Article (February-2018)


Sharpen focus on connecting and integrating people, work and platform

Makarand Khatavkar

Designation : -   Group Head - Human Resources

Organization : -  Kotak Mahindra Bank Limited, Mumbai


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BM: Do you think HR has been able to become a serious business partner in 2017 - something that was a buzz for several years now?
MK: I strongly feel HR fraternity has evolved over a period of time from being a Personnel Manager to now being a strategic business partner. There is a strong pressure on HR professional with managing 3-4 generations working together, volatile economy, digital disruption, managing cross functional workforce, AI - HR is the epicentre to manage these disruptions and ensure the transformation is seamless and smooth. The demand to be the strategic business partner is more than ever at the moment.
With increasing availability of HR data analytics, the HR practioners not only have more time to understand data in structured manner but also are able to predict employee behaviour. This enables them to take proactive measure on employee development and engagement in a more calculated manner.
Digitization has also empowered employee to be independent and resourceful. With HR systems being active, day-to-day transactional HR tasks are carried out with ease and seamlessly. Employees are encouraged to resolve their queries through multiple self - service platforms and simplified HR processes.
Overall this has enabled HR practitioner to focus more on relationship and partnership building roles than focus on transactional activities. The extra mind space is now allowing them to think beyond the realm of HR and spend more time to understand business and provide HR solutions to solve business strategic problems.
BM: Do you think HR transformation is important in this technological age? If yes, why?
MK: HR is going through intense and rapid change. Organisations are expecting HR to take the lead in digital transformation - especially when it is about creating employee experience. This expectation calls for transformation at 3 levels - Employee Mind-set, Workplace environment and most importantly HR offerings being digital itself.
As digitisation and agile organization has become central to business thinking, HR has to sharpen its focus on connecting and integrating people, work and platforms. This will have a direct impact on productivity, empowerment and creating collaborative teams.
BM: What were some of the biggest lessons you learned in 2017 to take HR transformation to the next level?
MK: If change is the only constant thing in life we are experiencing a different change. A change that is disruptive in business, society and even in Nations. This is the "new normal" and the strongest theme of our time. In fact according to Forrester's predictions, customer's expectations will outpace companies' ability to evolve and invent experiences. This trend will pose a major talent and people challenge for HR professionals. I am sharing few perspectives on areas which HR professionals may want to ready themselves for the future.
To adapt to the new normal, I realised we have to quickly align the team to a common goal and rally all our energies to achieving this goal. First step was to share a business aligned HR vision to quickly align the team to "what we want to focus and achieve". Taking a cue from one of the four tenets of the bank's vision, we decided to build the HR operating vision that focussed on building organisation capability, build culture and sustain value and deliver premium employee experience.
Next was to create a highly flexible and agile team which does not shy away from the initial discomfort that change brings along. The mantra adopted across the team was to target the transactional and to make way for the transformational. We identified all the administrative tasks that would take 70% of HR relationship manager's time and brought it down to 20%. This was to ensure they have a bandwidth to focus on building business partnerships and handholding managers in the digital HR transformation journey.
Other lesson learnt was to ensure high quality employee experience at each and every HR touch point; we focussed on simplification of HR processes and ensuring constant communication. Seamless flow of information within HR was important to bring in agility to create a differentiating experience.
Continuous review and feedback mechanisms in the form of service quality scorecards for all roles were put in place for constant tracking of progress and making periodic corrections. The service scorecard provided valuable, quantitative and qualitative metrics for performance measurements of HR term.
Lastly, celebrate success no matter how small they seemed. This was a crucial lesson I feel many of us miss. Transformation journeys can be nerve wracking and emotionally challenging. Acknowledging it to the team itself was a small win I experienced. Also it is very imperative that the entire team is driven and positively motivated to keep at it. The celebration ranged from small informal appreciation of achieving smaller goals to a relatively formal appreciation ceremony at a team gathering. This did have a huge positive impact on the team morale.
In a nutshell, to make any transformation successful, the lesson I learnt was : Align the entire team to one common Vision, rally all our energies to achieve the goals, design flexible and agile teams, identify the road blocks and collectively come up with creative resolutions, continuous review and feedback to make online course corrections and finally celebrate success - no matter how small and insignificant they may seem.