Tech Trends That Should be on HR's Radar

By Shefali Anand January 13, 2021
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Organizations have accelerated their technological transformations, and HR needs to be at the vanguard of these.

“Technology is getting imbibed into our DNA,” said Sanjay Virmani, chief, HR management, at steel-maker Tata Steel Ltd. “HR leaders are going to play a very very important role in making sense of whatever we’re wanting to do in the information technology space,” said Virmani. He was speaking at SHRM Tech APAC, the annual technology conference for SHRM in the region, that was held virtually.

The conference brought together HR and technology experts to discuss how technology is changing the workplace.

Here are seven technology trends that HR should watch out for:

Hyper-Personalization: Digital tools are increasingly being used to make all employee interactions personalized. 

From wellbeing, to learning and development, to engagement — everything is expected to be customized to each employee’s needs, and data and analytics will be the key to achieving this. 

“That’s where there’s going to be a lot of revolution,” said R. Swaminathan, chief people officer at outsourcing firm WNS Group.

This will begin right from when a person applies for a job at the company.

“How do you get a personalized experience going for a candidate?” said Amit Singh, head of HR at SBI Funds Management, a money management firm. For instance, a fresher should have a different experience than a candidate seeking a senior position, said Singh.

Eventually technology will evolve to such a level that even niche skills can be hired at a large scale, said Anirvan Mukherjee, director of HR at CGI, an IT services provider. “You’d ultimately go into mass customization.”

Rwards, recognition, and compensation structures could also be customized, to meet the different needs of a multi-generational workforce.

Data Science Skills for Real Time Decisions

Organizations have rolled our chatbots and mobile applications and other platforms to track employee attendance, sentiment, feedback, and their every action and interaction with the company. The next step is to synthesize this information to provide meaningful insights to leaders in real time, so that they can take decisions accordingly, said Virmani.

“How we are trying to provide the visualization and analytics to the business?” he said.

The ability to make sense of data will be one of the most important skills of the future, said Jayant Paleti, co-founder of Darwinbox, an HR technology solutions-provider.

“I think three years from now, all of us will know how to use data science tools,” said Paleti.

HR’s Role in Cybersecurity

HR is now more closely involved with business continuity and disaster management plans, and an important part of that is to ensure top notch cybersecurity for the organization. “That is also HR responsibility now,” said Yash Mahadik, president, global HR, at pharmaceutical firm Lupin.

HR must team up with the chief investment officer to figure out what systems are needed, to train staff, equip them, and continuously communicate with them to stay alert, said Mahadik.

With more employees working remotely than ever before, cyber attacks have become a greater issue for organizations.

“Its like a war zone, and the attacker on the other side has really pumped it up big time because they know that the surface area of attack has gone up,” said Sreeji Gopinathan, chief information officer at Lupin.

Organizations can have the best technologies to fend off cyber criminals but one wrong click by an employee on a malicious email can make the network vulnerable to a cyber attack. “They are the weakest link in this,” said Gopinathan. He stressed on the need to have frequent training to keep employees alert.

Virtual Reality in Learning

The next level in learning and development programs is the use of augmented reality and virtual reality to provide exposure and experience to learners.

“I have started seeing AR, VR mainly on the leadership development space,” said K.N.S Acharya, director of the Global Engineering Academy, at L&T Technology Solutions, an engineering services firm.

Leaders are placed in a virtual environment and given tasks like defending certain proposals to customers, or for team development activities, said Acharya.

Meanwhile, for more technical skills, especially in the engineering and product design field, firms are turning to virtual labs and new age simulation tools to give hands-on experience.

However, limited bandwidth or limited computing space pose challenges in accessing these technologies widely. The advent of 5G wireless network technology may help resolve that, said Acharya.

Analytics to Map Organization Influencers

Organizational network analysis is coming up as a key tool to assist companies in driving change and achieving strategic objectives.

“With ONA, we can detect who are the key influencers, key opinion leaders, catalysts of change, mobilizers in organizations,” said

Silvia Fierascu, network science specialist at OrgMapper Academy, part of a software firm. Such an analysis helps show how communication flows within a company, both formally and informally, and that information can be help in making strategic decisions.

“You get to know these nodes for making that digital transformation happen,” said Harjeet Khanduja, vice president HR at telecom firm Reliance Jio. 

With the new hybrid workplace, where some employees come to the office while others work virtually, new networks may come up within the organization. 

“How do you leverage the power of networks?” said Emrana Sheikh, enterprise HR head at Johnson & Johnson India & South Asia.

Automation for Complex Tasks

The pandemic has accelerated the pace of automation, especially of basic tasks in manufacturing companies, but this is set to go up another notch. In the next one to three years, pharmaceutical firm Strides Pharma Science plans to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate higher level tasks like predictive maintenance, and advanced problem solving, said R. Ananthanarayanan, the company’s MD & CEO.

“Beyond three years, we clearly want to use and work on full scale Smart Lives,” he said. This could include digital warehouses, and factories with a high level of automation for very complex activities, and using internet of things (IoT) for continuous line factories, said Ananthanarayanan.

The Other Side of Tech

With technology becoming pervasive and people working at home and sitting in front of computers for long hours, orgnanizations need to be mindful of its potential to cause stress.

“We’ve started talking about this to our employees,” said Amol Gupta, people leader for India & Philippines at FIS, a financial technology services-provider.

His advice: “Stop the double screening.” Don’t switch between the computer and the mobile phone, or TV and mobile within a few minutes, and focus on one screen instead. “If you look at two things, attention is not there, productivity goes,” he said.

Second, Gupta advises creating some technology rules or zones, like timings or an area of the home where technology won’t be used.

Another rule Gupta has implemented: “Take a vacation even if I am not able to go out of my house.”


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