How future HR leaders can succeed in HR tech


Present-day HR is marked by rapid transformations due to technological advancements, analytics, AI and a shifting focus from the traditional HR functions to strategic business decisions. The future holds more complexities in the simplicity brought about by technology. 

The leaders of tomorrow will have to re-think the way they approach people management and the way they present it to the world. Future HR leaders may need to be more of brand ambassadors, business consultants, data experts, or may be even masters of all. HRKatha finds out the answer from a few industry practitioners.

S V Nathan, human resources leader, Deloitte

SV Nathan

We are in interesting times with digital changes, such as mobile applications, sensors, trackers and wearables prompting a change in the way we exist. HR is also increasingly applying design thinking, building mobile applications, incorporating analytics or behavioural economics and leveraging tools that we may have never thought important — such as social media— to enhance the value that HR brings to an organisation through the use of technology.

It’s not just the application of new technology that will make HR more digital but the ability of future leaders to understand that the journey of transformation will require them to embrace a new approach. I call it ‘digitalent’, meaning digital talent, or people who can align structures and digital processes in an organisation. It’s about creating a relevant culture. For instance, in times when 70 per cent of any organisation is currently millennials, creating an experience with the things that matter most to millennials or building talent experience is of utmost importance now.

Even the Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2016, discussed how digital HR is one of the top 10 human capital trends this year. About 60 per cent of organisations are developing mobile applications for the ease of employees and creating a digital environment that makes work easier, enjoyable and efficient. More importantly now, one needs to have a design thinking mindset to pull all of this together to make HR more meaningful.

Leaders will have to adopt disruptive ways of engaging with people. For instance, millennials look for instant recognition and social media can do it in a jiffy. Organisations are now realising that and are developing new ways to recognise efforts. Also, if you look at performance management, many organisations have moved away from the bell curve and are looking at faster ways of evaluating people and providing feedback. Last but not the least, the whole notion of learning is also changing as digital technology has enabled micro learning.

People today want to learn, grow and live life. They want to live in the present —here and now— and HR needs to make it more meaningful for them. With work, workplace and workforce changing, future leaders will need to find innovative ways to bring this together through collaboration and design thinking and make it meaningful for an organisation to be able to achieve sustainable growth.

Mahalakshmi R, head-HR India, Mondel?z

Mahalakshmi R

Here are seven commandments for HR Leaders to thrive in the tech world:

1. Redefine ‘work’ and ‘workplace’: Tech is making the need for a ‘corporation’ redundant and physical location irrelevant as an employee looks at careers as a series of experiences aligned to their passions without needing a formal workplace for the same.

2. Redefine talent: HR Leaders need to leverage crowdsourcing platforms as well as the ideas and talent within and outside to deliver the needs of the business. Free agents and crowd- sourced talent for on demand ideas is the order of the day and leaders who adapt to that will thrive.

3. Make HR tech your best ally: Lead from the front – and role model how tech can be leveraged for competitive advantage, for the other business leaders to learn from.

4. Don’t preach: Adopt, adapt, pilot and showcase by leading from the front.

5. Accept a boundary-less world: The tech world blurs the boundary between what’s work and what’s life — with social media providing inroads to how talent thinks, which talent is ‘hot’ and which organisation is ‘cool’—savvy HR leaders need to leverage this to their advantage in the talent wars.

6. Offer information on demand: Accept the end of ‘confidential’ and unlock your time to focus on the creative and unsolved – instead of being the owner of confidential information. Nothing is confidential anymore! Instead, leverage analytics and play on insights!

7. Ensure that technology is a tool: It is not the be all and end all of HR, but merely a tool. HR is human. Empathy and connect build culture. Leverage technology as ‘ONE OF’ the tools at your disposal to add value as a practitioner!

Ravishankar B, executive vice president, HCL TalentCare

Ravishankar B

In terms of the skill sets that future HR leaders will need, the first is the ability to understand the new digital engagement model. Due to the size and complexity of workforce dynamics, organisations now have to adapt to the digital or virtual way of engaging with the employees. An in-depth understanding of the millennials and workforce demographics is one of the most crucial competencies future HR leaders will need to possess.

Secondly, the traditional models of engagement will not work with the new generation as the way they engage with anything is dramatically different from how the older generations used to. So, reward and recognition and motivational aspects will have to be re-designed to suit the millennials. The aspirations of this new generation are also different, which implies that the traditional concept or cycle of performance appraisals will have to undergo transformation. It will have to move to a performance journal-based process allowing people to record what they have to do and how they are doing it, in place of the annual performance reviews. The performance journal allows real-time recognition for achievements in comparison to the traditional cycles.

Lastly, as 80 per cent organisations involve in huge operational tasks, the concept of planning or goal setting will also undergo a dramatic change. From annual plans, most people are moving to 30-, 60- or 90-day plans, whereas the latter may still be applicable for the CXO levels or one level below. However, future HR leaders will need to understand the entire dynamics and be able to bring in these changes in the organisation to make themselves more relevant to the employees.

(This article has been published in association with “SumTotal, a Skillsoft Company”. Read How Social Learning Technologies Can Meet Today’s Business Challenges.)

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Prajjal Saha is the editor and publisher of HRKatha, which he founded in 2015. With nearly 25 years of experience in business journalism, writing, and editing, he is a true industry veteran who possesses a deep understanding of all facets of business, from marketing and distribution to technology and human resources. Along with his work at HRKatha, he is also the author of the Marketing White Book. Thanks to his extensive experience and expertise, he has become a trusted source of insight and analysis for professionals across a wide range of industries.