Article: AI should complement and not replace human interaction: Amarpreet's advice on leveraging AI and building more impactful learning programs

Strategic HR

AI should complement and not replace human interaction: Amarpreet's advice on leveraging AI and building more impactful learning programs

Amarpreet Kaur Ahuja, Country Head - HR, AstraZeneca India shares her vision of leveraging AI to create better learning outcomes and unpacks other trends crucial for 2024
AI should complement and not replace human interaction: Amarpreet's advice on leveraging AI and building more impactful learning programs

As 2024 shapes to be another crucial year where companies scale their learning and upskilling efforts and embeding newer technolgies, we sit with Amarpreet Kaur Ahuja, Country Head - HR, AstraZeneca India, to explore how HR leaders can unlock employee productivity this year.  Our conversation spans critical skills considerations and learning can become more impactful for business performance through AI.

Here are a few snippets from our conversation

How do you see 2024 being a pivotal year for HR leaders across the board in enabling business success by investing in creating the right skills? What should be the top three areas within L&D for them to focus on this year?

2024 is a pivotal juncture for HR leaders. We are witnessing converging trends and shifting talent expectations, especially in the past few years. In the current landscape, the role of HR is redefined and becomes more critical, aligning talent strategy with overall business goals and driving organisational success. The ability to strategize, adapt, and embrace new technologies and trends will be crucial for HR leaders to navigate this pivotal year and drive success for their organisations.

In 2024, our top three focus areas with L&D would be:

Future-Proofing Talent: The current pace of technological advancement and market disruption demands future-proofing our workforce. At AstraZeneca, the convergence of digital technologies with health is already starting to transform how we develop and deliver life-changing medicines to patients. This calls for a culture of continuous learning, equipping employees with digital fluency, data analytics skills, and the ability to embrace AI.

Nurturing Agility and Innovation: In today's dynamic environment, we need agile individuals and teams who can thrive in uncertainty. We are constantly thinking about ways to improve the experience of patients and site teams, and how we can use data, digital and AI to improve patient outcomes and health equity. The scope of L&D must go beyond traditional training to foster curiosity, experimentation, and problem-solving skills. This aligns perfectly with AstraZeneca's core values and drives innovations that truly improve lives.

Closing the Skills Gap: The "skills gap" is a global challenge that must be proactively addressed. AstraZeneca India is committed to partnering with academia and vocational centres to identify critical skill gaps, especially in STEM fields and emerging technologies relevant to healthcare. We recognize the importance of collaborative partnerships to address industry needs and build a robust healthcare ecosystem.

Building the right skills and capabilities is necessary to stay ahead of the curve. From an HR skills standpoint, what challenges do you arise in 2024 that will lead to HR upskilling? What are your and your team’s skilling priorities this year?

We believe that by investing in the right skills, we can ensure AstraZeneca India remains at the forefront of healthcare innovation, delivering transformative medicines and shaping a healthier future for all.

For my team, upskilling priorities for 2024 and beyond are shaped by the evolving landscape of business and work, technological advancements, and the increasing emphasis on strategic human resource management. This year, we will be focussing on developing skills to manage organisational change effectively, including communication strategies, stakeholder engagement, and managing resistance to change.

Our focus on strategic workforce planning will continue, identifying skill gaps and developing strategies to attract, retain and develop talent in alignment with organisational goals. With digital technologies transforming functions across industries, we will invest in understanding the proficiency of HR technologies better, further leverage data analytics tools to make data-driven HR decisions, predict trends, and measure the impact of HR initiatives on organisational performance.

How do you see the role of AI impacting the HR function and how it creates more impactful initiatives? What are the necessary ingredients to balancing the HR tech to human intervention equation?

According to a report on the “State of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Human Resource Management”, 45% of global human resource management (HRM) leaders are incorporating AI for HRM as of 2023. However, the integration of AI in HR functions still remains at a nascent stage in India.

The power and potential of AI in simplifying HR functions is immense. By automating repetitive tasks such as data entry and leave management, we are freeing up our HR professionals to focus on strategic initiatives focusing on talent development, coaching, and creating positive employee experiences. This way, valuable time and expertise can be dedicated to what truly matters – people. AI can also be leveraged to create customised learning paths and personalised career development plans based on individual needs, skills, and career aspirations. With an analysis of the workforce data, AI can anticipate talent trends, predict potential issues like retention risks, and identify high-performing individuals. This proactive approach allows us to make informed decisions and invest in our talent strategically.

These are just a few examples of the kind of impact that AI can create. However, while AI offers immense potential, it cannot replace human touch. To have the right balance of tech and human intervention, AI should complement and not replace human interaction. The HR team’s primary focus must remain on building trust, empathy, and personalised communication through mentorship, coaching, and open communication channels. Employees should feel valued and have easy access to human intervention whenever required. HR teams must be equipped with the necessary skills to manage AI effectively and interpret data. Always ensure human judgement stays at the core of critical decisions. Skilled HR professionals can better understand and advocate for employee needs.

Amidst all these shifts that have impacted the HR function, how do you see the role of building the right leaders evolve in 2024? How have you approached leadership building at AstraZeneca and what are areas that you think leaders need to deliver in 2024 more than they have done in the past?

In a rapidly evolving industry like ours, leaders are required to deliver more than they have in the past, adapting to new challenges and opportunities that are shaping the future of healthcare.

Leaders must foster a culture of innovation with a sense of strategic agility - the ability to innovate and quickly adapt to changes in the healthcare landscape, including regulatory changes, market dynamics, and healthcare policies. They must be able to pivot strategies swiftly in response to these changes while maintaining a clear vision for the company's future. Patient centricity is the mantra- we have to shift the focus from product-centric to patient-centric approaches. This involves understanding patient needs deeply, improving patient outcomes, and enhancing the patient experience through personalised medicine and patient support programs. We must also be equipped to set up scalable processes and systems beforehand in anticipation of the point of growth.

Acknowledging the environmental impact of our operations as well as supply chains and prioritising sustainability is a need of the hour. We must lead with a strong ethical compass and invest heavily in talent development programs to build a robust leadership pipeline. This will ensure that the organisation has the skills and capabilities needed to navigate the dynamic future of the pharmaceutical industry.

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Topics: Strategic HR, Learning & Development

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