In an exclusive interaction with All Things Talent, Manoj Kumar, Founder of Workplaceif talks about how people analytics can help in making informed and objective decisions regarding people, recruitment and technology. He also throws light on AI and how it will dramatically change the landscape of HR.
Manoj Kumar is the Founder of Workplaceif, an HR analytics startup based in Bengaluru. Before founding Workplaceif, Kumar headed People Analytics Global CoE at HSBC. He has a rich experience of having worked extensively in business analytics in various premier organisations such as HSBC, Fidelity Investments, Genpact and Tata Consultancy Services. He is also the winner of HR 40 Under40 award in 2017. He is a thought leader, influencer, blogger, speaker, and an advisor for workplace digital transformation, People Analytics, and future of work. He is an IIT-IIM alumnus and has spent close to two decades with global Technology, manufacturing, and financial services fortune 500 firms.
Q.With your diverse and rich experience of almost 2 decades in various leadership roles, how has this journey been so far? What’s the greatest risk you took to get where you are today?
A. Last two decades have been fantastic and I can foresee that the coming years are going to be no less rewarding. Throughout my career, I have been lucky enough to work in diverse roles spanning five multinational companies, three industries, four functions, and four continents. I have progressed from being an individual contributor to managing multi-geography diverse ethnicity groups across technical, functional, and leadership positions. So far, I couldn’t have asked for more. Regarding risk, the greatest risk is when you stay in one role for long and don’t push yourself in the newly emerging areas or the zone of discomfort. So, essentially, while I have been very conservative in taking conventional risks, I never hesitated to take up roles that challenge myself and force me to unlearn everything to learn new things. Taking it further, now, I am a part of the gig ecosystem which is the future of work.
Q. You were leading People Analytics Global at HSBC prior to founding your own firm, Workplaceif. How do you plan to do things differently at your own firm? How will you describe your job in a nutshell?
A. People Analytics, if done well, can immensely impact an organisation and help in making informed and objective decisions regarding people. Still, many organisations including fortune 500 don’t have this capability. While speaking with several business leaders, CHROs, and People Analytics practitioners across geographies, I found a common need to do this in an agile and strategic manner that can democratize the power of HR data. Hence, Workplaceif was born. Workplaceif is a People Analytics think-tank that provides critical thought leadership on HR data literacy and people-related management objectives via analytics advisory, academy, and consulting services. We have built a proprietary framework that helps client design, discover, and deliver a sustainable people analytics capability for the business objectives – a capability that is embedded in the organisation’s DNA. Also, we believe the technology and analytics solutions are just a small part of the solution. For HR to become a true data-driven function, we invest our knowledge and effort extensively in data and analytics literacy programs through a global network of experts. So, in a nutshell, my role is to help organisations embed people analytics in their workflow and enable HR to improve the human capital ROI of the organisation.
Q. Artificial Intelligence is on the verge of penetrating every major industry and function including HR. According to you, what will be the future of HR in this agile environment and how will it cope with technological disruptions?
A. AI is becoming a new normal for most of the organisations, especially to build the automation and augmentation capabilities to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the existing processes. Autonomous AI is yet less ventured, and HR is no different from other peer functions on this journey. Talent discovery, onboarding, learning, engagement, and retention are few of the HR areas where AI is already functional and delivering positive business impact. Once it reaches its full potential, the current form of HR will not remain relevant as the machines will do most of the current responsibilities. The future HR will be a digitally savvy function with core responsibilities of a) building a networked organisation b) architecting candidate-employee experience c) driving outside-in perspective in all HR core processes, and d) using analytics to quantify and improve ROI from human capital of the organisation. During this massive change, HR employees are excited but nervous too. We need to manage this transformation effectively. There are five simple things organisations can do to manage better:
Don’t just buy an AI application because your competition has implemented it but it needs to be aligned with your strategic priorities.
If you decide to implement AI, see if solution fits into your organisational flow of work or not. If not, what changes it requires to bring within the flow.
The greatest risk is when you stay in one role for long and don’t push yourself in the newly emerging areas or the zone of discomfort.
Collaborate with your peer functions or businesses internally/externally who have already witnessed successful/failed AI implementations.
Run AI literacy program for HR employees to help them see the potential of the application and how it would help them do their core job better.
Actively participate in demos from HR tech Startups to keep up to the speed with the industry change
Q. Recruitment is undergoing a lot of change with automation becoming a bigger factor in intelligent recruitment. How can big data and analytics become key factors in transforming recruitment processes?
A. CEOs across the world see the availability of key talent as one of the top five challenges that keeps them awake at night. In the knowledge economy, talent discovery and attraction is a business critical but significantly painful and time-consuming process. The conventional search doesn’t work especially for passive talent. The authenticity of resumes, inconsistent recruiting process, unconscious interviewer bias, and candidate experience during the interview journey adds further complexity to the whole situation. Companies have lost millions due to poor candidate experience as their candidates were also a customer.
Bad candidate experience could even increase the offer rejection rate by up to 25%. It is evident from the above that Recruitment function needs to adopt new ways of working – a subtle blend of technology, data analytics, and personal touch to meet changing talent needs. Advance algorithms and data analytics are enabling companies to discover, attract, and engage talent in the recruitment process while keeping the candidate experience personalized and timely. People Analytics can further enhance the quality of hire by predicting the cultural fit at the time of hiring. There are endless possibilities for delivering efficiency in the recruitment process. Companies are obsessing over the new analytics-driven recruitment recommendation engines as these data-driven interventions have the potential to achieve a 25% cost efficiency gain over existing methods.
Q. Millennials have emerged as the most data-driven generation and they intuitively know how to use data in new ways. In your opinion, how will they bring a whole new technical capability to today’s businesses, markets and operational arenas?
A. We are living in an era of work-life integration where work and personal life, both are experiencing almost similar enabling technologies. A workplace is becoming more collaborative, inclusive, and digital – cloud-based applications, BYOD, work from anywhere, use of collaboration tools like Slack, Teams. Moreover, the millennial population has been experiencing this integration since their childhood. Hence, adoption is not a barrier – a digital-savvy workplace is one of the attraction channels for the new generation workforce.
Internal resistance to change is seen as one of the biggest challenges for digital transformation. Kodak invented the digital camera and it was the internal resistance to change that made company bury it. Industrial Revolution 4.0 is here, and companies don’t have a choice but to go through the digital transformation sooner than later. With the millennial workforce, organisations can expedite their transformation journey with less friction and realize the full potential of digital power.
Q. What is your view of women leadership development? What leadership development programmes for women does the company have in place and according to you, how can firms benefit from gender equality in leadership positions?
A. There are compelling pieces of research evidence that companies in the top 25th percentile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21% more likely to experience above-average profits. Still, the proportion of women in leadership roles remains low for many organisations. Nearly 60 per cent of firms have no female board members, just over half have no female “C-suite” member, and less than 5% have a female CEO, per another research. There is a relative dearth of women in leadership positions globally. While working with large financial services, we found that female representation at the bottom of the pyramid was nearly equal but decreases significantly as we go up the grades. Women face a unique set of challenges while progressing to senior roles – a shortage of role models, shrinking peer group, unconscious bias, and being lonely at the top. We know that these challenges can’t be solved over-night, but best of the strategic programs for women leadership can enable organisations to bring sustainable change. We, at Workplaceif have been involved in helping organisations in measuring the size of the problem, effectiveness of the programs, and data-driven recommendations. Few of the program that has been very effective include:
- Building women leadership network driven by role models.
- Champions as change – Male Allies program for women leaders
- Equip them with best-in-class tools to increase their leadership impact via executive women leadership education programs
- Inclusive HR policies to allow working parents to share family responsibilities better
- A program that encourages more women employees to be a mentor
Use People Analytics to bring awareness and remove unconscious bias- Job description language inclusivity for gender, identification of hidden female influencers for future leadership roles, eliminate recruitment bias using AI-based applications, and data- driven promotion for dads taking long-leaves to support a family. An analysis shows that having more than 2 female members in the recruitment panel reduces the chance of gender bias and promotes fairness.
Q. Even though talent scarcity is still a big issue yet why is it so that some of the companies are replacing talent management with people management? How can predictive analytics prove to be a game changer here?
A. The workplace and HR processes of yesterday don’t meet the requirement of the current workforce as they are designed around permanent employees only. Current talent management processes are inward-looking and mostly focused on managing long- term career from hire to retire. Today’s workforce mix is complex – multi-generation, diverse ethnicity, and a healthy mix of employees, contractors, & consultants. To manage them effectively, we need a process that supports an ecosystem where people are collaborative, productive, committed, and have the right attitude to contribute to the company goals.
People Analytics, if done well, can immensely impact an organisation and help in making informed and objective decisions regarding people. Still, many organisations including fortune 500 don’t have this capability.
An ecosystem where they are empowered to do their job, define their career path, go through L&D interventions, and rewarded per the job roles and performance. Hence, people management is a more relevant approach to manage the future workforce. Moreover, when situations are complex, data plays an important role to enable critical decision making. To solidify this thought, I am sharing how organisations are adopting predictive analytics for people management. Conventional talent management and succession planning processes are limited to the permanent employees only and don’t cover extended workforce. Additionally, these processes are not good enough to capture all the hidden influencers in the organisation who could potentially drive change management effectively during major transformations or take future leadership positions in the organisation. This issue could be due to multiple reasons such as manager biases, process- driven culture, multi-geography locations, an introvert personality.
We used an Organisational Network Analysis (ONA) to solve the problem that uses active and passive employee interaction data to find hidden influencers. Analysis showed that you could reach 90% of the workforce through 3% of influencers identified using ONA. These are crucial communication brokers during the significant transformation of any organisation. A similar analysis was conducted to determine the network construct of highly effective sales leaders to design L&D interventions. We have taken ONA further and implemented the technique for attrition problem too.