Our lives took an unanticipated turn due to the coronavirus pandemic and drastically affected us in many ways. The crisis presented unexpected challenges in areas of work and all this made HR rethink and further leverage the technology platforms to seek new creative digital solutions - in order to face the current situation and remain connected, and also ensure uninterrupted workflow and deliverables. At the same time, this pandemic set in a new reality: a high demand for virtual working, with easy, intuitive and ‘waterproof’ systems, accessible at any time from any location. This was essential in maintaining the continuity of work, as almost every employee was forced to switch to a different and remote way of working.
While a lot of organizations were still figuring out how to manage talent remotely and accelerate the overall employee experience and performance, Ujjivan Small Finance Bank, with 575 branches across 24 states, led a pan-lifecycle, pan-organization HR digital transformation - while being 100% remote.
During these times Ujjivan Small Finance Bank hastened its investment and efforts in enabling digitization of HR to enhance seamless experience for its 17, 000+ employees, to reinforce and strengthen their capabilities and maintain the same levels of work momentum.
Here is the digital transformation story of Ujjivan Small Finance Bank, an organization which is on a mission to achieve the company’s vision of “employee first”.
Ujjivan Small Finance Bank’s Employee-First Vision
“Ujjivan Small Finance Bank’s vision is to be the best mass market bank and we remain focused in serving the unserved and underserved customers. To be able to achieve this, we strive to create experiences, where we are able to usher our customers into formal banking and ensure they have access to finance through our customized products and offerings, financial literacy and community efforts – to support them at every step to build better lives.”
Sanjay Kao, Head of HR, Ujjivan Small Finance Bank, said that, “We are proud of what we have established and the communities we have impacted: with the customer connect, our understanding and relationship, that we share with them at all times. Also, in the various ways in which we empower our customers in their endeavor for a better life. Now in the same line of thought, for HR - our customer is the employee. At the Bank we believe that employees are critical to our success and we strive to give them the same experience, satisfaction, and sense of empowerment, like we offer to our customers.”
In its ethos, Ujjivan Small Finance Bank’s whole principle is customer-first. Now in the same line of thought, for HR - it is employee first.
Ujjivan Small Finance Bank has always strived to create a people-first culture that positively impacts employee experiences. A testament to this is, the company has been Ranked 3rd in ‘India’s Best Companies to Work for 2020’ By Great Places to Work Institute. The Bank has been honoured as one of ‘The Laureates’ – for being featured for 10 consecutive years in this list.
The Bank continues to create a unified HR experience through their ongoing digital transformation efforts, to build a stronger people connect and be an industry leader.
Role of HR Tech in building a Great Place to Work
The digital journey of Ujjivan Small Finance Bank, started a while back as the management felt digital is imperative to keep the “customer first” vision alive. Similarly, for the employees as well to offer them a better work environment, and make their lives simpler. With this regard the leadership felt that they cannot leave the talent management function in the hands of traditional and transitional practices, else all their efforts to accelerate the customer experience and satisfaction will be left incomplete.
Sanjay Kao states, “We have correlated and aligned the process to ensure the customer and employee experience ride together and hence, the role of HR technology was essential. That’s what drove us to invest in HR digital transformation and recognize HR technology to ensure heightened deliverables to support business and employees alike. This is when we evaluated our options and decided to partner with Darwinbox as our strategic technology partner, in executing this digital journey which was customized to meet our needs.”
HR technology is imperative to innovate and create powerful and seamless platform.
Planning and Scale of Transformation
Sanjay Kao emphasized that, “The first and foremost expectation from the transformation was that it should offer an enriched employee experience, which will be effective and efficient. However, to ensure technology supports us to achieve a good employee experience and satisfaction, we had to invest in the process - to get people onboard and accustomed to the newer ways. For which, a set of advertising materials and videos for over 17,000 employees were created to build awareness about the technology and explained how to use it.”
Quickly we had to get employees to understand that this is the new reality and we have to adapt to it.
The leadership was of a similar view and convinced that transformation is a necessity, but should be effortless - easy to embrace and accept.
Sanjay Kao highlighted that, “Leadership buy-in was important but not challenging. In fact, we saw a 96 percent uptake in digital training during the lockdown. The numbers strengthened our belief and confidence that the investment was made at the right time. Also, while the business was navigating through the new reality, overall the company strongly believed that an investment in HR digitization should be initiated on an immediate basis. For Ujjivan Small Finance Bank, it was essential to adapt to the digital way of life.”
Talking about the scale of the digital transformation, Sanjay Kao shares, “The HR shift is a pan organization and pan lifecycle transformation. Right from the time a person wants to apply to Ujjivan Small Finance Bank, till the time the person finally exits, the digitalization includes taking each part of this employee lifecycle into account. We wanted one technology for everything.”
According to my previous experiences, “I have observed, archaic systems are complicated. To service a customer, you had to keep up with four to five different systems to answer multiple queries. However, we wanted to have one system for everything and a system that can be upgraded with the emerging needs.” He further stated, “We realized the fact that it is extremely inefficient and limiting to collaborate with multiple vendors and upgrade our technology experience at any point in time. So the best thing to do was – integrate with one technology platform and evolve with it.”
Building on one technology and evolve with it!
Stay Ahead or Perish - The Lookout for a Modern HR Tech Partner
“To meet our business requirements, we were seeking partnerships with new companies, and a similar thought existed for HR as well. In fact, when we were doing the POC, all three of our final choices were new-age companies, and then of course, we chose Darwinbox.” said Sanjay Kao.
Further commenting on selecting the right technology, Sanjay Kao shares, Selection process was a collaborative effort by all users across the company and not HR alone. At any stage, there were cross functional teams who were part of the presentations, experiencing the demos, etc. The leadership took feedback from each of them.
At the end of the day we wanted four things from our HR partner:
1st: Ease of navigation
2nd: Modules remain relevant to the requirement of the users
3rd: Ensuring the system is analytics friendly
4th: And lastly, how much skin in the game could we adhere to create an impact
After a comprehensive evaluation, Darwinbox came up as our preferred HR Tech partner.
We sough expert insights from the entire user set to evaluate the technology platform.”- Sanjay Kao, Head of HR- Ujjivan Small Finance Bank
Mastering a 100% Remote Transformation
Adaptation to remote working became a necessity and we managed it pretty well. The situation gave us a huge opportunity to learn, innovate and think differently – led us to imbibe new technology and move ahead with it.
Remote testing took us a little longer but we did make it happen. It was apt for the current times, instead, if we had the entire team of testers travel to Bangalore, then we would have never tested for a similar remote scenario.
Rohit Chennameneni, Co-Founder at Darwinbox shares "Large-scale implementations are a team sport, and this one had the added challenge of doing it remotely. But the teams on both sides have masterfully adapted to this new paradigm and have managed to excel at it in such a short span."
To make this transformation possible and a success—remotely, Ujjivan Small Finance Bank, constituted a transformation team which had a project manager from the HR team, a change manager who managed the entire process, and a designated member from the IT team. The digitization team had an additional testing team from each region. Additionally, a SPOC from Darwinbox was also assigned. The team used to conduct meetings every week where decisions and actions were made and decided respectively.
Sanjay Kao shares, “When the transformation was planned, it was decided to be done in a physical presence and then we had to rework on it for a remote reality. Because we were virtual, we put a lot more focus on the right way to a remote approach.”
Foreseeing the Impact
Employee satisfaction and monitoring the employee feedback, and analysing how employees get accustomed to the system would be the first and foremost measure. Sanjay Kao mentioned that, “The team will do a quick assessment and seek qualitative feedback to work on the same.”
“The first and most important measure would be how well the employees embrace - are the employees happy or not?” shares Sanjay Kao, Head of HR, Ujjivan Small Finance Bank.
The Ujjivan Small Finance Bank team will also be tracking how efficient their HR Ops engine will be after the digital transformation. While they will evaluate several concrete objective metrics to measure the same, it would eventually come down to the speed, efficiency, and transparency of the new system.
“Gone are the days when an organization as big as ours with 17000+ employees could question if analytics was needed, you need analytics for it to run like a well-oiled machine” shares Sanjay Kao. The leadership team hopes to be able to rely on the analytics that will emerge from adopting a single unified HRMS platform, to effectively deliver on their employee-first mission.”
Ujjivan Small Finance Bank, as a company that is already doing a lot of things right, and currently stands #3 on the Great Places to Work 2020 list, believes that this transition will further pave the path to progress and combined with a stronger people connect - be an outstanding employee first company.