Decoding GEnius : An HR Sojourn At GE Digital
1st June 2018. It was when this riveting journey of 8 weeks reached its official ending. The HR leader for GE Digital India had arranged a small farewell meet-up for me in the afternoon where she had invited all the HRMs in her team. It was however conspicuous by the absence of two very important people in my journey – my mentor, who had delivered her second baby just a couple of days ago and the HRM, an alumnus of my college, with whom I shared my cubicle and was almost like a sounding board for all my innovative as well as ‘not so innovative’ ideas – busy with one of his never-ending strategic meet-ups with the business leaders. Nevertheless in the meeting, we ended up exchanging a lot of light-hearted moments that we shared with each other over the course of my internship and the takeaways from them in the form of continues and considers (The GE terminology for encouragement to continue good work done and constructive criticism for areas that can be improved). One HRM remarked that the presentation I had prepared was amongst one of the most aesthetic ones that he had seen in his entire career. That coming from a person who has served in prestigious companies like GE, EY, and Tata Steel over a long career was a real shot in the arm for me. The HR leader for GE Digital jokingly recollected about me taking the program managers through almost 50 slides in just 29 minutes in almost a single breath. Well, that was something that summed up the story of my internship – fast, frantic, so less time – yet so much to achieve!
11th September 2014. This was the day I was placed in my first company back in my engineering days and fast forward three years, in a moment of beautiful co-incidence I got placed in GE on the same day in 2017. My excitement knew no bounds and I left no stone unturned to interact with as many people as possible – All the previous GE interns from my college as well as our sister college SIBM. Well, taking their advice I beefed up my excel skills and learned quite a bit of R leveraging my previous programming experience. My main role in the Media and PR cell of my college was content-writing. However I voluntarily took some designing assignments and graduated to Photoshop from PowerPoint and Canva hoping such skills could come in handy in case I had to design any communication campaign. And finally when the day of reckoning arrived and we got our projects, I would be lying if I said if I was really excited with me getting an employee engagement project and some of my peers getting more glamorous roles around compensation and benefits, employer branding etc – the areas of HR I was more keen on working. What was comforting thought was that I got my assignment in GE Digital – an industry I was totally familiar with because of my previous stint in I.T.
9th April 2018. Soon enough, the day of joining arrived. All the 48 interns across 5 different leadership programs were provided accommodation in Four Points by Sheraton, Whitefield. The induction experience was pretty much along the expected lines with the different leadership interactions, tour of the research facilities, treasure hunt, exotic dinners etc. However what stood out this time around was something called the Shark Tank Challenge which brought many of us from different colleges together to join hands, stay up all night and conceptualize something special to present to elite GE leaders the following day. And all of these happened after having attended a crazy party hosted by the GE leadership program hires of yesteryears in the evening.
Soon we all reported to our respective assignment locations. The GE Digital Office at PSN, Bangalore indeed lived up-to its billing of possessing one of the best internal decors amongst all offices across Bangalore. I was welcomed by my mentor and soon was introduced to all the HRMs in her team over the first few days. All of them gave me insights on what their expectations were for the project. Though I tried my best to factor in everyone’s inputs and come to a common ground, it got a little overwhelming in the initial days. After multiple deliberations, I wrote an approach paper elucidating my understanding of the problem and how I would go about solving the same along with the timelines. Even that went through multiple iterations and finally, an approach was finalized. Soon I went about trying to collect as much data and insights from people using a survey as well as by taking qualitative interviews. It was a tough job initially trying to understand what was significant, what wasn’t and also interpreting some of the contrasts between the findings of the quantitative survey and qualitative interviews. However, my mentor was kind enough during the initial days to set up a recurring meeting invite in her calendar and guide me each day for like half an hour on the kind of questions to ask to elicit maximum insights in the shortest possible time. Soon the time for mid-review came wherein I presented my findings until then. The 20-odd days after mid-review were the most frantic where I actually had to create actionable recommendations out of the problems identified in the exploratory research until then and compile them into an employee engagement handbook. It involved a lot of talking to business leaders, bouncing off own ideas as well as best practices from within and outside the company, identifying stakeholders to execute the same etc. After countless days of brainstorming and sleepless nights of rumination, the engagement handbook with all the mechanisms saw the light of the day and it pleased me no end when the HR Leader of GE Digital appreciated my recommendations as well as the width and depth of research that went into it.
In hindsight, although I wasn’t very intrigued initially, the project gave me an opportunity to work across multiple areas of HR like career path-ing, learning and development, performance management, rewards and recognition, HR analytics etc in order to drive engagement through them. The multiple team meetings with the entire HR team, administration of different HRD instruments on the team and intense debates on their interpretations, the philosophical discussions over lunch-table, the afternoon sorties around the building, or the random Gyaan that a couple of HRMs gave me whenever they could take some time off from their work are few things that I always looked forward to apart from my regular work. They gave me a bird’s eye view of how things work in the HR world and developed in me a deep sense of appreciation for the amount of effort they put in to maintain a balance between the business priorities and employees’ happiness. Another key takeaway was that out there in the real world, problems won’t always be well defined or totally black and white. There are always grey areas, uncertainties, ambiguities – and how well we account for them, connect the dots and chart out our own path is what matters in the end as the famous saying goes “The road to success is not always a straight line”