HR HOTSPOT: Interview Rakesh Lal HR HOTSPOT: Interview Rakesh Lal
Interview with Rakesh Lal, the Global HR Director for Finance and Marketing at Kantar
Tell us about your current HR leadership role? And describe the career journey that led you there.
The role of Global HR Director for Finance and Marketing is to partner Senior Leaders with their 1500 strong teams across 85 markets to enable an enhanced employee experience and build capability and skills for the future.
I am currently leading an organisational design programme for Global Marketing to launch a new operating model and way of working for Q1 2020 and over the past 3 years I have delivered transformational changes across Global Finance around a new operating model to allow for more strategic business partnering. These are the bigger ticket items but the day to day around the employee experience, talent planning, hiring, restructuring and helping manage local HRBPs is key and never stops.
Prior to joining Kantar in 2010 as a HR Business Partner I spent 11 years as a HR Generalist within the luxury automotive industry and telecoms sector working my way up to become HR Manager at Aston Martin.
How would you describe the culture at Kantar?
Having worked at Kantar for coming up to 10 years now, it is fair to say that whatever division you work for whether it is Insights, Media, Worldpanel or Health, one thing that is a constant is its open and friendly culture of allowing people to be at their best.
Kantar’s core values around growth mindset, purposeful collaboration and flourish allow our employees to be themselves and act in an authentic and genuine way that allows for more impactful performance across our globally diverse organisation. It really is a great organisation where employees can learn and grow their careers across the different divisions if they have the drive and determination to do so.
Are there any career defining moments or people that helped shape your career in HR?
There have been two really big moments in my career that have shaped my career path. The first was when Aston Martin sent me on secondment to Land Rover where I spent 3 years on the shop floor as a HRBP supporting 1000 production workers and having to balance the needs of the leaders, employees and unions. I still believe in todays digital world that if you can be a Production Manager in a car plant you can be a leader anywhere. A mention out to Matt Cruice who was Group HR Director at the time that appointed me to my first HR Manager role at what seemed a very young age of 30 when I returned back to Aston Martin in 2007 from my secondment.
In 2016 as part of the ‘Kantar First’ strategy I did not manage to secure a local market HR role within the Insights division for the UK and Ireland and I was given the opportunity by Anne Gillespie who was the Kantar CHRO to take on a Global role to business partner with Finance. It is fair to say the diversity, complexity and exposure of such a role led to me taking on even more when I was asked to support Marketing longer term and also Technology for one year. My role works across all of the different divisions within Kantar in a matrix role where I am lucky enough to travel the globe and work with really smart CFOs and CMOs. How these leaders think, perform and manage their businesses has influenced my ways of working today and given me a platform for tomorrow.
What would your advice be to your younger self?
To anybody starting out in HR I would say take every opportunity to move around in different HR roles even if they seem a step too far and out of any comfort zone as learning ‘on the job’ is better than any classroom training. It is also important to take time out each year and learn something new outside of work to grow yourself. Networking and going to events where possible is the key to any success.
And finally, tell us about when you are away from the office.
I like to volunteer outside of work and for the past 3 years I have played the role of Governor at my children’s primary school as well as being a football coach for my sons under 9 team for the past 2 years before handing this over to a new manager. Any other spare time is spent ferrying my children around to their various activities and watching live sport when I can!