Breaking Free: HR leaders on a future of work that's free from bias
The past two years have seen a complete overhaul in the concept, nature, and processes of work and the workplace and the human resources (HR) department is at the heart of this major shift. As organisations start to settle, recover and move forward in the new era, the role of HR has become even more crucial, as it goes to outspan its core area.
As we celebrate 75 years of independence, it is a great opportunity for HR leaders to revisit thoughts on the future of work. So, this Independence Day, we asked HR leaders what it is that they would want to change with an independent and free mind to deliver in the new era of work and what does freedom at work mean to them.
Here’s what they said.
‘Display 'boundarylessness' in your work’
Our freedom fighters went beyond their respective states, castes, creed and religion to come together to make 'India' independent, and HR leaders say this sentiment has to be replicated at work too.
“As an HR leader, I'd like people to display 'boundarylessness' in their work by moving beyond their own team, business units and locations to solve customer problems as one organisation. This will enable the future of work to move from inter-dependence to independence,” says Raman S R, chief people officer at advanced battery technology and deep-technology startup Log9 Materials.
‘Freedom at work is bringing your best self to work’
For Raman, freedom at work is an opportunity for an individual to bring their best self to work.
“One should have the authority to act in line with the organisation's values and demonstrate behaviour that inspires and influences co-workers. An Indian citizen can avail fundamental rights through our constitution - the charter of our nation's freedom. Likewise, every employee should be empowered and not bound by hierarchical expectations,” he adds.
‘Workplace of the future will be designed around employee, not employer’
For Shruti Tandon, managing director – people enablement, Nagarro, future of work is about location independence, career freedom, and empowering employees to be their best self-starters.
“Work from anywhere (WFA) is an important step in making that a reality by creating a level playing field for all employees. With WFA, everyone can be in charge of their own life, and no one has to miss an opportunity because they were stuck in traffic or at an office too far away from where they needed to be,” she says.
But the ultimate freedom at work is the autonomy of decision making, she adds. It means being able to make career and life decisions without asking a manager or anyone else. Tandon says value and respect are key in this. And it's about balancing personal and professional life so that they're mutually supportive.
“As HR leaders, we must recognise that the workplace of the future will be designed around the employee, not the employer. It's time to move away from command-and-control models and give employees more freedom,” says Tandon, adding that the spirit of independence is one of the most potent forces at the workplace.
‘An unbiased workplace will ensure highly engaged, confident workforce'
One change that Rajesh Rai, vice president - people team and head of human resources, India, GlobalLogic, is very passionate about is building diversity and inclusion at the workplace.
“I believe that the future of work will be built on diversity – be it diversity of thought, contribution, ideation, gender, ability, and any other criteria that comes to mind. Diversity also feeds fairness and gives rise to freedom and an open mind.
"Workforce generations are evolving with technology as they demand, hyper-personalisation, which can only be successful if inclusion, diversity, equity, fairness and mindfulness towards not bringing unconscious bias into everyday functioning, is brought to the forefront. An unbiased workplace built on these principles, will ensure a highly engaged, confident, and future-ready workforce,” he says.
‘Future of work should be more fluid, transparent and culture driven’
Indranil Choudhury, president and head of human resource, UTI AMC says the future of work should be more fluid, more transparent and more culture driven where the employee and the employer are both on the same page. “One should always remember - a happy environment breeds happy employees and leads to happy customers,” he adds.
Freedom as a word can have various connotations for people. For Choudhury, freedom is always about choosing to work in an environment which gives you maximum output not only professionally but personally too. “Freedom of choosing the way you want to work and life. Freedom to trust your decisions and trust your instinct,” he says.