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Hats off to HR

Source |The Hindu-  Anjali Prayag

Human Resource is today juggling many key roles..

When Hema Ravichander moved from her HR job at a global engineering player to tech major Infosys in the 1990s, she found herself being catapulted from a young-gen employee into the senior-most bracket. Apart from dealing with the new dynamics in employee demographics, other changes she experienced were managing 20-25 per cent attrition rates and being benchmarked against the best global corporates instead of Indian giants. “But the greatest thing about the IT industry was that HR was an important invitee to the highest corporate round table and a key differentiator in organisation success,” says Hema, who then took several steps forward to become the Global Head of HR at Infosys.

Thus with the start of the 2000s, HR managers in tech companies were mouthing key words such as ‘bulk hiring,’ ‘bench strength,’ and ‘attrition rates.’ Movement of people had a far-reaching impact too. Other sectors such as telecom, hospitality, retail, BFSI, and to a certain extent real-estate too, experienced the pangs of these ‘people’ challenges.

Recognising that human capital in the services sector was not a cost but the only capital available, HR started to play a more strategic role, says C. Mahalingam, Executive VP and Chief People Officer, Symphony Services. When it became more a business-enabling function, it called for a very different mindset and preparation for the HR manager, and having a traditional mindset would fail them in the IT environment, he explains.

Therefore, the HR business partnership approach gained teeth during the last two decades, according to N S Rajan, Partner, Business Advisory Services, Ernst & Young. IT-HR managers today play an active role in the business strategy and even in budgeting meetings. There is a growing realisation about the benefits of involvement of HR in business planning of the company and at the same time, ownership of key HR processes by line managers.

Nano-second decision making

This new situation has given a new shape to the people practitioner in the Indian economy. Even in hiring, the most fundamental task of an IT-HR manager, the decision needs to be extremely fast in order to not lose a good candidate, says Mahalingam, calling it nano-second decision making. “In the non-IT industry, hiring can take place at a relatively slow pace. In IT industry, the business challenges and priorities change a lot more frequently than the three-five years that other sectors witnessed and so, the change has greater impact for the laggards,” he points out.

Another trend that became a common practice is employer branding. To compete for the best talent in the marketplace, companies started investing in it as a key organisational priority. They also leveraged technology for talent management, giving a fillip to the competency mapping and management processes, very slow in the non-IT industry, which led to a general upgrading of the competency in the marketplace, according to Mahalingam.

Consolidation of performance and career management information became the seed for succession planning. While these are the higher value-added components of HR automation, the demand and subsequent implementation of technology to manage payroll and benefits cannot be undermined, points out Dhananjay Bansod, Chief People Officer, Deloitte India. “One may dare say that the automation taken up by the income tax authorities or the provident fund authorities is just an extension of the demand for automation submitted by the HR manager.”

Therefore the HR manager today has more time available to focus on strategic issues, which has manifested itself in innovations in recruitment and induction, training and rewards systems, says Rajan. “The HR manager today has better visibility and understanding of short-term and long-term business plans through regular participation in business planning meetings.”

With the HR manager wearing more hats now than earlier (when he or she was a mere administrator), more and interesting pegs are being added to the hat-stand too. The preparedness of today’s HR manager would be measured by his or her ability to learn, manage and turn into best practices some concepts such as global mindset, leveraging technology, flexible labour models, employee diversity, global mobility and sophisticated education.

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