HRKatha’s Automation.NXT Conference Puts the Spotlight on HR’s Role in Digitalisation

Holiday Inn, Aerocity was the venue for interesting discussions on automation and HR’s role in the digital-transformation process on 29 September 2022.

Panel Discussion at HR Katha Automation.NXT

The conference, aptly christened Automation.NXT – organised by HRKatha, and powered by Tata Steel Industrial Consulting, with UKG as workforce management partner, Onsurity as SME healthcare partner, NHRDN as community partner, and OpenOffers as lanyard partner – was the reason why so many great minds from the HR fraternity came together to share their valuable experiences and lessons learnt from the digitalisation journeys at their respective organisations.

Yes, automation is a necessity today and most organisations have come to accept this reality, but the process of digital transformation brings with it many challenges.

For one, there are multiple generations that are a part of the same workforce. Their capacity to accept technology, learning new things and their existing knowledge of tech varies. Therefore, Pradyumna Pandey, CHRO, Mother Dairy warned that technology training should be imparted to employees according to their age. The workforce should first be categorised into age-wise groups for tech training to ensure effectiveness. Sanjay Bose, EVP & head – HR and L&D, ITC Hotels, pointed out that traditional organisations will first need to dedicate time to ensure digital literacy before they can actually think of a full-fledged digital transformation. When they do, they should also try and focus equally on the return on investment (RoI), both soft and hard, that is, financial returns and employee engagement.

While tech is a necessity and automation is the way forward, how it is adopted by organisations is what matters, according to Manoj Kumar Sharma, CHRO, Aarti Industries. Ramesh Mitragotri, CHRO, Ultratech Cement suggested that companies first become aware of what ‘digital‘ really means to them before actually plunging into the digital transformation process, because the word ‘digital‘ means different things to different businesses.

Dispelling the myth about automation replacing human beings altogether, Rajeev Singh,CHRO, Solara Active Pharma Sciences said that some skills can never be replaced, but added that commitment to technology is a must and should be sustained. Dinesh Menon, head of people and strategy, Onsurity pointed out that social quotient (SQ) as well as emotional quotient (EQ) are required to make the digital-transformation process effective.

In the session about CIOs and CHROs complementing each other, Shankar Bhardwaj, head – IT projects, HRM, Tata Steel, admitted that without the CIO’s views and business insights, there will be a gap in user experience, while the CHRO’s views are essential to capture the business functions on a tech platform.

Amaresh Singh, CHRO, GE – South Asia also pointed out how the CHRO looks at the human experience and the CIO looks at the product. He stressed on how trust is essential to make the combo work.

Poonam Bharti, executive director & CHRO, Shriram Pistons & Rings, stressed on how the pandemic propelled organisations from a control-centric mindset to a mindset that could trust people working remotely.

Automation involves upskilling of employees and Viekas Khokha, head – HR , Dhanuka Agritech rightly pointed out that upskilling requires unlearning as well as learning new skills along with the adoption of a futuristic approach.

The insights that came out of the discussions on the varioius topics in the four sessions – Tools, skills or collaboration, what’s the hierarchy of priority during automation; The CIO-CHRO winning team of automation – how do the two complement each other;Best practices in automation and digitisation from an HR perspective; What takes for HR to lead and drive automation agenda in organisaitons – were valuable and definitely forced the audience to see automation from an HR perspective.

Anurag Verma, VP-HR, Uniphore, warned that unless the HR spells out what exactly they want, the digitisation process cannot be successful. Everything cannot be left to technology. Human interface is a must.

Speaking from years of experience, Dharm Rakshit, head – HR, Hero Motocorp said that work, workforce and workmanship need to be taken into account while thinking of digitalisation.

Automation is inevitable and will have a cascading effect on organisations and their workforces,” said Prajjal Saha, Editor & Publisher, HRKatha, stressing on the need to embrace this disruption with positivity. He added that “the new-collar workers will come with non-traditional education and be masters of both technical and soft skills”.

Others who spoke at the event and shared their experiences included Kamaljeet Kaur, CHRO, Sterlite Power; Ashish Anand, senior HR leader; Ravi Pandey, head – marketing, UKG India; Kapil Mahajan, global CIO & CTO, Allcargo Logistics; Vipin Sharma, head – talent acquisition, Tata Steel; GP Rao, founder & managing partner, GPR HR Consulting; Dipanker Ghosh, group head – HR, Apollo Tyres; Sandeep Girotra, executive director & CHRO, DCM Shriram; Tuhin Biswas, CHRO, Emami; Shailesh Singh, Sr Director & chief people officer, Max Life Insurance; Pallavi Poddar, senior HR leader; and Seema Bangia, VP & chief people officer, Agriculture, Aerospace & Defence Sector, Mahindra & Mahindra.

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