What’s likely to describe 2017 for a business? We think, it will be more of automation, greater demand on agility and de-globalisation. Businesses will look for ways of higher efficiencies by deployment of technology, automation, robotics, artificial intelligence and similar such methods. They will try reducing their cost of operations by having just-in-time inventories, reducing capital expenditure, optimizing their permanent headcount, maximizing use of outsourced resources and leveraging performance-based pay. They will evolve new methods of doing business and reposition their offerings to generate new revenue streams and win market share. They are likely to find new collaborations to leverage on strengths of the others. Governments, market regulators and activist groups are likely to either encourage or gently insist on localisation of the business in many ways. Businesses may have to source a significant part of their inputs including talent from local markets and develop systems that transparently show these results.
Firstly, the HR managers need to partner with the business leaders to understand the challenges and identify specific opportunities for their firm. Rather than just following the HR practices in the textbook style, they have to customise the methods depending upon the business context. For example, Talent acquisition for a growing organization are to be done differently from that of a business diversifying into new areas. The Compensation practices for an organization having high attrition at mid-levels are to be different from the organization which is making an overseas foray. Performance management practices in an India-headquartered organization trying to turn around are going to be different from that of a Multi-National company.
Secondly, the HR fraternity needs to prepare for the challenges that the businesses are facing. Like the last few years have been volatile and uncertain, the next few years call for greater flexibility, speed and agility in the business. HR leaders need to be able to align their strategies to help the business stay flexible. We will see new ways of doing business emerge. We know of the recent trends – artificial intelligence, robotics, automaton, technology in almost every field right from finance, HR, sales, education, healthcare, energy, infrastructure and so on.
Let’s take the example of e-wallets. They are now everywhere for all b2c businesses and very soon, B2B businesses are going to use them as well. So, the HR team needs to understand what kind of new skill-sets that may be required, what kind of recruiting they need to do, think if their compensation structure and HR policies are meaningful for the new talent that the organization might need, review their employer value proposition if it is attractive enough for new talent to come on board. So, the HR team has to learn to use the tools to deliver the flexibility that their business needs.
And last but not the least, HR has to enable the organization to stay flexible and agile. Normally, the HR team partners with an external expert who provides a perspective on the best practices; discuss with peers and industry leaders to know the best practices. The fact is that many people don’t even do these! So, we have a long way to go as an economy and industry. However, mere discussions to gather perspectives are not enough. It is the execution which matters. Given the need to stay flexible and agile, how do you create these experiments to give life to a perspective and innovate? The HR team needs to strategically develop partnerships with external agencies, educational institutes and so on to run these experiments. Else, we will be frogs in the well and will not know when someone smarter pulls the carpet off our feet. So, we need to strategically innovate!
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Hence, to summarise, ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t work. HR team needs to evolve its actions based on the context of the organization. Secondly, they need to learn to stay flexible and agile in their strategies and action plans to match the needs of the business. Last, but not the least, they need to innovate on a continuous basis.