2019: Introducing Social Technology as an HR Mindset

2019: Introducing Social Technology as an HR Mindset

Madhav Vamsi currently works as Head of Talent & Culture at Swiggy. Prior to this, Madhav was associated with Microsoft, Flipkart and Tata’s. He is an alumnus of NIPM where he did his Doctorate in Management Studies. His expertise involves HR Designs, Data and Insights, building people efficiencies.

Understanding and creating policies to complement employee behaviour can result in a real shift in the workplace culture and norms. But what is this behaviour that organisations need to decode? And how do they do this? The answer is behavioural sciences and insights. This social technology can go a long way in encouraging people to behave a certain way in the workplace. Read on to understand how.

The fact remains that not many organisations truly understand what delights its consumers & employees and therefore face challenges when it comes to generating valued outcomes. While some of them have introduced world-class policies and benefits for employee retention, boosting morale, and facilitating commitment, and to become an employer of choice, achieving a broader adoption of policies and benefits has always been hard. There is no dearth of advice/ suggestions on how to do this, especially with the aspiration to institute change. However, I believe low-cost behavioural interventions can result in a real shift in workplace norms and culture. Before I share my inputs on what are the behavioural sciences and insights for nudging people to behave a little differently, I would like to look at some lessons I learned as an HR professional in 2018.

What Did I Learn in 2018?

Human Biases

When we talk about bias, we often tie it to acts of discrimination or prejudice. However, this is not true; not all biases are counter- productive. By the virtue of having a brain, which over a period of time gets conditioned basis our experiences, moments and environment, we grow up to be a certain individual with attachment to specific behaviours.

Design thinking cannot just be a course or a certification program. In order to achieve results and solutions to problems (both life and business-related problems), DT has to be adopted across personal and professional life.

In my opinion, the biggest counter-productive bias is “Similarity Bias” – we like what is like us. With counter-productive biases, are we able to keep up with the forces at play? #VUCA times

Diverse Voices Missing
We need to focus on redesigning organisation structures to enable both cross conversations and downward-up conversations. With words like transparency and empowerment being loosely used and communication in silos, the mission is not getting cascaded to the nth employee. HR professionals need to ensure that they encourage a culture of openness and transparency in the organisation. With the current organisational design and structure are we able to truly measure organisation health?

Incubating and Hiring
It is imperative to focus on hiring diverse talent ( where diversity is not only restricted to gender or age; thought diversity is the next frontier), incubate in-house talent, and create an agile talent management design to groom in-house team.

The illiterate would remain in those who resist to learn, unlearn, and relearn!

Social Technology via Behavioural Economics – My Observations for 2019

As HR professionals it is critical we reorient and create future proof designs and systems. Convert static identities in your organisation to dynamic identities. How? Let’s understand.

Be Ready to Re-imagine
Research, reframing problems, and experimentation are the only way forward. Design Thinking (DT) is a popular step-by-step approach to innovation. The core of the process of design thinking is empathy. Traditionally the process takes us through steps – Learn-Apply-Deploy. Learning via experiential process, learning from real-time problems or case studies, applying DT on a practice problem, and finally deploying DT with a sharp adoption and plan.

Design thinking cannot just be a course or a certification program. In order to achieve results and solutions to problems (both life and business-related problems), DT has to be adopted across personal and professional life. At an organisational level, DT deployment stages could constitute a mix of practising techniques like ideation prompts, empathy culture, changes in project management structure to massive changes in organisational culture to HR policies etc. Smart HR organisations will look at behavioural economics as a guide and start designing in ways that help employees, citizens to make better decisions.

Catalysing Change
Future at work, in my view, would be deeply invested in Behavioural Economics, creating nudge strategies, a process of convergence of behavioural economics, design thinking principles, and utilizing data to solve critical people and business challenges. Since HR touches every aspect—and every employee—of an organisation, its agile transformation may be even more extensive (and more difficult) than the changes in other functions. Let’s consider the following example –

Problem: if behavioural economics could be used to encourage people to work more flexible, especially to commute outside of peak hours, consider the traffic woes.

Nudge/Intervention: Changing default settings in Microsoft Outlook or Google calendars. Outlook defaults to highlighting 9 AM to 5 PM at the time people are available for meetings. To subtly nudge people to avoid early and late meetings, and to enable flexible start and finish times, try condensed default available times shown in Outlook.

Problem: Limited cross-functional understanding causes drop in real innovation.

Nudge/Intervention: Google introduced Micro-Kitchens where people from different departments meet over lunch in inspiring settings & therefore cross-pollination happens in the most natural form. You could spend half your life trying every technology that comes down the search, and still be hopelessly at bay. A search of social tech tools on Google reminds me of all the software and hardware that floats by me, untried.

If getting ahead with what matters to you, your team and your business switch to behavioural economics as the social technology for future and ever.


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