HR Professionals Day is a moment to reflect on the remarkable journey all professionals have embarked upon in the world of human resources. For many of them, the evolution of their roles in HR has been nothing short of transformative.
From the day they stepped into this profession to the present moment, a significant chasm has emerged, bridged by experience, adaptability, and a commitment to nurturing the heart of any organisation—its people. In a post-Covid world, there has been a profound metamorphosis that took place between HR professionals’ humble beginnings and their current positions that define their HR journey.
For Vijay, human resource officer, Max Healthcare, the most significant evolution in his journey from handling employee query management to overseeing HRIS systems has been the shift from a ‘reactive to a proactive role’.
Earlier Vijay was managing query management of employees and now he is handling the HRIS System of organisation. “Initially, my focus was on addressing immediate employee concerns, which required quick problem-solving. Today, with HRIS, I play a pivotal role in shaping the employee experience from the ground up. By leveraging data and technology, we can predict trends, optimise processes, and provide employees with more seamless & personalised support and ultimately contributing to a more efficient and employee-centric HR function,” adds Vijay.
Automation and its impact
The days have gone when the role of an HR was mostly revolved around transactional work like recruitment and query resolution. “There has been a significant evolution in HR’s role at any organisation. Today, automation handles routine tasks, allowing HR to focus on its paramount mission: empowering the workforce through training, technology deployment, counseling, and enhancing the overall employee experience,” says Madhup Agarwal, National HR Head, IndiaMART.
From primarily being seen as a support function—dealing with onboarding, benefits, and administration, the journey of an HR professional has taken an unexpected turn. The Covid-led transformation of the workplace and work culture accelerated the transformation and brought them to the forefront.
HR professionals have become strategic partners, working closely with leadership to align their practices with what the business stands for. Employee engagement, talent development, and company culture have become paramount,” says Sujendra GS, Vice President, Human Resources, Creative Synergies Group, adding that the roles and responsibilities in HR have become more aligned with organisational growth, strategy, and goals.
According to Sujendra who possesses over two decades of professional journey, HR’s role now encompasses talent acquisition strategies, diversity and inclusion initiatives, employee well-being programs, and innovative technology solutions.
Additionally, the digital age has revolutionised HR. The use of data analytics and AI tools has enabled us to make more informed decisions, predict workforce trends, and create personalised employee experiences. We are no longer just HR professionals; we are change agents and advocates for employee empowerment. There is no one way to approach HR practices anymore, and if the last few years alone are any indication, then it will keep evolving. This evolution has been exhilarating, demanding continuous learning and adaptability,” asserts Sujendra.
Policymakers to enablers
Balaji Kumar, Chief Human Resources Officer, Sonata Software who earlier viewed HR and his role as an end in itself, now sees it as a means to an end, to drive people, organisational and business outcomes.
"When viewed as an end in itself, it meant designing policies, processes, and programs that were elaborate and focused on fulfilling the functional needs of governance, control, and administrative efficiency. But when viewed as a means to an end, it translates into designing policies and programs that keep the employees and business at the centre,” explains Balaji.
Over the decades, Balaji’s role has evolved to be one contributing to business strategy with P&L orientation by being a trusted advisor, an employee champion, a talent architect, and a culture catalyst in addition to managing the usual aspects such as compliances, benefits, life cycle management, etc.
As the economy grew and ways of working evolved, there was a strong understanding that people are the backbone of any organisation. “With important insights into employee sentiments and changing market dynamics, human resources became indispensable in making informed business decisions proactively. The role of HR transformed from mere support to being a fundamental part of the business. Today, HR leaders don't just listen; they have a say in every important decision. Like at Zoo Media, many women leaders, including me from HR, sit on the executive team. It's an important and significant change in mindsets,” says Tanima Dhawan, National HR Director, Zoo Media.
Pivotal to business
Earlier, the scope of HR was limited, with a primary emphasis on enforcing company policies and managing personnel issues. Fast forward to today, the chief people officer’s role has become more pivotal to the business and multifaceted, earning a seat at the leadership table.
“It has transcended to being a partner to the business involving strategic management, organisational development, and fostering a conducive work culture leveraging transformation and technology,” highlights Pradipta Banerjee, Chief People Officer, Emids.
“Through the years and across organisations, I have seen the HR transformation as a shift from a reactive to a proactive stance, from managing processes to enabling leaders to manage their teams effectively. The emphasis is now on building a resilient and inclusive organisational culture, championing employee well-being, and developing leadership capabilities. The evolution of this role underscores the heightened importance of human elements in organisational success, symbolising the metamorphosis of HR from an enabling function to a strategic partner,” adds Banerjee.
Local to global role
For Srividhya Deshpande, Global HR Head, Egen formerly known as SpringML, Inc, the most significant difference is the strategic impact HR now has on organisations. “It has evolved from a reactive role to proactive talent management, aligning HR strategies with business goals, nurturing talent through robust training and development programs, mentoring, and continuous feedback mechanisms. We prioritise shaping company culture, fostering innovation, and ensuring employee well-being. Evolution of my role in HR over the past 18 years has been transformative,” adds Deshpande.
Furthermore, the globalisation of businesses and the prevalence of remote work have reshaped Deshpande’s responsibilities. “HR, once confined to a local or regional scope, now spans borders and time zones. Managing a global workforce and navigating remote work complexities demand a deep understanding of cultural nuances, legal regulations, and technology to foster collaboration among our diverse workforce. An HR’s role over the years encompasses a shift towards business goals, a greater focus on employee development, and strategic evolution tailored to meet the demands and opportunities presented by a globalized, remote workforce,” emphasises Deshpande.
People, Process, Purpose and Profit will be the future of HR. HR is evolving with a paradigm shift from administrative and operational mundane jobs to transformational approach in creating a proactive and collaborative human capital management to sustain. “The future of HR will be in alignment with overall business goals and objectives to bring in synergy, collaboration, skill & capability along with culture by giving a safe workplace experience to all. By creating a vibrant culture with core values and ethics and by doing so we will be making our employees as brand ambassadors. Together Towards Tomorrow,” says Rajeswari Natarajan, Head HR at Nippon Paint India-Decorative Division.
Shipra Kamra, Head of People Operations at Responsive believes that new-age HR has assumed the role of a strategic partner that plays a pivotal role in shaping the organisational culture, talent management, and driving overall business success. HR actively contributes to the company's objectives by aligning HR practices with the broader business goals.
For Ezhilvel. S, Senior VP – HR, Schwing Stetter India, HRBP, culture building, and feedback and performance management are three major areas where human resources are changing radically.
Technology and HR
There have been substantial developments in HR technology, the role of HR professionals, and the dynamics of the workplace. In the past, HR was predominantly viewed as an administrative function, with its primary focus on tasks such as payroll, benefits administration, and ensuring compliance with regulations.
“This shift is marked by advancements in technology, dynamics of the dispersed talent pool, the demand-supply tango, heightened employee expectations, the democratisation of the workplace, and the drive for profitable growth. “Digitalisation of HR has further resulted in the function becoming more integrated and automated, transforming how it is managed across the board. I believe that CHROs of the future will need to have the courage and dexterity to nurture fair, just, and equitable workplaces that balance individual, group, and organisational needs towards holistic sustainability and well-being,” adds Balaji.
One significant change has been the integration of data and analytics into HR practices. In contrast to the past, where decisions were frequently based on intuition or anecdotal information, HR teams now leverage data-driven insights for various aspects such as talent management, employee engagement, attrition analysis, organisational strategy, and leadership development.
The evolution of technology has been instrumental in automating and streamlining various HR functions, including recruiting, onboarding, performance management, compensation, and employee inquiries. This has increased efficiency and reduced manual errors, allowing HR professionals to dedicate more time to strategic partnerships and less to tactical tasks.
HR has gone digital and that technological shift, with a younger workforce, has changed the role of the human resources department.