What it takes for HR to lead automation and digitalisation in organisations

HR leaders from across sectors deliberate on the challenges encountered in the automation and digitalisation journey and how to overcome the same

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When it comes to driving automation and digitalisation in an organisation, the HR plays a pivotal role in the whole process. Since automation is not just about technology but also about the culture, mindset and organisational capabilities, the HR plays a key role in driving automation from the people’s point of view.

“Customisation of technology offering as per the cultural dynamics and also integration of two different technologies are some challenges which are still there”

Pallavi Poddar, senior HR Leader

The fourth session of Automation.NXT, the conference organised by HRKatha witnessed HR experts discussing, ‘What it takes for HR to lead and drive the automation agenda in organisations’.

The event was powered by Tata Steel Industrial Consulting. Other partners were UKG (workforce management partner), Onsurity (SME healthcare partner), NHRD (community partner) and Open Offers (lanyard partner).

“While the work is ever changing with technology, the workmen are also tech savvy at this point of time. They are very intelligent and aware, and they don’t want to do transactional work”

Dharm Rakshit, head-HR, Hero Motocorp

The panel consisted of HR leaders from across sectors, including Kamaljeet Kaur, CHRO, Sterlite Power; Dharm Rakshit, head-HR, Hero Motocorp; Viekas K Khokha, head – HR, Dhanuka Agritech; Anurag Verma, VP-HR, Uniphore and Pallavi Poddar, senior HR leader. The panel was moderated by Ravi Pandey, head – marketing, UKG India.

Pandey opened the discussion by introducing the topic to the audience and asked the panel to shed some light on some of the challenges the HR leaders have faced while driving automation and digitalisation in their respective organisations.

According to Kaur, since automation and digitalisation do not happen in silos, the first challenge is to make sure that everybody is on the same page. That means, every function in the organisation has to give their buy-in. She shared that at Sterlite, five years ago, they had embarked on automation and digitalisation journey by completely digitising the journey of an employee from the time of hiring to the time of retiring. More recently, the Company has automated its compliance and attendance at the plants. “My first job is to ensure that the HR clearly communicates to the top management about how automation and digitisation will benefit the organisation as a whole and not just the HR,” shares Kaur.

“As the technology evolves and matures, such challenges for HR will drastically reduce”

Ravi Pandey, head – marketing, UKG India

“The HR’s role is not just to come up with problem statements but also come up with solutions,” asserts Kaur.

Like any other process, automation and digitisation will also have a cost attached to it. How can one measure the value that cost has added? Driving collaboration is another challenge Kaur asserts. “It is not the role of HR alone to drive automation. There has to be a cross-functional team, which drives this united objective of achieving the goal,” Kaur said.

When Pandey asked whether the HR still finds the same challenges even after the implementation of technology and automation takes place, Khoka explained that the agritech industry is changing very fast. “Today, we at Dhanuka are talking about using drones to deliver supplies to our farmers, which will change the skills and technology we need in the coming future,” Khoka enumerated.

He stressed upon the fact that, making people adapt to technology is just one challenge. When the technology landscape is changing so fast, being agile as an HR is also a challenge. “So we keep thinking about what is going to be the upcoming technology which will disrupt the environment,” Khoka said. “When my industry is changing so fast, I need partners who can match the speed of my change,” he asserted.

Verma also stressed upon the fact that it is important for the HR to be agile. “The first thing is to ensure that the base is strong, which is the human capital management (HCM) system,” Verma mentioned.

“It is not the role of HR alone to drive automation. There has to be a cross-functional team, which drives this united objective of achieving the goal”

Kamaljeet Kaur, CHRO, Sterlite Power

Sharing her experience working at Ingersol Rand, Poddar described the time when Ingersol was merging with Garden Denver and how both the companies were using applications of SAP Success Factors. Since Poddar was leading different regions at Ingersol, she emphasised on customising the tech offering for each workforce.

“Customisation of technology offering as per the cultural dynamics and also integration of two different technologies are some challenges which are still there,” admitted Poddar.

Verma pointed out that technology does have the ability to customise and fit the needs of each employee, “but these customisations come at a cost and effort”.

Talking about automation from the IR point of view. Rakshit explained that today’s automation process depends upon three things — “work, workman and workmanship”.

“While the work is ever changing with technology, the workmen are also tech savvy at this point of time. They are very intelligent and aware, and they don’t want to do transactional work,” said Rakshit.

On the other hand, Poddar talked about the existence of different generations at the workplace and how it is challenging to make the older generation adapt to new technologies and use it. Adding to this, Rakshit said that sometimes it becomes necessary to force the adaptation of technology — “Leave no other way to carry out the process”.

“When my industry is changing so fast, I need partners who can match the speed of my change”

Viekas K Khokha, head – HR, Dhanuka Agritech

Rakshit also wanted to see technology enhancing itself more to cater to the needs of the employees. He felt it was important to consider “how we can use AI to understand human behaviour and how we can make AI bots more humanised to give seamless employee experience”.

Pandey then summarised the whole discussion saying, “The intent to deliver better employee experience through technology is very much there in HR. However, since the automation and digitalisation journey involves collaboration of the IT team, implementation partners and product partners, practical challenges on ground are bound to exist too”.

“Customisations in technology come at a cost and effort”

Anurag Verma, VP-HR, Uniphore

“As the technology evolves and matures, such challenges for HR will drastically reduce,” Pandey concluded.

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