Technology is not Going to Change Things Overnight: Shubhayu Sengupta, HGS


We interviewed Shubhayu Sengupta, Senior Vice President, HR Head India, Hinduja Global Solutions (HGS) for our series on HR leaders of Bengaluru. Read on for his insights on the best strategies to upskill your workforce. 

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

Technology, as an innovative disruptor, is not going to change things overnight, there will be a phased approach to it. It is not that tomorrow everything will be replaced by bots. For a fair bit of time we will have both the worlds co-existing, so what would typically happen is that the innovation would come in and anything which is mundane or commoditized would get replaced and you would have automation taking care of it, in the form of a bot or otherwise.

Second thing which would happen is as a direct outcome of that, you would actually see the nature of work on the rise. Why would we keep saying that that the number of jobs would be lost, I think in parallel, what we should consider is that new jobs would be created. If you look at the environment, as an organization, we should take care of 2-3 things.

1- How to ensure that the existing leadership and employees can embrace tech as something that is an enabler, which will actually create more high value jobs. I think it’s important for an organization to create an ecosystem for people to appreciate and embrace and not fear the disruption. This is not the first time that disruption is happening, when tech came in years back when IT became a big thing that was perhaps the 1st wave of technology disruption.

I think it’s been a journey where we have been used to one kind of thought process, and we now need to create an ecosystem in the organization to ensure that both the worlds can co-exist. Employees from the old order should not get scared of tech, and on the contrary embrace it as a welcome change for better productivity. To create this ecosystem we need to make people feel comfortable with the disruption by technology. As an example, Nasscom has set up this platform called Future Skills where simple things like – what is AI is talked about. Creating the awareness and interest in these new tech topics I think that is important.

The ecosystem can be enabled in 3 ways:

  1. Creating awareness (imp)
  2. Identifying where we need to re-skill
  3. Proving a platform to re-skill

As an outcome of disruption that is happening, you cannot not lose sight of the fact that you still need humans to do certain jobs. You still need the human touch when you interact with people. So I think it is also important that if you look at skills, the skill set of people as we retrain them in different technical skills is one part, but on domain and behavioral skill they are very different.

So the domain expertise cannot be replaced by bots, ability to strike the deal with a potential customer can’t be replaced by bots. So there will be key typical skills which will need to be built, one is training people on new technologies. Second, how do you build domain expertise and the third is, how can you augment some of the behavioral aspects that are critical for the business to continue to succeed.

Download your copy of Winners Circle to read insights from top HR leaders like Shubhayu on talent management lifecycle and upskilling ‘for the win’ now!

What are the strategies you employ to upskill your workforce?

I think there are a couple of things-

First we will look at mapping existing capability vs. what we need. So in HGS, in some of the businesses, we have looked at specially how do we enhance leadership readiness and agility to manage the change so we have identified competencies of certain leadership levels and in one of the businesses we have done the mapping and we are looking at individual development plans.

So similarly for the top 100 leaders in HGS globally, we have worked with a consulting firm to do a talent assessment of our employees, look at the gaps and then suggest an individual development plan for employees. We feel that this is the critical component on how we want to look at building employee capabilities.

We also are looking at domain expertise. We already have certain academies in the health care business where we are trying to enhance and augment current practices which will actually be interested to build domain capability and whatever we have done in the past in terms of the product or service offering to the client, we want to really take it to the next level. So that is the second piece that is happening. I think, these are 2 important aspects that we are driving in our organisation to upskill our talent.

The third piece is something we have just started work on, which is also data analytics. We are looking at creating awareness and to buy talent in this domain.

How do you win at talent management?

As I said there are two things that we are doing. One is that, globally for the top 100 leaders we are doing a tool and there are certain competencies that have been identified and before that we have assessed current capabilities. This assessment leads to an understanding of the bench strength and talent pipeline. The moment you have that, comes a question of – How do you further augment that and link it to your succession plan. As we speak, our Succession Planning module will be rolled out sometime in November or December 2018. That’s for the top 100 leaders.

In the India business we have also gone a step ahead. So in our India business, we have an international part and a domestic part – in both these areas we are launching a talent development and talent assessment piece.

In the domestic business we have already done it. We have looked at the 9 Grid Model, there is nothing being done differently but it is the competencies that we are working on. Again, at the end of the day, because of the changing business scenario we are functioning in, the talent management approach will not change, what is changing is, the competencies that we are looking at now. So whatever is the competence, we hope to evaluate the older talent pipeline for competencies that are no longer applicable or relevant. As an example, today we are looking at mapping talent where the fundamental premise is the learning ability and the adaptability to change. These are two pieces where leadership is being evaluated.

But if you go a little in-depth, it’s about the ability to work with data, it’s about business acumen, it’s about how you can further augment technology like clinching a conversion with a potential client. So there are some attributes that are gaining finesse which are more prominent and impactful than in the past. Because – in the past you wouldn’t have so much data. So today you have so much data. But the ability of a leader to make a data-based business decision is critical to survival. I think those are some of the competencies/ways in which we are good at talent management.

Always in the past you would have had the traditional model of looking at a 9 box grid where you map your talent, as an outcome of that you would chart roles in one axis and on the other axis, timelines of readiness of when people can move into those roles, like a heat map. Once you did your talent assessment you would have names in those boxes which would tell you the health of your talent pipeline chart.

So people who are ready to move into those critical roles in the next one year are kind of well protected. But there would be roles were your would have empty boxes with no names. That will tell you – you need to buy talent you can’t build talent because it is not there in the company.

Fundamentally, that contemporary framework remains the same, what changes are the competencies we evaluate our people on, to look at identifying talent. What was pertinent a year back in this new way of working and in this new world has completely transformed. We are looking at mapping talent based on those new competencies keeping in mind the learning agility and the changed adaptability of employees.

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

I think that is fundamental. We have traditionally been a BPM company, if we look at the 24,000 employees in India or 44,000 globally, a large part of our business has been our contact center business. Now, 50% of the revenues come from our healthcare business and a large part of that is non-voice. So both worlds have co-existed for some time. Where disruption has come in the last couple of years is when automation comes in, the whole nature of work gets redefined. In the past we had graduates, now we are needing to hire people who are skilled in technology/AI /robotics.  So it’s a very different breed of people walking into an organization with very different levels of engagement or motivation to come to work, and hence the only thing which can unify the different sets of people is culture.

Today you have a workforce which is multi-generational, which is diverse, full-time or part-time and a scarcity of skills which is giving talent a much bigger and an upper hand while the demand is high and the supply is less. So the only thing that unifies all the variables would be your organizational culture. So it is very important not to lose sight of who you are as an organization and what your culture and values should emanate from. The core values do not change and that is something that represents the brand. I am a very strong proponent of culture being the biggest integrator of an employee to the company.

What role do you think tech plays in talent management? How can tech bring about a change in the talent management life-cycle?

Tech for me has always been an enabler. It certainly doesn’t take away from human intelligence and brilliance.

If you look at the evolution of tech over the years, it is essentially an enabler, it simplifies matters so that humans can focus on the higher order of tasks. So for me, both co-exist and both have extremely critical contributions to provide. For example, tech helps any people leader, at a click of a button, to know where all his talent is. So tech here is helping us enable a process become more efficient, data drive and easier to use. Tech or AI can predict performances, the objectivity of how you evaluate performance still lies with the person.

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