The speed at which workplace technology has evolved over recent decades has been startling, but with the new forces, including the novel Coronavirus, we are now entering a period – and pace – of change that will put entirely new pressures on organizations. When employees were sent home from their offices en masse amid the global onset of COVID-19, many businesses scrambled to adopt technology solutions to enable their teams to work remotely. According to the Gartner 2020 Digital Workplace Survey, 68 percent of respondents agreed that more C-level executives have expressed involvement in the digital workplace since the pandemic began.
In this interview with Rajneesh Gupta- Senior Vice President (Human Resources), Honda India Power Products Ltd. we learned how Honda India Power Products transformed its HR and implemented workplace solutions to respond in times of crisis.
Q: What is your organization's vision for HR and how does it align with the overall org vision?
A: At HIPP, we envision to keep getting things done by adapting ourselves to keep up with the new normal. The pandemic set upon us in the most challenging way and put a thrust on the companies to incorporate new policies to help employees stay virtually connected. Communication is the most important aspect to be taken care of. Therefore, along with facilitating employees with the infrastructural resources and equipment like laptops and bandwidth, we have included virtual platforms to enable the sharing of data and information efficiently.
Also, prioritizing employee safety, we introduced Work from Home and other employee welfare initiatives to extend our support as an organization. A team was set up to track and analyze data on employees’ health to create a safe and holistic work environment. That is how we have been resiliently trying to stay aligned with our organization's vision.
Q: What role does HR technology play in achieving this vision?
Ans: As we all shifted from the physical world to the virtual one, technology has been crucial to our work lives. The pandemic made us adopt digitization and technology in a way that now it has become the center of our operations. It is an accepted fact that ease of access to information, in turn, optimizes one’s efficiency, we need to ensure that data to be secured well for work to happen seamlessly. In the pursuit of channelizing data, technological tools like cloud computing and virtual platforms came handy and streamlined the work process.
Q: How did the pandemic impact the investment in HR Technology? Has the HR tech adoption increased as compared to the pre-COVID era? What were leadership imperatives from a digital HR transformation of this nature?
A: The onset of the pandemic made it imperative for us to tap the HR technology. We have been investing in HR automation in the area of employee development and the HR strategic arena which is highly engaging and effective. As a Human Resource leader, I practiced keeping a track of the challenges that our employees would be facing due to limited visibility, lack of physical presence, and proper infrastructure hence way forward we need to build a digital culture and keep innovating on the collaboration experience, making engagements and communication a centric part of our work style for smoother work experience while ensuring employee convenience.
Q: What are the key areas of HR function where you have invested in context to tech implementations in the last few months?
A: From an HR perspective, we have been investing in a whole lot of technology and automation. Data analytics has been helping us keep a track of the workforce while virtual platforms have been helping us stay connected with each other, ensuring a transparent employer-employee relationship. To maintain a fair system of management, we have been facilitating our employees with an effective support structure which has enabled trust and brought us all closer.
Q: What are the different technologies have you adopted and plan to invest in the next two years?
A: Automation of HR services and Data analytics is the major sphere we are going to look forward to in our business process operations. We believe the end-to-end employee cycle from joining to retiring needs to be automated. Secondly, cloud-based technology requires an enormous amount of data storage that also needs to be made accessible, for which the existing infrastructure needs to be updated. The current situation demands businesses to continue operating remotely or with limited capacity. It is therefore imperative to focus on enhancing employee experience by investing in app-based HR self-services, encompassing all HR services holistically.
Q: How did you go about choosing a technology solution? Please highlight some critical selection factors and differentiators that are a must for an organization like yours?
A: We are a 35-year old organization that has a mixed ratio of both youth and senior personnel in our company. Keeping this in mind we must invest in technology that is easily understood by all and is complementary to our company processes. It is our endeavor to look for options that are easy to learn and adapt to, so the employees do not feel challenged and can effectively contribute to projects. At the same time, we must ensure that a technology platform is secure and offers immediacy. Our motto under this is: Secure. Speed. Simple.
Q: What is the change management approach you are following to ensure end-user adoption? Can you share some best practices you are implementing here?
A: As they say- Change is the only constant. We are living in such times where change is happening at an extremely fast pace. Ease of usage, awareness, communication, and support system are the key ingredients for any change management process from an end-user adoption perspective. As the HR head, it is my duty to ensure my people can adapt to this change and respond, for which we are taking the necessary measures like
- Creating awareness for platforms for skilling and re-skilling;
- Resource availability- Making the necessary infrastructure for remote working available, and
- Communication- Communication should be multi-pronged and should be imbibed with daily work management. Reaching out to people to know their fears and concerns will a long way in maintaining the changes and managing them.
Q: What role can leaders play to ensure a better alignment of HR technology investment and business goals?
A: The unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic opens some fantastic opportunities for HR leaders. As a leader it is first and foremost most important to understand the limitations, we have in terms of employees, resources, or infrastructure. Once this has been identified, the challenges need to be assessed and steps to mitigate these challenges need to be adopted. As a leader, I am trying to bring in processes for building seamless, flexible, user-friendly technology platforms to help us move forward. Implementing the digital changes in the HR domain in an effective and agile manner amalgamating human centricity will be a substantial task. Machine learning, App-based HR self-services, and HR analytics will take center stage in the coming years. HR Leaders need to play a balancing act throughout the transformation journey. We will not only need to enable current HR teams for the new changes but also ensure the acceptance of change across the organization.
From the wider perspective of the economy, organizations are going to be restructured, a lot of processes are going to be redefined- with ‘work from home’ and usage of virtual platforms, workflows will be re-aligned, term-based contracts will come into place and other such changes be brought about. Strategizing the change would be crucial for HR leaders to ensure a resilient and sustainable future organization.
Q: Has the pandemic brought about a drastic change in terms of how your organization leverages technologies? How do you see this overnight digital transformation of businesses?
A: We are a manufacturing company, so we are not only dealing with while collar but also with blue-collar employees. Initially, it was a challenge on how to maintain trust among our Associates. Especially in these times, fear management communication plays an important role, continuous two-way communication played a pivotal role. We entrust the participatory management, this pandemic posed a critical challenge in communicating with associates. Technology like zoom calls eased the communication and got us connected with working committees where all challenges are discussed, and all solutions are thought out. We apprised them of the challenging times in a transparent manner and concluded multiple things amicably. Ultimately, we came up with practices to address the fears of employees, all undertaken through technology for trust-building, safety provisions. We also did awareness sessions and uploaded a lot of creative videos made by our associates on our social networking sites to reach out to our employees and their families. For white-collar also we created tech platforms for message exchanges, meetings, and catching up. Technology enables all these changes seamlessly.
Q: How do you plan to measure the impact of the transformation? Where are you currently on the journey? Or how far would you say you are from your final goal? What is the road ahead?
A: To measure the impact of new ways of communication across channels in the company we created zones from top to medium to lower management. The heads of different departments like sales, production, business management, quality would be connecting on a fortnightly basis with their teams. Then down the line, people in mid-level management were connecting on a weekly basis. We followed a basic structure of weekly, fortnightly, and monthly communication updates. This has worked well for us to stay motivated, engaged and inspired in these tough times and enabled us to relook at the employee productivity metrics and define the new norms of performance.
As we move forward since the work from home policy will continue for some time, we aim to make these processes more seamless, automated and feedback oriented to map it against our original ways of working and learning from new techniques adopted in these unusual times. Though this is a very initial stage of redefining the new norms of performance, it requires a wider panorama of critical deliberation across the middle and senior-level leadership of the organizations.