Article: The next curve for HR consulting: Exclusive interview with Nitin Sethi, Aon


The next curve for HR consulting: Exclusive interview with Nitin Sethi, Aon

In this exclusive interaction with Nitin Sethi, India & South Asia CEO for the Performance, Rewards & Talent Consulting Business of Aon, read how the world of talent and consulting has evolved over the years and what is the future outlook.
The next curve for HR consulting: Exclusive interview with Nitin Sethi, Aon

Recently, Aon brings back its former Executive, Nitin Sethi to lead its Performance and Rewards Practice in India. After being away from Aon for a period of two years, during which Nitin served as the Chief People officer at Rivigo and more recently spearheaded talent management and recruiting for Coca-Cola Asia Pacific, he has joined Aon as  the , India & South Asia CEO for the Performance, Rewards & Talent Consulting Business of Aon

In this exclusive interaction with Nitin Sethi, India & South Asia CEO for the Performance, Rewards & Talent Consulting Business of Aon, read how the world of talent and consulting has evolved over the years.

Q1. What would be your new role and responsibilities at Aon? What would be your immediate focus in your new role?

I have been appointed the India & South Asia CEO for the Performance, Rewards & Talent Consulting Business of Aon.

We have been in India for nearly 30 years now and have been partnering clients across industries on all aspects of their talent and people decisions. With several markets leading researches and thought leadership, we have been instrumental in shaping how HR has evolved over the years. We are thankful for the trust the clients - business & HR leaders have had in us over the years. We will continue to deliver outstanding value to all our stakeholders

The industry is going through an interesting phase – clients are looking at preparing their organizations to deliver growth, drive higher productivity and continuously innovate and transform at the same time. This change will require that we think, plan and execute differently from how we have done in the past. How companies are able to take their employees on this journey by creating a high performance culture that aligns all these priorities will be critical.  We are partnering with several companies on all these aspects and will continue to focus on ensuring that through all of our work we are able to help and partner business and HR leaders to help their companies meet these goals.

Q2. How do you feel on your appointment at Aon?

I am excited to be back at Aon, an organization that has unmatched culture, talent and specialization in Performance, Organization and Rewards. It’s like coming back to work with friends – both colleagues and clients.

As market leaders, we are doing some great research and partnering with clients in helping them prepare a roadmap to deliver for the future. As the largest Human Capital consulting team in the market, we continue to invest in further building, hiring and developing the team here. Clients are looking at us to shape their future talent and rewards strategy. We too, are investing in research and capabilities to continue to evolve ourselves. Aon is committed to India and sees it as a priority growth market.

This is a defining time for the firm as corporate India’s growth story prepares for growth amidst new and emerging global economic opportunities and challenges. Aon continues to be compelling for the industry with data and advisory driven solutions. Overall it feels great to lead the firm into next trajectory of growth.

Q3. You spent over 13 years in Aon and went on to work on to lead HR business for Rivigo and Coca Cola. How do you feel coming back to Aon and consulting?

Aon has been like home for me. Having spent over a decade, and grown in the firm doing a wide variety of work – I was well prepared to take some leadership roles that I did outside. Both were interesting and very different companies and I am glad I got an opportunity to shape their people plans. I have always missed the culture, colleagues and clients at Aon and it feels great to be back. It is a big responsibility and I am grateful for the trust the firm has had in me for this. I will continue to invest my time in working with clients and colleagues to deliver value to all our stakeholders.

Q4. With a big chunk of HR operations being outsourced, how does the HR consulting landscape look at the present? How has it changed over the last 5 years?

HR outsourcing has been a trend for nearly 20 years now. In fact, Aon pioneered this globally and in India by partnering with clients to help them drive better productivity, efficiency and experience through use of technology and HR tools. This pace is only accelerating now given innovation and investment in technology, big data and AI.

There are different challenges now that HR needs to prepare for – designing an organization for the future, evolving a culture that keeps pace with times, closing the skill and talent gap to drive change and digital transformation and lastly, aligning talent & business expectations through performance and rewards.

At the same time, HR consulting will have to ensure that it uses technology and tools effectively to be able to provide clients with better insights from the data they have. Clients are looking for HR firms that keep pace with this change and are able to help them think ahead of the curve with data & insights. So overall – it will be more data, analytics and insights-driven consulting in years to come. The challenge will not be solving for today but preparing for the future.

Q5. Are long-term forecasts positive or negative? Is the market growing or declining, and how quickly?

The long term forecasts are undoubtedly positive. The economy is going through challenging times, but there is a foundation that is being laid for long term growth. Companies that prepare themselves well today will be able to come out as winners sooner when the growth window starts opening. In that context, you have to invest with the long term perspective in mind. Learn the lessons that slowdown teaches, gather wins from productivity/ efficiency initiatives, relook at the talent and skill model with technology roadmap in mind and build a culture that drives high performance and rewards for right results.

With that context, there is great opportunity for us to partner with clients with all the data, research and experiences that we have with clients not just in India but globally. As Indian companies prepare global growth roadmaps and future strategy to win in the market place – their ability to create compelling people value proposition that excites people to come board and perform at highest levels will be critical and with the data, tools and insights we are well prepared to partner with them on this journey.


Q7. The market has seen a number of mergers and acquisitions over the past year. With reports of various M&As in the air, how are HR consulting companies consolidating and preparing for the future? Why are we seeing some big HR consulting firms being acquired?

Mergers, Acquisitions or divestures are all part of strategy to build, refocus and prepare companies for growth. This is no different for HR consulting as for any other industry. In addition, how technology will shape the future is a big question. With that in mind, HR consulting firms are also prioritizing on what should they stand for – is it discretionary vs data driven consulting, do we want to be a generalist advisory or deep rooted specialization firm, operating model that supports local vs. glocal (global + local) thought leadership are some of the ways HR Consulting firms are thinking of positioning themselves. There are opportunities in each of those spectrums depending on where you operate and you have to make those choices. As you make those choices, they will determine the space that you operate in and over a period time you want to build scale organically or otherwise, to leverage efficiency and drive growth and that’s where M&A’s come in.

Q9. How are HR consulting firms making the most of data insights, digitalization and the many technology shifts? How is technology changing the nature of demand in this industry?

As new technology tools come in and we are able to better leverage data – there are better insights that we are able to provide to our clients. We have data on macro talent, performance, rewards, hiring and assessments (technical & behavioral) – how all this comes together in helping clients take better people decisions to  grow and reward their people is something that we are focused on. Creating a compelling value proposition for the talent through data-driven insights is the focus and priority. This will help create compelling stories for the client that they can take to their employees.

All of this cannot happen without investment in Tech, AI and data. Investments in these are critical to deliver value.

Q11. What kind of challenges and opportunities that you predict for consulting business in 2020?

For consulting in general – helping clients navigate the challenging time today and to help prepare the future roadmap is critical. Growth story for India Inc. is inevitable. Some companies are preparing for it now and will grab that opportunity when it presents and some will prepare for it when the window opens – we want to partner to help companies realize the future potential by making right investments in talent today.

The scenario is challenging as it may therefore present both an opportunity and a challenge for consulting firms. Like others – the choice is investing for the long vs. short term, defining the role of technology and leveraging data for meaningful insights and decision making.

At Aon ours is a business based on people who are passionate about serving their clients and the ability to advise and provide data and insights of highest quality all the time. To ensure this we must continue to make right investments in people and thought leadership always and at Aon we are committed to doing that.


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Topics: Leadership, HR Consulting, C-Suite

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