“For retention & productivity, organisations need to move from diversity to inclusion” P Dwarakanath

For binary decision-making tasks, where large amounts of data are involved, such as whether or not to hire a person, studies have demonstrated that simple machine learning models tend to outperform even the leading experts in the field, P Dwarakanath, chairman, GSK & head – group human capital, Max India, for HR 2020 Forecast

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Technology, data, employee experience: What’s high on agenda

Now, as we enter 2020, the next journey for HR will be to apply a technology and analytics lens to the HR function, in order to create an employee experience that mirrors the customer experience. The focus will be on delivering an employee experience that is human centred, uses the latest digital technologies, and is personalised, memorable and compelling.

The biggest HR challenges

As HR continues to evolve to meet the demands of a fast-paced, digitally-driven environment, employers and HR will face a new and distinct set of challenges in times to come.

In the VUCA world environment, with the rapidly changing and disruptive business models and workplace, HR will have to constantly re-align its strategies, structure and internal processes to meet the dynamic business needs, and make decisions in real time.

Next, as the nature of work and workforce is changing rapidly, the focus is shifting to even the crowd workers, retainers, remote workers, part-timers and gig employees in the mainstream. It will be critical for HR to act as a dynamic workforce advisor for the business. Further, personalised retention and talent-engagement approach will have to be leveraged for each employee. In fact, a big task will be to make the employees’ skill-ready for the future.

Another significant change expected in 2020, will be the shift in focus from diversity to inclusion. By only focussing on diversity without developing a culture of inclusion, we may attract the right mix of people, but they are less likely to stay or contribute as per their potential.

Lastly, it will no longer be sufficient for HR to focus only on the compliance of the necessary legislations/rules. Instead, the need of the hour will be to focus on the entire gambit of corporate governance. This will include engaging with the board, NRC (nomination & remuneration committee), CSR and audit committee, both in letter and spirit, managing the responsibility of instilling and enforcing the organisational ethics and corporate values.

HR should proactively identify the pressure points of top executives, estimate the impact of these on decision-making, and hold the mirror up to them so that they realise how these pressures can undermine the effectiveness of their decisions.

Internal equality and internal equity

In an organisation, equality is helpful in promoting fairness, but it can only work, if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same help. Considering the diversity of the workforce, and in trying to create fairness and transparency at the workplace, organisations have migrated from internal equality to internal equity.

Internal equity means giving everyone what they need to be successful. When every employee is so different, success and fairness also differ. One has to discretely differentiate the employee performance, potential and skills and accordingly reward and remunerate, so as to create a culture of organisational equity. Internal equity also includes being cognizant of the different learning styles of employees and adopting varied learning styles as per unique employee needs.

Employees at different life stages (such as employees who are unmarried, recently married, new parents and those close to retirement) have different needs, wants and motivational drivers. Accordingly, the benefits and perks designed for them should also vary. Hence, designing systems and processes around specific and customised employee needs and wants will be the need of the hour.

GenZ: a catalyst to change

Millennials form the largest segment of the workforce in most industries today. They are at the cusp of taking up leadership roles in most organisations. Further, in 2020, GenZ will also make its way into the organisations. Trust and values are vital elements in engaging the millennial workforce. Leaders should shift from the conventional and directive leadership style to a more collaborative and participative leadership style, so as to effectively engage with the millennials and GenZ. At the same time, it needs to be kept in mind that different strokes work for different people.

Changes are now happening much more rapidly than ever before and millennial employees are being affected by these changes more strongly than their elders. Hence, companies need to effectively and dynamically manage career paths to ensure millennial employees stay engaged. Employers should focus on growth-based careers, by designing careers around experiences rather than positions and motivating millennials through employability rather than title progression.

The key is to keep the employees growing and engaged through new experiences. They should not stagnate as they wait for positions to become available. Switching from traditional, position-based careers to growth-based careers will help companies achieve this positive impact.

In addition, organisations should provide an employee experience and work environment that provides the employees flexibility and autonomy at work.

Organisations should leverage technology, social media and collaboration tools to engage with the millennials across the organisation. Millennials prefer to learn and develop through digital and personalised channels. To engage the millennial workforce, organisations need to focus on providing training that fits their preferred developmental channels, such as peer-generated content, experiential learning, and so on.

Data Deluge – More power to HR

On a normal business day, HR and managers are faced with a steady flow of time-critical complex decisions to be made. It is often observed that they very quickly reach the extent of their ability to process all variables and constraints, begin to feel overwhelmed and go ahead with their intuition or gut feeling. And after making the decision, they tend to produce a rational explanation of why they made the choice.

While qualitative assessment and gut feeling are important, the data-driven and scientific approach to decision making helps enhance the accuracy of prediction, supports decision making, removes ambiguity and improves speed. For binary decision-making tasks, where large amounts of data are involved, such as whether or not to hire a person, studies have demonstrated that simple machine learning models tend to outperform even the leading experts in the field.

At the same time, it is important to observe that not all of our decisions have to be solely driven by hard numbers. The numbers can provide a good indicator, but at the end of the day, we’re dealing with people. And when dealing with people, one must include the element of learning to trust the intuition and gut — even when at times the data depicts otherwise.

We need to note that there is no magic formula of data and intuition that leads to a 100 per cent accurate decision every single time. In a nutshell, for any decision, data and analytics should be our friends. One can always look at the data and make a decision to go against it, but at least one is aware that it’s the gut and not the numbers/data that one is following.

(This article first appeared in HRKatha print magazine)

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