Article (December-2018)


HR thrives on data, trends and analysis of people performance and businesses

Amit Das

Designation : -   Director- Human Resources

Organization : -  Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd. (TOI Group), Mumbai


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Do you think that HRD function in organizations conceived four decades ago in India, has evolved in the right direction. If not, what are the gaps?
AD The evolution of HRD function in India began post liberalization and continues its astounding journey through globalization. In the last 4 decades, HR organizations have gone through several transformations - from being operational (personnel) in nature, to being a service partner to being the one focused on 'driving talent outcomes'. Today HR is steadfast in supporting business to align their goals and objectives and is focusing heavily on attracting and engaging right talent, building integrated programs to drive performance processes, driving a compelling employment brand and better managing L&D. As compared to the decades gone by, HR has today evolved as a function which predominantly thrives on data, trends and analysis of people performance and businesses. HR's role is expanding beyond its traditional focus on talent management and transactions. It is becoming a value adding consultant with a broader responsibility to improve the entire employee experience.
Although the evolution has impacted HR in several ways, it still is largely perceived as "industrial" in nature; HR practices ranging from linear career paths to yearly performance reviews to selection of new hires through review of resumes and interviews were created in an age when business was more stable, predictable, and oriented largely toward manual labour.
As companies today are operating in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, also known as a "VUCA" environment, HR must play a greater part in developing organizations for the future. HR professionals need to develop a deeper understanding of the global context, business needs and strategy, and to innovate more to be not just efficient, but more effective. Also, with millennials in the forefront propelled by a hyper connected world, HR needs to revisit its outlook towards people engagement, devise innovative ways of leadership development, and consistently provide a delightful experience through hyper-customised solutions across the employee lifecycle touch points to the new age workforce.
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?
AD HR is often saddled with responsibilities related to compliance and consistency in the organization and business. This makes the function process driven to a large extent - processes which often, neither employees nor managers find particularly useful. Also, driving a function that ensures fairness and transparency may often lead to people having a tainted picture of HR. The function often finds itself in circumstances wherein it alone cannot tackle the issue e.g. : improving an organization's culture or maintaining the façade of a benevolent organization when the power rests with people who are focused on cutting costs and minimizing head count in order to boost short - term results. However, dehumanizing it will cause more chaos, as some other function will inevitably find itself trying to resolve these issues.
The supervisors and managers are the primary people with whom the employees interact. Hence the first line of managers need to ensure that they have a motivated, contributing workforce. HR can provide the framework, processes, programs, procedures, training, and the information required to succeed in these roles the focus for HR has to be on creating value through practices which are forward thinking and deep rooted into employee wellbeing.
People are an organization's primary asset and it is the HR's responsibility to grow and develop them, aiding in enhanced business value. However, the important point here is, HR needs to co-own and co-create people plans along with the various business functions and thus, cannot solely be held responsible for accomplishing organizational and employee goals. HR is and will continue to be a strategic partner, employee advocate and a change champion.
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.
AD While technological changes incubate versatile opportunities that aim at inclusive & sustainable growth, they also have an unforeseen impact on the society. Advances in AI and new communications technology are fundamentally changing how work gets done, who does it and how it influences society; In the wake of these changes, HR professionals need to realize that organizations today are increasingly assessed for their ability to build a viable and agile ecosystem for their employees, their customers and their communities; as well as on the basis of their impact on society at large which transforms them from being business enterprises to social enterprises. Thus, the focus should be on enhancing collaboration, building trust, credibility and breaking silos.
As AI & robotics are advancing, apprehensions with regards to their implementation are palpable. While embracing technology to boost productivity & effectiveness in critical HR functions is the need, creating a positive feeling about the presence of these technologies will help in seamless integration of technology with workforce. Creating and building a holistic model will ensure that glaring employee concerns are addressed while automating processes that improve human efficiencies. The model should aim at clearly defining benefits and highlighting how the technology adoption will lead to competitive advantage while weighing the benefits against losses. More and more organizations are implementing integrated HR Management tool, are leveraging the collaborative power of tools like slack, MS Teams etc. and are getting a daily pulse of their organizations via various chat-bots (amber, hyphen etc.). However, care must be taken not to rush through the transformation journey.
HR should use employees' comfort with consumer technologies like mobile and social media to make HR tools more accessible and attractive. By using familiar interfaces they can effectively "extend" HR processes out into the workforce thus ensuring enhanced collaboration between HR and employees. It is imperative for business to internalize that even though technology advances are part of the game, people will continue to be the "Nucleus" of any organization.
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?
AD HR is going to be anything but extinct, in fact we will see the function evolve. With the evolution of the new age, HR has been adapting itself by re-envisioning its core responsibilities and leveraging modern technology to deal with challenges of the VUCA world. As businesses and managers function in this globally competitive business world, "Organisational Excellence" will become the prime focus and excellence can be achieved when there are aggressive and continuous efforts on core aspects viz. learning, quality, teamwork, and reengineering. The fundamentals will be driven by the way organizations get things done and how they treat their people and achieving this very organizational excellence must be the work of HR.
As highlighted by the global studies upcoming trends of work environment will require fundamentally new approaches for HR organizations. This will include carving new job roles for the millennial talent, adapting to the constantly shifting skill requirements and the need to support new business models. Being relevant to the business world will involve HR developing agility to support these changes and enable companies to meet fast - moving competitive opportunities. There will be a need to develop "customised" work force assessment methods which will cover the myriad and ever evolving professional skills and behavioural competencies.
HR will be liable to utilise social technology for a more collaborative interaction between the workforce and their managers. Future will need the HR Leaders to build capabilities of the existing talent, attract new and relevant talent and create an improved engagement initiative that will help employees overcome challenges and make sure managers are trained for future.
Do you think that industrial relations function is separate from HRD and they are not intertwined? How both functions can supplement each other for employee's holistic development?
AD IR is an independent function that falls under the macro cluster of HRD. It is independent because the demands of IR are legally defined, business objectives have to be aligned to compliances and dispute resolution involves external as well as internal stakeholders. HR and IR both intertwined by similar goals i.e. of driving profitability, enhancing efficiency and thriving successfully in this ever-evolving competitive market. Similar to HR, productivity, engaging and retaining workforce and driving motivated, goal aligned teams are of paramount importance in IR. HR and IR can collaborate with regards to ensuring that the skilled and technically oriented work force is provided with a threat free and agile environment to express their discontent with certain elements of their jobs.  HR can enhance the employees level of commitments with the proven "partnership approach". It is important to give these employees some assurance of security, offer them priority in skill - based training which is in tandem with evolved skill sets and technical attributes. Guaranteeing employees access to due processes and providing them the means to be heard on issues as production methods, problem solving, and human resource policies and practices will ensure holistic and inclusive growth of employees. In unionized settings, the additional tasks include making relations less adversarial, broadening the agenda for joint problem solving and planning, and facilitating employee consultation.
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 organization as well as professionals to become as specialist of one branch only in future? What could be the advantages and disadvantages of such trend?
AD HR has made a major shift from being a traditional generalist HR to being high impact collaborators who are skilfully aligned to business objectives and employee management. As organisations are tackling newer challenges, they are remodifying the way they are organised. Developing skilled and defined COEs across functions ensures that you are equipped with people who have a broad and in-depth experience of the function. This graduation to COEs within businesses will have to be driven by HR which subsequently means that HR too needs to adapt it operating model. Being deeply embedded in business through business - partner leadership roles will need HR professionals to equip themselves with skills akin to the business requirements. For e.g. : Talent Acquisition today has expanded beyond identifying employees and hiring them for general job roles. It is driven by professionals who are adept at understanding business needs, anticipating future trends and challenges and collaborating with leadership to gauge the qualitative requirements of the talent to be hired. They go beyond the traditional interviews and have included reliable and upgraded assessment tools to evaluate talent on a wide range of professional and behavioural attributes while relating it to the organisation's competency framework. This trend cascades to other HR functions like L and OD, Training, Compensation benchmarking etc. The advantage of this trend is that organisation is equipped with COEs who can successfully drive the HR agenda subsequently helping business to capitalise on opportunities and minimise threats.  However, this could result in reduced collaboration within teams and increased functioning within silos. But, with the advent of newer technological solutions, the impetus is on the HR Leader to help the team align & collaborate towards the organizational priorities so that professionals do-not miss out on working as a cohesive and enabling HR ecosystem.