep 11, 2017-

In the last couple of decades, Human Resource management has become vital to improving employee productivity and the overall efficiency of businesses. Realising that HR management is still lagging behind in Nepal, despite its global appeal and use, the HR Society Nepal has been organising the annual HR Conference for the past five years. The sixth iteration of the conference is now slated to take place in the Capital this week with the theme ‘HR for tomorrow: Trends and Transformations’. The event will see two international keynote speakers—Colvyn Harris, the founder of Harris-Mint and Sandeep Bidani, partner and co-founder at Positive Momentum Ltd and Cognitiv. 

In this interview with the Post’s Alisha Sijapati, the two speakers talk about their corporate journeys, their take on branding and marketing and about celebrating your mistakes. Excerpts:

Colvyn Harris started his career 35 years ago with J Walter Thompson. During his time at JWT, he was assigned different roles and later went on to become the CEO-South Asia. In 2016, Harris founded his own company Harris-Mint which helps businesses and brands achieve their true potential. Harris in his keynote speech at the HR Conference 2017 will talk about ‘Maintaining brand image among employees’. 

Can you tell us about your corporate journey; from your early beginnings to founding your own company Harris-Mint.

I have worked with one company group, WPP/JWT, across a career spanning 35 years. Across my tenure I was fortunate to have taken up different roles, to have worked on the world’s best brands and their success is my pride.  

Harris-Mint was a logical step to use my knowledge and skills to help businesses and brands achieve their true potential. The business reason is that critical intervention in the journey of a business is hugely beneficial—and it’s a wise investment as consultants bring fresh skills and an objective perspective to the company .

You’ve worked for JWT as its CEO in South Asia. How was the experience working in such a large multi-national company and what professional and personal growth comes with working for MNCs?

The experience of working in a large multinational company is the sheer thrill of its scale, the width and depth of the resources one has in order to succeed. 

In term of professional growth, it is the value of global exposure, best practices from across the globe and the client brands we worked on ensured the highest level of our personal growth and skills enhancement. In a good company, the sky is the limit and all that prevents success is your personal limitations. You can fly as high as you want to. 

The only caveat is that there is no shortcut to knowledge and learning and whilst the wherewithal was available for all equally, few take up the opportunity. That’s where personal drive, determination, passion and ambition make the difference. If you really want it then it’s there for the taking.

What do you mean when you say “maintaining brand image among employees”?

The less obvious reason is to drive a higher purpose and passion. It is perhaps the best motivating tool. The company’s brand has to be built to impact all stakeholders. Just as brands have the power to engage consumers and make them feel emotionally attached, so do employer brands need to work at keeping employee engagement levels high. This will help retain employees and make the employer highly relevant and irreplaceable to them. The cost of rehiring staff is always at a premium, and companies have to spend time and money on training. It’s best to get current employees committed to a long term, it saves money and time. 

In today’s competitive world, brand image is not just limited to corporations but has also become essential for individuals. What are the keys to creating and maintaining your own brand image?

Perception drives image, and coupled with credible performance builds an individuals’ brand within the company. Everything from the college you went to, the choices you made, who you are and what you represent builds your personal brand. It is how you appear to the world, therefore it stands to reason to have a strong brand. Whether it be based on your expertise, skills, values or experience. The way in which you build it will have to be authentic and transparent or else it will not be consistent. My personal advice would be to remain a student of your industry. To stay relevant and current, and be the most knowledgeable in the company—that’s the skill which pays dividends in the long term as your expertise and deep knowledge in the category you represent is your best insurance. 

What are three dos and don’ts of personal branding?

The do’s:

1. Be honest and authentic-Be the best reflection of yourself as that is what will drive your personal brand value. Stay true to your brand. 

2. Find the sweet spot-Position yourself against your peers and to the needs of your employers. Find the best fit for your talent. Focus on your strengths. Differentiate yourself.

3. It’s not a ‘sales’ pitch-People should want to buy into you. It should be backed by values, beliefs and consistent performance 

4. Do eat, sleep and breathe your brand-It should be the foundation of everything you do.

The don’ts:

1. Don’t value the bottom line more than loyalty-This works both ways. Remember it comes around. 

2. Don’t be inconsistent-You are your own brand ambassador. Stay true to your brand guidelines.

3. Don’t undervalue ‘ higher purpose’ in the organisation-Which is the call you take to deliver on collective objectives of your employer and yourself. It must have the integrity of the best decision for the right reasons. 

Being creative is essential for marketing. How can corporations encourage creativity in their employees? 

For any corporation, innovation and creativity has to be seeded within the organisation, encouraged and rewarded. Creativity in itself is a process to find interesting alternatives to address opportunities. Continuous innovation is critical 

for brands to succeed. Creativity is just that—fresh new ways to address new opportunities—be it design, process, material or logistics or even riding the wave of digital and e-Commerce. 


Sandeep Bidani has worked in several organisations in his long career. Bidani’s passion for Human Resource managment was ignited when he started out as a Mechanical Engineer, designing machines for Eicher. Since then, he has worked in organisations like American Express, IBM, NDTV, among others. Currently, Bidani is the founder and partner of Cognitiv and Positive Momentum that support organisations in setting up their businesses. During the HR conference on September 12, Bidani will talk about ‘Celebrating your mistakes rather than successes’.

Can you tell us about your corporate journey, from your early beginnings to Cognitiv and Positive Momentum?

I started out as a Mechanical Engineer, designing machines for Eicher. The vibrant people culture took me to an MBA in HR from FMS, BHU. I leveraged my combination of people skills, design thinking and data orientation in HR consulting and HR roles with KPMG in India and the Middle East. My move to American Express was full of learning and setting up new businesses. While heading HR for NDTV was a short stint, these were the formative years of non-news businesses for NDTV and hence the learning was immense.  

Cognitiv and Positive Momentum for me are a way of giving back what I’ve learnt in these years.  At Cognitiv we support organisations and startups in many ways—handing basics of setting up, staffing up and mentoring, compliances, employer branding, policies and training.  At Positive Momentum, we focus on Leadership Coaching and Building Managerial Skills. 

You have worked in various organisations, in your long spanning career, from IT to financial institutions. At most places, you have been focused on HR management. Can you tell us how HR has evolved over the years?

HR over the years has become a key stakeholder as companies realise it is people and not products that define its success. A culture of innovation, engagement and talent development creates best-in-class products and services and ensures better customer experiences.  HR also has a critical role to play in ensuring decisions are balanced, long term and not only led by financial metrics. 

Why have you chosen to speak about talent management?

Technological shifts, automation, rapid changes in how companies work and shifts in what products and services consumers want today has directly influenced the kind of talent needed across industries.  It is now less about knowing and more about being able to unlearn and relearn quickly.  It’s also about specialisations now.  Policies too have to fit the lifestyles of the millennial generation. That is what keeps people engaged and jobs relevant.  It is a core agenda for a HR Practitioner.

Through this conference, you are bringing a new concept of celebrating your mistakes rather than celebrating your success. This seems counterintuitive. Can you elaborate on it?

Currently, innovation is very important for companies to stay relevant.  Innovation cannot foster in any environment where there is fear or shame in failure.  If it creates insecurity or impacts people financially, they will stop trying new things.  If 100 ideas are tried 10 will succeed.  But we traditionally celebrate those 10. We tend to celebrate outcomes.  What did we learn from the 90 that did not? Do we recognise the people who tried, worked hard, say to create a new product, made a new pitch for a larger deal and failed? Celebrating the spirit of thinking outside the box is key to keep companies relevant, build learning organisations and hence the need to celebrate failures alongside successes. 

What are the keys to becoming a high-performing HR professional?

Competence is all about staying relevant and adding value. That’s how the organisation sees you as Competent.  People sensitivity is a given but data orientation, understanding financial levers of a company and how you impact them, Technology in HR, simplified non complex policies and practices and the ability to reskill yourself are key for the success and relevance of HR professionals today

Published: 11-09-2017 08:50

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