10 Jun 2016 19:27 IST

‘Humility is the most important attribute in a candidate’

Ericsson’s Sameer Khanna says ambition and energy are givens in a B-school topper. But what he looks for is humility

The key attribute we look for while hiring is the attitude, says Sameer Khanna, VP and Head of HR India – Ericsson. Khanna, who rates humility and a collaborative approach as top attributes in an individual, spoke to BL on Campus on HR’s role in a business and what Ericsson looks for in a candidate while hiring business graduates. Read on.

Sameer Khanna

For years now, HR has been viewed as a mere support function rather than playing a more strategic role of being the 'business partner'. How important do you think it is for HR to earn a seat at the C-suite table to add value to an organisation?

The HR strategy needs to come from the business strategy and the business strategy talks about why you exist in this business in the first place, and ensures that the business does well. This further translates into how HR can help in the process. So, for me, there is a very strong and direct linkage, in the sense that HR needs to look at how it can help achieve business objectives.

For instance, if there is a competitive market place, where the business is getting into a new area, the question for HR is how to work on the new skill-set required. How do I ensure that I hire and train enough people faster than others are able to do in order to take it to the customers faster? This is just one example but what you are really working on is your key strengths to enable business to perform better.

Another reason managements give for less direct involvement of HR in business is that HR doesn't speak the language of business. Is that indeed so?

I think this is changing. It may have been true partly earlier but if you look at the HR landscape now, almost all HR heads and the HR fraternity understand the need to contribute to the business in a direct manner. I would say it has now evolved and changed quite significantly.

Are there any tools through which we can measure the RoI on HR?

There are tools present already. You may take Learning and Development, for instance. The RoI on training programmes, expounded by Kirkpatrick has been around for decades. If you look at talent acquisition, the impact of reducing time to fill from X days to Y can also be translated.

We should see how the HR matrix contributes to the business matrix. For instance, if I am able to reduce attrition by 5 per cent, how it will impact the bottomline is more important than saying how many people were retained.

How is the learning and development carried out in Ericsson?

We have something like a virtual campus which is online. So, you can actually get inside and have a whole experience page which looks like an office space where you are walking in. Classroom training is passe, and you actually have to move onto learning on the go.

For leadership as well we have a technology on the mobile where they can learn, interact and collaborate on the mobile. We are a technology company and use technology extensively for learning and training.

What do you look for while hiring freshly-minted business school graduates?

When you hire from a top business school, most of the graduates are highly ambitious. So, if you are looking for ambition, drive, and energy, they already have all that. The key thing we look for is attitude — the behavioural and soft skills. It is about how grounded the person is. The attribute I rate very high is humility, that is, we are looking for a person down to earth, and can relate to people around. When you come from a top business school, you tend to be talented but how you get along with others is far more important. It is about how you turn competition into collaboration which is the key. So, collaboration, humility, and a down-to-earth attitude are the attributes we are looking for.

What can B-school graduates look forward to when they join Ericsson?

Ericsson is an organisation where people come in and stay for a long time. When somebody is looking for a career in Ericsson, he/she should look for a long-term relationship with the organisation. We would want people to come and build their careers with us. Second, Ericsson is so vast that we have opportunities in various areas. Be it the business or the technology side. So, loving technology and building a strong innovative culture are the attributes that freshers may look forward to when coming to Ericsson.

How many graduates are you looking to hire or have hired this year and in which verticals?

We do not disclose the hiring numbers but I can tell you we have been, and are, looking at hiring talent in BSS (business support systems), 4G and LTE technology and cloud technology.

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