As organizations reset work and prepare for the new workplace, one thing is clear- remote work isn't going anywhere. At the same time, a gradual return to work is also in progress. In effect, the future of work is hybrid. What does that mean? A hybrid workplace will require an optimum combination of policies, flexibility, culture, and last but definitely not least, technology.
How do employers need to reset the way they have been functioning through the pandemic? What workplace practices they need to adapt to meet the needs of both work and home? How will HR Tech play an important role in establishing this new future of work? In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Aarif Aziz, Chief Human Resources Officer, Diageo India shares his thoughts on how organizations are remodeling their talent management systems with HR Tech.
With the coronavirus pandemic altering the way we work; it has also offered the possibility for HR and talent leaders to accelerate to digital and enable their workers to stay productive amid this chaos. What are some of the trends you have seen across organizations?
The pandemic and the resultant social distancing have brought people in HR closer than ever before. Technology has enabled us to keep pace with the fast-evolving HR practices and share information across organizations to learn and help each other grow. There are three to four areas where companies have invested a lot in.
First is - simple tools and technologies for communication to help employees effectively communicate and remain productive.
The second area where companies have invested a lot of their time is in Learning and Development and focusing on the positive employee experiences that come their way through Learning Management Systems (LMS).
Learning is becoming interactive and going further- even immersive and simulation blended.
The third area where I have seen a lot of effort being put in is digitization. HR has multiple platforms for process management - be it managing employee records, appraisals or career plans. So, a tremendous amount of investment has gone into improving the efficiency of these processes depending on the maturity level of the organizations.
The fourth area which has been on the top of people's minds is employee onboarding. You can't create a connect by meeting a person virtually all the time. In-person connect has a significant impact and influence when one is looking at building a homogenous organizational culture. How do you build that connection especially with new hires, what do you do by using technological advantage has been a big focus area.
What are the kinds of investment Diageo has made in HR Tech during this pandemic to meet the challenges employees are facing and to help them improve productivity?
At Diageo, learning is always among our top priorities. We have invested a lot in creating simulations for employees. Imagine going for a course on stakeholder management. Instead of a bunch of static pages, we have invested in gaming scenarios where you can play with a colleague and then have a facilitated conversation to understand and assimilate what the course has to offer through that gaming experience.
The second focus area is how to facilitate a new hire’s assimilation. For onboarding, we have created a VR model instead of being walked through a set of presentations. You cannot visit a plant because of travel restrictions but if you could have a virtual tour of the factory and visualize the entire flow of how Diageo products get manufactured, it creates a vivid learning experience. This builds a powerful connect with the organization, too.
The third area is employee engagement and getting their pulse on an on-going basis. AI has advanced over time and research proves that in certain situations, humans are more comfortable connecting with robots and AI. This happens as they see tech as a neutral element, with no bias. So, in a pandemic situation when human connect is difficult if the organization - through AI - can better understand how an employee is feeling, the organization can provide timely support. We are quite excited about a pilot project that we are about to roll out on employee engagement through AI.
We have designed our Performance reviews focusing more on “How” than “What”. We evaluated whether we really need to measure productivity separately when it is already reflected in business metrics. Do you really need to create a dedicated effort and spend time and energy on understanding where is an employee spending her/his time? We have moved away from the rating system. Our performance reviews focus on –
1] Are we getting the right business outcomes?
2] Are we winning in the marketplace?
3] Are our employees happy?
We have, in the current circumstances, moved to quarterly performance reviews providing more touchpoints for managers, for the teams to be agile and responsive to the evolving external environment. Being cognizant of the employee sentiment, empowering leaders in the organization to motivate their teams, and take the right decisions to help employees deliver at their best are the key drivers for sustaining employee productivity.
What are some of the challenges you have faced while implementing HR Tech solutions?
While the pandemic has made people very open to experimenting with various Tech solutions, initially there are always apprehensions of the unknown and more so for any big change in the ways of working. For instance, when we first rolled out our digital simulations, there were questions whether such tools are more suited for startups and IT companies. But once people go through the experience, its utility is quite evident. But you must help management to take the first step to embrace new tools and technologies.
People adapt along the way if you are committed and provide the bigger picture of how this will enhance organizational effectiveness.
How do you think investments in HR Tech have grown this year and what do you think is going to be the trend in the coming year?
In today’s world, we all are customers of eCommerce platforms. If you look at eCommerce platforms like Amazon, Flipkart, etc. there is a tremendous amount of customization that happens. These platforms have really understood the customer behavior and created solutions around it and they continue to refine them. There is significant personalization that has happened for the consumer and that level of personalization has to come in the HR space as well.
What technology in HR Tech do you think is passe now and not relevant anymore?
I would say it is workflows. At some point in time, we were fans of workflows and we would create a workflow just to approve a workflow! Over a period of time, we have realized that a simple call or email does the required job and workflows are passe.
What are the trends in HR Tech that will gain prominence in 2021?
I think there will be more acceptance of AI and Robotics and it will become a way of life. It will be integrated into the HR fiber to inculcate organizational culture and maintain a closer connect with employees. It will convey back a more “real” employee experience than one from the lens of how a manager translates back that employee experience.
Using technology to develop a competitive advantage in employee experience in different forms and shapes will be the norm. With remote working here to stay, it is technology that will make all the difference.