Not just managing change, future is in adapting to never ending disruptions. Makarand Khatavkar predicts for 2018 and beyond.
Predicting trends is a significant annual ritual. And rituals are important across all cultures because they reduce anxiety and give people confidence. My apprehension though is, given the hyper-complexity of our times, predicting trends may not bring psychological safety unlike in the good old days.
Some trends just carry forward in a different avatar with various shades of grey every year. While the headline themes that we are witnessing in this disruptive era will appear similar to the past, the depth and complexity will be staggeringly different and overwhelming. The future is not just about managing change. It is also about being explorers, unaware of where we will land, about discovering new things, and also about course correction, learning and adapting. I see this as a singular, pervasive and inescapable theme of the disruptive digital era.
Managing disruptions: We will not only be managing change, but also be constantly adapting to never-ending disruptions. We have seen disruptions everywhere—banking, manufacturing, medicine, education and customer behaviour. Helping managers and employees manage these disruptions will be the number one priority for HR professionals. As there are no proven and guaranteed solutions, HR professionals will have to explore, experiment and course-correct both organisations and themselves. This will mean spending minimal or no time on mundane control, policy and regulation functions and spending disproportionate time on value adding tasks, such as creating an agile, more collaborative and learning-oriented organisation.
HR professionals will be expected to create flexible, adaptable structures and collaborative cultures, which will be quite a challenge.
Customer obsession: Traditionally, HR has been responsible for ‘internal customers’ so that frontline employees can serve customers better. There is nothing wrong with that thought process. However, given the ability of small and unconventional players to disrupt large established businesses, even HR will have to think about external customers more than ever before, and align hiring, reward and performance management processes from the customers’ standpoint. While HR will carry the responsibility to ensure great employee experience, every policy and organisational process must be viewed from overall customer experience.
Agile and collaborative organisations: Organisations will survive if they are flexible and deliver value to customers. On the other hand, customers will be picky, demonstrating new behaviours, and brand loyalty will take backstage. In such a scenario, how quickly organisations react to disruptions and new customer behaviours will determine their success. HR professionals will be expected to create flexible, adaptable structures and collaborative cultures, which will be quite a challenge.
In the digital era, soft skills such as leadership, influencing, delegation, team management and human interaction skills will be more important than ever before and soft skills are best learned through experience, interactions, practice and observation of people in action. We need a prudent combination of self-managed and facilitator-managed learning.
Empowered learning: Empowered learning puts greater power, freedom and flexibility in the learners’ hands. In today’s age of Google, learnings are available on tap (smartphones and tablets). The bulk of functional learning can be pushed using this route. This, however, does not mean that the learning function will cease to exist. On the contrary, in the digital era, soft skills such as leadership, influencing, delegation, team management and human interaction skills will be more important than ever before. Soft skills are best learned through experience, interactions, practice and observation of people in action. We need a prudent combination of self-managed and facilitator-managed learning.
I will conclude by saying that HR will be far more exciting and strategic than in the past. Administrative and transaction activities will diminish and HR professionals will need to be organizational strategists. I am often asked whether the HR function will disappear in the digital era. The answer is a definitive No, but the administrative jobs will be lost to machines. Needless to say, the strategic roles must be managed by real and smart human beings. A word of caution— these changes will happen over a period of time and it is very difficult to be definitive.
I wish my fellow professionals a new year filled with learnings, new perspectives and achievements.
(The author is group head-human resources, Kotak Mahindra Bank. The views expressed in the article are personal and do not reflect the views of Kotak Mahindra Bank or HRKatha.)