How I Got Involved in Personnel/HR Matters

How I got involved in Personnel/HR matters

Prior to my posting in the Personnel Division of the Department of Electronics (DOE) in the Government of India, my experience relating to personnel matters was zero!
My experience, at that point of time, included working as Private Secretary to the Secretary, DOE, Government of India, working a little later, as Staff Officer to the same Secretary to GOI, in another Department, (Department of Science & Technology) in a higher grade, (both together spanning a little over a decade), a one-year stint as Under Secretary to the Government of India, dealing with Parliament matters, and a little over one year’s experience as Officer on Special Duty, Science Advisory Council to Prime Minister, providing administrative and technical support to the Council, the high-level policy making body in S&T.

You may ask, how come this man became in charge of Personnel Division – initially as Under Secretary, then as Joint Director and thereafter as Director. The zero experience in Personnel Division, when I first took over, did not put me in any discomfort or difficulties. For, in the earlier posts I could learn a lot from files – rules about various cases, how they are analyzed, how they are finally submitted for decision making and, how, finally, the head of the Department at the level of Government Secretary took decisions on these matters. All these automatically provided me a wide exposure to various kinds of situations and a rich experience in the nuances of dealing with various matters, up to the point of decision making, including some vitally needed education on the Rules of Government.

Generally, as a Private Secretary one handles only a support function to the boss – telephones, appointments, proper reminders, maintaining files (including confidential and secret ones), preparing drafts of various kinds of letters and so on. But, in my case, while these were just the routines associated with my job, I delved deep into the cases put up in files, which exercise was highly interesting, educative and enriching, so as to be ready for any kind of new or higher responsibility. This readiness to handle higher responsibilities, when opportunities were offered, put me in good stead, without having to bother about how I would be able to deliver in my higher responsibilities.

Incidentally, before I first took over as Under Secretary in charge of Personnel Division, I had the opportunity to meet and discuss a few things with the person already in charge of this job – who, surprisingly, was a technical person, without any experience in personnel Division. And, to my surprise, while I saw a huge pile up of files on his table,
he was ‘disposing off’ the bulk of these files, in the quickest possible manner, into the out tray. For a moment I wondered has this man mastered the art of handling all complex personnel matters! But, it was later on, when I actually took charge of the Personnel Division, that I came to realize that the bulk of the files on his table that I saw him dispose with ease, were the ones on their ‘return path’ from the higher up in hierarchy to the lower level, mostly ‘approved’ and signed, which he had to just see and put his signature to move further down on the usual path. This is not to undermine his contributions or his ability to handle more complex matters.

The actual work involved on files was on those that come to you from your subordinates, processed at their level, for comments, for further analysis, and possible courses of action for decision by the higher authorities. And, it is here one is put to real test in terms of application of your mind, and, of course, the rules. And, with my exposure and experience for over a decade, though in other areas of work, I could easily ‘manage’ the personnel division, without any problems or difficulties, No wonder, my confidence grew over time and I could contribute immensely as also innovate. Dealing with over seven hundred persons in the Department, naturally made me think more about people – the asset of any organization. My interest in people made me frequent the library, read several books on HR, management etc. more news papers – important articles, particularly relating to people management and I could soon start putting down my own thoughts on various aspects of people management, in the form of a series of articles which regularly started appearing in leading newspapers and journals – Financial Express, Economic Times, The Observer, Management in Government (a journal brought out by the Department of Personnel & Training, GOI) etc. Writing soon became a regular hobby and a passion for me.

How much could I accomplish? Well, this is what the Secretary of DOE, Mr. N. Vittal, said about me: ‘I am delighted to inform you that your sense of dedication and outstanding performance has been recognized by your immediate supervisor, Shri S. Murali who is just completing his tenure and returning to his parent cadre, I am very happy to enclose a copy of the note in which he has recorded about your performance.

Having watched you for more than two and a half years, I share in toto the sentiments and appreciation expressed by Shri Murali. I commend you in your sense of dedication and I hope you will continue to work with the same zeal and make useful contributions to public service. A copy of this letter of appreciation along with the note of Shri Murali is being kept in your CR dossier.’

And, this is what Shri S. Murali, Joint Secretary, my immediate supervisor, had to say about me: ‘Shri Subramaniam set about his tasks with a missionary zeal. His innate ability to learn quickly the requirements of the job, no doubt, helped him in setting right
the problem areas and chart a new course for the Division. The success achieved by the Personnel Division in the last few years has been made possible in no small way to the leadership abilities shown by him, coupled with a touch of class and a fierce determination to improve. I was able to devote my time to many areas, secure with the knowledge that the Personnel Division was being looked after admirably by him. His sense of commitment, ability to learn and adapt and his leadership capabilities have stood him and the Department in good stead. I am confident that he would continue to exhibit these tendencies in whatever post he holds in his future career.’

From my own experience, I feel you can succeed in any job by simply taking note of the following tips:

There is no need for prior experience in any field

Make continuous learning a habit

Always keep an eye for details

Create an urge in yourself to excel at whatever you do

Most important, believe in yourself, feel self-confident

Create a ‘WOW’ even with the crappiest job no one wants to do

And success is ensured!

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About cvsubramaniam

Former Director, Department of Electronics & Informatiin Technology, Government of India.. Authored Book on Human Resource Management. Published 80 plus articles on HR, Management, S&T, general topics.
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