It is important for HR professionals to head towards the automation of transactional processes so that it has the bandwidth to bring change-building transformational measures
All physical bodies aim to reach a state of equilibrium within the boundaries set up by the existing conditions that also set the bodies in motion. It's only when the existing conditions are tampered with that the bodies are plunged into a chaotic state again where they now have to rearrange themselves in an entirely new environment with a new set of ground rules. Out of chaos and confusion new rules emerge which set new frameworks for a state of equilibrium. The changes that have been generated in human capital management due to market and technological disruptions follow a similar trajectory. When one talks of disruptions in the context of HR, it is mostly with a reference to the upcoming technological advancements or the altering demographics of workforce that companies face today.
This combined with the larger geo-political shifts create an atmosphere of dynamism in the otherwise stable business environment. However, such disruptions create opportunities for organizations to also reap the benefits of a changing business environment. And this also augments the role of HR in bringing the right talent and creating the right set of programs using newer technologies to provide the company an impetus to grow.
One of the key developments in this respect has been the evolution of HR vis-a-vis the technological advancements and shifts in the demography of the talent pool coming into the ecosystem. Although the rationale behind HR processes remains the same, thinking is slowly but surely being directed towards how HR processes can be executed differently. It is also at the same time, important for HR today to ensure that the rate at which HR is evolving is higher than the rate at which the external environment changes for its functions to add value to businesses. And the first step towards this is to establish a clear understanding around how HR wants to disrupt itself to partake in enterprise growth and creating the ability to channelize the incoming disruptions towards developing better programs across the various verticals of HR.
But what are the factors that would enable HR to seamlessly integrate effects of technological and socio-demographical disruption into its functioning?
Building a strong case for HR initiatives
Fundamentally, the responsibility of driving people towards growth is not HR’s responsibility alone. It is the responsibility of the entire organization. Policies and interventions directed towards adopting newer technologies for people management can only yield results if leadership within the organization is an active supporter of HR initiatives. One of the most important aspects that HR needs to work on is to successfully adapt to changes, show results of its interventions and create urgency within the organization to adapt and invest in newer technologies and support initiatives that result in structural changes. And the current uncertainty in the business environment, gives HR professionals that opportunity.
According to the PwC 19th Annual Global CEO survey, around 75% CEOs say that procuring a skilled, educated and adaptable workforce is a priority for businesses in the country where they’re based. “Even with all the new technology, people skills are actually more important now. Whether it is providing day-to-day services in our bank branches or managing our data analytics – it’s all about people” says Brian Moynihan, Chief Executive Officer at Bank of America in the report.HR departments now have a huge gap to fill when it comes to designing and executing initiatives to ensure employees drive growth. But that is easier said than done.
Comparing its functioning to other departments within the organization further highlights the problem. "For example, a CFO of an organization can give the exact understanding of the health of the organization from a financial perspective,” said Jacob Jacob, Chief People Officer, Apollo Hospitals. Building on the same corollary, for HR departments, it is difficult to give an exact people health index of the organization. There needs to be a better assessment of such dynamics to build a barometer for HR and use that for business decisions. The point of assimilating data analytics in various HR functions need to be done from the perspective of building such a barometer.
Organizations today that are excelling in people management are the ones who have successfully built algorithms to predict the future and have used such insights to drive decision-making. HR needs to become a champion for employees, vigorously representing their concerns to senior management and at the same time working to increase employee contribution, that is, employees’ commitment to the organization and their ability to deliver results.
Building the right mix of technology and initiatives
Today, the variables used in decision-making are higher. To support the substantial shifts in the components of decision-making, technology needs to be an enabler. One way of streamlining the process is to have realistic expectations from such tools and building an effective usage plan based on that. For example, when utilizing the digital medium to drive employee contribution towards business growth, it is important for HR professionals to know how exactly using a digital platform will ensure an increased employee contribution. HR professionals can drive such contribution by putting into place contextualized talent management and L&D initiatives. But in order to make them relevant to businesses today, people data should form an important part in their formulation. This would give the right direction to the usage of new technologies.
Digital, for example, has been one of the biggest disruptor in the past few years. According to a survey done by Russell Reynolds Associates, the effects of digital disruptions would be most in the case of B2C organizations. Although the survey showed a significantly high percentage (90 percent) of organizations to have a strategy in place to evolve and adapt its functions to digital changes, a mere 20 percent reported that their HR functions were enabling the required transformation. This highlights the need for a proactive action on the part of HR departments to become more cognizant of such disruptions and bring in initiatives that helps the organizations to use such disruptions in the market to their advantage. Hire the right people to bring about change. Create a culture that makes data-based decisions. And fully commit to becoming a more digitally adept organization.
Playing a predictive role
HRs ability to predict future trends will be an important element when it comes to successfully adapting to the different tools and techniques that are currently disrupting the ecosystem. This entails moving beyond the general role of reporting and predicting the changes to establishing appropriate measures in place. A predictive role would help HR assess potential pitfalls and design programs to withstand abrupt market changes. This would ensure that the various verticals within the gambit of HR, from compensation and benefits to talent acquisition, are future-proofed. This would also help HR professionals to understand the environment better and use this information to plug in new tool and techniques wherever they see fit.
“For example, it is the role of HR to ensure that the company remains relevant to the talent pool in the coming few years. This requires forethought on the part of HR departments to build their understanding on the expectations and aspirations of their future employees, three to five years down the line. All this would further boil down to mapping out how the business environment would change. Since there is a shift in consumer demography, HR departments would need to give equal consideration to consumer preferences as they do to changing talent expectations. It is the role of HR to bring the future consideration into their present decision-making framework and assess whether their strategies are future ready” said V. Krishnan, Executive Director – HR at Dabur India Ltd.
However, this shift in perspective might be difficult to make. As most of the HR operations today address transactional work rather than focusing on transformational activities, the loop of conducting repetitive tasks which are of little value becomes a major impediment. Bhavin Turakhia, Co-founder and CEO, Directi Group says, “It is important for HR professionals to head towards the automation of transactional processes so that it has the bandwidth to bring change-building transformational measures. This automation would give HR the space to embrace newer technologies to stay ahead of the curve.” Talking specifically with regards to total rewards, he adds, “it is important to address the need to bring disruptive and new age practices in employee compensation and benefits space that are fully paperless, compliant, and make the existing organizational system more convenient.”
Disruption stems from challenging the status quo and the established norms. This would be a situation that is eventually faced by all HR departments. Therefore, instead of having a reactionary response, a well thought-out predictive response will be more effective for HR. And currently disruptions are not a choice and the HR function itself might go extinct if HR verticals are unable to disrupt and adapt. And in order to do so, it has to innovate and move beyond its traditional role and redefine the rules of the game. HR needs to become comfortable in challenging itself to be able to stay ahead of the curve and use the various upcoming disruptions to its advantage.
(This article is based on the learnings from the People Matters and Directi 'Disrupt HR' roundtable series)