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Digitalisation: Boon Or Bane

Digitalisation: Boon Or Bane


During the beginning of this decade, GE’s attempts to emerge as a digital powerhouse with a novel IoT project soon simmered out. Billions of Dollars were squandered for the simple reason that the plan was too ambitious to execute. Ford and Proctor and Gamble too suffered the same fate around the same time frame. However, this did not deter many other companies in adapting workplace digitalisation and many have experienced marked successes. The pandemic has now forced many organisations to go digital or face extinction. It will be therefore be interesting to see whether organisations will put people priorities first during their trysts in workplace digitalisation.


CASE STUDY

 

Established in 2010, Matrix Limited Company is an American organisation with solid proximity in the Indian Market, with its central command in New York. Right4u, the razor by Matrix has been a market pioneer for a considerable length of time. The brand has a high market share and has beaten its rivals. The current market share of the overall industry of Right4u is 45%, with its impression in about 80 nations. At present, the organisation employs more than 4000 workers.

 

In recent years, the organisation has seen an increase in the demand for its products and has focused on increasing its capacity to be responsive to the clients’ emerging needs. Between 2015 and 2019, the organisation was able to open 25 outlets. And today, this number has multiplied by up to four times. With the growing market for the product’s demand, the company plans to open about three more stores in India, Nepal, and Thailand by 2021.

 

Richard Gates, the Founder of Matrix, once said, “Matrix doesn’t just sell razors, it sells confidence to reach great heights and coolness.” The bigger challenge to the company has been to keep this fantasy alive in the digital era, dealing with its employees and customer brand.

 

Various business challenges were posing a potential threat to Matrix.

 

How could Matrix prepare its employees for a future where the leading assurance appeared to be vulnerable and interrupted?

 

And how could it turn the digital computerised environment to its advantage?

 

As Ronn, HR Head at Matrix, mentions, “Matrix is an exceptionally inquisitive organisation, and it believes in gaining from the best individuals and practices to get knowledge about what is going on in other parts of the world.”

 

Keeping Expansion in mind, the company is looking to hire about 200 new employees for different levels. As the Head of HR for SAARC Nations, Ronn is responsible for benchmarking the workforce requirements. Ronn has appointed 10 HR leads to complete the hiring process. The dilemma arises whether the workforce should be trained using gamification or manually since the advanced digital world touches every function. Any blended approach between organisations would require a similar range of diverse experience from technology disruptors, thought provocateurs and future Millennial clients, and senior executives.

 

Gamification is the usage of game mechanics in a business environment through a nongame scenario which helps in Recruitment, Training and Development, and various other techniques. Digital technology decreases the burden and helps the organisation to increase its productivity by maximising the most valuable assets, “Human Capital”. Lately, due to intensive growth in digitalisation and automation, the role of HR is decreasing. Ronn is further confused about the method he should use to train the workforce required. Ronn has to assign a weighting to both automation and HR, a modern and traditional approach to training to select the most appropriate method.

 

Automation is the technique or method that reduces human intervention to a minimum using highly automated means in the form of devices, apps and tools. It is an easy and cost-effective method as it can train 1000s of people all around the world by creating a virtual real-life business environment. This enables building networking features that help the employee know the company culture, improves employee engagement, and further, decreases the dreariness of solo training since the workforce hails from 3 different countries. With the increase in digitalisation, this process has been automated. Now, firms are not required to train the employees manually, and various software could be used which automate this process for the firms, which helps to attract candidates.

 

And ironically, Ronn is also of the view that companies will benefit from increased human touch. He believes that the employees should be provided with on-the-job training as it allows them a better understanding of the real world in the corporate setup. He believes that manual hiring will generate higher interest, and people would ask questions and doubts, if any, which is highly unlikely using apps. Further, the usage of applications renders the training to be online, and employees can choose which module is to be reviewed which module and which, at times, can be skipped. This can be reduced by physically training the employees. However, Old-Style manual training is a time-consuming, repeating method that is open to breaches and errors.

 

The introduction of an application provides a platform to the employees since online training can be accessed from anywhere and provides a portable and convenient learning experience. This acts as a win-win situation for both the employers as well as the employees. The importance of this is to help educate and train the employees by engaging them in this era of digitalisation. However, making the employees aware about the way the Application functions could be another task altogether for the firm. Digitalisation has a great impact on the firm. But, it might lose the human touch and negatively impact the human resources. Measuring the training gained using applications and by training individuals through seminars and through manual means would be a difficult task, as both the methods have their pros and cons, selecting the one which is the most appropriate method now is a dilemma.


 


Deepika Pandita, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in Symbiosis Institute of Business Management Pune at Symbiosis International University. She comes with an experience of 12 years and teaches post graduate and Executive University. She comes with an experience of 12 years and teaches post graduate and Executive MBA courses in the area of human resources, organisational behaviour, leadership and talent management. Dr. Pandita has a graduate degree in Management and post graduate degree in Management and Human Resources.


 


 

 

 


Analysis by Ravi Mishra, Senior Vice President-HR for Global Epoxy Business, Aditya Birla Group


 

 

 

 


Ronn must understand that it is impossible to contest against the digitalisation of the workplace since such a multidimensional issue impacts Matrix’s stakeholders and competitors. Many a time, our decision-making is burdened by our life experiences and the lack of self-awareness leads to the blind spot of Johari Windows. History is replete with instances such as Nokia HMT, Videocon etc.

 

Matrix Limited was established around 11 years ago, a time when many HR processes were being digitised or fully automated. Longterm economics, quality-of-service delivery and zero error probability were the reasons behind such a thing. Many Learning and Development interventions were also digital or virtual viz. e-learning, simulationbased, webinars etc. Apart from being cost-effective, it is easier to gauge the learning impact and reach and also provide the employee with greater flexibility. However, one-size-fits-all approach cannot be adopted here.

 

One of the basic tenets of dealing with a dilemma is to narrow down on the possible solution and decide when the major objectives are achieved. Arriving at a decision is better than remaining idle and lamenting in the future like in “Who Moved My Cheese” (a book by Spencer Johnson).

 

Many organisations fell into the trap of delayed decision-making and went extinct. Matrix has an excellent position at present and a bright future if it continues to evolve faster than the other players in the market. This needs a holistic approach to imbibe the path of digitalisation and learn with an outside-in perspective and being noncomplacent.

 

To obtain output from an input, the most critical success factor is the process which is dependent on equipment, machinery, technology etc. However, the game-changer is the employees’ drive which implies the quality of updated knowledge, skill, experience, exposure, power of thinking and level of confidence to experiment new ideas and challenge the status quo. This enables an organisation to develop new processes and products apart from reigning to maintain the edge of the current products and services by constant improvement. Today, every organisation has access to similar logistics and processes, and it is the people who work with utmost commitment and motivation and constantly update themselves that make a difference.

 

Enhancing employee capability is the responsibility of both the employee and employer. While the employees must assume ownership in enhancing their learning, employers must facilitate them with an optimum learning infrastructure. The 70:20:10 formula for learning may not be always effective, and hence, Matrix must incorporate employee learning and influence them to move towards better and more advanced learning platforms that are digital and technology-driven.

 

It is the responsibility of the HR and the leadership to drive the change by winning the employees’ confidence and convincing them over the benefits of new training tools and digital means such as gamification, simulation, learning on go like mobile platform etc. The time is ripe to effect the changes since learning resources through old systems in functional domains seems superfluous. Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, while some companies are unable to adhere to their classroom training calendar, many organisations and trainers managed to successfully convert the content in digital form and conducting the module through webinars or virtual classes on MS Teams or Zoom.

 

There is a need to renew the system to ensure that the business remains sustainable. Matrix needs to get rid of its archaic and historical baggage. There should no dilemma to remain still and be left behind. It is time to emerged as a fast mover and bag the advantage of being numero uno!

 


 

 


Analysis By Kalpana Bansal Head - Competency Assessment and Development, Reliance Industries Ltd.


 

 

 


 

The writing is on the wall for Ronn – Technology Disruption is here to stay. Today, HR departments are racing to redesign talent practices by way of experimenting with digitalisation; given the advent of the virtual world and remote cultures. The key is to create a compelling Employee Experience by redesigning organisation processes around collaboration and analytics. Digital HR has leapfrogged from being cloudbased HR systems to platform-based solutions with workflow-embedded apps.

 

There is a slew of solutions in the market today for enabling digital training and development. They are able to deliver organisational network analysis, use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help with diversity goals, skills inferencing and skills taxonomy tools, and learning technology offerings. There has been a shift in architecture from “systems of engagement” to “systems of design” and a shift in outlook from processes to journeys.

 

Training and upskilling are two areas that have undergone a revolution with the advent of technology-based solutions that permit rapid assimilation and distillation of curated content, gamification and automated nudges, and online assessments. Automatic mapping of courses to employee skill gaps permits users to have a personalised solution that is customised to their training requirements. Organisations are increasingly using technology to deliver training at scale in a locationagnostic manner, without having to scale up on physical infrastructure and resources.

 

As with everything else, this comes with its share of pros and cons. Online training solutions enable employees to access digital classrooms and learning modules from anywhere and at any time. At scale, these solutions also turn out to be rather cost-effective, as they save on trainer’s equipment or time. All the necessary information and study materials are available on demand digitally. Course modules are usually recorded and available at all times, giving employees flexibility in controlling their learning. On the other hand, technology-enabled learning does not offer social interaction and debates. Employees may miss out on peer learning which is a crucial element in any learning process. It could also be isolating and may feel unstructured and dry. Technology challenges such as internet connectivity, rendering on mobile devices, video quality etc. may disrupt the experience. Online learning also requires self-motivation and proper time management skills. By the nature of its design, online training is theoretical or knowledge– based and does not lend itself to hands-on learning.

 

Given the era we are in, online training seems to be the default mode of operation for most organisations, the crux lies in ensuring that online learning can create the outcomes it is designed to deliver, and herein lies the challenge. Ronn needs to be extremely careful about the design of the training journey. If possible, this journey needs to be supplemented using a blended approach or providing for one–on–one coaching or mentoring along the journey. The choice of course material matters, it is difficult to get employees engaged with the content in topics such as emotional intelligence, which do not lend themselves to online delivery and require multi-sensory experience. Simplicity is another aspect that Ronn should pay attention to. Apart from building fancy microsites and challenges and competitions and quizzes, but learners tend to get tired of constant “pokes”. Sustainability of the intervention must also be considered, as the novelty of a LinkedIn learning or a Coursera offering wears off pretty quickly.

 

The employee is at the heart of the journey, and digitalisation offers a choice of tools. If Ronn can blend his solution to offer a little bit of everything with “a sprinkling of seasoning”, it would be able to do justice to the expected outcomes.

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