Priyanka Anand has been Vice President and Head HR, Southeast Asia, Oceania & India at Ericsson since January 2018. With a career spanning over 20 years, she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience. Turning talent management into an instrument to drive business transformation and strategy has been her key focus area, alongside developing able leaders & transforming organisational culture.
In her current role, Priyanka leads a team of 60+ HR professionals across more than 10 countries, driving HR strategy across the geography with around 25000 employees. In addition, she collaborates with Business Leaders in developing and implementing benchmark HR practices that inspire employees to achieve outstanding business results. In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Priyanka shares what goes into building sustainable work tech models with a people focus.
What are some of the digital trends and innovations that will have a substantial impact on the business landscape?
The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the immense significance of ‘connectivity’ given that it enabled businesses and life to continue without disruption. The next wave of digitalisation will ride on the back of 5G technology which will reshape and reimagine business models, providing them with a competitive edge. 5G is a platform for innovation which will drive greater efficiencies, profitability, and agility for businesses. It will enable the digital transformation across sectors including manufacturing, healthcare, energy and utilities, public safety, automotive, education and many more. This will undoubtedly impact the skill sets in demand, how we work, and why we need to reskill our workforce.
According to a NASSCOM-Zinnov report, India will face a shortage of 14-19 lakh tech professionals by 2026. Therefore, to match the pace of digital transformation with 5G, it is of utmost significance for organisations to invest in re-skilling and to upskill the workforce to prepare for the future.
With Ericsson being a pioneer themselves in the digital arena, how is the enterprise building a sustainable work tech model? How does it foster collaboration and productivity in a distributed workforce?
I believe the key to a sustainable work tech model for any organisation is to have the right balance of employee productivity and satisfaction enabled with the right technology solutions across the lifecycle of an employee. At Ericsson, we aim to achieve this balance through various platforms and initiatives that support our people to feel safe, engaged, and productive.
From prioritising the employees' financial, mental, physical, and emotional well-being to futureproofing them through various upskilling initiatives, we are enabling an environment where employees can perform their best. Some of our upskilling initiatives include – Degreed, which is an anytime / anywhere learning platform; ‘Leaders as Coaches’ that aims to enhance the skills of leaders; ‘Time To Learn TV’ that focuses on collective learning; ‘Digital Academy’ for competence-building in technologies like AI/automation through digitalisation and data science; and ‘5G Academy’ for employee upskilling on 5G RAN, 5G Core and Cloud RAN.
To empower a sustainable work tech environment, we have focused on - supporting our employees to help them deal with uncertainties, providing a flexible work environment, ensuring the right tools are available at the right time and relying on our leaders to coach teams. At Ericsson, our people have always been a cornerstone of our success. We continue to adopt ways and tools that enable employees to collaborate, cooperate and be more productive, irrespective of where they work.
How can businesses retain the human touch and strengthen organisational culture in a digital workplace?
The pandemic has forced organisations to rethink the future of work and the workplace. In this time of increased digitalisation, retaining the human touch is crucial. At Ericsson, we are driving a balance between business continuity and empathy has been vital. Even as we have maintained the focus on meeting customer needs and providing seamless connectivity, we continue to ensure that our employees are well supported as they deal with a post- pandemic environment. We regularly hold open forums and consistently engage employees in two-way communication. Hence, they feel supported and safe while extending flexible work policy and support with IT tools and collaboration platforms.
We ensure open communication within teams across the organisation so they do not feel isolated. As I said earlier, the well-being of our workforce has been our top priority during and post the pandemic, and some of the initiatives we have undertaken towards this are:
- Employee Wellness Program that is focused on interventions around their physical, financial, emotional, and social well-being
- Set up a 24X 7 Employee Assistance Program to provide one-to-one support to employees.
- Pulse Survey from time to time to re-assess the employee sentiment and understand how to augment our existing Programs
- Regular “Coffee sessions” (called Fika Sessions in Swedish) where teams catch up over coffee, discussing anything but work. Such engaging sessions ensure a feeling of togetherness and help maintain employee wellbeing.
There are many ways HR tech models can also strengthen various aspects of work culture. Combining technology and culture allows an organisation to have two-way communication with the employees and ensure they are heard. For instance, at Ericsson, we carry out Pulse Surveys from time to time to assess the employee sentiment and understand how we can further augment our existing programs across initiatives with various objectives, including employee wellbeing/engagement and diversity and inclusion. This helps us make positive changes basis the feedback and responses. Also, employees feel heard and valued and respected at work.
Given the increasing investments in HR tech, data and analytics today, what are some of the pain points that need to be addressed when implementing these technologies? For instance, how can leaders approach data quality and cybersecurity concerns?
Data itself is of no value unless it is an insight which is actionable. For example, with data generated through feedback and timesheets, organisations can understand how satisfied their employees are, what are their problem areas and where they wish to see the transformation. With such insights, organisations can improve the overall employee experience.
However, HR departments must avoid complex work processes while introducing such a new mechanism. If the procedures are not followed, implementing, and adopting new tools /techniques becomes even more challenging. In a nutshell, the purpose of introducing the mechanism is defeated.
Leaders must approach data quality concerns by investigating data quality problems, setting clear guidelines for data governance and most importantly, by training teams and conducting data quality training to ensure they are always up-to-date on the latest procedures.
Beyond this, in a hybrid work environment, it is crucial for HR departments to regularly educate, spread awareness and ensure that all employees are using updated security firewalls across their digital devices.
What are some words of advice to our leaders on building digitally ready and digitally empowered employees and businesses?
Given the rapid pace of digitalisation happening across industries, a digitally ready and equipped workforce will be critical for building a successful business. Thus, the advice I’d give is to invest in upskilling and existing reskilling employees and ensure learning and development become a part of the organisational culture in a way that lays the foundation for years to come.