10 Priorities for 2020 for India’s CHROs

By Shefali Anand January 8, 2020
10 Priorities for 2020 for India’s CHROs

​As the new year takes off, chiefs of HR across India are gearing up for the journey toward digitalization. They will be looking at which technologies will help make their people processes easier, more effective and convenient to use.

Here we share 10 priorities for CHROs in India this year:

1. Harnessing Data to Supercharge the Employee Experience

CHROs have long been working toward enhancing their employees' experiences, and this year some plan to use data to do that better.

At media and entertainment company Sony Pictures Networks India, CHRO Manu Wadhwa's target is to create "extraordinary UX" for employees.

" 'Extraordinary UX' is a superlative experience through data and insights," said Wadhwa, who is based in Mumbai. This year, the company will be launching new tools and technologies to gauge employee sentiment and engagement, including chatbots driven by artificial intelligence, enterprise collaboration and communication tools, and a new technology that will conduct a 50-factor analysis to capture human sentiment.

The data collected from these efforts will help "devise strategies which enhance and strengthen [employee] engagement [and] therefore the return they deliver to the organization," Wadhwa said.

2. Simplifying Processes

For large and growing companies, reducing complexity is top of mind.

"How do we ensure that we simplify processes to make sure that people are more effective?" said Harshvendra Soin, chief people officer in Noida at Tech Mahindra, an IT services and outsourcing firm with 130,000 employees in 95 countries. The idea is "to enable and empower people to do more with less," Soin said.

This year, his team will be combining its work on simplification with brainstorming on how to create an enabling structure for the organization as it grows.

"We will need this for the company to make us more nimble and more effective going forward," Soin said.

3. Hiring Talent to Fuel Growth

For fast-growing companies, scouting talent figures prominently this year.

"The No. 1, top-of-mind issue always is talent and ensuring that we have the capacity and capability to fuel the growth that we're looking at," said Suman Gopalan, Chennai-based CHRO of software maker Freshworks.

Last year, Freshworks hired more than 1,000 employees, and that pace is expected to continue this year. Gopalan's team is turning to technology to sift through thousands of job applications to find and engage ideal candidates.

Making hiring decisions also requires thinking ahead. "If you know this business is going to be $15 million in two years but currently is at $10 million, do you hire a leader who is ready for the $10 million challenge or who can grow it to $15 million?" said Gopalan.

4. Taking Stock of Existing Talent

At established organizations, conducting a talent review at all levels is a priority. This helps set the agenda in many areas, said Udbhav Ganjoo, Hyderabad-based head of HR for India and emerging markets at Mylan, a pharmaceutical firm.

For instance, the review would uncover insights on where talent is lacking, where new talent is needed and where existing employees need to be coached to fill any gaps. While such a review is done annually at Mylan, this time the team will use a range of technology in the process.

"This will be faster" and will result in a lot of data, Ganjoo said.

5. Honing and Updating Skills

Across industries, people chiefs are prioritizing training so staff can do their jobs better or, if their jobs are becoming redundant, to prepare them for new roles.

Training needs vary depending on the industry and role. Within service companies, the spotlight is on learning new technologies, while at manufacturing companies, training involves enhancing employees' functional skills or making them more tech-savvy.

"The idea is to upgrade their knowledge and skills so that they're able to deliver better on their roles," said V. Krishnan, head of HR at Dabur, a consumer products maker based in Ghaziabad.

6. 'Nudging' the Making of Leaders

As organizations grow, their HR chiefs are doubling down on grooming the next generation of leaders.

"No organization is stable if you have to keep hiring from outside. You will have to grow your internal leaders," said Indrani Chakraborty, head of HR at the CK Birla Group in Kolkata.

At CK Birla, the middle level of the organization comprises supervisors, such as the nurses in charge, whom Chakraborty aims to convert into great managers and administrators. This process will be driven partly through technology, such as nudging staff to keep up with the program through small learnings that are delivered via an application on mobile phones.

"You have to keep pushing content and reminding people," Chakraborty said.

7. Moving to Frequent Performance Reviews 

Companies continue to adopt continuous performance management rather than once-a-year reviews. Tech Mahindra plans to experiment with that approach this year, while Sony India initiated it late last year.

At Sony, the new system involves employees having conversations with their managers six times a year. The conversations not only help in providing regular feedback, but they also get employees more involved in their own personal development, Wadhwa said.

"We're looking at deepening that reflection and also the frequency of that reflection," she said.

8. Embracing New Types of Diversity

CHROs will continue to push their companies' diversity and inclusivity agendas by not only raising the percentage of women in the company, but also by enhancing the diversity of age and thought and prioritizing the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.

At Tech Mahindra, diversity also means preparing employees to work with robots. This year, the company plans to introduce 60 human-size robots in its offices around the world. These robots will walk the office floor and be able to recognize employees by their face, and they are trained to answer 20,000 HR-related queries, Soin said. Employees will be trained on how to interact with them. 

"It is diversity of a different kind," Soin said.

9. Balancing Needs of Younger and Older Workers

Companies continue to prepare themselves for India's booming young employee population. Employees under the age of 30 expect more flexibility at work and want more freedom on how they execute their roles.

At the same time, older workers derive their contentment from work in different ways.

For HR chiefs such as Ganjoo, this means creating different sets of initiatives and interventions suitable for both groups. "We ideally try to see how we can balance the two for keeping everyone motivated and engaged."

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Introduction to the Global Human Resources Discipline]

10. Retaining Culture Amid Expansion

For young companies that are expanding geographically, preserving and cultivating their nascent culture is a key focus. Technology can help, especially with new employees. But ultimately, managers are the best ambassadors of the behaviors and values that a company stands for.

Whenever Freshworks opens a new office, it sends "culture champions." These are existing employees who move to the new site to help make sure "things are done in the Freshworks way," Gopalan said.

This year, the company is having a similar conversation about its new site in Denver.

"As we hire a site leader, we also want to make sure that there are a few Freshworks folks who go and be a part of that site so that they can evangelize and set up the culture," Gopalan said.

Shefali Anand is a New Delhi-based journalist and former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. You can follow her on Twitter.



Hire the best HR talent or advance your own career.

Are you a department of one?

Expand your toolbox with the tools and techniques needed to fix your organization’s unique needs.

Expand your toolbox with the tools and techniques needed to fix your organization’s unique needs.



HR Daily Newsletter

News, trends and analysis, as well as breaking news alerts, to help HR professionals do their jobs better each business day.