Article (December-2018)


HR function stands strong aligned with business objectives

Chandan Chattaraj

Designation : -   President - Human Resources

Organization : -  (India & Global), Uflex Ltd., Noida


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Do you think that HRD function in organisations conceived four decades ago in India, has evolved in the right direction? If not, what are the gaps?
CC The journey of HR started as a personnel department four decades ago and today it stands as an integrated business partner. In more than 3 decades of my experience I have witnessed this transformation process and I know the journey hasn't been easy. In fact it has been really challenging - what used to be the core responsibilities of HR was gradually outsourced; many a times the entire existence of the HR function was questioned, the function assumed roles which it never thought would exist and likewise. All of these have contributed to who we are today and what we do. Today, we stand strong and brave aligned with the business objectives and contributing to it so definitely we have progressed in the right direction. But as the disruption becomes the new norm, there still is a lot of ground that needs to be covered. For the HR function to add more value, there are four areas which the function must focus upon - change management, keeping pace with technology and automation & data analytics. All of these demands developing new skills in order to keep pace with the rising expectations.
Until two decades ago, HR was taken up as a generalist function but now it has become more of a specialist function. Will it be good for the organisation as well as professionals to become as specialist of one branch only in future?
CC With many of the HR activities getting outsourced, the HR function is tending towards a specialist function. Like in the field of medical science being a specialist gives you mastery in your chosen domain like orthopedics, heart specialist, dental science etc. but in HR it doesn't mean a specialist or an SME in talent acquisition, OD or learning & development. For the HR professionals to be successful and relevant as specialists, they need to develop themselves as a 'T' shaped professional. The vertical line represents depth in the subject whereas the horizontal line represents broadening of areas of expertise. This change will definitely be of a significant value to the organizations. Less burdened with the transactional activities, the function can now broaden their horizon and focus on building expertise in the value added activities.
What could be the advantages and disadvantages of such trend?
CC Let's be very clear that in the HR space there cannot be a choice between generalist and a specialist role. With the advent of technology, operational service groups, online and mobile application solutions the function has graduated from a 'service-provider' role to an enabler and builder of talent. This has given room for HR to get deeper into business and spend its time on advising and consulting executives on people - related strategies. This encompasses the entire gamut of business-led activities such as leadership development, coaching, advising, critical thinker & problem solver, talent deployment and workforce management in the digital economy. To my mind out of 6-7 verticals of HR one needs to have a specialized knowledge of 3-4 verticals and reasonably good knowledge of other verticals so that he can be well rounded, holistic HR professional.
It is generally said that element of human is no more left in HR function and it is reduced to resources only? Is it correct? What are the dangers of such mindset?
CC If this is so, then it is recipe for a failure!! But fortunately, this is not the case with progressive organizations. Technology is one of the megatrends that are shaping the future of work in the world. It has changed life in unimaginable ways; however, it is and will always be an enabler. These technological disruptions, robots are creations of human mind. Innovations fundamentally depend on the human mind and its creativity. We need to understand and analyze the relationship between people and work and enable an environment that drives true sense of purpose and meaningful relations. While technology is adding value to the human lives and making the human experience richer, as business and HR leaders we need to be mindful of the human implications of our decisions.
In this era of technology advancement, How HR professionals can keep them strongly connected with people without sacrificing the potential and advantages of technology in HRD function.
CC Rapid changes in technology have affected businesses in an uncountable way. Today, the strength of a company is measured based on the level of technology that is implemented. HR dilemma no longer lies solely between cost savings and value addition. HR's concerns now revolve around the changing nature of the organization and employees becoming increasingly digital and influenced by digital mega trends, emergence of a new set of digitally skilled employees and business models under stress from digital disruption.
HR needs to be more pre-emptive with regard to digital transformation as it plays a crucial role in shaping the organization's digital identity. It is a challenge and a real complexity to plan future capabilities of a workforce in the digital economy; as is the ability to integrate the right people into a dynamic organizational context and help existing employees and leaders gain new digital competencies to be able to drive transformation.
Managing the digital transformation will affect which organizations will survive and which will not in the era of the digitization rush. Hence, every pillar in an organization is expected to play its role to contribute to a successful journey. This point of view provides a step-by-step approach to enable organizations from the inside to cope with the digital transformation. However, agility and scalability are key as a state-of-the-art digital organization is one that continuously revamps its internal capabilities. HR functions have a vital and critical responsibility to lead the change and translate strategic objectives into competencies that are constantly revived to keep up with business challenges and market trends.
Do you also agree that HR function is going to extinct in near future? If so, What HR professionals should do to keep them relevant in business world?
CC Many changes are taking place in business and society in general. With the advances of technology and moving towards robotics, there are likely to be less employees and particularly less managers and supervisors as much of their past role will be eliminated. It will vary greatly, depending on the size and type of organization, but it will be a lot different. It is time wherein HR has two pathways, first is to go with the flow and see where that leads us or reposition HR now so we are ready and adaptable to business needs as they change. In order to stay relevant in the business world, HR needs to be supremely flexible and structure its various functions as simply as possible, almost like modules that holistically are integrated but separable at the same time. HR must intertwine itself into the fabric of a company, and refuse to sit on the outside looking in. To stay relevant in the 21st century business, HR leaders must work in partnership with the CTO/CIO to understand what it takes to enable a seamless employee journey through all HR processes. What business priorities does HR need to support revenue growth, new strategic focus, talent acquisition, talent management etc. and how will automation, analytics and AI help to deliver them.
Do you think that industrial relations function is separate from HRD and they are not intertwined? How both functions can supplement each other for employees' holistic development?
CC They are completely intertwined; IR is an integral part of whole gamut of HRD essentially as it is an important aspect of whole employee lifecycle. By definition itself, industrial relations encompasses all the process through which employer and employee relationships are expressed though the core part of IR is aspects like grievance handling, collective bargaining, dispute settlement etc. However, to my mind IR is not only reactionary, it has a very important role in employee lifecycle right from the start that is to see if we do the IR part proactively we may not require to do any grievance or dispute handling. I have been a first-hand witness to the journey of HR from the day when it used to be dominated by LWIR to today's day when it has become a strategic business embedded function, but I have a strong conviction that like in any other function or process the basics in HR function also will always remain of critical importance as they will be bedrock for all other evolutionary things. Similarly, for HR-IR or ER (as we call it now) is the bedrock on which all other HR processes rests like PMS, engagement, development, strategy etc.