Technology is an Asset Which Enables Organizations to Take Decisions on Talent: Ashish Kolvalker, Amagi Media Labs


I also encourage reverse mentoring – wherein we have our youngest, recently graduated employees sharing gyaan on technology to the experienced leaders within the firm.” said Ashish Kolvalker, Head HR, Amagi Media Labs. Read on for his insights on the role of workplace culture in increasing efficiency. 

What are the steps you take as a leader to embrace innovative disruption?

The key thing leaders need to do is to be open to innovation. The pace of change in the last 3-4 years has been amazing, nothing compared to how it was 10 years back. The quality of discussions and overall content we now see on sites like LinkedIn etc. is of high standards and challenges our thoughts. Experienced leaders have to walk the talk when it comes to innovation and be role models for change.

I believe in keeping the organization informed of innovation happening across the globe and inspiring change by encouraging ideas from all employees. Inviting today’s entrepreneurs for talks on new products and how they succeeded / failed in their ventures is something we regularly do. We also have platforms through which we encourage employees to share new ideas and evaluate these on feasibility of implementation. I also encourage reverse mentoring – wherein we have our youngest, recently graduated employees sharing gyaan on technology to the experienced leaders within the firm. 

What are the strategies you employ to upskill your workforce?

We believe in continuous learning on-the-job, wherein individuals do not remain in the same role for more than a year to 18 months and keep shifting in terms of the domain they work on, technology platform, team, etc. given superior performance, so as to continuously challenge the person. From a technology perspective, we strongly encourage participation in external forums, courses on technical skills, new methodologies etc. Internally we hold regular knowledge sharing sessions across functions, where we have a ‘shepherd’ anchoring the session (not necessarily leading it), and facilitating a conversation where employees across experience levels get to share their thoughts on a chosen topic.

On the behavioral front, the employee’s journey is rigorously mapped through an Individual Development Plan, which focuses on strengths and improvement of gaps. Once a year we carry out a 360 degree feedback survey which provides important inputs on the employee’s development. Throughout the year, it is imperative that the Managers are constantly sharing feedback with their team members.

How do you win at talent management? 

Some principles of talent management have changed over the last few years. Managing an increasingly burgeoning population of GenY and GenZ talent is now a priority. Understanding what keeps this talent ticking is key. Today’s individuals are not those for whom you can define a 3-4 year roadmap from one role to the other. They are constantly asking for new challenges in order to seek purpose in their work. Longer tenures in organizations work only if the firm is able to constantly keep them motivated through different experiences. The Indian workforce is opening up to the gig economy, where, in a few years, HR professionals may need to craft assignments and experiences for the workforce, and not job descriptions. 

I think keeping some of these aspects in mind will help today’s organizations in managing and ensuring high productivity from today’s talent.  

What role do you think culture plays in increasing efficiency at work?

Culture is the most spoken of, but the least managed aspect of today’s organizations. Unfortunately, with the pace of changes, expectations of “a quick turnaround” from senior business leaders, continuous influx of talent across experience levels, etc. culture falls last in the list of priorities and more often than not is shirked onto the HR function. 

Key aspects of culture include the behaviors the organization’s leadership would want to drive across the organization. These behaviors are unique to that organization and are important for an employee’s success. I believe it is important that such key aspects are brought in at the time of an employee’s induction and then regularly visited. Such behaviors can be brought alive by recognizing key individual instances showcasing superior performance. 

Where HR plays a role is in facilitating constant employee conversations, pulse surveys etc. to gauge employee feedback – this is important given the changing priorities of organizations. I remember my days as a Consultant when we did an employee engagement study for a large, renowned organization which used to pride itself about its culture. The study highlighted many employee comments on ‘paper pushing’, ‘power circles’, ‘inappropriate manager attitude’ with incident examples – a shocking revelation to the leadership, which just went to show how the top leadership had lost sight of the culture they wanted to drive given the business priorities.

What role do you think technology plays in talent management? How can technology bring about a change in the talent management lifecycle?

Technology is an asset which enables organizations to take decisions on talent – whether it is about hiring, rewarding, managing performance or retention. Technology ensures speed and easy availability of data points. It is inevitable that going ahead we need to facilitate the entire talent management life cycle through technology. I am delighted by the fact that we have so many good talent management tools in the market today, and even more individuals who are stepping in to build products which can help in different people aspects – measuring employee engagement, gauging continuous employee feedback, learning and development, improving hiring productivity and so on. Rapid advances in technology have brought in things like Artificial Intelligence, use of Machine Learning etc., for studying people processes. 

The cost of some of these tools remains a concern, however increasingly, business leaders are recognizing the fact that many such tools help improve productivity and are essential for organizations. What is important to remember however, is that technology can be an enabler in people-related decisions and not be the decider by itself. 



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