Last week, Darwinbox announced the appointment of Alight veteran Shaswat Kumar to its executive leadership team. He has spent much of his career focused on HR transformation, and his expertise is expected to help drive Darwinbox's growth going forward.
People Matters caught up with Shaswat Kumar for a quick conversation about his new role and his thoughts about HR transformation and business success. Here's what he told us.
You spent four and a half years at Alight; looking back on your time there, what accomplishments are you most proud of?
Alight was a truly new brand in the market. In a brief period, we created a service provider which was trusted by customers for quality of work and ability to deliver, every single time. We set the benchmark for thought leadership in our domain which is remarkable for a company so new. The State of HR Transformation Study was not only a thought leader for us but also allowed us to build accelerators for clients anticipating their demands.
Consulting firms take years to build leadership in domain and thought. The speed with which this happened for Alight confirmed that when you are honest and listen to the market, the response will be good. This happened on the back of deep internal commitment from the right partners.
The main focus of your career has been HR transformation; what do you think is the next big transformation HR needs to undergo?
Business Transformations, digital or otherwise, are being held back by Organization, People, and Behavioral issues.
HR professionals need to think of HR transformation as a necessary decision to not only equip the HR function for success but also make it a true catalyst to enable organization change and business outcomes.
For this to truly happen, HR professionals will need to define the scope of HR transformations that have been different from the past, actively engage organization-wide stakeholders and most importantly, change the ways of working for HR professionals of the future. If done correctly, this will enable HRs to build a DNA of constant calibration and adjustment, which will eventually make periodic HR transformations redundant in future.
What's the first step for a HR function that wants to transform itself?
The HR function needs to understand the true pain points of stakeholders, understand how to add value that can make a real difference, and try to derive purpose and value from the program early in the process. This articulated value should be understood by leaders across the organization and should have their buy-in on why this is needed. Often, this will need detailed business case modeling with both quantitative and qualitative benefits.
Avoiding the above and launching things piecemeal is generally a bad idea. Having said that, in some customer organizations, the leadership defines small experiments to test out a hypothesis before an organization change is brought into effect; fully investing management bandwidth and resources.
What do you think customer success means today in the changing landscape of HR solutions?
All HR programs are geared to support and enable employee success; effective HR solutions will need to accelerate that.
A good way to judge the success of HR solutions will be to assess them on the following dimensions:
- How has the solution improved “Talent Outcomes” important to business stakeholders
- How has “Employee Experience” improved and one of the indicators is how well adoption has been driven
- How can we look at “Analytics” and constantly course correct
On the technology end, which technologies do you personally find the most useful for the typical HR function?
The answer lies in how mature the HR tech landscape is in the organization and what is the prevalence of current challenges. In organizations where the Core HR systems are cumbersome, they will find even simple transactions difficult, and the quality of data will be poor. You will be surprised to know how many such organizations are still in that situation on account of poor or forced decisions at the time of buying the HR platform. As Core HR is strengthened, the focus will shift to Talent Management, Analytics, Employee Experience, and so on.
Personally, I am most excited by the convergence of Work Tech and HR Tech; and how collaboration tools will redefine many long-held assumptions in the workplace. When you combine this new challenge with AI, machine learning engines, and service tools such as chat bots, the employee experience landscape will rapidly evolve.
Where do you see HR tech going in response to today's needs?
The HR Tech ecosystem not only reacted fast to the global pandemic crisis but is innovating at an unprecedented pace to align with emerging needs. Employees are now at the center, not just the transactions; we will see this focus on employee Journeys accelerate further. This will also mean the need for better integration with organization-wide platforms in the flow of work.
HR platforms will continue to improve on analytics. Using AI and machine learning, we will see the true deployment of marketplace use cases in years to come. Future talent marketplaces will create trust around skills and data, and marry demand for both.
As you settle in, what part of your new role do you most look forward to?
As shared earlier, HR transformations are central to larger business transformation; and the ability of HR functions to deliver these outcomes will depend on their digital success. Darwinbox is innovating at a very rapid pace; even more important is the firm’s commitment to client success. I look forward to working with clients, helping them define and realize ‘value’ which will accelerate the success of HR functions and business overall.
We are already seeing this happen, whereby most of our recent clients are doing HR Transformation as the first project in their larger transformation agenda. As the digital partner on those transformations, we are increasingly being called in early. We value this trust and will work with these organizations to realize the outcomes which are very important to them.