Interview with Amit Malik, Chief Human Resources Officer at Aviva Life Insurance – SIBM Pune Alumnus
Mr. Amit Malik, CHRO of Aviva Life Insurance Company India Ltd. and alumnus of SIBM Pune (Batch of 1999) visited campus on August 14, 2015. Looking back to his visit last year at around the same time.
What was your greatest learning on campus, whether inside the classroom or outside?
I think the greatest thing I learnt on campus was adapting to the situation, whatever you encounter – whether as part of the placement team, or when you work in an institute, or as a student, you always have challenges that come up unexpectedly. How do you react? How do you respond? When do you lead and when do you not lead? When do you let the team take it forward? Those were the lessons of leadership which I learnt when I was studying at SIBM Pune.
You were a member of the Placement team while here, and Student President of the year 1999. What was your experience as a leader?
I believe it was a position of huge responsibility. You stand for and work for your whole batch. You’re responsible for the whole batch, so it’s a sense of responsibility towards the batch and to the institute, because SIBM Pune has a lot of focus on student-driven activities, and in the role of President you’re the fulcrum which coordinates all activities. Placement is only one part.
You have to coordinate with alumni, and interface with corporates. You have to look at a lot of things. There’s a sense of responsibility it inculcates. This stands you in good stead when you go into the real corporate world.
What was your biggest learning once you left the college and entered the corporate world? Was it very different from on-campus learning?
It most definitely was! Learnings keep increasing as you grow in your career. You look at the situations you encounter there and you encounter similar situations in the corporate world. Even in the corporate world, you have to work with different people, different teams, to get your work done.
The on-campus experience holds you in good stead, helps you navigate the corporate world much better, because you’ve already navigated the institute. It helps you understand how an organisation works. You interact not just with students but with the Director, with faculty, with corporates, with the registrar and that really gives you a head start.
You specialised in Personnel Management, but the economy is now turning to be knowledge-driven. What is the impact on the field of HR? How much has the field really been changed?
The whole approach has changed. When I was studying, there were parts which every student still studies today. However, when you go into an organisation in the Human Resource function, and you start to encounter your employees, you realise that every employee has a unique need, every employee has a unique issue.
So I think that is what has changed. Even over a period of time, from 1999 when I started to work up until today, the workforce has constantly changed, the workforce motivation has changed, and the Gen Y concept has come in. Earlier, when I joined the corporate workforce, work was an end in itself. It was a part of your identity, it was something you had to do. Today, it’s become a means to an end. I want to do something, hence I work. And that whole change has happened in the workforce, which HR professionals need to understand.
In an article, with IndiaInfoLine, you’ve referred to insurance as a people-driven business. But isn’t that largely true of all sectors, nowadays? Or is it truer for insurance?
No, I think it’s true of every organisation. You can have the best strategy on paper, but it is only your people who can deliver and make it happen. So the success of the strategy depends on how good your people are, how well they understand the strategy, and how well they execute it in order to make it happen. So it is always a people-driven agenda.
You’ve written an article on “The missing link – Flexible Work Arrangements”. Isn’t it more important to get everyone together in the workplace, to engage better with each other and the organisation?
Flexible work arrangements are important because you have to understand that work and personal life have, to a large extent, integrated. The tools have changed. Earlier, you would go into the office and you would have a desktop and you would have to work on that. Today you have laptops, you carry your own devices, you have smartphones, and you can access information from anywhere. So that boundary between work and personal space is kind of greyed out. We’re moving towards work-life integration, rather than work-life balance. We’re looking at how to integrate work and personal life.
Where do you see Human Resources, as a field, in five years’ time?
I see it changing dramatically! I think the challenges will only increase. I think the people focus in every organisation will increase. I also think that, for all HR people, it’s going to become more challenging – and the challenge will become the interesting part of the job.
It’s going to be all about the value you bring to the table. That has become very critical. Will you be invited, yes you will be invited as the HR person, for a meeting. But it’s the value you bring to that table, the understanding of the business that you have, for you to be able to link the organisational agenda to the people agenda.
We have a batch of soon-to-be HR professionals. What would be the key attributes of an HR professional, in today’s market?
The key attributes of an HR professional, in today’s market, are first to understand your business. Second is to build relationships. Thirdly, be cognisant or aware of the changes happening in the HR function – you should know about the changes that are happening. And fourth and most important, I think, is having courage and conviction to do the right thing. Because you are in the end the custodian of values and culture of an organisation.
How important is employee engagement with the organisation?
It is absolutely essential. When someone comes into work, they don’t just come to work – they bring their whole selves. They also bring their personal issues. Similarly, when they go home, work also impacts personal life. It’s an integration where you bring your whole self. So employee engagement is very, very critical.
Would you have one last piece of advice would you give our HR batch – seniors and juniors?
Always remember to study hard and play hard. Study hard because this is your time to learn your fundamentals. And play hard because these days will never come back again.