Article: Disrupt before you get disrupted: Director HR - Times Group

Talent Management

Disrupt before you get disrupted: Director HR - Times Group

Digital technologies have transformed the media industry and the future will propel HR to craft the most relevant people agenda for the enterprise aligned to the strategic business priorities. Amit Das, Director - HR & CHRO, Bennett Coleman Co. Ltd. (Times Group), shares the disruptions observed in the media industry this year and how talent leaders can prepare for 2020.
Disrupt before you get disrupted: Director HR - Times Group

Digital technologies have transformed the media industries for better and for worse, but how can journalists win the battles against layoffs, consumer choices, and stress? Collective action and the reaffirmation of journalistic skills provide a big part of the answer.

In this interview with Amit Das, Director - HR & CHRO, Bennett Coleman Co. Ltd. (Times Group), we rewind the learnings from 2019 in the media industry to craft a better talent strategy for 2020.

What were the business challenges and opportunities for Media in 2019?

In today’s VUCA world, disruption is the new status quo for all industries, with media being no exception. New business models are emerging, digital is creating a significant presence and every business has been feeling the warmth, leading to uncertainty around well-established ecosystems. Above all, consumers have been spoilt for “choice”, and hence they are demanding greater personalization, convenience and value for money.

The influx of data and technology usage has opened the doors for issues on cyber security. Media companies are compelled to prioritize and plan cyber security to not only protect their customers’ data and assets but make continuous efforts to maintain that focus consistently. Given the market and escalations in cost of operations like creating unique content (newsprint in our case), there has also been a significant stretch in margins & profits in the last couple of quarters. This has led the media industry to look for strategic expense reduction that not only delivers short-term results but also long-term efficiencies.  

We, as a business group, are now at an inflexion point in our storied history. Never has the market landscape seen as dramatic a change as we are seeing today. Every business – Print, TV, Radio, is seeing a rapid disruption in their respective markets driven by digital. Fundamental consumer behaviors are changing, as consumers spend more and more time in the digital world. Competitive landscape is changing, as global giants are competing in all digital media businesses (advertising, music, video, etc). The incremental approaches to organizational transformation are unlikely to keep pace with today’s rate of change. Hence, bold and authentic leadership blended with an agile mindset becomes the “need of the hour”.

Please give us an overview of the overall talent landscape - jobs, skilling, etc. in the media industry.

We are at a critical intersection of people, business and technology. New roles are being created as the business landscape evolves, new technologies are emerging thus giving rise to new generations of candidates. These candidates may come with unique needs and look for a unique way of being served in terms of speed & experience. 

At BCCL, we have a multi-generational workforce engaged with us who have unique needs to be served differently. What will thus, differentiate an organization, will be the ability to provide a sense of purpose, positive genuine experiences which are customized yet scalable. 

From an organization perspective, one thing that will certainly change as we progress towards a more digital world will be the rules of fighting the “war for right talent”. Digitally progressive organizations will have their digital strategy at the core while designing their business strategy, hence the entire talent strategy framework including hiring right talent, enabling performance, developing digital capabilities and driving innovation, will undergo a complete change. While this seems easy on paper, this will involve structural, skill and process re-design as there would be a paradigm shift from rigid hierarchies to a networked organization, fixed skill sets to more adaptable & flexible and more importantly collaboration of individuals cutting across processes/functions. Hence, our ability to be agile, consume data & research, and use integrated media to discover the story behind the story will be the primary focus. This, along with the ability to present data with in-depth analysis, will be an integral part of the differentiator to disruption strategy. Additionally, competencies like client solutions, creativity, and tolerance to ambiguity, managing uncertainty and design thinking will become quintessential for every media professional to steer through the fast-changing media landscape.

What were the key steps BCCL took in 2019 for its employees and how have these benefited them?

In today’s environment, it is extremely important for us to not only adopt an agile mindset but more importantly, break free from legacy structures and ways of working. Hence, it is important that we consistently adapt and engage within the “tribe” to assess and align to the business needs; form the right teams with the right skill sets with clear focus on the objectives at hand. Keeping this in mind, some of the key steps taken by us as a part of our focus areas are:

  • Build a robust talent and leadership pipeline
  • Leverage technology to drive employee experience & productivity 
  • Create a robust communication strategy to drive employee alignment with organization’s imperatives 
  • Integrate a design thinking mindset throughout the organization
  • Work on futuristic capability building - client solutioning, integrated digital competency and business acumen 
  • These were enabled through:
  • Collaborating with the business, setting expectations and delivering
  • Building on our past learnings, strengths and capabilities to create an organization for the future
  • Being responsive and accountable for each interaction
  • Thinking and analyzing every situation differently, with speed 
  • Ensuring organization resource optimization to enhance organizational productivity
  • Keeping compassion as the foundation of each interaction enabled by our core values

Some of the interventions which are in line with our business priorities are:

Managing top talent

With the ever-changing workplace scenarios, it became imperative to consciously invest disproportionately in a robust program that not only identified talent but also safeguarded the talent pipeline. This was further heightened by increased macroeconomic pressures characterizing the industry. It became critical to elevate core competencies of high potential employees – today, who will become leaders in charge – tomorrow. A first-of-its-kind internal talent build program in the media industry, our Top-Gun program aims to identify high potential employees within the company, and then make disproportionate investment in their development journey for a fast track career growth. 

Employee well-being

We launched programs to ensure that individuals were educated & aware from a preventive healthcare perspective and enhanced preparedness to address any medical emergency at the workplace and beyond. One of our initiatives, Red Button - a 24x7 medical emergency service, for the employee and their family ensured 24x7 medical emergency support and enabled a quick “on demand” ambulance service for hospitalization within the shortest possible time at the click of a button on their cell-phones. Utilized by our employees for themselves and their families, the initiative aims to bring down the “stress factor” for every employee during such unforeseen emergency. 

Connect with purpose

Purpose and meaning are extremely important in today’s environment, especially when it comes to the millennials. We leveraged technology & provided an online platform to our employees, which aggregates a list of opportunities of making a positive societal impact. This platform provides a customized solution for an individual basis pivots like preference of social cause and location. Moreover, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Machine Learning (ML) powered back-end continuously learns the user behavior and customizes the experience for the user. The result was significant, and we saw a 300 percent increase in unique volunteers and a 152 percent increase in volunteering hours in one quarter. 

How will the role of HR change in the future?

Having established its presence in partnering with the business, HR has been continuously evolving over the last few decades. With rapid digitization and a multi-generational workforce, HR will proactively have to work towards creating an agile organization to help organizations win the “war for right talent”, achieve business goals and drive steady change. Most importantly, Corporate Purpose has emerged as one of the top-most priority for businesses and HR is tasked with enabling this change to “shape the conscience” of business.

With increased focus on employee experience and engagement, HR leaders are compelled to adopt time-tested marketing principles of customer analytics and engagement to attract top talent, improve retention and also create customized/personalized experiences and engagement models across the various lifecycle touchpoints. HR will drive this change by leveraging technology that will help them create these customized/personalized employee experiences, right from onboarding to exit and beyond as Brand Ambassadors. Additionally, as we move forward in this journey, technology will leverage abundance of data sets to create sharper insights for creating value for the enterprise. 

How can one leverage technology to enhance employee experience?

Technology can either automate our current ways of working or it can transform the way we work. This would entail substantial enhancement of employee productivity and customized micro experiences for our employees at every lifecycle touchpoint.

Recruitment and onboarding: 

Technology has lifted the barrier of location-based recruiting and video & mobile interviews have changed the way recruiters conduct interviews and communicate with candidates. With recruitment aggregators on the rise, organizations will now be able to leverage the intelligence of the crowd. Automated onboarding processes for all joining formalities, documentation, background verification reduce the wastage of time and can be effectively used for connecting, conversing and building a good employee experience. Moreover, employers can connect with employees before even joining, through gamified platforms, which can provide them with a flavor of the organization and create a deeper bond.

Development:

Today, hyper-customization to cater to a multi-generational workforce with a distinct set of aspirations is of prime importance. Simultaneously, aligning and managing these aspirations with the ever-changing demands of the organization leading to continuous learning & development is the only way forward. Leveraging the right technology to ensure continuous availability of resources should continue to be the key focus. Moreover, availability of these resources which allows employees to learn at their pace and space will provide a customized experience to him/her. Also, organizations can leverage techniques like gamification to boost participation rates in eLearning courses and increase employee motivation.

Engagement:

Technology will also enable in the creation of deeper employee connect and customized engagement approach resulting in a delightful experience for today’s discerning workforce at every lifecycle touchpoint. AI based chatbots improve workplace productivity & engagement by providing an intuitive and seamless conversational interface which also alleviates app fatigue. Moreover, AI based platforms can also be leveraged to connect employees with their purpose, through their jobs.

What is your advice to HR leaders in the media industry for 2020?

As the global war for the right talent intensifies, it will compel business leaders to reflect and demand better visibility of a robust talent pipeline to ensure business continuity and success. This will also propel HR to craft the most relevant people agenda for the enterprise, aligned to the strategic business priorities. While this can be perceived as a challenge for the business, where VUCA has become the ‘new normal’, I see it as an opportunity to drive and enhance the innovation quotient and enable business value creation. 

You need to be a value creator and not merely an enabler. This essentially means that there is a defined “membership and meaning” to every interaction we have with the business. This translates to “ownership and responsiveness” of each interaction, with equal accountability in decision making. Additionally, you need to co-create new rules of engagement at the workplace, driven by hyper-personalization of multi-pronged engagement initiatives.  

It will purely be a “Game of Disruption” whereby you must be a disruptor, before you get disrupted. This would compel you to become a change enabler instead of a change manager in the organization and build an agile and anti-fragile HR with the right digital mindset.

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Topics: Talent Management, #Rewind2019

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