Human Beings and Robots will Probably Co-Exist in the HR World

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Karan is an HR Business Partner with Intuit and has been with the organization for 1.5 years. He also co-chairs the Intuit India Pride Network and is passionate about making workplace a welcome place for everyone. Prior to Intuit, he has worked with Intel, Ernst & Young and Jubilant Life Sciences. He is an alumnus of SCMHRD, Pune (MBA) and Thapar University, Patiala (B.Tech).

Tips for a budding HR professional?

If you are planning to opt for a career in HR, my advice to you will be to be very clear to yourself on why you are making that choice. HR function is in various stages of transformation across different industries so the roles, strategic value that the function brings in, varies from sector to sector.

My advice to anyone who is aspiring to be an HR professional is to talk to people who are in HR, understand what they do and only if it excites you enter this profession.

The best way to test out whether you are passionate about HR is to do a short stint or internship before you finally make that decision. My 2 month internship with Intel was the best thing that happened to me and by the end of it I knew I am going to be an HR professional for the rest of my life. On a lighter note, be prepared to be in a career where no one will ever come and say thank you to you if they love their workplace but blame you for everything they don’t like.

To what extent an employee’s performance is dependent on the manager?

I believe manager has a key role to play in how an employee shows up at work. Employee’s performance depends on various factors starting from:

  1. Clearly set goals.
  2. Assigning work which helps meet career aspirations of the employee.
  3. Creating the right culture for employee to give their best.
  4. Clear line of sight between their work and company’s goals.
  5. Timely feedback which helps course correct at the right time.

While an employee owns their career and manager is just an enabler in this journey, manager plays a crucial role in all the five factors that I mentioned ultimately leading to an engaged employee who is giving their 100% to the organization.

Right from the beginning of my career I have been blessed to have worked with awesome managers who were all invested in my career and growth as a professional. I want to share a personal example from my recent past where I went through a tough phase in my personal life. I was new to the organization and was worried about how my manager would see me as my productivity was likely to be on the lower side through this phase. I choose to be authentic and shared openly with my manager about what I was going through. She created a very safe environment for me to deal with my personal situation without me necessarily having to worry about work during that phase.

I am way past that phase and now when I look back I feel how I was treated by my manager during that phase is the biggest factor on how engaged I feel today, ultimately helping me perform at my best.

This is an example of how a manager investing in the individual, seeing the human being behind the employee, goes a long way which up levels significantly how an employee performs eventually

How can an HR contribute strategically to the organization?

Adding strategic value to me is when your client, which is business in our case, gets something from us which they didn’t expect. In today’s age where there is huge war for talent,  people have become the most important assets for an organization. Therefore, the key differentiator between a high performing company from the one which is not, is not how capable the workforce is but how effective an organization is in realizing the potential of the workforce they have managed to hire and retain. In the world of stiff competition, highly matrixed organizations HR is in a unique position to help various parts of the organization connect the dots, remove barriers and help organization become effective ultimately leading to financial and business outcomes that were intended.

One HR practice that has always worked for you as an HR.

What has helped me a lot so far in my career is to never get stuck up on the specific role in HR that you might be playing today. It is very important to see the larger picture and never lose sight of what the overall objective of any assignment or project is. In the very early part of my career I was lucky to work on many cross functional projects within HR. The  perspective I gained from that was that every function within HR is working towards the same objective while bringing their subject matter expertise to the table. Especially in the HR Business partner role I have seen that it can start to feel that you are not expert in any one domain but if you apply basic analytical skills, logical thinking you can be that unique person in the room who can bring everything together. So be bold in signing up for work that may ‘feel’ uncomfortable, after a while you will start to feel that you are ‘growing’.

Do you think robots can replace HR professionals in the coming decade?

Technology has been the biggest factor in changing how we live & work. Technology has made its way into every aspect of work, we can’t even imagine our lives at work without emails, skype, bluejeans, slack, jive, etc. HR as a function is not immune to how technology is changing how we work & rightly so. HCMS system in most companies is already on cloud, chat bots have started replacing human beings in how employees get answers to their HR queries, most progressive companies are investing in people analytics. Technology is at the forefront of how HR function is being transformed.

Robots replacing humans at work has been a topic of debate for a while now. As far as HR is concerned, I do believe that are many people processes like sourcing & screening resumes, onboarding & offboarding formalities, payroll, etc where a lot of efficiencies can be achieved if robots at work become a reality. But at the same time, I also feel that robots won’t be able to replace human  beings in roles which involve judgement, strategic partnering, employee relations, etc. So human beings and robots will probably co-exist in the HR world in future, the nature of jobs however will go through a significant change & we need to be ready for that

How do you create a buy-in for trainings at workplace?

We now live in a world which is changing very fast, also resulting in expectations from our employees changing very rapidly. At the same time, we live in a world where there is war for talent all the time. This has led to employees having to either reskill them from time to time or keep themselves updated with the latest technology trends especially in the tech sector. The ‘how’ part of an employee’s performance has become as important as the ‘what’ part and hence the need for a lot of employees’ to work on behavioral aspects of their performance. This has led to a huge appetite for everyone wanting to learn new skills, behaviors and therefore a natural buy-in for trainings.

The key, however,  for HR is to marry the need of your client to the offering– whether it is on the topics, content, the way and pace at which people want to learn. In my experience, the best way to create an awesome learning experience is to work with your business leader closely and get into the nuts and bolts of the business problem which is giving birth to this need. Trainings and interventions designed on that basis are then not seen as something which is forced on them by HR or their managers but something which adds value to their work and careers.

Your personal achievement as an HR professional?

This is a tough question where I had to think the most. I think the biggest achievement that I see for myself is how I have managed to still keep the engineer in me alive (yes I am a Chemical engineer who then moved to HR) by still trying to apply logical, analytical and data-driven approach to anything that I do even today. I never tried to be like someone else who I considered successful. This has helped me create a personal brand for myself where people feel I am authentic, approachable, someone they can open up to, someone who is fair and that doesn’t always mean that I am on their side.

Disclaimer: The responses to the questions are solely the views of the interviewee as a professional and do not reflect that of the Organisation he/she works for.

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