Vishwesh Padmanabhan, is the Partner and Head, Digital Consulting, KPMG in India. Vishwesh is a senior executive with an extensive and proven track record over many years across Australia and the Asia Pacific Region.
In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Vishwesh talks about the new focus areas for HR, how AI is gaining ground in HR functions in SEA and India, and more.
How do you see the rise of next-gen technologies such as AI and blockchain and their impact on the HR world?
The first area of focus for HR is digital labor, or the augmentation and automation of human labour, which is increasingly finding its way across HR processes (ex. recruitment, employee onboarding, performance management etc.) as well with business unit employees. Most companies leveraging these technologies today are utilizing co-bots, i.e. bots that work alongside humans, and HR is getting involved in training employees to work with such co-bots. The second area of focus for HR is how to manage the digital native talent that is coming in today and how to build the right mindset to leverage their skills across the organization.
Is AI actually gaining ground in HR functions in SEA and India? To what extent do you think AI will become a regular part of HR in five years?
AI is a part of HR in many organizations today and therefore, the future is already here in a sense and this will only increase as we go ahead.
Technologies including robotics and AI bring the promise of higher productivity and increased efficiencies, but they also raise questions about the bigger impact of automation on jobs and skills. How do you envision the future of work and role of next-gen technology?
What we have learnt from similar technology changes in the past, is that the initial period requires adjustment, but after that time period, technology creates new jobs and roles for employees, which are often hard to envision at the start of the journey.
How is KPMG as a tech implementation partner helping HR organizations remain competitive, innovative, and sustainably profitable?
KPMG has strong propositions on digital labor and HR workspace of the future. We are actively working with our clients on their journey to be future ready in HR as well as business units, not only from a strategy point of view, but also getting it implemented on ground and helping clients realize the benefits from such initiatives.
CHROs should build business cases, focused on specific business outcomes using digital
How have technologies like virtual reality (VR) evolved for learning and development over the last few years?
We have seen adoption of virtual reality (VR) in two key areas. The first is to train specialist workers, especially those working in hazardous environments (ex. crane operators) using a virtual setup to reduce health and safety risks. The second key area is to increase productivity and efficiency of workers on the shopfloor, sales force, plant operations etc., where conventional classroom based training models are not efficient at scale.
How can technology help HR to understand the needs of employees in a gig economy?
The employment contract is changing from full time employees to gig workers, and this is necessitating changes in measurement and management of employee performance as well as employee experience. Workers in a gig economy are often not keen on sharing long term issues and challenges, and therefore, it is critical for HR to focus on micro-experiences and leading indicators of worker performance. eContracts could be crafted to trigger weekly wages or incentives based on specifics.
What are your top tips to CHROs wanting to build a sound business case for innovation and technology use in the HR function?
The two primary levers that CHROs can influence are cost/ productivity as well as experience and engagement. CHROs should build business cases, focused on specific business outcomes using digital, for the complete organization.
The productivity gains from RPA are already well understood and many companies are already adopting RPA solutions. I am very excited about the potential that AI/ML brings to the table, especially in the HR function
Performance management has long been an important HR function. Can analytics truly help drive the next data-driven phase of performance management?
Yes, many of our clients are using multi-variate analysis to spot trends in employee performance and correlate that with various factors at hand, which allows them to take early action and manage performance on an ongoing basis rather than measure and take corrective action at the end of the review period.
How can leaders ensure a better alignment of HR & Work technology investment and business goals?
We believe that there are three facets of digital where HR and business leadership have to work together– ideation, realization and change adoption. HR business leaders should work closely with their business and technology leaders to actively drive outcomes across all 3 phases.
Among the new-gen technologies (AI, ML, RPA, blockchain), which one are you most excited to use and why? Share examples of use cases.
The productivity gains from RPA are already well understood and many companies are already adopting RPA solutions. Therefore, many of our clients believe RPA is already a mainstream digital technology. I am very excited about the potential that AI/ ML brings to the table, especially in the HR function. We should watch out this space closely because there are many startups doing cutting edge work that will impact HR functions across sectors.