Analytics and insights about people play a key role: Suman Raghunathan, Vodafone


According to Suman Raghunathan, Vice President Human Resources, Vodafone, analytics and insights about people play a key role. “Today HR systems and technologies have gone far beyond just offering a database management system, today AI is being used to understand psychology and validating inherent drivers and motivation of people.”

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

The rules of the game are not only changing in businesses but also the way we live and experience our environment. Yet there are organizations that struggle to keep up with this, and there are others who seem to succeed.

Innovation is a process that starts with the “mindset”. Any organization that creates and environment which not only nurtures innovation but also fuels it, succeeds. I have worked with many organizations that have tried and tested various models, some that focus on the Process, governance & business value, others that focus on culture environment, & leadership behaviors that foster innovation. In my view, it’s not either or. If innovative disruptions need to happen it’s a combination of

  • The environment, culture and top leadership involvement
  • The Process, rigor and governance that enables innovation– Time is essence here of any process that enables innovation must, by design be rigorous at the same time speedy.

The top leadership plays a critical role. The attributes today for leadership is not merely ability to manage change and ambiguity (which has been highlighted in the VUCA world) but also the ability to Ideate & take risks. These are rare skills, and not all possess these skills, the responsibility of successful leadership hence is to identify and spot such talent and then nurture them for success.

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

Talent management practices today have gone through tremendous innovation due to technology. From recruiting to understanding motivation of people to perform.

Analytics and insights about people play a key role. Today HR systems and technologies have gone far beyond just offering a database management system, today AI is being used to understand psychology and validating inherent drivers and motivation of people. Having said that following are the specific areas where technology will change the Talent management lifecycle

  • Recruiting – There is significant disruption in this space already. Organization utilize various data driven tools and techniques (technology enabled) to sift through sea of data while selecting the right hires. What would also be catching up speed would be talent, volunteering to participate in understanding their own self with respect to softer aspects of their personality and what environments motivate them, this would result in a number of unique platforms that store candidate information not from just a resume and past experience information but also the inherent needs and drivers of people, which will make recruiting that much more transparent and would not be just punts that we take on people based on past successes.
  • Onboarding & culture assimilation – while a nebulous concept such as culture would needs to be experienced rather than taught, a number of technology tools will enable speed with which one assimilates ways of working and some hard coded values of the company. Technology tools such as gamification of on-boarding integrated with AI HR help bots to understand policies and processes, will ensure faster integration of new employees.
  • Performance and Potential identification – This entire concept of managing performance and identifying potential is going to be the next wave in HR technology. Performance management as we traditionally understand is already being impacted due to generational norms where millennials don’t want to be managed but want to be guided and mentored.

This fundamental shift in mindset has resulted in organizations doing away with a grading system when it comes to performance evaluation, new technologies that help manager share instant feedback, apps and analytics that enable employees volunteer to get instant feedback from project teams and groups. Similarly, since the new generation would like to volunteer to understand drivers and motivators, a large part of the insights about people can come through data & analytics that drive a certain behavior in individuals. This AI in HR technology has a huge role to play. How will this get integrated with systems in HR, what will be the data privacy norms , how will organization use this information is yet to be seen, but these are clear areas where technology will disrupt existing practices. 


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