Niketh Sundar, Global Head, People Function, QuEST Global believes that the days are not too far when HR folks will start contributing to multiple companies, while not being employed permanently at any of them.
With technology as an ally and the rise of short-term contracts or freelance work, the HR role is sure to evolve and its scope is also expected to increase. In a recent interaction with People Matters, Sundar discussed how the role of HR is changing and shared his vision of the future of work and role of next-gen technology in redefining the HR function.
Here are some excerpts from the interaction:
How has the role of HR evolved over the past decade, especially in the APAC region?
In APAC and particularly in India, there has been tremendous growth in the tech industry – primarily in the services sector and product sector to some extent. In the process, HR also went through a massive transformation. In the tech industry, HR was required to induct, manage and retain large numbers of people, skilled in technology and this made them think beyond the ordinary.
HR leaders in India who earlier looked up to the west to adopt best practices for their region, now were at the forefront of innovation in HR. With the changes in the business and multi-pronged growth approaches, for companies like QuEST Global, many processes, such as, HR operations, talent management and succession planning have evolved.
With growing emphasis on M&A and Integration, there are several opportunities to implement new strategies and practices, supported by robust systems and tools. HR has an important role to play as business leaders of the organization; the role of HR is becoming more strategic.
How has automation in HR impacted managing talent in your industry? Is it a challenge or an opportunity?
While automation has been present in the HR system for many years now, the level of automation has changed considerably. Starting from punch cards of yesteryears, to where we are today, there’s been a huge transformation.
Today the HR function is probably at the forefront of adopting technologies in organizations.
Since the HR function is all about people, technology adoption that will increase efficiency and improve employee experience, even in small ways, is always welcome. Additionally, HR has the ability to experiment with smaller pieces of technology, pilot it and then institutionalize it.
Human Resource Management Systems (HRMS) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems brought in some of the most crucial transformations in the HR domain. With these systems emerging, entire businesses from finance to HR, could be all managed with a single ERP or multiple systems. Cloud computing has brought in even more flexibility to bolt-on the right modules. With more modern technologies under the fold, there's even a larger transformation on the cards. Today, automation can be seen across the HR lifecycle, right from the process of searching and reaching out to prospective candidates, scheduling interviews, background checks to on-boarding, etc.
Next-gen technology will be playing a disruptive role in the HR domain in the coming days. Along with automation, technology is playing an impressive role in Employee Performance Management Systems (EPMS). Tech-enabled EPMS are getting customized for organizations so that their competency models can be fed into them and performance can be combined with training and development. Learning management systems are plenty today with e-learning being the backbone of all the learning methodologies. Now content can be created internally or bought off the shelves in packages – or as use-and pay.
The technologies in Learning & Development for instance, are fully customizable for individual learners based on AI. Today, tools are able to pre-empt what the learner is looking for and push it to the learner. So yes, automation is a massive opportunity for the HR industry.
The focus would be to provide positive, engaging experiences to employees, while optimizing processes, and helping organizations to achieve their vision of being boundary less.
How do you envision the future of work and role of next-gen technology in redefining the role of HR?
Technology, in itself, is changing the way we work and will be the primary factor driving change in the future. With the emergence of high speed internet and connectivity, we are going to have a very flexible workforce in the coming days. The labor market will most likely see a huge prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs.
The days are not too far when HR folks will start contributing to multiple companies, while not being employed permanently at any of them.
Work from home is already a norm at many enterprises, contractual workers are on the rise and the future will also see the older generation contributing to the workforce. In other words, this will help organizations bring in the concept of a diverse, shared workforce within their teams for better productivity and efficiency.
Along with the way people work, technology will also change organizational structures. Organizations will probably become flatter in nature with very less hierarchies. Information flow will be seamless across all levels and in turn, the paradigm of leadership will also shift. With the availability of data and an empowered workforce, decisions will be data driven and AI enabled, even from employees at the lower levels. Rather than being responsible for decision making, leaders will have to differentiate themselves on human and emotional indices like empathy and the ability to motivate their people. Coaching and mentoring could play an even bigger role in the future.
How should HR leaders upskill themselves to become future-ready?
The HR domain will have to be closer than ever to the business to make sure they are aligned to the objectives and function accordingly. HR leaders should be open to adopting newer technologies and understand them better to stay relevant in future. As most of the HR tools in the future will be on smartphones and other gadgets, HR leaders have to be conversant with understanding these systems and leveraging data to function more effectively. In terms of up-skilling, there are lots of e-learning courses available out there. However, just these courses will not be enough and HR leaders will have to apply these learnings in their day-to-day work to be future-ready. They will also have to make sure that the systems and tools are well integrated so that data collection and analytics is seamless.
Hence, larger organizations will have to have an HR tech leader working to use data and analytics across functions such as performance assessment, engagement, retention, etc.
Going forward, what do you think will be YOUR #NextCurve as an HR professional? What are some roles that you envision HR professionals to be doing more in the future?
Going forward, HR leaders will have to transform the way they think and look at themselves as Business Leaders and own the HR function.
In the future, particularly in the tech services industry, HR managers will need to work even more closely with business managers. With more and more data available, they will be applying analytics to take business partnerships to the next level. As the transactional side of the HR function will be tech driven, HR leaders will have the bandwidth to analyze data to understand and demonstrate how the people function could be leveraged to generate more revenue and profits for the organization. The HR domain will be able to provide much deeper insights to the organization in the future and that journey has already begun.