Article (January-2022)


It is a battle between up Skilling v/s Engaging new talent

Sahil Nayar

Designation : -   Senior Associate Director - HR

Organization : -  KPMG


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As HR function seems becoming more automated, what are some of the most important areas we see transforming workplaces by digital adaptation?

SN The recent time has experienced a seismic shift in the way businesses operate, and all functions including HR are ducking a slew of challenges.

While any typical business model would encompass aspects of the vision, strategy, tactical, operational and delivery model, we see that operations and delivery aspects were accelerated into automation at a faster pace than ever before through the pandemic. HR prepared to shift to zero-touch employee interactions and was pivotal in working with the business teams to keep the workforce connected, dynamic and resilient.

Some of the key transformations adoptions and analytics implementation have arrived in the direction of Talent Acquisition such as screening of CVs basis the predefined criteria through an algorithm, one stop on boarding with many leveraging AR and VR and a single window exit clearance process. Other miscellaneous tasks that are repetitive have been bot enabled to reduce time and cost.

While BCP and remote working and now with newer mutations and their nomenclature being defined with the passage of time, hybrid working is the way to go, the top priorities for HR have been analytics on demand, virtual working technologies for collaboration and enablement, and upgraded learning platforms. With a data driven mindset fueled by people analytics, HR is now deciding and enabling decision making not just by the gut but through data driven insights.

Another major shift was up skilling trends implemented that distinguish the brand from its competitors in the industry.

Emotional intelligence and innovation are considered a primacy by businesses. Hiring criteria's have been redefined, competencies hardcoded at the back end and candidates swiping left or right instead of filing in long cumbersome application forms. Candidates that display an ability to function in a tech-human unified work mode are most sought after.

We are looking at an era that nurtures and invites talent that displays a combination of Critical Thinking + Soft Skills + Digital Skills.

Minimum requirements have evolved, and education is no longer a deal breaker. Power skills like data analytics and digital literacy provide a competitive edge amongst equals on other parameters.

How HR professionals should prepare themselves in terms of their own skill sets to make optimum use of technology?

SN It is imperative for HR leaders to evaluate the impact of each skill. Classify which sub functions require high priority change in strategic goals and plans.

The neo normal demands radical transformation and we no longer have room for incremental change. Embracing technology is a given, but we must replicate the reality of the society in the corporate world, and this must be a blend of high tech and high touch.

HR is the custodian of the people culture, it is the power center, and HR carries the responsibility to reach out where technology can't. But now is the time to shift from rangoli making skills to planting conversations in the grapevine, HR needs to drive P&Ls with revenue impact embedded in the people agenda.

The Litmus test is the impact on EBITA (Earnings before Interest, Taxes, and Amortization). And this is where they need to bring in digital transformation that supports the advancement of their own skills.

Marrying Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning with HR activities. Seek support from AI-based algorithms like applicant tracking software, blended with cloud-computing, to transform recruitment and streamline workflow. Adopt AI solutions that churn out merit-based selection thereby minimizing bias.

While AI is all pervasive, HR colleague need to go beyond their functional knowledge and integrate tools like Robotic process automation (RPA), chatbots, natural language processing (NLP), and machine learning to simplify data and then draw insights as they craft out stories that matter.

What are some of the crucial challenges in your opinion when it comes to implementing tech tools like AI, machine learning and robotics solutions for HR?

SN HR needs to reflect on productivity enhancing measures that are in sync with the era that is tipping the scales towards remote/hybrid working. The new indicators of performance are likely to be reflective of collaboration, communication, work-life conduct, and a coaching mindset.

While AI, RPA and the gamut of digital transformation solutions are making working norms efficient, it just cannot replace human interaction and misses the tryst with ground realities. The recent global wave of resignations is an indicator of that. We didn't see this coming.

So, while we are riding the crest of the waves with rapid digital transformations and implementations of tech tools like AI, ML, RPA we are missing a very important link to the chain - EX! Not much has been looked into this arena. Are all things IA replacing EQ, emotions, human touch, human interactions? It is not just replacing jobs it is diminishing all of this.

Another challenge while implementing technology in HR is, we need to reimagine the productivity KPIs to assess employee performance as the landscape has been redefined.

Performance Review models need to be reassessed. Skill sets are changing; we risk bias in the light of the new metrics.

HR professionals feel their jobs could be automated, and yet they deal with some of the most complex issues that involve the Human Capital in an organisation. They are the bridge between the organisation and the workforce, reinforced by fair policies. Can Automation replace this? Only if automation could take judgment calls? While that day is still far away, AI/ML can still throw a trend analysis of decision-making capability in hindsight.

Stating an analogy, that aims to set the premise that simplification is the key.

By the time I find something nice to watch on Netflix, I'm confused and lose interest. So, we have Netflix showing up xx% match recommendations. Similarly, HR systems need to talk to each other, a single truth supported by data, and ground realities for our uberised workforce. So, we need a network that suggests customization because once size does not fit all. Influencers in organisations have a significant role to play in this change management process as they are the ones who make the change real and make it stick.

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