Shalini Nair Kumar is the Head of People and Culture, Communications & Branding and Facilities for Amadeus Labs India. In her Human Resources journey, Shalini has worked with leading IT organizations in India like Infosys and Satyam. She holds a post-graduate degree in HR and Management.
Talking to People Matters, Shalini Nair shared her perspective on various topics such as HR being a strategic business partner, visibility of women in tech jobs and diversity at the workplace. Read the edited excerpts here.
Human resources aren’t the most glamorous-looking department within a company. However, HR has evolved from a mere function to a strategic business partner. How is this equation changing over time?
I believe that HR is a very glamorous department. Any corporate function outside of your core business that has a direct impact and link to your business outcome is HR because it links with talent. Over the years, talent has become crucial for any organization irrespective of sectors. It is people that make organizations successful and that helps companies function smoothly.
Today, HR has moved from timekeeping and organizing events to being more strategic business partners. Leading companies are witnessing this shift. Even in Amadeus, we call the HR function as 'People and Culture.' This shift was not adopted to call the function something fancy. That's what the function is all about.
How can women gain more visibility in all business functions, including in IT? What should HR managers do to encourage more women workforce in functions including IT?
By creating a transparent and consistent system in the organization, women can be encouraged to become part of more business functions. I am not a big fan of having a quota system or a special kind of program. However, companies should pursue it consistently and give women more organizational opportunities. We need to go beyond saying and it starts from the leadership. We noticed that a lot of orientation and unconscious bias could happen even with leaders. In order to bring them down, changing the mindset is equally necessary. For instance, we can create a network for women to come and frequently speak on various topics thus giving them the platform to lead discussions. I believe that sometimes women need a little bit of push for them to go, participate and be visible. One of the things that we miss in technology is the role model for women, and we are working consciously to create such role models in tech whom the women can look up to and learn and get mentored by them.
Among the new-gen technologies (AI, ML, RPA, Blockchain), which one are you most excited to use and why?
AI and ML will play a key role in the talent strategy domain. Today, we have immense data available about talent, people, experiences, and growth paths of the employees. There is nothing that can't be brought together today with data and intelligence that we have at our disposal. And all these insights can be leveraged by organizations to harness talent strategy.
Organizations spend a lot in AI, ML and other core business areas that's what the customers want because the revenue is coming from it. But if companies implement the same internally in an elegant manner for talent strategies that will help understand employees. These technologies will work as a helping hand in hiring, retaining, and creating future leaders. And on top of that, betting on these technologies will make a big difference in terms of talent and business outcomes.
What are the exciting innovations to look forward to in the context of HR and the new generation of technologies?
Currently, there is a gap in the market as far as talent is concerned and all the innovation and technology that's coming in. AI and ML can bring everything together. HR spends a large chunk of their time in assessing candidates, but technology can help the hiring manager and make them understand if the candidate is a fit or a mismatch. On the other hand, CHROs should work on leadership development strategies. They should invest in the right people to help them grow. This is where they can leverage technology.
Diversity and inclusion are no longer limited to adding more women to the workforce. Inclusion is much more than just considering two genders. What should organizations do to redefine diversity in the workplace?
With different generations of people working together, the culture we have today is different across organizations. The career aspirations of these people are also different. We need to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all approach today. So we have to be interdimensional and diverse something that unifies all of them together.
Organizations need to start this from the C-suite level. We need to be accepting everything in the society with open arms –be it LGBTQ+ community, transgender, especially abled, or others. Organizations need to be mentally prepared about diversity and also be infrastructure ready. For example, we have gender-neutral washrooms, customized infrastructure for the specially-abled employees, and so on.