Featured Expert

Moonmoon Varma

Vice President
Human Resources (Asia Pac)
Credit Suisse , Investment Bank

An HR Business Advisor with more than 12 years of experience in delivering HR (internal) consulting and subject matter expertise to clients, Moonmoon has had the opportunity and experience to work with diversified industries like Banking, Health Care, Events & Consulting. The last few years of her career have been more focused around designing and executing People Strategy with a strong emphasis on talent management, organizational development as well as leadership and coaching. She is an ICF certified executive coach.

A result focused individual, Moonmoon stands for excellence and having fun achieving it! She is the regional HR Lead for the Investment Bankís Finance division in Asia. As an HR advisor, her role is to partner with senior business leaders in translating their business objectives into a strategic people plan, as well as ensuring adequate strategic & operational guidance.

Her role involves delivering the People & Talent strategy for the Finance function. Leadership and Coaching is a key element of her role as much as building an engaged workforce with a high quality performance culture. Some of her previous experiences have been with Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca (both in the healthcare space) as well as in the event management & consulting industries.

Moonmoon holds a Masters degree in Human Resource Management and a Bachelorís degree in Micro Economics. She is a certified executive coach and coaching has been a way of life (& work) ever since. She is a keen photographer & a travel writer and she is hopeful that she will pen down her own coffee table book someday soon, with some of her own abstract paintings depicting her journey!


Ques. As an HR business advisor, how do you drive the values and behaviours of an organization from an HR perspective?

Ans. Organizational values define the acceptable standards which govern the behaviour of individuals within the organization. As an HR Advisor one of the core deliverables has always been to ensure clear alignment of the organizational core values/ behaviours with robust competency based HR processes. There needs to be clear linkages between what you wish to drive versus your acceptable standards laid down. Recruitment, Performance Management, Talent and Capability Building & finally Reward Management processes within your organisation need to be clearly defined and linked to the competency model.

Having said that one also needs to constantly communicate (both internally & externally), periodically revisit and refresh, seek feedback and confront contradictory behaviour to ensure that the values and behaviours are real, are being lived and are up to date.

I have been fortunate enough to have been involved during various stages of design and execution of some of the best in class competency framework roll outs while in AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and now in Credit Suisse. I am a firm believer that a robust competency based HR function can make all the difference and could be a great driver of expected values and behaviours within an organization.

Ques. What are the key challenges you face while addressing issues related to people leadership in large organizations like Credit Suisse?

Ans. Large organizations always come with challenges and leadership being a very obvious one. One of the very common leadership challenges that come to my mind is around good management skills. While we have consistently produced some of the best technical minds in the industry and some of the very sought after business leaders, there is still sufficient scope for us to raise the bar around people management & coaching skills of our line leaders.

Very often people tend to be excellent individual contributors and they shine and outperform in their roles. The same profiles when put on a management track tend to shy away from some of the good leadership and management practices. As HR Partners it is one of our key deliverables to ensure that we continuously train and coach our leadership pipeline, identify gaps and bridge them with appropriate organizational measures. Personally for me, being an Executive Coach myself has always helped in proactively identifying, addressing and facilitating these discussions with some of our senior leaders.

Ques. IT, Consulting, Entertainment, Healthcare and now Banking, which sector in your career, has given you the maximum exposure in terms of human resource management?

Ans. I have learnt and picked up a variety of skills and experiences from these sectors each of which was very enriching and different. The IT and consulting experiences were literally my first stepping stones into the corporate world Ė I started working right after my graduation and both these roles taught me all my basics , how to roll up your sleeves and get the job done. Entertainment was Fun as it was meant to be. My biggest learning there was dealing with ambiguity and bringing in some structure into the chaos while appreciating the fact that creative minds work quite differently. I think establishing your credibility as an HR Partner is far more challenging in such an industry compared to the more traditional sectors. Healthcare & Banking was where I got exposed to some Best in Class practices and have had my maximum learning from. While as industries, Banking and Pharma/Healthcare are very different, they have some of the most admired and benchmarked HR Practices.

Ques. Do you agree with the school of thought that a person should undergo formal training to become successful as an HR professional?

Ans. I think it is important to get started in the profession on sound footing. A formal training not only gives you some very solid and robust foundation on theories and practice but also is as important in todayís competitive job market. There is an increased demand for knowledgeable HR professionals today and a formal training will only help you to be appropriately prepared to become a successful HR professional.

Ques. What, according to you, is an indispensable trait for a person to be a successful HR professional?

Ans. It's always a combination of traits that makes one a successful HR professional. However the one trait that will take you to a different height irrespective of your profession is Passion. Having a 'talent' is great but having the passion to practice, perform and get better every time is what differentiates you from others.

Ques. Has there been a change in the perception of HR as a profession since the time you had started your career?

Ans. Yes I think there has been a sea change in perception, mind-set and value add that HR brings in as a function today. The function has grown significantly in maturity and influence. HR as a function has historically been very operational and revolved around delivering the basics (which we still will be accountable for) and hence had been niched in this operational role and it was quite a challenge to change that image. Today, the function has changed those perceptions by providing new behaviour and information in front of people so that they begin to see and experience HR differently.

I think successful and credible HR functions will always have two key priorities:
1.  An operational strategy around delivery on basics
2. A strategic long term people plan which creates competitive advantage for the organization & which is measurable (HR Scorecard / Metrics are a must)

Ques. Drawing from your personal experience, how would you rank (highest to lowest) the following as motivating factors for people to work efficiently in an organization? Profile, Package, Interaction with seniors and Work culture.

Ans. I think people would rank these differently depending on what stage of their career they are at. When I look at campus surveys I notice that Package has slipped from being the number one driver for most youngsters. What they are looking for today is exposure to senior management, doing global projects, being recognised and fast tracked. I guess itís important to be cognizant of the fact that people will have different drivers for motivation at different stages of their career and itís not as simple as ranking some of these factors. If we could get to a place where managers /organizations understand personal drivers of employees, that would be ideal.

Ques. What has been the most valuable learning you have gained in your career so far?

Ans. I have been extremely fortunate to have worked with some very strong HR/Business mentors in my formative years. I personally give a huge weightage to attitude followed by aptitude/skill and knowledge (almost in that order). To me if one is resilient, has the courage to seek and digest feedback, has a realistic assessment of self and has an innate desire to discover and learn, half your battle is won. I do owe a lot of this firm grounding to my mentor and coach Yash (Head of HR for Philips Ė Indian Sub-Continent) who taught me some of the very basic fundamentals of corporate life.

Having now seen and worked for almost more than 12 years across geographies and cultures, the one learning that I have gained is that to be a trusted advisor and to be at the top of the game , one needs to build credibility , know the business, demonstrate your value in measurable terms and be very agile to the changing needs.

Ques. Pearls of wisdom for the budding HR professionals.

Ans. Know the Business, Understand the Priorities, Deliver on Basics, Establish your Credibility and then talk about Strategy. The floor is all yours and you have then truly earned a seat on the table.

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