Article: The pandemic is speeding up adoption of automation and AI: Oracle’s Shailesh Singla

HR Technology

The pandemic is speeding up adoption of automation and AI: Oracle’s Shailesh Singla

In this exclusive interaction, Shailesh Singla, Country Head & Senior Director, Employee Experience/HCM Business, Oracle shares his views on how the pandemic has pushed the HR function to the forefront and has greatly accelerated the adoption and implementation of automation technologies.
The pandemic is speeding up adoption of automation and AI: Oracle’s Shailesh Singla
 

'McKinsey did a survey in June, which points out that the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital technologies by several years.'

 

Shailesh Singla represents Oracle India leadership team and Heads India HCM Business. Shailesh works very closely with large conglomerates and leading enterprises of different sizes and has helped them to evolve Employee Experience to the next level, using right technology and consulting partners.

He is a technology evangelist and has been instrumental in launching many new technology products successfully in India. In Oracle, Shailesh has led next Generation HCM cloud technology, right from its inception and now Oracle has a triple-digit partnership leveraging the same. Shailesh has in total 20+ years of experience and has worked with some of the leading Organizations - IBM, PwC, TCS, and HCL Technology.

In this exclusive interview, Shailesh shares some insights on how the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital technologies by several years and why HR must demonstrate a whole new kind of agility in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis and up its game amid this uncertainty.

Here are the excerpts from the interview.

Have the strategic priorities of HR teams changed amid this pandemic? What are the areas they should focus on right now? How do you see the larger HR landscape amid this uncertainty?

The pandemic has changed all the business realities and the responsibility to help employees adjust to this change has landed on HR. The implications for HR are comprehensive and point towards new priorities like equipping leaders to manage remote teams and safeguard the company culture with a distributed workforce in highly dynamic circumstances. HR needs to help leaders to lead better during ambiguity and to dynamically adjust annual goals and review all workflows to align with the new business priorities.

The focus on employee wellness has not been more important. We did a survey, which shows that workers feel that 2020 has been the most stressful ever. 92 percent of the Indian workforce prefers to talk to robots than to their managers regarding their mental health issues. They feel that robots provide them with a judgment-free zone. I think, that gives HR leaders a clear mandate on what they need to do. They need to be more sensitive than ever, for helping build their employees’ physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. HR recognizes the humanitarian crisis of the pandemic and needs to be more deliberate about the way they reach out as their approach will have long term and profound effects on employee experience.

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74% of companies planned to increase spending on HR tech in 2020 to address pressing talent needs, according to a study by PwC done in December 2019. Are organizations investing on HR tech solutions amid this uncertainty?

McKinsey did a survey in June, which points out that the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital technologies by several years. 85 percent of respondents said their businesses have somewhat or greatly accelerated the implementation of technologies that digitally enable employee interaction and collaboration. The adoption of automation technologies has also accelerated during the pandemic. These trends reflect automation’s ability to facilitate contactless interactions at a time of social distancing and heightened awareness of hygiene, as well as cost pressures that may arise from the economic slowdown. Adoption of automation and AI has expanded the most among firms that had a greater shift to remote work since the outbreak. Among executives of companies that moved most of their employees to remote work during the pandemic, 80 percent said they had increased automation, while only 51 percent of executives from companies that adopted remote work for just a few employees said automation had grown. Some 35 percent of survey respondents said they would need more workers skilled in automation, AI, and robotics – a reflection of the increased deployment of automation during COVID-19.[1]

How have vendors stepped up their games to address new market needs? What are the key areas of the HR function where you have seen maximum tech implementations in the last few months, and what are the categories seeing the greatest levels of innovation from the service providers' side?

The new normal requires a new approach. At Oracle, we realized that in this time of need, our customers do not need technology partners, rather our customers would like to have counsel, who can help them move out of difficult times. For the first time, we offered free solutions to our customers. We offered HCM tool for free, to help our customers keep their employees safe during COVID-19. As the offices started to reopen, we provided additional help by introducing the Oracle Employee Care Package: a bundle of HCM tools and technology that will help HR teams make work safer, supportive, smarter, and more human.

We also announced major updates to Oracle Cloud Human Capital Management (HCM) to deliver personalized journeys and growth opportunities for employees, while improving data accuracy for HR teams. As a result, the latest updates improve both the employee and HR experience. The new updates deliver a seamless, step-by-step experience for employees as they move through personal and professional situations that require complex tasks and interactions. New career development products help organizations quickly meet changing needs, increase career mobility, and encourage employee growth. 

The updates improve data accuracy for HR teams with expanded autocomplete and localization features. There is Diversity Dashboard with Oracle Fusion HCM Analytics that expands the possibilities of data by providing personalized business analytics for HR decision-makers. The pre-built dashboard highlights key statistics and trends to help HR teams better analyze employee data and improve initiatives around diversity and inclusion in their workforce.

Can you throw some light on how top organizations are leveraging HR tech people analytics, talent acquisition tech, RPA, blockchain? 

RBL Bank employs nearly 6,000 workers across a network of 370 branches located throughout the country. Banking being deemed as an “essential service”, the bank branches were open with skeletal staff. Caring for the well-being of so many employees can be daunting. The bank opted for Oracle Workforce Health and Safety module in sync with the already implemented Oracle HCM cloud. The module gave the bank the ability to track and manage health and safety matters within its organization. Employees could quickly report health-related incidents or concerns from their mobile or desktop devices and administrators can communicate follow-up steps.

Piramal Group is managing its diverse workforce effectively and transparently by integrating fragmented HR data over a single system of employee records. It provides them with data-driven smart dashboards at the click of a button. Its HR analytics allows them to gain insights into finding and retaining top talent as well as uncover trends and identify potential problems.

At Dalmia Bharat, the HR function is looked upon as a strategic business partner as Oracle Cloud HCM has enabled their HR function to track, monitor, review, and analyze all the business solutions and deliver them proactively.[2]

Some of the changes the COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon us are going to be permanent and HR must demonstrate a whole new kind of agility in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. How can HR up their game amid this uncertainty?

The world has changed completely over the past few months and it will not get back to its older self. Suddenly, almost everyone is working remotely and organizations, even the skeptical ones, have realized that no one needs to be present in the physical office to work. Now, when the lockdown is being lifted, there are certain points that HR leaders need to keep in mind while preparing their organization for the new normal. First, they need to understand that the new normal will be digital. And that does not only mean, the ability to work remotely. It will also mean a digital ecosystem to change the organizational culture; to use the technology to create a culture of responsiveness, agility, and compassion. If not already, the business leaders need to decide upon their digital strategy based on their business vision and mission. The new normal will be driven by values as much as by technology. Today, employees are far more conscious about the values that their employers adhere to. The HR leaders must help their business leaders to find a common ground between commercially viable, socially, and morally ethical, and environmentally viable. Empathy is going to be one of the key factors that HR needs to keep in mind in the new normal ¬– in terms of being more sensitive to people in the hour of their need and to understand the turmoil that we all are going through.

What role can leaders play to ensure a better alignment of HR technology investment and business goals? How can CEOs and CHROs work together to sail through this pandemic?

The pandemic has elevated the role of the CHROs permanently. Today, CHROs are working closely with the CEOs to manage the present and help their company into the new normal. The pandemic has proved what many visionary CHROs knew before anyone had heard of the virus that digital resilience is directly tied to employees’ individual physical, mental, and emotional resilience.

CEOs are depending on CHROs to make sure that their people are feeling secured and supported as they have realized that their future and survival depend on their employees. In some places, CHROs are at the helm of some difficult conversations about cost-cutting and letting people go. The organizations are going to face a completely new set of challenges at the other end of this crisis. There will be renewed conversations around diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The new social norms generated from work from home will directly affect organizations’ agility, productivity, adaptability — and they will chiefly be the province of CHROs.

Given the budgetary constraints that many organizations are facing and the many challenges amid the pandemic, how can HR build an effective business case for new technology right now?

In pre-COVID times, the business leaders felt that HR tech was rather expensive and were not taking up HR technology on priority. However, the aftermath of the pandemic has created a very strong case for HR technology. The businesses have noticed the importance of employee experience and engagement. It is hard to put a monetary value for employee engagement or experience, but the COVID-19 times have shown the enormous value that these two factors can bring in for the businesses. When the leadership will notice the direct impact of employee experience/engagement on productivity in real-time, they will be more likely to give the buy-in for HR Tech. 

How should HR gear up for the post-pandemic times given that the pandemic has offered the possibility for them to accelerate to digital?

Agility is going to be the buzzword in the coming times. One key takeaway from this situation is that anything is possible, and businesses need to be prepared for any change that may sneak in. The businesses need to be agile enough to mold themselves according to new situations quickly. The organizations need to have a plan to fall back on, whenever a crisis of such magnitude strikes. For example, UST Global, a multinational provider of digital technology and transformation, IT services and solutions, managed to get their workforce remotely in less than 24 hours, as they had the digital infrastructure in place. They opted for the Oracle tool in addition to their existing HCM Cloud for tracking their employees’ health. UST Global is investing heavily to create an infrastructure for remote working for a longer period.[3] 

Read more such stories from the November 2020 issue of our e-magazine on 'The State of Digital HR’

Notes

[1] What 800 executives envision for the post-pandemic workforce

[2] Pre-approved content

[3]   How UST Global is tracking the health of employees

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Topics: HR Technology, #HybridWorkplace, #HRTech

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