In today's talent marketplace, the concept of career progression is evolving significantly. Traditional linear career paths are being replaced by more agile and non-linear trajectories. The emphasis is on acquiring skills rather than job titles or tenure as employees seek diverse experiences, continuous learning opportunities, and greater flexibility in their careers.
As the people and workspace continues to be disrupted and new in-demand skills emerge, how can companies increase competency to leverage their workforce talent and can digitising HR as a function truly help companies transform and become future-fit? To explore the driving values of a skills-based organisation and how people strategies can be crafted amidst macro socio-economic trends, changing employer-employee relations, People Matters in partnership with Mercer hosted a series of exclusive Chief People Officer Roundtable in-person meets with a select group of HR leaders.
The three roundtables in Gurugram, Bangalore and Mumbai witnessed the presence of 45+ senior HR leaders across industries and global leaders Ilya Bonic, President, Career and Head of Mercer Strategy, Jason Averbook, Senior Partner and Global Leader, Digital HR Strategy, Mercer and Puneet Swani, Career Business Leader - AMEA & Pacific at Mercer. The Mercer global leadership was also joined by Arvind Laddha, President, Mercer India.
Here are some highlights from the three roundtables.
Skills-based organisations are the winning force in the future of work
Leading the conversation on ‘Unlocking the power and potential of your workforce through Skills and Talent Marketplaces,’ Ilya emphasised on the growing importance of a skills-based organisation, powered by a talent marketplace, and its multiple facets like diversity, equity & inclusion, skills acquisition, performance outcomes, work-life balance and wellbeing. But what do organisations need to achieve this utopian dream?
“Organisations must acknowledge three things: macro trends, socio-economic trends and employer-employee perspectives. It’s becoming essential for employers to reinvent how they work while employees increasingly seek sustainable and flexible careers,” Ilya said in his opening speech at the Mumbai roundtable, last of the three-city series.
The world of work indeed witnesses greater flexibility enabled by skills. The more granular organisations get when outlining their skill needs, the greater the opportunities for flexibility. Ultimately, skills and flexibility are enabled by technology, Ilya added. Babita Basak, Head HR, Edelweiss Financial Services Ltd also expressed the need to create purpose as we build new skills. “We must couple purposes with skill requirements. As leaders, we have to curate strategies to drive that motivation to learn,” she said.
Manoj Shikarkhane, CHRO, LTI Mindtree who was part of the group of leaders at the Mumbai roundtable shared his views and the impact skill clusters had in their organisational journey. “Just before the pandemic in March 2020, we launched a career progression framework (CPF). This was carried out by creating skill clusters across the organisation that defined the competency as well as proficiency of skill sets. Currently, we have 60-65 skill clusters comprising 30,000+ people. We’re also planning on linking compensation and benefits policies to this.”
Embracing a digital mindset is the cornerstone for success
As senior leaders debated on how unlearning and relearning was key to develop the right skills, Jason initiated the conversation on why we need to shift from doing technology projects to being digital. He highlighted how most organisations, despite using the latest technology, are still not digital.
“Digital is not equivalent to technology. A digital mindset is what’s needed in an organisation when leading technology interventions. This begins with first understanding the digital quotient or proficiency of your workforce. Additionally, the mindset of HR must change,” Jason said while moderating the group discussion on ‘Digitising HR function to become future-fit.’ On the growing digital mindset, Surender Mehta, CHRO, Nykaa also shared his thoughts during the moderated discussion: “Hyper-growth companies have very little time to emphasise on the process. They need to learn, unlearn and move forward at speed with a digital mindset.”
However, there are four keywords as we shift from simply doing technological projects to being digital: Strategy, activation, deployment, sustainability. These are critical from an innovation standpoint as well. An organisation must always have clarity on who they are designing the digital processes for.
“From a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), there needs to be a shift to Minimum Lovable Product (MLP). Every technology implementation should excite your workforce, they must be keen on using them, it should add value to their workflows,” felt Jason.
“Organisations tend to have 15 percent structured data and 85 percent unstructured data. However, data fitness is the key to being good at digital. Clean, healthy data lends credibility. One can also link it to career growth opportunities in the organisation. Good data also helps us in personalisation and shift, from a search era to an answer era. It is bound to lend a competitive edge, and differentiate between performing and great organisations,” he observed.
Enabling career growth journeys to sustain business growth
Every professional looks for organisations that offer them room to elevate their skillets and advance in their careers. Employers also benefit from this because they cultivate a workforce that is engaged, motivated and driven to push the limits in achieving the larger business goals. Inevitably, implementing an impactful performance, rewards and career progression framework will be critical to this endeavour.
Delving deeper into this, Krishna Raghavan, Chief People Officer, Flipkart shared his views. “At Flipkart, we lay emphasis on the need to connect the dots and establish a stronger equation between individual efforts and returns. Traditionally, Flipkart has been an organisation focused on vertical progression, with employees being promoted every two and a half to three years. However, the aim is to introduce a career lattice system, which is a new experience for the company. Project-based assignments with outcomes and duration typically being less than a year. The ongoing discussion within the company is about finding the right balance between recognising cross-functional roles and explicitly quantifying the impact of such roles on career progression and evaluation.”
Strengthening leadership roles to drive the company vision
Technology is the fuel to achieve our purpose and transform the organisation. But as we witness growing demand for digital skills, one has to ensure that change management comes with a change mindset, and strategies must be developed by leaders even before we go live with a tool. Ultimately, “Digital HR must be owned by HR,” felt Jason.
Joshita Tandon, Head - HR, DE&I, People Analytics, SRF Limited held the view that organisations need to relook at leadership competencies. "Today, the textbook methods don't always apply. We have moved to hyper personalisation," she said, emphasising HR leaders need to cater to people as individuals. There is also increasing focus on recognising the value of business leaders and even middle managers to drive the future of businesses, while implementing people-centric strategies.
“The changes happening in the market also create the need to assess whether the current leadership and strategies are suitable for the future. The need to evaluate the effectiveness of current approaches for mid-level managers and leadership and to understand whether the strategies that brought success in the past will still be applicable in the future. To address this, at Bosch, the emphasis is on cultivating talent and bringing in business leaders who can envision the future of different business segments, utilising design thinking and problem-solving skills,” said Suresh B R, Country Head HR, Bosch Limited, India who was present at the Bangalore edition of the roundtable.
Talking on the evolving role of leadership, Shuchika Sahay, CHRO, Firstsource also shared her views: “We witnessed productivity loss during Covid-19 because people’s values and expectations changed. Today, traditional processes and legacy structures are getting obsolete and there is displacement of skills.” Prachi Jain, Head HR, Macquarie Global also brought up the importance of people-centred transformation considering: “We have 5 generations now at the workplace.” Leadership undoubtedly needs to be prepared for a disruptive future by emphasising on future-ready upskilling with a personalisation lens.
In conclusion, winning in the future of work is the goal of every organisation but having the right strategies will be the key differentiating factor when building high-performing enterprises. Through these insightful conversations which saw the participation of many industry leaders and senior HR practitioners, we now have a lot of learnings in our toolkit.
As the future of work lays the greatest emphasis on skills-based organisations, employers should reinvent their talent strategies to create sustainable and flexible careers. While technology is the fuel to achieve organisational transformation, data fitness and a shift in the HR mindset will be key. Digital transformation opens up the doors to continued success, but this is attained only when people-centric policies are launched by future-forward leaders.
(With contributions from Asmaani Kumar, Pallavi Verma and Jerry Moses, People Matters)