Article: HR and IT are two sides of the same coin, says Venkattesh R of DCB Bank

HR Technology

HR and IT are two sides of the same coin, says Venkattesh R of DCB Bank

Technology is needed to help people and people are needed to devise tech. Tech alters the employee life cycle in multiple ways, and HR drives the evolution of tech for better outcomes.
HR and IT are two sides of the same coin, says Venkattesh R of DCB Bank

In today’s world of work, the intersection of technology and HR is becoming increasingly important as organisations leverage technology solutions to enhance their HR practices. Technology will continue to reshape workplaces, HR practices, and the employee experience alike.

In an exclusive interview with People Matters, Venkattesh R, President & Head Banking Operations, Head Information Technology, Head Human Resources & CIO at DCB Bank Ltd sheds light on the key technological challenges and opportunities of HR leaders and role of technology in the HR domain.

What are the key technological challenges and opportunities HR leaders are facing and how does technology help to address them?

The world is changing rapidly, and digitisation is driving automation and enhanced user experience.  In this world where products are being innovated based on customer demand and convenience, it is a digital strategy that is playing a key role. The employees serve these customers, and their expectations are that we handle internal customers also with a similar approach. If employees’ experience with the Human Resource lifecycle is better, they can serve the customer with a similar approach. HR lifecycle management requires the adoption of newer technology and data sciences such that efficiency and experience can be enhanced. HR leaders constantly have to update themselves about the changes in technology and how this can help them in their domain of work. The advances in technology help leaders take strategic decisions, improve efficiency and also allow them to free their time to focus on soft skills and people development.

The opportunities that technology offers HR today organisations optimise human resources more efficiently and consistently through social, mobile, analytical, and cloud technologies. Human resource technology priorities include analytics, virtual technology, and updated learning platforms.

The key challenge for HR leaders today is acceptance by the employees of these technology enhancements. In addition, thanks to data transformation, HR leaders would want to ensure all data is available under one centralised hub, with single-point solutions. Another key aspect that has to be kept in mind by HR leaders is securing sensitive employee data. Cybersecurity is paramount so that there are no breaches and the data of employees are protected at all costs.

Technology helps address these challenges by offering uniform employee data solutions and data storage capabilities. In fact, technology allows you to stay updated on regulatory updates, manage compliance, and the cumbersome management of an entire employee life cycle. In essence, technology enhances the effectiveness of human capital deployed at work.

How has technology transformed HR processes within your organisation? Can you provide specific examples of technology-driven initiatives that have improved effici ency or employee experience?

There are multiple touchpoints where technology has changed the way the employee life cycle is altered.

If I have to look at my journey, there have been some processes that seemed disruptive at the time but are a matter of fact today. For example, we digitised appraisal letters at a time when organisations were still sticking to snail mail. Given our past experience of friction in the delivery of various services, we embarked on the journey of paperless process. It not only brought efficiency to our process, but it is also a green initiative and creates a delightful experience for our employees.

The most obvious example where technology improves employee experience is the HRIS system a company employs. An all-encompassing HRIS solution helps track employees from recruitment, selection, onboarding, salary, and even exit. Employees can access their documents and pay slips online.

We have an HRIS system which allows employees to do all this and more. A separate Applicant Tracking System checks the TAT from hiring to appointment letter generation. Here we use AI to process the applications thereby finding the best fitment. In fact, we have also digitised our joining kit which saves tons of paperwork.   We also have an alumni portal where our former employees can access their documents as an alumni

We have used technology to deploy pulse surveys, and undertake various feedback on onboarding, supervisors, and employee satisfaction. A major breakthrough last year for us was when we automated benefits processes on our HRIS, thereby reducing TAT and paperwork.

Not just that, but our Learning Management System (LMS) allows employees to learn on the go. There are various programs curated for online service delivery. Recently, we also launched an online Rewards Recognition (R&R) platform where employees can recognise their team members and also gift rewards or redeemable coupons.

Being an HR and technology head, what tech tools or software do you utilise for talent acquisition, onboarding, and employee management? How have these tools streamlined HR operations and improved decision-making?

There are a plethora of tools available in the market. Some of the most common ones that we use are a robust Applicant Tracking System, genesis to complete joining formalities, and an interactive HRIS.

Our promotion process, which is in itself a unique tool, is also administered online. It comprises a test or interview based on your grade. The test is taken online and the feedback from interviews is captured in real-time for ease of evaluation. This helps in managing the entire process smoothly.

As I mentioned earlier, everything from attendance, performance management system, employee documents including ESOP management system, and pulse surveys get tracked with the help of our HRIS. In fact, we make extensive use of data analytics to track early warning signals for attrition or dis-engagement. We use data analytics to gauge productivity levers for the frontline team and we use visual dashboarding of HR MIS for all critical HR-related metrics.

These tools help us gain insight into how a candidate or employee tends to behave and using trend analysis, we can predict behavior accurately. Given the feedback we get from our surveys, there have been decisions taken swiftly. For example, based on the feedback we received, we have introduced more unique benefits, and identified poor leadership where we have intervened with coaching.

What are the aspects of HR’s work that technology has most affected within the last 2-3 years? How do you balance the human touch with technology in HR processes? What do you do to make employees feel supported and valued despite the increasing reliance on automated systems?

The last 2-3 years saw an exponential increase in the usage of technology, especially due to the pandemic. As an organisation, we had to rely heavily on systems for even routine functioning. The positive aspect of this change was that employees adopted technology faster and the learning curve has been far quicker than if it had to be introduced in due course. However, this hybrid and remote working has led to increased feelings of isolation and some cases building up anxiety levels etc.  The team bonding and subsequent transfer of culture, ethos and values has been disruptive and piecemeal. Now in a post-Covid scenario life is returning to pre-Covid situation

At DCB Bank, we have tried to ensure open and honest communication at all times. A bridged call from the MD and top management every quarter, continuous updates about mediclaim, loans, counselling services, awareness about mental health issues, connects with leaders and teammates alike are some of the ways to establish human connection. Leaders are constantly in touch with employees and check-in is key to ensure that they feel valued and heard.

Being an HR and IT head, how do you benefit from having two sets of skills and responsibilities, how do you balance the priorities?

They are two sides of the same coin. We need tech to help people and people to devise tech. My job is not to prioritise one over the other but to enable leaders in their respective domains to achieve their objectives. Being in charge of both obviously gives me a clear advantage where I can understand and leverage the synergies between the two units. One of the biggest advantages of being a functional head is that I can implement people practices faster as I already have a first hand experience in HR from the other side.

Having said that, there are times when I may have to focus more on a particular department. Like the time, we migrated to the higher version of the core banking solution, Finacle 10, it was a Bank priority and I had to ensure that work was done on a war footing. At that point, the energy and concentration were clearly to help IT leaders make the project a success. Similarly, when we had to ramp up hiring for key verticals, the HR team needed to be provided with constant guidance to ensure things were on track.

How do you anticipate technology will continue to reshape HR practices and the employee experience?

Artificial intelligence is likely to be adopted more and more to improve efficiency. This will have the added benefit of freeing up employees to focus on more complex and creative tasks. In particular, AI can be used to find candidates and screen CVs. AI also shows success in removing bias from the hiring process and improving the decision-making of HR professionals. Since software and AI will be taking over and automating more and more of our tasks, soft skills will become more important than ever. In particular, soft skills such as creativity, adaptability and communication will become even more in demand.

The future HR technology trends are likely to focus on hybrid work environments, employee safety, cloud-based systems, and data integration and strategic initiatives.

In fact, data analytics will help HR to become more informed and objective in the future. Like I said, data helps identify leave trends, employees who are at risk of leaving, and much more. The timely availability of data will help leaders to make strategic decisions and mitigate potential risks.

Wellness through technology will continue to grow through gamification, online doctor consultation and on-site health checkups. We have a round-the clock doctor assistance service available and walkathons to encourage healthy living. Our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) also allows chat and online counselling sessions for employees and their family members.

While Technology will continue to play an important role, our role is like an ensemble to provide the best experience to the employees in our institution-building efforts. The best way to embrace and adopt future change is to be nimble and agile.

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Topics: HR Technology, HCM/HRMS/HRIS

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