“Diversity will get new dimensions in 2021,” SV Nathan

Organisations will have to be prepared to change, asserts SV Nathan, partner and chief talent officer, Deloitte, India



2020: What to learn – what to erase

The biggest boon right now is that travel has become highly selective. Previously, we used to feel people should be present for internal and client meetings. Today, with video conferencing and our commitment to reduce carbon emission, the volume of travel has reduced dramatically, and this trend will continue. I believe that reckless business travel will be eliminated.

The only bane is that the link between work and the place has weakened. The shift to work-from-home has broken the connect with local offices. While it did provide the luxury of being able to work from anywhere, it also reduced, in most parts, the sense of belonging to a particular office. People will now need to work hard to keep that link intact.

Why does only HR need to be human? Everybody needs to be human. The first line is always the reporting manager who needs to be empathetic.

HR has shown great agility and business acumen

Human resources has always been a business enabler. COVID has only brought HR right to the centre of everything. People had never understood the meaning of ‘connect’ before. Today, business leaders are trying to understand that and struggling to do so, because they have to use technology for that. One has to be authentic as well. One should be able to see a person smile even on a call. That shows one is doing a good job. There is a growing respect, and the amount of work done by people is being noticed. Anytime, anywhere and anyhow learning is the trend, and micro learning has become possible.

2021 – changing organisational design

How will one make sure that the connectedness with an organisation is increased? Next, workplace diversity will increase and I am not looking at gender here. One will require different skills, professionals from different backgrounds, use of contractors or gig workers, and off-the-balance sheet workers, and all that will be part of the diversity. Moreover, work is virtual and automated now. Therefore, the in-person touch points will decrease.

Also, one will have to find a way of making people understand what it means for talent operations. Things, such as people being insensitive on calls or virtual meetings, and how organisations take care of that, will all be critical. Recruiting will continue to undergo further changes. Today, there is software to ascertain if people are at their desks or not. A good 16 per cent of companies have already gone for such measures, especially in call centres. In future, how one manages boundaries will be really important. Mental health in times of COVID was significantly different, as people were under pressure all day and now it will be critical

The shift of talent calculus to more ‘buy and rent’ and less ‘build’

It cannot be so black and white. One still needs a certain group of people who will be with the firm and grow from within. However, if one requires someone with JAVA skills, one will get someone who is trained in JAVA. Such specialists will work on the project and once done, will leave. So, specialised skills will be required. The difficulties dealing with gig workers, who are around for a considerable period of time, will be the same as that with permanent employees. They are going to work and leave a lot of trash behind. Somebody will have to teach them carefully.

HR to stay more human in the virtual and digital workplace

Why does only HR need to be human? Everybody needs to be human. The first line is always the reporting manager who needs to be empathetic. Empathy has to be felt and experienced first, only then can it be experimented on. Many policies will come in but ensuring that these are empathetic towards people will be vital. In Deloitte’s case, we have an unsaid policy where we don’t call anyone between 1-2 pm as that’s lunch hour. Organisations will have to be prepared to change.

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