Manu Srinivasan, HR Leader, L&D and Leadership Consultant

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“The new normal is that there is going to be no normal” – Manu Srinivasan, HR Leader, L&D & Leadership Consultant

With rich experience in the entire gamut of HR now a consultant founder of HR Marga, how do you ensure that the transformation goals and objectives support the business strategy? What are the key steps you ensure you implement in the process of transformation?

Today the need for transformation initiatives are very high. There are many changes due to technology and business disruptions. The impact is now more short-term rather than the earlier 5-year strategic plans. The need for businesses to reinvent themselves, and organizations to reimagine themselves, is definitely more frequent right now.

 

It requires leadership to be able to articulate this vision. Leadership is responsible for enabling strategy and various stake holders and role players need to get into action to make that transformation vision a reality. Therefore, the role players must be very clear about what they must do.

They have to collaborate and interconnect with various departments and functions as they may all have a role to play. They will need to examine the opportunity to leverage technology, rewrite processes, there has to be focus on communication, plan for training, prioritize re-skilling, etc. To transverse that journey between vision and implementation of transformation initiatives, it requires articulating the strategy, defining the execution plan and envisaging the roles of key personnel who are going to implement and execute the strategy with each one of them having clear goals and objectives.

There must be metrics and measures; there must be specified timelines. One needs to understand how does automation support the transformation initiative, what are those measures of success, how to evaluate if the transformation initiative is delivering to the vision and the business goals, and the whole process of change management. How are people taken along in this entire transformation?

 

Since you have vast experience across various industries in HR space, what do you think are the recurring problems across domains?

One of the recurring problems especially when it comes to the people side of things, and since we are planning for shorter time frames, skills that are required may change and vary frequently. Since the skill needs are shifting, we must ensure that we are not hiring for skill, skill can be learned, but for capability.

The second challenge that we have is, since the skills needed are changing, there is need for a dynamic learning culture. In any company whether pharma, tech or retail the learning is the most important aspect of how people are expected to learn to keep up with changing times.

The other common need is leadership with vision. A lot of capability in leadership is about business technology, finance etc but very seldom you get good inspirational leadership that focuses on the people paradigm. Most of the leaders do not think that this is an important aspect -and this becomes a gap. A leader may have the best vision, the best business ideas but if they do not have the right talent, support and alignment to and delivering to the vision, it won’t work. The leader’s job is to inspire that trust, foster engagement and ensure alignment.

Similarly, at the mid-level we have huge people management gaps again, because we hire for skill, we promote for skill. We promote individual contributors to managerial roles. We do not look for the people management capabilities or the interest for that matter in the people that we promote. We do not know if many of our high performers are interested to grow their careers as people leaders, whether they have the empathy, or the tools required to lead other people and hence we have a huge gap people management gap in the middle layer.

The other common issue that I have seen is Talent availability. There is huge amount of people in the job market but the right talent, qualified talent is not very common to find. All the organizations are facing the same challenge- our hiring cycles are long because we don’t find the right talent, we go through multiple interviews and shortlists till we find the people that we want to hire.

 

The other common challenge we find is that adaptation of technology is very patchy. There is insufficient investment, people are not trained and hence are not comfortable with adaptation of new technology. There is worry about jobs and there’s a lot of resistance to adaptation of any new technology in any domain.

 

Describe as per your opinion what’s going to be the new normal post COVID how can people be managing this change?

The new normal is that there is going to be no normal, because I think the openness to change has to be very, very high on the business as well as people dimensions. The employees must be open to adapt to the new paradigm. None of us have the crystal ball by which we can see how things are going to be a year or two from now. Things are changing rapidly, and we need to cope with that change. We need to adapt to the change. The biggest constant in all this is learning. We need to keep learning and we need to keep leveraging technology. If today, imagine we didn’t have the ability to connect from remote locations, where would we be? We need to look at what is emerging in the technology landscape. How do you leverage it? How do we make it work for us?

The other very important thing that we need to keep in mind is the wellness aspect is going to become very important in the HR space. How do we cope with physical and mental health and the associated issues? How do we cope with the anxiety of people? How do we deal with social breakdowns? How do we cope with isolation? How do we cope with biases that come through?

Another change in the new situation is the entitlement that employees feel that every year they will get this compensation increase, promotions variable pay etc. That will definitely change. Commercially organizations will re-examine their priorities, consider how they want to spend their money, prioritize talent they want to invest in. During the period of financial recovery, you cannot expect to get that 10 to 15 percent pay increase every year. Even retention of jobs is questionable.

The other thing is a very high degree of quality leadership. Leadership that’s high on emotional intelligence, on ability to adapt, on influencing capabilities.

 

And leadership is going to be critical in this period.

 

As a consultant to global companies in many areas, one of them being into the recruitment space, suggest us how has HR tech helped in unifying the recruitment operations?

The most common thing is ‘Technology’ has made it more efficient in terms of time and cost. To me the biggest wins have been with the candidate engagement and experience. ‘Technology’ allows you to engage with the candidate because it allows you to put out all the information and personalize it to the candidate’s need. It enables you to interact at regular intervals the right point in time.

The relationship between the hiring manager and the recruitment team becomes a lot more seamless. The hiring teams are an intrinsic participant of the whole hiring process, and this is enabled through technology. It allows for an advanced degree of collaboration.

We do have a lot of Skill assessment that has happened in last so many years. But now technology also examines cultural alignment and fit as well as the candidate’s ability to enrich the culture, evaluates capabilities, interest, and enhances and elevates the whole experience of joining and onboarding, which makes a transition from being an outsider with the organization to being assimilated and involved in the organization much more seamless and a lot more efficient.

Also, the connection between the hiring process and the other HR processes such as Performance management, career planning and Learning and Development has strengthened a lot. Obviously, there are more efficiencies in HR teams.

 

How much the role of an HR has evolved? What do you think the future of HR professionals look like?

In this particular time frame of the pandemic, HR leaders have become central to the organization. Because nobody was aware of how to deal with this situation, and “Due to the complexity of the situation, the HR leader is now more crucial in managing the whole shift.” Employees have to work remotely; they need to develop collaboration capabilities, their connectedness. All this has become very core to what an HR leader must do. Everybody is ambiguous about the future; in ambiguity lies the opportunity to be creative and to be innovative and to emerge as a leader.

If you have a plan that’s well envisioned, very beautifully thought at the strategic level, but if it’s not executed ably, it will have no impact. HR specialists must be execution specialists to deliver initiatives of organization impact, to ensure outcomes are met, continuously improve and raise the bar; you need them to be program managers because, in every such situation, there would be different components to manage the situation. While HR has to evolve, they require to traverse both sides of the spectrum, the strategic as well as the execution.

 

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