Human Resolve HR

Balancing Data and Emotions while Defying Cultural Norms

Ashima Kapur | Vice President of Human Resources, Allied Solutions

Ashima Kapur has a deep-rooted faith in people — and no doubt has it played a pivotal role in her success. 

“I believe that ultimately we all want to do a good job,” Ashima says. “I can’t think of a single person that’s walked in and said, ‘You know what, I really don’t care.’”

As an immigrant from India, it took Ashima a while to break into HR in the U.S. But her first American bosses at The Morley Group helped her get to where she is now: Vice President of Human Resources at Allied Solutions. Now, after 26 years in the field, she leads with the understanding that employees are human beings with lives.

On this episode of Human Resolve, Ashima discusses why it’s important for HR professionals to respect varying backgrounds, work as a team to get the job done, and listen to the data and employees.

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Meet Ashima

Ashima is the Vice President of Human Resources at Allied Solutions, a company providing insurance, lending and risk management solutions to more than 4,000 financial institutions in North America. Ashima is a recognized Human Resources leader with more than 25 years of experience in her field. She holds both SPHR and SHRM-SCP certifications as well as a master’s and bachelor’s degree in Industrial Psychology and Organizational Behavior from Delhi University.

Ashima’s leadership has transformed Allied’s Human Resources team into a trusted partner across the organization. Her expertise continues to move Allied forward in building and implementing its Human Capital strategy, evolving it for an even brighter future.

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Ashima Kapur

Show Notes

Ashima Kapur has a deep-rooted faith in people — and no doubt has it played a pivotal role in her success. 

“I believe that ultimately we all want to do a good job,” Ashima says. “I can’t think of a single person that’s walked in and said, ‘You know what, I really don’t care.’”

As an immigrant from India, it took Ashima awhile to break into human resources in the U.S. But her first American bosses at The Morley Group helped her get to where she is now: Vice President of Human Resources at Allied Solutions.

“I would pick up the phone and call a company because I was trying to get them to hire us … and people would hang up the moment I said my name,” she recalls. “But I also believe that for every single person that might have been negative, that might have discriminated or been mean, I found three or four other people that were very supportive.”

After 26 years in the field, she understands that employees are human beings who, though they want to work hard, don’t always have human resources at the front of their mind. There are spreadsheets, calls and meetings to attend to, and sometimes the HR element gets lost in the mix. That’s where she and her team come in. Ashima leads a group of HR professionals who remember to respect varying backgrounds, work as a team to get the job done, and listen to the data and employees. 

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, that job was to help transition nearly an entire office of more than a thousand people to remote work. She’s proud to say her team was able to make that happen within just a day.

Notable Quotes

Everyone has a different life experience

“Not everyone’s experiences are the same. So I have to be very careful going in and not say, ‘Because this is how this was for me, therefore, it is this for you.’ And that opens up the dialogue to ‘Here’s how I think, what do you think, what’s your experience?’ And then let’s bring something together, talk about how we are going to build whatever we’re going to build. My big thing is I want to be known for the work I do. I want to be known for the quality of things, whatever that might be. I don’t want to be known for ‘Oh, because you’re a woman’ or ‘because you’re a pretty face’ or whatever else.”

How to lead authentically

“If I were to say how to get started [to lead more authentically], it is really acknowledging that transition from administrative HR to strategic HR. The bones are the first three steps: Do you have mechanisms in place to develop the self-awareness of your leaders? Does your company have a purpose that is clear and activates it — not one that’s sitting on a shelf, dusty — are you celebrating that purpose? Do you bring that purpose back to life for the employees? Does each employee — even the ones who have jobs that are pretty thankless — do they understand how their role ties back to the overall company purpose and why the company exists in the world? Then, the same with values: Are the values not just known, but are they lived? Are they activated?”

Great managers are capable, committed and clear

“Everyone wants to do a good job. … I call it the three C’s: the capability, the commitment, the clarity, and then empowerment. The first thing is, are the people capable managers? Are they capable? If they’re not capable, can you train them? Yeah, there are some things that just come to innately, but I think capabilities are a big focus — they’re either committed or not. … And are they clear on what’s expected? And then ultimately, are they empowered? If we can do those things with the managers, if we can focus on any one of those things and work with them on where they might need help, I think most of the time we can get to what we need to get to.”

Good leaders know when to sit back and listen

“That’s the biggest mistake you can make: if you start talking without listening to what everyone else has to say. Because then all you’re doing is talking from what you think, not talking from what they might need or want. So it’s important to listen and understand, which is why we talk about business partners, which is why we talk about building that trust and credibility. The only way I can build that trust and credibility is when everyone that’s talking to me feels like I’m listening to them. That’s the key.”

Employees aren’t on the clock 24/7

“We’ve always had a recognition for the fact that people have lives outside of the four walls of the office or the environment. And we’ve always been very open to working with employees on that. … As a manager, I have a life, so I know that my employees have a life, too. So I think that, for us, at least I believe, as an organization, it was easy [to adapt to the pandemic].”

A team mindset is vital

“You want to make sure that you’re taking care of as many [people] — and all, if you can. Every single thought, every single decision you make, you have to pause and say, ‘Am I doing this right?’ … None of us can do this in silos, we have to rely on each other, we have to rely on the resources we have. So I appreciate the partnerships I have not just with our outside partners, but even internally with the managers, with our other leaders, because it’s those partnerships and those resources that get us to the right decisions.”

Rely on effective communication

“Our most valuable resources are the humans, the people that we have there. So how do you then make sure that every day that an employee walks in, you’re going to be able to get the best from them? You can’t do that every day. So to me, mindspace becomes important. … They’re not thinking from the perspective of human resources everyday. What they know is, I have to get this accounting thing filed. So their brain, their mindspace, is filled with whatever the accounting pieces are. How do you then get them to pause long enough and also think of the human aspect? That’s kind of when I think the training, the education, the development, all of those things become important to make sure that whenever they’re doing something, they can pause long enough and say, ‘How am I doing it? Is this the right way to do it?’ Ultimately, the question I ask everyone is, ‘if you were in that person’s shoes, how would you like to be treated?’”

Balance hard data and quantitative insights

“That balance can be hard sometimes, because sometimes you can be so prone to just looking at the data that you want to just do something. And you have to remind yourself that no, I need to also look at the softer side. … It’s great to have a team that kind of uses their left side of the brain and the right side of the brain both so you can balance the quantitative and the qualitative. I think with years of experience, as you grow up in HR, there’s enough things that are completely data-driven, and there are enough things that are all qualitative data. So you learn to also then take those anecdotal things and create some kind of data or pattern out of it. … You can still kind of say we did this this way five times and it didn’t work, or it worked great. Or we’ve done it this way with this person’s style.”

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