Article (December-2018)


HR function still have long way to go

Nadeem Kazim

Designation : -   CHRO

Organization : -  TIL Limited (Tractors India), Kolkata


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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?
NK Human Resource has come a long way from a function that traditionally dealt with welfare, compliance, Industrial Relations and employee life cycle to a strategic function. In India it has transitioned from being a Support Function to a Strategic Partner and eventually a Business Integrator. HR is now no longer termed as a Cost Centre but as a Profit Contributor to the bottom line of the business. Increased free market competition at a global level and the proliferation of technology and knowledge based industries raised the importance of human resources, and from an obscure role, human resource management rose to become the most critical function of an enterprise. The workforce which was considered as "resource" now has become "the very source to the business". The thrust of HRM now lies in unleashing human potential to create a winning organisation.  We, however, as a nation and HR function still have long way to go. HR in the changing world needs to drive optimal usage of technology & social media to innovate and challenge the traditional ways of doing things. Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics shall redefine in coming years the new HR Skills and paradigm shift in bringing HR efficiency to help organizations achieve ever changing People Agenda.
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?
NK Today the HR function is expected to be a centre of excellence, which houses the HR experts who establish best practises in compensation and benefits, career development, learning and development, talent management, building leadership pipeline and other strategic HR process. They are the think tank who helps to build a sustainable organization and HR capabilities. On the other hand, the HR business partners help to implement these modules across levels and locations so that the entire workforce is aligned with people processes in the organisation.  The HR today needs to understand the external market dynamics and comprehend why a customer buys the product and services at a premium to ensure such capabilities are strengthened in the organisation. HR also needs to evaluate the competition to bring in superior people and business processes to be ahead of competition. HR must know the company financials to add value to the business. HR has a critical role to integrate business drivers for superior performance. These are the only way HR can be a business partner adding value to the organisation.
What could be the advantages and disadvantages of such trend?
NK The job profile of HR generalist ensures job diversity. Generalist profiles are considered to be exciting as they tend to have a more versatile, flexible skill sets and can be deployed across different HR disciplines. They are required to partner with the business and the line functions. On the other hand, a Specialist's role is of an expert and think tank to bring in HR best practices. They are considered as an expert in a specific HR area and are required to exhibit a strong knowledge of the respective domain and keen attention to details. In my opinion, any organization would require an HR specialist as well as a Generalist to meet and exceed the organisational people agenda.
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?
NK The HR function came into the corporate world to deal with a complex subject - Human Beings and take up a people advocacy role. In India, it got a statute requirement under the Welfare Officers' scheme in the Factories Act. With the passage of time and changing needs of the business stakeholders, the role of an HR has transformed into a Business Integrator with a human touch.
Regardless of the size of your organization, the human element matters. Employees need to feel valued and included, and when they do so, their performance improves automatically as a result.
For illustrations, in HR areas like recruitment and on boarding, unpleasant outcomes can arise if human touch is lost completely. Can technologically enabled on boarding make up for the warmth involved in every first few face-to-face interaction with the newly appointed employee? Definitely no! That is why technology is applied as an enabler and not a replacement to the human element in HR processes. Today there are many companies aiming at generating larger revenue with lesser employees by automating their HR processes but what's important to recognise is that an organization depending completely on technology should keep a close watch on the HUMAN TOUCH.
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.
NK In the pursuit of making technology an integral part of HR and digitizing the HR process, it is essential to create enough platforms of employee dialogue and engagement. I have seen that in this tech-savvy digital business era, employees' expectation from HR is to take care of their aspirations, well-being and development in the organization. HRMS gives HR department the leverage to invest quality time in their human capital, with the rising expectations and unprecedented changes due to the digitally disruptive landscape. HR professionals must ensure that they keep the communication channels with the workforce fluidic and open rather than completely digitizing it. I strongly feel that technology should free up time of HR professionals from their transactional roles which can be gainfully redeployed in employee engagement activity making the work place filled with positive energy for superior performance.
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?
NK I do not see HR getting extinct ever as it deals with the most complex resource that is human beings, who are the very core of the business. I see HR functions flourish in changing times, with innovative HR practices sync with time. Many HR Models need to be redesigned and remodelled to make it more future - ready and business - centric.
Human resource needs in an organization will continue to be of prime importance and will become more complex with time. HR professionals have to play a strategic role in organizational success. With the ever changing business imperatives, it necessitates HR professionals to frequently champion change and to be a change agent. Talent pool will be the only differentiator in near future for businesses to compete and succeed. HR professionals should play the role of business partners and familiarise themselves with finance, marketing and other business roles as well as champion the cause of people in organisational growth.
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?
NK HR or IR functions both deal with people issues, the HR function deals with management staff in individual capacities and IR function deals in a collective and pluralist setting. HR over the years have matured with its process and best practises. In the IR front, with the advent of Gen Y work force, managing their aspirations, making them committed to a work place, getting commitments on productivity and belongingness and being loyal to the organization has thrown up new challenges for the IR profession. In today's time, the Gen Y workmen are no way inferior to the management staff due to their educational and technical background. It is a great opportunity for the IR professionals to deal with these current Gen Y workmen differently with trust, openness and finding solution to people issues together. IR professionals have to create a collaborative culture and build a growth oriented environment. Today HR & IR function must look at a holistic way of developing talent and working towards bringing combined loyalty and employee engagement for the accelerated growth of an organisation. I would conclude by saying deal IR the HR way.