The need for transformation is now important than ever- but the greatest risk is knowing what to do but not doing anything. We all go through personal transformations in our lives. It may be a career change, health and fitness overhaul, or the kind of transformation which happens on becoming a parent for the first time. In these cases, circumstances force us to change our entire perspectives on life.
Given the economy’s volatility and uncertainty, the pace, scale, and complexity of organizational change initiatives continue to escalate in organizations around the globe. Indian economy is at its decade low growth rate, but the Indian CEOs have continued to be optimistic about its growth. However, they have voiced concerns about the VUCA times we are operating on. This unprecedented global business dynamics has put HR in the hot seat which makes it imperative for the function to adapt itself to be able to deal with internal and external challenges.
In 2012, Uflex embarked on this journey of HR Transformation, and we have been able to cover a considerable ground forward. We have overcome the initial challenge of acceptance by businesses and functional leaders. Based upon my experience as an HR professional, I can list out a few imperatives for the HR professionals.
- Powering the growth agenda: This requires moving beyond talent management. HR is staring at an incredible opportunity to increase its impact on organizational performance and become a true strategic partner by contributing to the work design challenges that enable growth. This is an important focus for HR, because talent management is inextricably linked to organization and work systems design, in a way that each constrains the other. Also, through this, HR multiplies its influence on both people and business performance.
- Facilitating the cultural shift: Business dynamics are changing at a faster pace. The HR function must be flexible enough to cut through the layers of complexities, and partner the business by managing people and change. For example- HR must predict and manage the impact of the four generations in the workplace, especially in terms of recruiting, building teams, dealing with change and motivating employees. With global operations -- including Kentucky (US), Egypt, Poland, Dubai, Mexico -- Uflex’s geographic expansion remains a top priority of the CEOs along with developing new growth strategies and a stronger customer focus. Our CEOs take pride in mentioning that HR has done a good job working as a partner during the last few years. This sets the bar high when they expect us to couple our HR skills with a much deeper understanding of the business.
- Championing operational efficiencies: What I have observed over the years is, ‘transformations’ are exercises in technology implementation, outsourcing and process efficiency. The problem with creating an efficient HR organization is, today’s business leaders need something different. The changing global business market requires HR professionals to deliver a different array of services. For example, at Uflex, we have implemented operational excellence programs across businesses with the help of a cross functional team known as ‘Sankalp’. It aims at improving operational efficiencies through quality tools at our businesses. The senior leadership team and the employees across the hierarchies collaborate together on this to bring about improvements.
- Securing the leadership pipeline: Uflex employs more than 8,000 employees across globe. With this large workforce, I must mention that the attrition at the top level is almost negligible. We have a variety of talent development programs designed to meet the needs of the businesses and our people. Such planned interventions are important to ensure retention at the top level and also develop the next line of leaders who are adequately prepared to handle VUCA.
- Values: HR is the keeper of strong ethical culture, and nothing is more important to ethics than culture. HR provides the vital link between the organization and the individual by virtue of being the custodian of processes that create an ethical culture. The processes must focus on orienting the employees on the expected behavior followed by assessing and rewarding the same.
One question I keep asking my team is, ‘are we agile enough to keep pace with this ever changing dynamics, and live up to the high expectations of our business leaders?’ It’s time that HR breaks the conventional shell it has been stuck for too long. There are no simple solutions, no generic approaches or best practices that will suddenly enable the HR function to become more effective and respected. When it comes to managing expectations in changing times, HR needs to focus on identifying ways of adding value to the rest of the business and proactively meeting the needs of its customers, thus becoming an ally of their CEOs.