New Power Couple, CHRO & CIO, help sail through the pandemic

Given the complexity of workforce problems today, the need for a CIO and CHRO partnership is felt to arrive at technology-driven solutions

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With remote work becoming the norm ever since the pandemic struck, organisations have felt an urgent need to completely digitise many work processes. Most activities have shifted to the virtual mode, from L&D programmes to festival celebrations and collaborations. All HR professionals have had to digitise their processes — from hiring to employee engagement. Earlier, the need for digital transformation was not this intense, but now, most organisations have completely transformed their HR processes, making them 100 per cent digital.

In this digital transformation journey, the partnership between the chief human resources officer (CHRO) and the chief information officer (CIO) plays a crucial role. After all, the HR needs the support of the chief information officer to embark on this digital journey.

“The role of the CIO is turning into more that of a chief digital officer who now works closely with the CEO to ensure productivity and reduce cost. Taking the HR function, the CIO will also need to think about ways to bring down attrition by using technology or ways to bring in more engagement amongst the employees with technology. ”

Bipin Chaudhary, head of information technology, Cinepolis India

How this partnership works

As we all know, the job of the HR in the organisation pertains to enabling higher productivity of employees, and driving engagement, collaboration and team building. It also includes talent management and facilitating the learning growth of the employees.

So where does, the CIO fit in here? With the pandemic making an entry in 2020, most workforces began working from home or remotely. There was this need to support the HR team to virtually manage some of the processes or even digitise them.

As per Bipin Chaudhary, head of information technology, Cinepolis India, “The CIO understands all the business processes. After taking a feedback from the HR, it is the job of the CIO to find out the solution to the problem through technology. For that, either one has to bring in technology and enable it or create such tools that will solve the problem.”

“The technology part of the HR side is taken care by the CIO, while the HR looks at the human side, that is, from the point of view of the employees. They have to consider problems such as lower adoption and acceptance of the technology.”

Mayank Bhargava, chief information officer, Pramerica Life Insurance

Citing an example, Chaudhary explains that generally in his industry, the attrition level remains quite high. Therefore, the HR has to spend a lot of time drafting warning letters, appointment letters and leave applications. Chaudhary, along with his team, created an internal tool which made it possible for the HR team to draft such letters and documents with a click and cut down the time that was taken earlier.

Adding to this, Mayank Bhargava, chief information officer, Pramerica Life Insurance, says, “The technology part of the HR side is taken care by the CIO, while the HR looks at the human side, that is, from the point of view of the employees. They have to consider problems such as lower adoption and acceptance of the technology.”

“The role of the HR in digitising HR processes is to provide answers to the ‘What and ‘Why’ parts of the journey, while the ‘How’ part is taken care of by the CIO.”

Sailesh Menezes, CHRO, HPE India

According to Sailesh Menezes, CHRO, HPE India, the role of a CIO will continue to be significant in serving employees, because many of the organisations have decided to make certain roles remote in their entirety. People are not required to come to the office, and the office space is to be used for collaboration activities. In HPE’s case, under the Edge2Office initiative, some roles have gone 100 per cent remote, with employees’ physical presence in the office daily not required at all, even after the lockdown ends. “The role of the HR in digitising HR processes is to provide answers to the ‘What and ‘Why’ parts of the journey, while the ‘How’ part is taken care of by the CIO,” explains Menezes.

How this partnership helped sail through the pandemic

Menezes shares that at HPE India, they have completely digitised their learning and training initiatives during the pandemic. The CIO and his team helped the HR team to enable and implement these technologies in the organisation. Apart from this, they have also helped to introduce communication and collaborative tools, as well as virtual wellness platforms into the HR processes.

“We at TMTC had no clue how to go about making our platforms virtual or using technology for digitisation. The CIO’s team at TCS helped us understand the technology, gave guidance and support, and suggested solutions to make our processes virtual and digital.”

Emmanuel David, director, Tata Management Training Centre

Another important contribution of the CIO has been in training the people leaders during this pandemic to use the tools meant for enhancing employee experience at work. “At HPE India, the CIO and his team also trained the people leaders to use virtual tools and applications in running the processes smoothly,” shares Menezes.

Emmanuel David, director, Tata Management Training Centre, talks about how the internal tech team at TMTC helped train the senior faculty members to use the virtual tools for conducting training sessions during the lockdown. “We at TMTC had no clue how to go about making our platforms virtual or using technology for digitisation. The CIO’s team at TCS helped us understand the technology, gave guidance and support, and suggested solutions to make our processes virtual and digital,” reveals David.

Talking to HRKatha, Sushil Baveja, executive director – HR, DCM Shriram, shares that they digitised all of their HR processes such as onboarding, recruitment and even career-development processes by bringing in technology from an external vendor. They moved everything to cloud by subscribing to a platform.

“I think that in the future, the role of the CIO, in serving the employees at the workplace, will increase significantly due to evolving HR technology.”

Sushil Baveja, executive director – HR, DCM Shriram

“We shifted every HR process to cloud in 2015 with adequate security, which has helped us as an organisation to sail through the pandemic addressing the remote working needs. All sorts of messaging and collaborative platforms, such as Google and Zoom were in place already. Working with the HR team we jotted down what all problems we need to address and zeroed in on some external applications and services to initiative the whole process,” says Ankush Kaura, chief information officer, DCM Shriram.

“In digitising these processes, the CIO helped us bring the technology and also check the efficacy of the platform from the technical point of view. Also, the CIO helped in the implementation of the technology and further maintenance support, which may be required in due course of time,” explains Baveja.

“I think that in the future, the role of the CIO, in serving the employees at the workplace, will increase significantly due to evolving HR technology,” adds Baveja.

“The role of the CIO will be to free up the CHRO by implementing technology so that the latter can focus more on other complex problems relating to the business and people strategy, cut down on cost and reduce the time taken to do any task by an HR.”

Ankush Kaura, chief information officer, DCM Shriram

Chaudhary says that in his organisation, the tools and technology to enable remote working have been there in place for years. But now, the usage of such technology has increased and the bandwidth of access to such technologies has been spread over a larger employee base. “We already have platforms like Yammer, which is an internal social networking service, such as Facebook which enables collaboration and connectivity amongst the workforce.”

How the role of CIO is changing

As per the experts, earlier, the CIO had to look into whether the e-mailing systems were working properly, or whether the communication channels were functioning properly. Now, the role is changing. They need to understand the business processes and technology, and also possess skills, such as software development.

“The role of the CIO is turning into more that of a chief digital officer who now works closely with the CEO to ensure productivity and reduce cost. Taking the HR function, the CIO will also need to think about ways to bring down attrition by using technology or ways to bring in more engagement amongst the employees with technology,” shares Chaudhary.

With respect to HR, the CIO will need to play a crucial role in ensuring engagement and productivity of employees. “As CIOs, we need to focus on the softer aspects of the business and deliver to the needs of our workforce. We need to think of ways to bring in more engagement and collaboration in the workforce through technology, working with the HR,” explains Bhargava.

“The role of the CIO will be to free up the CHRO by implementing technology so that the latter can focus more on other complex problems relating to the business and people strategy, cut down on cost and reduce the time taken to do any task by an HR,” adds Kaura.

“I believe that the role of a CIO has completely transformed in the past few years. There is a need for constant support from them at this point of time to maintain productivity, engagement and the people ecosystem in a virtual environment,” concludes Menezes.

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