Article: HR Technology and HR Operating model needs to be right and in sync

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HR Technology and HR Operating model needs to be right and in sync

Why organizations need to relook at adaptability and how Adaptable HR can help organizations to emerge stronger? Here are some insights from Shaswat Kumar, Asia Leader, Vice President, Alight Solutions.
HR Technology and HR Operating model needs to be right and in sync

In the wake of the global pandemic, the need for organizations to be adaptable is more than ever before. What are those tenets that define adaptability? How can organizations take adaptability to the next level? What holds them back?

Alight Solutions’ recently released the fourth edition of the State of HR Transformation Study in partnership with People Matters. The theme of the study is around Emerging Stronger from the watershed year and sheds light on why some organisations are ahead of the curve. And one of the key reasons enabling these organisations is the tenet of adaptability enabling the HR function to be a guide for businesses, people, and society.

The study found that Adaptable HR functions are emerging stronger across several parameters to:

  • Lead in being digital for HR and the Business
  • Proactively enable the right shifts in the way we work
  • Reimagine the HR function as a leader for organisational change
  • Shape and deliver the right value of HR to stakeholders

 In an exclusive interaction with us, Shaswat Kumar, Asia Leader, Vice President, Alight Solutions throws light on why organizations need to relook at adaptability and how Adaptable HR can help organizations to emerge stronger. 

In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, how would you think organizations should relook at adaptability?

Adaptability stood out as a key trait behind the success of organizations’ response to the pandemic. Organizations with adaptability in their DNA were more proactive and quick in shifting to the new ways of working.  

I will make a bold statement that many more organizations have built their muscle memory around adaptability on account of the pandemic.

This brings a timely opportunity for organizations to institutionalize these into ongoing behaviors and use this discipline to drive ongoing calibration and improvement of the value which HR brings to the table. 

The Alight Solutions’ State of HR Transformation Study 2021 focused intensively on the APAC region. Where do you think organizations in the APAC region stand when it comes to adaptability?

We need to appreciate the cultural differences and how it brings about benefits. When it comes to Adaptability and its anchors, this is equally relevant for organizations globally.

Organizations in APAC, in general, have two advantages: relatively younger organizations in the region and a workforce that is highly mobile native. This makes driving organization change less onerous in the region as compared to some equivalent global peers.   

What do you think are some of the challenges organizations tend to face on the road to adaptability?

Most of the challenges are internal. The biggest challenge is the need to change past habits and do away with policies that we have treated as sacrosanct for so long.  That happens best when everyone is focused and committed to higher-order outcomes and is willing to make necessary changes. Even then it is not easy.

Organizations that recognize their current limitations and start solving things diligently do better than organizations that build big visions and gloss over reality. Most large organizations will be making this change with the same set of individuals; hence it is important to fully understand why this has not happened in the past. Without doing this soul searching and committing to the need for change, it is unlikely that the change will happen.

One of the core tenets of building an adaptable HR function as mentioned in the Alight Solutions’ State of HR Transformation Study 2021 is getting the technology right. What is your take on what organizations should focus on when making technology decisions?

I will qualify that to set the foundation; HR Technology and HR Operating model needs to be right and in sync. This allows for true digital success. When this happens, HR functions start experiencing a life not dictated by daily fires and have the time and bandwidth to do things many leaders always wanted to do. 

Our discussions with client organizations are always anchored on getting this foundation in place which helps you deliver on Experience, drive Compliance, and provide Analytics for both tracking outcomes and to drive future agenda. All of this needs to be driven by more collaborative ways of working in HR and with Business.

The report mentions that Adaptable HR functions are three times more likely to succeed in delivering closer partnership with the business through their operating model and capabilities. Could you comment on this in detail and how we can reimagine the HR function as a leader for organizational change?

I did outline what the virtuous cycle will look like in the previous question. If the foundations are not in place, HR does not have data, bandwidth, or credibility to drive organisational change.

 Having foundations of HR Technology and HR Operating model in place and working in sync is not sufficient to drive impact from HR. This requires additional effort from HR to drive better collaboration across role holders in HR, understand outcomes needed and conduct a discussion on progress with business stakeholders based on data. Ultimately, this is a discipline that needs to be an ongoing journey. 

 This period is the best time for HR to be in the driver’s seat as all organizations realize that business/ digital transformations they are executing will succeed on the back of “People and Organization” change.

With the rise in remote and hybrid working models, work technologies are gaining prevalence amongst organizations. Could you share the work technologies that are in demand and what is behind the successful adoption of these technologies?

As per our study, there is increased demand in Collaboration, Communication and Learning tools amongst others.

Like all technologies, successful adoption will get anchored on the experience that users have and the ease of use of these tools. The good news is that many of these tools are closer to business and consumer experience as compared to what is observed in other classes of tools. This will have a significant impact on other enterprise platforms as employees start comparing things. This is further exacerbated as many employees start to use other enterprise platforms through some of these Work tech tools.  We should expect to see lots of changes and rapid innovation in this space.

What will be your key piece of advice for HR functions to emerge stronger in 2021?

HR did really well in the pandemic as HR was empathetic, listened to stakeholders, and responded at speed. HR needs to do more of this, understand what will make organizations succeed in a new reality, how to recraft the people agenda in their organization, what drives alignment of individual employees to the organization goals, look at data continuously and make necessary changes. 


The State of HR Transformation 2021 is the fourth edition of the Alight Solutions’ flagship study on this subject. Click here to download the exclusive report now for detailed insights. Let’s emerge stronger together!

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Topics: Strategic HR, EmergingStronger, #AdaptableHR

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