HR and HR Technology in India: Growth, Purpose and Value

By Josh Bersin May 5, 2017
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​Josh Bersin

HYDERABAD, INDIA—India now has the fastest-growing economy in the world, and it is expected to become larger than China's in the next 10 years, according to Delhi's Central Statistics Office. Many of the world's largest companies have set up service and technology operations in India, so the country has a combination of large corporate centers and fast-growing local Indian companies.

For those local companies, the role of human resources is very important, and their HR departments are well-staffed.

While attending the SHRM India Tech '17 conference and exposition here, I met with chief human resource officers and other HR leaders. These professionals are focused, highly educated and very strategic in their thinking.

As we discussed many of the trends in HR and technology, I heard intense interest and a passionate desire to push HR into the future. India is one of the largest users of mobile technology (and it also has a very young workforce), so virtually every HR leader I met with wants to "digitize" their company's HR experience. And when I talk about digital, I don't mean just building apps. I mean bringing solutions to where people are—in other words, embedding HR solutions into the flow of work.

I met with representatives from more than a dozen startup companies and midsize technology vendors selling world-class tools for continuous performance management, payroll and other core HR tasks, employee self-service, digital learning, and many other HR applications.

Several of the most innovative artificial intelligence-driven recruitment vendors were started in India, and their staffs consist of highly educated, energetic teams of young men and women. As I looked at their tools, I realized that most of them could become global players with the right funding. Applications like real-time chatbots are widely available here, and one of the vendors I encountered had such a fantastic chatbot app that I realized I could handle most of my employee activities entirely through messages.

Interestingly, Facebook recently announced that its chatbot toolset is embedded in Workplace by Facebook, so this type of application paradigm is going to grow rapidly.

India has over 1.3 billion people (four times more than the United States), and as its economy grows, so will jobs, companies and industries. Oil and gas companies, utilities, and construction and IT infrastructure firms are growing rapidly, and systems to manage training, regulatory compliance and recruitment are especially important.

However, budgets for HR technology in India tend to be low, so many organizations buy HR software from small local companies. I met with several HR technology practitioners who told me it's still quite common for companies to pilot vendor products and then try to build the systems themselves.

Finally, I had quite a few discussions with HR leaders about their strategies—and there is a strong focus on purpose, values and mission. India is a religious country, so people have a strong sense of community and identity that carries over into the workplace. When people talk about development, growth, education, leadership and collaboration, they think about it as a human strategy, not just a business strategy. This means the market for HR solutions is focused on business value, not necessarily just buying the fanciest new tool from the hottest new vendor. I find this refreshing, frankly, because so many of the "hot" HR vendors around the world today focus as much on trendy features as they do on real business value.

The entire week reminded me that HR technology is not an end in itself: If it doesn't make the company more efficient or significantly improve employee performance and productivity, it may not be worth buying.

There is much more to share, but in closing I would urge any HR professional working in a global company to visit their organization's operations in India. The HR and business community in India is amazingly insightful, ambitious and collaborative—in ways I find refreshing and inspiring for all of us.

The country is no longer a place to "outsource work." India is now a country filled with teams that can innovate, invent and add value to any part of a business.

 

Josh Bersin is principal and founder of Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting LLP. He is a published author on the Forbes website; is a LinkedIn Influencer; has been quoted by Bloomberg, NPR and The Wall Street Journal; and speaks at industry conferences and to corporate HR departments around the world. He was the keynote speaker at the SHRM India Tech '17 conference and exposition in Hyderabad in April. Contact him on Twitter @josh_bersin and follow him at www.bersin.com/Blog.

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