In a series on ‘SME track - Unleashing the Potential Of Emerging Enterprise’, at TechHR India 2023, the key speakers focused on empowering HR professionals in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) for covering the gap between business needs and focus areas, as well as, drive strategic impact with HR analytics and HRTech adoption.
Unleashing the power & potential of emerging businesses
Over a decade-long journey, with a vision to empower individuals for greater business impact, Ester Martinez, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of People Matters opened the SME track by saying, “Being impactful as an HR professional, I personally experienced the transformative power of understanding business perspectives when I became a founder. I encourage all of you to embrace more business roles to bridge the gap between business needs and our focus areas. Let's embark on this journey this year onwards”
Addressing the challenges of SMEs
“Today, more business leaders are recognising the critical importance of people and culture in differentiation. We have strived to support SMEs, but we also understand the challenges they face in applying insights from larger conferences to their contexts. Nonetheless, we set intentions and found a joint purpose with Keka's team, realising that our responsibility is to empower managers in high-growth companies to build strong foundations for success”, added Ester.
HR fraternity rising together hand in hand
Additionally, Ester emphasized the importance of HR professionals in larger organisations taking on a mentoring role for their peers in smaller organisations facing resource constraints, saying, “Together, we are the driving force of growth, employment, and opportunities in India. I am thrilled that Keka and People Matters are joining forces to address HR-specific needs.”
Entrepreneurship Unplugged: Becoming a fearless leader
Delivering a keynote session on ‘Entrepreneurship unplugged: becoming a fearless leader’ at People Matters TechHR India 2023, Ankur Warikoo, An Entrepreneur, Author and Content Creator, reflected on his personal journey saying, “I am here to talk about fearless leadership of which I know nothing. Because if anything, I've been far more fearful than I wish I wasn't for the longest time until I realised that leadership was a whole different ballgame than what I thought it to be. And incidentally, on my way to the leader, I was writing a thread and it was about how I read books and a higher I try and recall everything that I've read in a book because a lot of people ask this question, we read books, and it looks so fashionable to read a book, but we somehow don't remember what we read in a book. So is there a way to remember that? And that will give you an example of what I do and so on.”
In this thought-provoking talk, Ankur Warikoo brings attention to the transformation of leadership and the need for managers to embrace more business roles, bridging the gap between business needs and personal perspectives.
Embracing the Evolution of Leadership
While discussing the evolution of leadership, Ankur highlighted ‘people and culture’ were not perceived as critical differentiating elements in business earlier, but now the mindset is gradually changing. He encouraged business leaders, especially those in larger organisations, to play a mentorship role for HR colleagues in smaller companies with limited resources. He highlights that each individual's actions and behaviours are under constant scrutiny, and as leaders, they set the standard and trust barometer for their teams stating, “And the truth is that all of you, whether you like it or not, as people, managers are celebrities. So you can have fun, that's awesome. But it's a celebrity not in a really cool way. It's not that you order anything from being the celeb. It's not that something good comes your way when you're given some freebies, by large brands and so on, you celebs in the way that every single action of yours is being measured, recorded, and evaluated ad infinitum, it's never going to stop. There's never a moment that you are private.”
The talk also delves into the challenges posed by Gen Z, who have grown up in a world of instant gratification. Ankur reminds the audience that these shifts are permanent and leaders must adapt to this positive-sum environment, focusing on collaboration and recognising that “success and failure are not always a result of hard work or laziness”.
Finally, Ankur acknowledges that the world is changing rapidly, and leaders must keep up with this pace. They encourage leaders not to stifle ambition or impose their timelines but instead provide mentorship, and guidance, and create mechanisms for individual growth and learning. He said, “Today's world recognises that there is no zero-sum game, it's a positive-sum game. It's an absolutely positive sum world. You don't have to win for somebody to lose, and you don't have to lose, somebody else has already won. So it's far more collaborative than we think it should be.”
Concluding the keynote session on fearless leadership, Ankur said, “ The one thing that I hopefully can testify for is, I have over the last decade, built a team of fearless people, not fearless leaders, but people who are not scared of saying the right thing, because they believe at that moment that that is the right thing to say, people who step forward and say this is something I will take ownership of, and people most importantly, who will own up to what they think they could not deliver on because they know there is no reprimand for accepting your mistakes. Instead, there's only empathy and accomplishment and the hope that you don't do it again. And when you build a fearless organisation, fearless leadership just becomes a term that everyone can throw around. But nobody really feels it in their blood. Because what they feel is that this leadership however way you define it, is just enable.”
Mastering HR Analytics For Strategic Business Impact
In a power panel session of CHROs on ‘Mastering HR Analytics For Strategic Business Impact’ focusing on workplace trends like remote/hybrid workplaces, great resignation, focus on employee wellness, and upskilling becoming prevalent, leveraging forecasting through HR analytics can assist organisations in understanding employee needs and preventing high attrition rates.
The discussion panel included Nupur Jain, VP- HR, ixigo and Karan Bajwa, CHRO, Honasa Consumer Ltd., and moderated by Megha Gupta, Director of HR Fiserv.
Megha directed a question at the CHROs, “What is the one striking contrast you noticed between your childhood and your envisioned future?"
Nupur answered, “As a child, sports were always a big part of my life, and I was actively involved in playing tennis and other outdoor activities. However, in today's world, it seems like we are gradually moving away from physical activities and getting absorbed into screens and technology. This shift concerns me deeply."
Karan responded, “For me, I think the common theme was Jenkins's speed. As the transition happened, things go traditionally slow. And as we kept moving, things kept getting faster and faster.”
The stages of HR analytics
“The evolution of HR from traditional personnel management to strategic HR, and the increasing significance of HR analytics in the industry. According to a study, the HR analytics market is currently valued at $2.4 billion and is projected to grow to $16.6 billion by 2031, making it a lucrative area for potential startups, said Megha identifying the levels of HR analytics.
In the realm of HR analytics, there are four main stages:
- Descriptive (historical data analysis),
- Diagnostic (identifying and solving problems),
- Predictive (forecasting future trends based on data), and
- Prescriptive (designing solutions using insights from the previous stages).
Maximising HR analytics: Key opportunities ahead
Nupur highlighted the promising opportunities for HR analytics implementation by stating, “The differences between generations, particularly Gen Z, compared to baby boomers and Gen Y. The current generation is highly informed and questions every decision made in an organisation. As HR leaders, we need to be fearless in our decision-making because our choices will be scrutinised. The credibility of our work lies in our ability to explain and reason with data to support our decisions. Data's relevance is evident in every touchpoint of HR functions, from working arrangements and hiring to performance appraisals and engagement. As HR leaders, our responsibility is not just to gather data, as most organisations already possess substantial data, but to analyse it effectively to drive actionable insights. Every function and sub-function within HR can benefit from leveraging data, ultimately transforming our approaches and enhancing our impact as HR professionals.”
Correlation of data and decisions in HR analytics
Explaining the connection between data and decisions for unleashing the power of HR analytics, Karan shared the insights saying, “A crucial aspect to ensure success is having the right data. As an SME evolves, data may transition from Excel sheets to an HRMS or ATS, resulting in a repository of information. Data cleanliness is paramount, especially concerning biases that can affect predictive analysis. In India, descriptive analytics (of all stages of HR analytics) is prevalent, covering basic HR metrics like talent acquisition and headcount. The next stage, diagnosis, remains the most common, seeking to understand the root cause of events. Distinguishing between correlation and causality is vital in this phase. For example, a high engagement score preceding employee exits might merely be a correlation, not causation. Predictive analytics, currently used by only 32% of organisations, is underutilised. Diagnosis often relies on subjective and objective surveys, such as engagement or exit surveys. This approach helps uncover potential problems and allows for a more focused investigation. We've seen success by engaging with employees who score relatively low on surveys and addressing their concerns promptly. This proactive approach has positively impacted our attrition rate and employee satisfaction.”
Leveraging HR analytics for smart decision-making
Talking about the strategic approach for applying HR Data for business priorities, Nupur said, “Integrating HR and data offers a plethora of opportunities. Whether you're a startup, SME, or established company, aligning HR efforts with business priorities is key. Begin by identifying your business focus – be it productivity, engagement, or talent acquisition. Dive into the root causes behind the metrics that matter, utilising surveys, focus groups, and historical data to gain valuable insights. Collaborate with your business leaders to comprehend their goals and align HR strategies accordingly. By understanding the correlation between data and decisions, HR leaders can drive impactful solutions and shape organisational success.”
Methods for personality assessments in the hiring process
On the question of bridging the gap for evaluating competencies, Karan answered, “Organisational competencies play a vital role in assessing proficiency levels. Various methods, such as interviews, development centers, and specialised tools, aid in evaluating employees' skills against the ideal requirements for their roles. Identifying the gaps is crucial, and if they are manageable, targeted development action plans can be implemented. Utilising principles of structured learning interventions can help in enhancing employees' competencies and align them with the organisation's objectives. The approach will depend on the job requirements and the complexity of the role, and tailoring solutions accordingly.”
Leveraging HR analytics towards diversity
Nupur encouraged HR professionals to focus on diversity and inclusion in their organisations, saying, “Diversity extends beyond binary definitions of gender. As HR leaders, we must take the initiative to measure our organization's diversity metrics, even if not explicitly asked by management. Reporting the current state of diversity and acknowledging any lack of progress is crucial. Diversity should not be limited to HR's agenda but should be an integral part of the corporate agenda for meaningful impact. By exploring successful examples of organizations that have improved diversity, we can witness its positive effects on innovation, creativity, and attrition rates. Measuring diversity is the first step toward fostering a truly inclusive and progressive workplace.”
Megha concluded, “While many CHROs express interest in adopting analytics, the challenge lies in whether we are hiring external specialists or tapping into the potential of data scientists. These skilled professionals can take us beyond data manipulation and visualisation, guiding us through all four stages of analytics, from descriptive to prescriptive. By effectively leveraging data, we can achieve significant outcomes such as reducing turnover and optimizing hiring strategies. This highlights the importance of investing in data science expertise to unlock the true potential of HR analytics.”
Embracing HRTech to transform businesses
In the session on how HRTech is empowering HR professions in SMEs, Vijay Yalamanchili, CEO of Keka said, “In the past few years, there has been a significant shift in the HR landscape, especially for SMEs. While larger enterprises have long embraced technology and analytics in HR, SMEs faced unique challenges due to limited resources and mentorship. The HR role in small businesses often extended beyond people management, leading to inefficiencies and burnout.”
He further explained how the focus on HR technology adoption and the quest for relevant solutions gained momentum stating, “HR professionals in SMEs realised the importance of automating mundane tasks and turning their attention towards strategic people issues. Embracing HR tech platforms became a necessity, and CEOs started to acknowledge its significance in streamlining HR operations. To drive relevance and align with business goals, HR professionals began participating actively in goal-setting and strategic dialogues with business leaders. By understanding business metrics and organisational objectives, HR leaders started shaping their approach towards people issues. The adoption of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) became popular among startups, enabling HR to play a pivotal role in cultivating the desired organisational culture.”
“HR stepped in as the cultural compass, guiding energetic and aggressive CEOs to lead with empathy and foster a positive work environment. Books and tools on cultural establishment and communication were leveraged to build effective communication channels from the top down. Regular touchpoints like town halls and one-on-one meetings facilitated seamless communication, bridging the gap between management and employees,” said Vijay explaining the role of HR in shaping culture and communication across the organisation.
He concluded, “Throughout this journey, the importance of adopting HR tech and continuous learning from books and practical experimentation emerged as vital pillars for HR professionals in SMEs. With the right tools and knowledge, they began making a significant impact in their organisations, redefining HR's role and driving it towards greater relevance and strategic significance. Adapt Tech so we have time to read books”