Engagement and enablement have to be designed and implemented together to create a well-rounded employee experience. It wouldn’t be wrong to say “enablement leads to better engagement”, says Pankaj Khanna, Head of Revenue Assurance at Coforge. Here, Pankaj talks about the importance of people’s enablement and why it’s so important in today’s business world. He also shares his insights on the evolving role of HR and the current talent acquisition landscape.
Q. With your versatile and rich experience of almost 3 decades across various industries, how eventful has your journey been like?
A. Having worked as an HR professional over the years, my passion has evolved into a strong belief that business understanding is key for HR success. I have always encouraged my team to engage/interact/debate with business stakeholders on the critical problems that business leaders expect HR teams to provide solutions for. Conceptualizing solutions can only happen once market dynamics and competitive positioning are known. Someone taught me very early in my career that to devise a solution to a problem when one either experiences the problem or when one has been a part of that problem!
Q. HR professionals no longer serve as strategic consultants, they also need to understand analytics, work with finance, and understand the role of changing technology. How has your experience in engineering and finance helped you handle HR and made you ready for the future role of HR?
A. Analytics help in summary views, predicting, and pinpointing, whereas finance exposure ensures appreciation of the value of $/rupee. We have always been schooled to think of parts becoming a whole, but many times business realities make logic take a back seat. Future of HR hinges on the understanding of technology and tools which will enable timely decision-making. HR professionals need to come up with their definitions of Agile. HR processes need to be revisited especially when viewed from the lens of large-sized organisations that have established timelines on appraisals, promotions, and hikes. HR’s ability to work together with finance and analytics can help the function in becoming nimble, responsive in crises and reap a number of other benefits for the organization.
Conceptualizing solutions can only happen once market dynamics and competitive positioning are known. Someone taught me very early in my career that you can only devise a solution to a problem when one either experiences the problem or when one has been a part of that problem!
Q. HR is evolving and gradually becoming a business partner with the top management in the growth of the organization. Can you explain how organizations benefit from HR and management collaboration and by aligning HR Systems with business strategy?
A: In the current era, the HR function has evolved as a key partner in all facets of business, right from sales to customer support. Well-aligned HR systems enable business teams to make decisions at any point in time. Most complex people-related challenges have been sorted using advanced systems as well by leveraging the power of analytics, for example in the IT industry, analytics cover people availability, compensation benchmarking, reskilling, growth, etc. Almost all customers choose their service providers not only by looking at technical capabilities but also by looking at the ability to hire, retain and reskill. Increased usage of advanced skills in AI and analytics is enabling business strategy by using these tools in trend analysis and recommendations for decision making.
Advanced HR systems can also help predict workforce challenges well in advance and can help prepare businesses for crises. HR plays a key role in not only nurturing young talent to scale them up for future roles, but it also works closely with the top management to define succession plans for all key leaders thereby preparing for future situations.
Q. In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, the need for meaningful employee engagement has become more pronounced. In your opinion, how has employee engagement changed in the COVID-19 era?
A: There is no doubt that employee engagement has changed. Throughout the pandemic, employee trust has changed, they have turned to their leaders to connect, support and recognise them in the changing world of the Covid-19. Right now, employers are facing the challenge of engaging a radically changed workforce, however, the pandemic has also emerged as an incredible opportunity for HR to transform. Employers are exploring new ways to connect leaders and employees, putting in strategies to improve the employee experience through virtual tools, just to name a few. Now more than ever, a dedicated focus on employee engagement is needed and for this, HR will have to prioritise relationships and bring teams together to talk and work together on projects like never before. The important lesson we can learn from this crisis is: When the company takes care of its people, the people take care of the company.
Future of HR hinges on the understanding of technology and tools which will enable timely decision-making. HR professionals need to come up with their definitions of Agile. HR processes need to be revisited especially when viewed from the lens of largesized organisations that have established timelines on appraisals, promotions, and hikes.
Q. Speaking of employee engagement, companies that have great engagement often fall short of goals because of a lack of enablement. What is the relationship between engagement and enablement?
A: Employees are most productive and effective when they are engaged and enabled. However, a great deal of engagement without enablement won’t result in long term goals. While most organizations have practices measuring the effectiveness of engagement, many times, lack of enablement such as decision-making powers, access to technology and tools, liberty to innovate, etc lead to higher attrition, lower performance levels and lower employee satisfaction levels. Enablement has to be flexible to be redesigned as per the needs of the organization and prevailing market conditions. Engagement and enablement have to be designed and implemented together to create a well-rounded employee experience. Most organizations are shifting to enablement rather than just engagement, especially in the area of learning by providing access to new tools and also by creating an environment for the same.It wouldn’t be wrong to say “enablement leads to better engagement”. The level of commitment and focus of employees is directly proportional to the level of enablement they have at work. Click To Tweet
Q: Due to the pandemic, recruitment is not the same as before. How do you view the current talent acquisition landscape? Do you anticipate any slowdowns in campus recruitment this year moving forward?
A: Due to the pandemic, volumes have reduced, however, the demand for advanced technologies such as AI, analytics, digital and cloud has been increasing. This is a result of changes happening in the industry in terms of digitalization even in the fundamental industries, the democratisation of data and cloud, and deep automation. The Talent Acquisition industry will see a transformation to be aligned with the above-said changes in all areas of recruitment such as sourcing, selection methodologies and talent engagement practices. There could be a decrease in overall campus hiring, however, the demand will sustain. Even in campus hires, skills acquired as part of curricula and skills acquired outside to sharpen/ upskill oneself are going to be equally critical as companies hire from campuses. Campuses need to focus on assertive communication and influential interactions as part of technical co-learnings.
FUTURE OF WORK
Q: With industry leaders, managers, employers and employees eager to get back to normal, what are some major lessons that you think will come out of this crisis and how do we make sure that we learn from this experience?
A: In the coming days, organizations will face challenges to ensure a sense of belonging. In order to overcome this, recognition policies need to be redesigned and efforts to build a stronger culture of belonging will yield high performances in the current scenario (working remotely). Uncertainty around the pandemic exposed new models of the workforce and organizations will continue to explore contingent workforce models. Also, there has to be an effort by organizations to encourage employees to develop new skills which may potentially open up new opportunities during pandemic or post-pandemic.
Engagement and enablement have to be designed and implemented together to create a well-rounded employee experience. Most organizations are shifting to enablement rather than just engagement, especially in the area of learning by providing access to new tools and also by creating an environment for the same.
Technology-enabled engagement, performance enablement and learning are going to play a vital role in the development of employees. Organizations have already started rebuilding the approach and practices of wellbeing for their employees.
Another challenge that has come up or will come out more strongly is the dilution or erosion of time boundaries for most of the people while working from home resulting in faster burnouts. Organizations will have to rethink the approach for ensuring that burnout doesn’t happen. This might mean exploring the untrodden path.