Chaitanya N Sreenivas, currently Vice President and HR Head for IBM India & South Asia, started his journey with the company in 2003. Back then, his role was with the delivery side of the business and he was responsible for operations that involved multiple roles, geographies, and industries. In 2007, Sreenivas entered the HR space and started getting familiarized with the various talent functions.
From 2007 to now, where he is leading IBM’s people agenda for India & South Asia market, Sreenivas has come a long way. In his experience of more than 16 years with IBM, he has seen the business grow and the talent priorities change.
In an interaction with People Matters, Sreenivas talks about the journey of IBM and its talent function and shares some current people practices of the company and the IT skills most in demand in 2019.
You have been with IBM since 2003, but it was last year that you got the responsibility to lead the people agenda for the business in both India and South Asia. How has this journey of 16 years with IBM been like for you? How have you seen the business and talent priorities change in these years?
The journey so far has been diverse, challenging and extremely fruitful. Since I started my professional journey from the business side and then moved to HR, it has helped me to bring in both perspectives in every decision I make.
Coming to the next half of the question, it will not be an exaggeration to say that business has grown and talent priorities have changed due to the ever-transforming industry that we are in. Skills required has changed and the pace of change is much faster than what it used to be.
An individual’s capabilities are today measured by a combination of knowledge of the domain and a general expertize in technology.
Further, while it is important to have a growth mindset, how a manager enables the available good talent is also key.
As the Vice President and HR Head for India and South Asia for IBM, what are your current talent priorities?
We have had three focus areas.
Skilling: The need to enhance the skill sets of the existing workforce and also how we could train the incoming candidates; externally how we work with Universities and internally how we prepare them to be future ready.
Engagement: Finding the right ways to engage with the multi-generational workforce, catering their diverse needs.
One of the strongest pillars of IBM, Inclusion, and Diversity: Building a culture of inclusivity and ensuring that each voice is heard is of primary importance to us. This has been the IBM philosophy for long and maintaining this legacy is a key priority.
Can you share some ways in which you are approaching any one of the talent priorities shared above?
For IBM, promoting a culture of inclusivity is of utmost importance. Especially with the participation of women being so low in the technology space, special attention is required in strengthening gender diversity.
To begin with, we work at the school level and increase awareness among girl students to encourage them and help build a pipeline and create a larger base of talent to choose from. We also have specific programs and training modules designed especially for women to enhance their skills in technology, especially for those women professionals who have taken a break due to various reasons. We support women and empower them in their different phases of work-life.
What are some other areas where you introduced a new approach or redesigned the old people strategy for better business results?
How HR works has changed at many levels.
AI has significantly complimented our Talent Acquisition program, making it more objective and less process oriented apart from removing personal biases while selecting from a large pool of candidates.
It is a boon for managers who are now well equipped to make a quicker and well-informed decision.
Digitalization has completely taken over and transformed the way we hire. We now hire through more social and digital sources with the help of various tools. Hackathons and online tests are a core part of our assessment/ selection process. While we still have a robust campus hiring program and also source on the portals, we have moved to a hybrid model with a blend of old and new.
AI is also enabling the HR teams to be proactive in terms of framing strategies related to retention, compensation, and engagement. Various HR tools like chatbots etc have digitalized the process and made decision making much more relevant for us. People can now access records, approve leaves, etc everything on mobile, improving productivity and making work much easier.
What IT skills would be in demand 2019? How can people build these skills and increase their chances of getting a job in 2019?
Cloud, digital skills, AI, Machine Learning, Security, IoT are some of the areas in demand.
With the emergence of new and rapidly evolving technology, workers at all levels need new skills to meet the ever-changing market demands. The intersection of technologies like AI, Blockchain and Data Analytics with Cloud is opening up new applications, like the ability to launch new products faster and test them better.
Therefore, cloud developers, network engineers, and architects will be in great demand.
Data analytics specialists, with skills in Python, R, and Apache, among others, will continue to find lucrative careers in technology.
AI is viewed as one of the most pressing workplace skills necessary for success in the coming years.
Organizations and educational institutions have created tailor-made courses focused on imparting such skills to students and to those who have already embarked on a career in tech. For those with the right skills and for those willing to gain these skills the future holds great promise of being in a position to drive the next generation of new technology.