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In our Office Snacks series, we interview members of our community to delve into their varied buffets of experience and come away with juicy insights and ideas.

Join us in our next installment below as Shipra Kamra, VP of People at Responsive, shares her insights with us.

Hi Shipra, we’d love to get to know you better. First up, and most importantly, what’s your favorite office (home or otherwise) snack?

My goodness, I may not serve as a great role model for many here. While I enjoy munching  Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, when forced to make healthier choices I opt for salted cashews. 

How’d you get to where you are today?

I started my journey in the field of recruitment with Genpact (formerly Headstrong), and I discovered it to be both thrilling and fulfilling. 

As the years passed, I transitioned into different roles, including HR Business Partnering, People Operations, and HR Program Management to diversify my skill set. 

My HR experience spans from mid-sized tech firms like Headstrong and Ness Technology to large global organizations such as Target, Nike, and CDK Global.

Presently, I'm leading the People Team at Responsive, a Saas startup based in Portland, Oregon that is experiencing rapid growth.

I was born and raised in India and worked there for a few years before moving to Oregon, US. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work in diverse geographic locations and cultures. 

How would you describe your job to someone at a party?

Well, in a nutshell, I work in HR. I help organizations implement innovative HR practices, advise leaders on effective people strategy, and enable teams to achieve business outcomes. 

I also serve as the link between the company and its employees, ensuring that the needs of all are met and cultivating a workplace environment where everyone can flourish.

Download our 2024 Workplace Trends Report to stay ahead in a transforming HR landscape. Get insights from leaders on trends that will define your strategies in AI, talent dynamics, and DEI.

Download our 2024 Workplace Trends Report to stay ahead in a transforming HR landscape. Get insights from leaders on trends that will define your strategies in AI, talent dynamics, and DEI.

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What’s the most unusual situation you’ve had to deal with as a people operations professional?

The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent post-pandemic period have been exceptional, not only for me but for HR professionals worldwide. We found ourselves navigating uncharted territory, a public health crisis, and a lot of uncertainty. 

The landscape of our work transformed drastically, encompassing remote work, burnout, mental health concerns, and heightened political divisions, among others. 

It appears that our world is experiencing a greater degree of division than ever before, making the task of engaging employees more challenging than it’s ever been.

Has there ever been a moment in your career where you questioned where you’re going or why you got into this?

I cannot deny that I've never experienced this. In the HR field, our primary focus is on people. 

While it might appear fascinating, each person comes with their own distinct qualities and motivations. 

At times, it can be quite challenging to harmonize various personalities within an organization to ensure its success. It's just like having a whole family together for Christmas or Thanksgiving and navigating the associated challenges.

Nevertheless, the fact that my role revolves around people adds a touch of excitement to most days! 

What’s your biggest challenge and how do you overcome it?

I think it is my aspirations and time constraints. I am eager to introduce fresh HR concepts and methodologies within my organization, surpassing the pace of other startups, with the objective of elevating the level of maturity in HR practices. 

However, my team is quite lean and currently operating at full capacity. In order to address this challenge, I've extended my working hours considerably throughout this year (average 14-hour days) with the goal of establishing a strong foundation in 2023 that will pave the way for tackling new and more demanding projects next year.

I'm aware that it may not be the ideal decision but, when faced with the option of either reaching my goals slowly or dedicating additional time, I choose to invest my time to witness the results of my efforts.

What do you think is the biggest misconception around HR?

The perception of HR solely exists to cater to employees' interests.

What most people fail to recognize is that HR's role is to strike a balance between the well-being of employees and the objectives of the organization. 

We advocate for the success and well-being of employees, yet we also bear the responsibility of aligning HR practices with the strategic goals of the organization.

How has technology impacted the HR world?

Technology's impact has been nothing but revolutionary in the field of HR.

Automation tools and new technology, whether in recruiting or performance management or HRIS, has significantly reduced the administrative tasks and brought valuable data and analytics that empower organizations to make informed decisions.

We have also noticed a remarkable improvement in overall employee experience. As a result, HR has been able to shift its focus towards the strategic elements of the job. 

Which are your most-loved tools that help you with your job?

Engagement platforms like Cultureamp play a critical role in enabling me and my team to grasp the sentiments of our workforce. 

I appreciate the built-in capabilities of reviewing sentiment analysis and delving into the data, allowing for a comprehensive view of employee engagement at various organizational, departmental, and team levels. 

Personally, Trello is my top choice as it seamlessly combines projects, tasks, and team members, ultimately boosting productivity.

As for my most recent favorite, ChatGPT takes the lead due to its speed and time-saving capabilities. I use it for tasks such as drafting communications, job descriptions, and policies.

What’s been your most successful initiative to date and why?

I had accepted an internal opportunity to undertake the challenge of transforming an HR team with broken processes, a reactive approach, dispirited team members, and a negative reputation that preceded their actual work delivery.

This challenge encompassed a multitude of tasks, including process improvement, team motivation, and establishing the team's credibility while demonstrating success.

It demanded two years of hard work and effort to address all these aspects and ultimately transform the team into the highest-performing unit across the entire organization.

What’s a project that maybe didn’t work out as planned, why do you think that was?

I joined a company and, within three months, we initiated the acquisition of a new company. 

Although I've been involved in several mergers and acquisitions throughout my career, this one stood out as particularly unique.

At the time, I was the sole HR professional, essentially onboarding myself into the company while also trying to build the team. However, the integration schedule was extremely ambitious, aiming for completion within six months, which required an accelerated pace.

The workload was overwhelming, leaving little room to connect with the individuals experiencing so much change. 

While we achieved swift integration in terms of HR policies, systems, and benefits, it took considerably longer to foster a sense of cultural integration and truly make them feel like an integral part of our organization.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received that changed the way you view your work or career?

"Trust data, not emotions or individuals". When I first received this advice, I found myself somewhat perplexed by the dismissal of emotions and human judgment. 

However, as I delved deeper into data analysis, I began to appreciate how data provides a clearer perspective on reality, surpassing the subjective perceptions and emotions associated with various situations. 

In our professional capacity, we frequently engage with others, which can lead to our thoughts being influenced by these interactions. It is quite common to succumb to biased judgment. 

By leaning on data or considering multiple datasets, we can arrive at decisions that are more impartial and logically sound. 

What do you think is the biggest challenge organizations face in the current labor market?

In the technology sector, the most significant challenge remains the shortage of talent pool. 

However, in recent months, the emergence of Chat GPT has sparked important conversations on the transformative potential of AI and how to ensure AI adoption responsibly.

As HR, we need to think ahead to understand how workforce planning and talent strategies need to evolve to align with the changing landscape.

By Finn Bartram

Finn is an editor at People Managing People. He's passionate about growing organizations where people are empowered to continuously improve and genuinely enjoy coming to work. If not at his desk, you can find him playing sports or enjoying the great outdoors.