Interview With Shankar Krishnamoorthy- The Talent Conundrum

Interview With Shankar Krishnamoorthy- The Talent Conundrum

During the SAP SuccessFactors Success Connect conference, Penny Stoker, Global Leader of HR Services at EY, unveiled "Onboarding Buddy", an onboarding AI chat bot that fully integrates with SAP SuccessFactors. The uniqueness of the bot is that it has answers to the otherwise mundane requests from the new employees. While this is definitely the way forward for the HR to rein in AI augmented talent management solutions, it does not exactly give a measure of the amount of penetration required by AI and the balance to be set forth by human intervention.


Human Capital spoke to Shankar Krishnamoorthy, CEO and Co‑Founder, Synergita, to get an understanding of the talent trends for 2019 and later in the backdrop of enhanced penetration of AI/ML. He also spoke about the relevance of new-age talent management practices in vogue in organisations today, and the vetted role being manifested by pointed HR solution providers in identifying, analysing and provisioning prognostic measures for effective talent management practices in an organisation.


What are the hiring trends that you foresee for 2019 and beyond? Which industry sector is likely to witness the biggest numbers in terms of hiring this year?


Our experience with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning is growing multi‑fold every day. We experience the way how “intelligence” is applied in our daily life by using OLA and Swiggy.  Mobile, IOT, AI/ML, etc. have transformed our daily lives. It is important for people to become multi-disciplinary in their work life. The skillsets that are going to be in high demand are Data analytics and Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.


It can well be anticipated that every field is going to hire people with such skillsets, since they have huge application whether the business is in construction, healthcare, logistics, retail etc.  While the need for such skillsets are high, we are also seeing a shift towards the gig economy. More and more people are moving to become contingent workers, and the is only going to increase in the days ahead.


During the times of VUCA, millennials, and the enhanced penetration of Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning in the workplace, what are the contemporary issues confronting talent acquisition and management?


The demand for applying Artificial Intelligence/Machine learning has shot up significantly. And, talent availability with such a skillset is very limited in the market.  It is important to build such skillsets within the existing talent pool in the organisation. So, pressure is pretty high on existing people to develop these skills along with their existing responsibilities.


With Millennials moving more towards gig economy, organisations have to learn to manage gig workers.  Their existing management systems and processes are designed to pay full-time salaries, leave management policies, IT Security policies, collaboration mechanisms, etc. for people who are employed on a full-time basis. Therefore, they are required to learn to adapt to the contingent workforce.


How significant is talent management in the present day and age? Why do you believe that organisations should remain invested in effective talent management practices? What newer strategies in talent management can empower the changing workforce?


The demand for talent is extremely high. If a company needs to survive and grow, they must be innovative, introduce newer business models, and new product/service lines.  They must grow at a faster rate than their competition.  This cannot be met by hiring external talent – the composition will be 90% internal and 10% external talent i.e. talent to be acquired. It is best to groom the existing set of people to learn newer skillsets. And, this also calls for staying invested in talent development. OKRs, Continuous Feedback, Rewards & Recognitions, Gamifications, Predictive Data analytics, artificial intelligence to empower employees on their development etc. are some strategies and tools that organisations can employ.


The talent management landscape has been growing and changing radically, and in order to retain talent, performance management systems have been re-emerging in terms of concept, functionality, and business relevance. Why do you believe that the parameters of performance management have gained enhanced prominence?


We have all heard that people leave their managers and not their companies. Essentially, when the engagement link between the manager and the employee breaks, it leads to attrition. Plus, research says that nobody likes performance appraisal processes, and they think that old traditional performance management process is not helping anyone. Modern systems are recommending continuous engagement and development.


People look for job satisfaction in their work. Job satisfaction is attained when there is clarity in their job responsibilities/goals/objectives. There is improved Employee Engagement when there is a better bonding between their colleagues, managers, and the organisation. People can progress in their goals when there is a constant, and continuous coaching is made available within the organisation. 


In today’s world of instant gratification, motivation in the form of appreciation, thank you’s, rewards and recognition from peers help in pushing someone go that extra mile.  When a manager provides continuous feedback (e.g. critical inputs) on a periodic basis, it helps the team member to course correct the direction for achieving goals.  It creates better trust and engagement between employees.


Also, people need to grow in their career. Growth is associated with taking additional responsibilities - you can take additional responsibilities only when you develop additional skillsets to handle these newer responsibilities. So, performance, engagement and development are tightly associated in talent management.


A recent global survey by Ernst & Young showed that less than half of the respondents have “a great deal of trust” in their current employers, boss or team/colleagues. How big a role does employee trust play in ensuring effective talent management practices in an organisation?


Effective talent management practices result in engaged workforce and higher performance.  If employees are engaged and work well, they will take care of their customers.  And, it will result in higher growth for the organisations. Hence, a lot of companies are focusing on employee first approach.


“While we make way for “Internet of Things” (IoT) we are losing out on Internet of Humans (IoH).” What is your opinion on the above statement and how can HR function as the bridge between the employees and the employer?


Chatbots, data analytics, and artificial intelligence are all meant to empower employees in their day to day work and be more productive. While technology is empowering employees, HR should not lose sight on building the real person to person connection. Usage of technology should enable HR to treat each employee as unique. HR should utilise technology to understand the employee’s aspirations, and to comprehend the help needed by an employee to achieve their goals, and thus, enable their growth.


“While technology is empowering employees, HR should not lose sight on building the real person to person connection.  Usage of technology should enable HR to treat each employee as unique.” 


With everything from talent-spotting to talent acquisition to talent management available on an analytic dashboard, what according to you is creating a gap between the employer and the employee? 


The major gap is around the application of analytics in the right way.  When the analytics is not fully understood, and organisations do not make necessary changes, it does not help anyone. There are several companies that perform employee engagement surveys, solicit employee ideas, etc.  But, they may not act on the results of the survey on the issues highlighted by employees.  If there are no measures adapted after the survey, employees will stop providing any feedback. This is the major gap that organisations should avoid.  Technology can bring lot of analytics to the table. But, organisation, manager and HR should make use of the analytics and take decisions.


Investing in teams that focus on HR innovations and the possible applications of HR Tech is deemed to increase the angle of the learning curve. How effective is this in managing talent in organisations?


I do not think it is going to increase the angle/length of the learning curve.  Investing in HR innovations and HR Tech is going to help in making the learning and employee experience better.  Technology is an enabler for getting people together, hearing their voices, empowering them to perform better etc.  With a plethora of choices available with organisations on HR technology innovations, HR must invest on choosing right tools and technologies, training people on how to use these technologies/apps and make use of these effectively in day to day work. So, training people is a must.


While the investment may sound higher, it is all the more critical for the success of the organisation. This will enable the organisation to be agile, provide the ability to manage the talent better, become a great place to work, etc.  And, ultimately, these will result in better ROI through higher performance, higher retention, ability to attract talent, etc.


The expectation that the big players such as LinkedIn, Workday, SAP will be able to help HR to make the transformation into digital. What changes will this bring about to the smaller HR solution providers?


The notion “One fits for all” is gone. During the earlier days, there were concerns about data integration, security, etc. And, in a sense, these helped large traditional ERP players to guard and grow.  And, with large players, it is also difficult for them to drive innovation on multiple fronts parallelly, and be nimble to meet customer requirements, and remain updated with current trends.  For a HR, key things on managing employee database, leave, payroll are important, and these are taken care of by ERPs.  But, beyond that, HR needs continuous feedback, OKRs, employee engagement, gamification, learning, 360 degree feedback, etc. Typically, these are the kinds of innovations that are driven by pointed HR Solution providers. 


HR will need both traditional ER providers as also the pointed HR Solution providers.  They both solve different kind of problems for HR.  For pointed HR Solution providers, partnership with large ERP vendors will provide higher benefit in terms of opportunities. Large ERP vendors already have a good set of companies as their customers. If they can leverage these pointed HR solution providers to their customers, it will help their HRs to solve their needs.  It is a win-win solution for everyone. It is important for these large players to empower pointed HR Solution providers to integrate with their systems and enable innovation.  Open and connected world is the way to go.


“HR will need both traditional ER as also the pointed HR Solution providers. For pointed HR Solution providers, partnership with large ERP vendors will provide higher benefit in terms of opportunities.”


“Our leaders and managers should be good coaches.” How relevant is the statement carry in the wake of cross cultural and a multi-generational workforce prevailing in organisations today?


The statement highlights the need for higher level of engagement between leaders, managers, and their team members. Team members expect their leaders and managers to become a sounding board for talking about the initiatives, opportunities, potential roadblocks, and assistance required to meet such demands.  If the managers pay heed to these and provide the right direction, it will help their team members to cruise towards accomplishing their goals. 


And, this is where continuous performance conversations between managers and their team members, appreciating their progress, highlighting any rough edges, etc. would prove to be helpful.  It is critical for success and should be driven by the managers. 


With globally distributed, remote teams comprising multi-cultural background and multi-generational team members, it is all the more important to enable continuous conversations.  Culturally, Indians find it difficult in saying “NO.” If the manager does not understand this culture, and finds a way to deep dive to truly figure out whether it is a YES or NO, it will lead to challenges for both ends. And, people in few other countries clearly differentiate between their professional and personal lives.  While they are available for work between 9 and 6, they may not be available in other timeslots. In such cases, it is important for everyone to know each other better, and also understand the space to collaborate.



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