From Bartender to HR Leader: Navigating Challenges and Pushing Boundaries
Sep 20 ,2023
We will explore Sanjiv Agarwal journey, from stepping into a company filled with dissatisfied employees to starting a radio show amid a global pandemic. Along the way, we will uncover his fascinating recruitment strategies and the lessons he has learned from setbacks and challenges. Prepare for a roller coaster of real-life stories, noble ideas, and profound wisdom.
Join Adrian Tan and our guest Sanjiv Agarwal, Head – Human Resources, South East Asia | Swiss Re. Here we challenge the status quo, think outside the box, and explore ways to create inspiring and empowering workplaces. Together, we can transform the world of human resources and make a lasting impact on employees’ lives.
From Bartender to HR Leader: A Unique Journey
Let’s start with Sanjiv’s unique pivot from being a bartender to a career in HR. It wasn’t something he planned, but rather an accident that led him down this path. He began his career in hotels, mixing drinks behind a bar. But as he progressed, he took on different roles in the industry, eventually becoming a trainer for customer service. One day, the CEO of his organisation asked him to take over HR, and that’s how he found himself in the field. Sanjiv’s journey into HR was unexpected, but it opened up a world of possibilities and challenges.
Empathy and Employee Experience
One of the challenges Sanjiv faced early on was stepping into a company with dissatisfied employees. This is a common issue in many organisations, which Sanjiv himself had experienced as an employee. He took a unique approach to understanding why people reach out to HR. He sat next to the phone and personally answered every call that came through to the HR department. This allowed him to gain insights into employees’ simple requests and issues, and he realised that HR could serve them better by organising themselves and providing faster, more efficient support. This experience taught him the importance of employee experience and the need for HR to be more empathetic and responsive to employees’ needs.
Innovative Recruitment Strategies
Regarding recruitment, Sanjiv has a knack for thinking outside the box. He shared a memorable experience at HSBC, where he struggled to hire people for the procurement department. Instead of looking for candidates with the exact job title or industry experience, he focused on transferable skills. He found success by recruiting individuals from the garment manufacturing industry with merchandising experience. Although it was a different context, the discipline and skills required for managing timelines and milestones were transferable. This approach allowed him to find the right fit for the role and taught him the value of looking beyond traditional qualifications when hiring.
Innovative Solutions in Challenging Times
But it was during the global pandemic that Sanjiv truly pushed the envelope and came up with a groundbreaking idea. With face-to-face interactions limited, he wanted to find a way to recreate the camaraderie and connection that comes from being in an office environment. He started a radio show within his organisation, where employees could tune in and listen to music, engage in conversations, and destress together. This innovative initiative provided a sense of community and helped employees stay connected during a challenging time. The show was a hit, and even after the pandemic, it continues to run, now in its 6th season.
Embracing Failure and Perseverance
In his successes, Sanjiv acknowledges that only some experiments or initiatives will work out. He believes that failures are essential to the journey and should not deter one from trying again. He emphasises the importance of perseverance and the understanding that a “no” is not a permanent rejection but a temporary setback. Analysing the reasons behind the refusal and making necessary adjustments can turn a “no” into a “yes” in the future.
The Wisdom of Experience
Looking back on his journey, Sanjiv advises his younger self not to take everything too seriously. He recognises that success and failures are transient and that one should not let disappointments define their path. By maintaining a positive mindset and embracing the ever-changing nature of life, one can navigate through challenges and continue to grow.
Conclusion: Shaping the Future of HR
In conclusion, Sanjiv Agrawal’s journey in HR is a testament to the power of thinking outside the box, embracing challenges, and persevering through failures. His experiences highlight the importance of employee experience, transferable skills, and the need for innovative approaches to foster connection and engagement within organisations. By pushing the envelope and constantly seeking new solutions, HR professionals can create meaningful impact and drive positive change in the workplace.
About Rolling Arrays
Rolling Arrays has been driving SAP SuccessFactors-led HR Transformation since 2009. The company specialises in SF consulting, implementation, and support and also builds applications to enhance the utility of the SuccessFactors platform. It is committed to designing systems that help its customers to attract, develop and retain talented individuals. In 2021, Rolling Arrays was recognized as one of the top 75 fastest-growing companies in Singapore by The Straits Times & Statista.