Lopa Chakraborty Navigates the Changing Role of HR
The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting impact on the workplace brought challenges to all levels of an organization. As an HR professional, Lopa Chakraborty addresses those challenges directly as a partner to the leadership team and a coach in decision making.
Chakraborty, the human resources manager at the University Center for Academic and Workforce Development within the Research Foundation for the State University of New York, has been working in HR for more than 15 years. In her current role, her responsibilities include recruitment, performance management, learning and development, and employee relations.
She is also an interpreter of regulations, seeker of information, booster of employee morale, and proponent of employee engagement.
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“There are so many little things we need to think about, so that’s what makes being in charge of implementing policies and procedures so interesting,” says Chakraborty, of Niskayuna, New York. A planner by nature and by necessity in her career, she has to think of every possible scenario before the implementation of a policy, procedure, or decision that affects the workforce.
Except that now, in a world with COVID-19, regulations and guidance change quickly, which makes it difficult to plan for how to do things. Her mantra these days is “Don’t get too comfortable with change because as soon as you get comfortable, it will change again.”
To navigate these changes, she leans on the skills she acquired while earning an MBA from Excelsior College in 2018. “An MBA is not only a degree,” says Chakraborty. “It’s like a tool kit or toolbox; it has the different tools you need.” For example, she draws on her knowledge and experience with operations management. “If a manager comes to you asking for help, how can you frame [the guidance] in a way that makes sense in a data-driven way?”
“It just helps you make your case stronger. You are not just saying it—you have read about it, researched it, you know what you are talking about.” –Lopa Chakraborty
Chakraborty joined the Research Foundation as an HR specialist in 2018, and she was recently promoted to HR manager, which is her current position. The MBA, she says, has opened doors to career growth. Formerly a lead recruiter for Excelsior College, Chakraborty pursued and earned her MBA while working for the College.
The MBA gives her confidence that she leans on when she is involved in decision making. “It just helps you make your case stronger,” she says. “You are not just saying it—you have read about it, researched it, you know what you are talking about.”
She also has the self-awareness and confidence to know she is learning every day. For more than a year, Chakraborty has been helping people adjust to and thrive at working from home while she too was working from her home office—with a spouse also working at home and a son spending some of his first year of college learning from home. She has addressed challenges that come with working remotely, including maintaining employee morale and engagement.
In thinking back on what she and others have gone through during the pandemic, Chakraborty says what she has learned is patience. She has also learned to temper expectations for the future. “If the last year has taught us anything, it’s to not look too far ahead.” Still, she can and does make plans, such as for helping colleagues transition back to the workplace. She just makes sure those plans come with a contingency plan.