In March this year, ChapmanCG returned to India with a series of roundtables held across Bangalore, Mumbai and Gurgaon. The meetings were co-hosted by a number of long-term contacts at Intel, Credit Suisse, Ericsson, Expedia, BP, NCR and the Manipal Group. We were joined by senior HR leaders from a broad spectrum of industries including several leading organisations such as BNY Mellon, Flipkart, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, IBM, JLL, JP Morgan, KPMG, Lenovo, Maersk, Mondelez and PWC, among others.

One common theme that emerged in each of the seven sessions held across the country was the increasingly rapid pace of change in the world today, and specifically in the workplaces across India. This begged the question of how organisations can best equip leaders to keep up with what has become constant change, and ideally stay ahead of the game. There were also discussions about whether companies are doing enough in terms of differentiating engagement with various groups of employees. In a world where it is increasingly difficult to predict whether a product or service will still be relevant in the years to come, there were also questions around how to ensure that key stakeholders in the organisation are ‘future ready’.

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Increasingly Digital, but Always Personal

In one case study, we heard from an organisation that constantly strives to be at the forefront of innovative technology. The business has had to evolve from a technology standpoint, shifting focus to new platforms to avoid becoming obsolete. But it was agreed that just as important as being ‘future ready’ is having a talent agenda that remains constant in its focus on ‘Emotional Connectivity’. So in an ever-changing world, some values will always be timeless. Yes, the workplace will look remarkably different by 2030, but a person’s need for the human touch will always trump advances in digitalisation.

In another instance a company with a chain of leading F&B outlets across India spoke about hiring millennials and the necessity of using technology and social media to engage with this age group. This organisation devised strategies that allowed employees to gain recognition through receiving ‘likes’ on social media, which is an entirely new way to look at the ongoing issue of Employee Engagement in India. Yet it was noted that engagement with this group still needs to be tied in with elements of personal recognition, rewards, and speedy career progression – values which have become universal in the fast-moving market of India in the last few years.

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Big Data: But Why?

Today in the rush for big data organisations have information about exactly what employees do, and can predict what customers will buy and how they will behave with increasing accuracy. However, it is important to note that the need to ask the question ‘why’ hasn’t gone away. Why do employees enjoy working here? Why are they motivated when they come to work? Why are customers choosing our products, and why are others choosing the competition? Understanding what drives your employees and customers is clearly the key to effectively engaging these groups. So the key skillset that needs to be employed is in ignoring the ‘noise’ of big data, and focussing in on the elements that can deliver meaningful insights into people strategy.

Hiring for Change Agility

In one of our meetings, the Talent leader for a leading e-commerce platform in India spoke about the incredible pace of change the organisation is facing. His answer to equipping everyone in the company to keep up with this pace is to make ambiguity an integral part of the culture. People need to be comfortable with uncertainty as a constant. Leaders change, your product changes, titles, roles - they’re all susceptible. Managers must be willing and able to destroy what they have built in order to create something new - and more suited to the current market - in its place. We are seeing this skillset – flexibility and appetite for change and ambiguity – become increasingly needed in HR across the world, but perhaps there is no market that better exemplifies this than India.

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Social Learning

Organisations will always need some of the traditional learning tools and platforms that have been used over the last generation, including elements such as workshops, training modules and groups gathering in a classroom setting. But most companies in India are shifting towards L&D strategies that focus on ‘social learning’ - they are embracing the reality that different groups learn and train in different ways. People want the flexibility and the ability to choose the medium and platform where they feel they can benefit most. And rather than constrain them to attending a training session at a certain location at a particular time, they need more flexibility to access content wherever and whenever they feel like it.

Conclusion

In all meetings, it was widely agreed that there is an urgent need for organisations, regardless of industry, to be nimble and ‘change ready’. Part of this process includes constantly evaluating whether corporate messages, values and even people - including leaders - are in line with whatever becomes the new reality. In a world where it is increasingly difficult to predict where the competition will surface, being adaptable may be difficult, but not changing will likely prove to be fatal.

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Here's What People are Saying:

"A fantastic event that helped me gain cross-domain insight into HR challenges and initiatives, especially on how we see the future of the workplace and where HR stands as a change agent." - Ritesh Mathur, Quintiles

"The meeting was of great value to me as it was very interactive and it engaged all participants through discussions around HR trends, practices and real challenges. HR fraternity members representing varied industries and backgrounds bought a great deal of diverse thinking and a healthy exchange of ideas.” - Emrana Sheikh, Asian Paints

"I found the meeting very focused and interactive, and I valued the experiences shared in successfully managing change.” - KS Kumar, BP/Castrol

"The ChapmanCG team has always managed to create meaningful HR engagements which provide HR professionals with a platform to connect, share perspective and learn best practices from fellow HR leaders. I enjoyed the session at BP, and it was time well spent." - Raamann Ahuja, Thermo Fisher Scientific

“I enjoyed meeting HR colleagues from other companies and industries. I found their perspectives enriching. There is so much great work that is happening in our profession, it was valuable to learn about it." - Nishant Gaharwar, General Motors

“This meeting is something that I look forward to, as it compacts varied learning in a short period of time. It’s a great opportunity not just to network, but also to learn from fellow colleagues. Thanks ChapmanCG for arranging this.” - Suman Rudra, NCR

"This is my first ChapmanCG HR Leaders meeting where the topic for conversation was on managing change and preparing for the future workplace. The choice of the topic, the design of the meeting and the timing of the event were well thought through, and it left all of us enriched." - Subhankar Roy Chow, Lenovo

“It was a very informative session with open sharing of thoughts and experiences from across a wide diaspora of the HR fraternity. We need such external breathing from time to time, so we can refresh our thought processes. Thank you Oscar and Lavanya for facilitating a rich discussion.” - Sandeep Tandon, DuPont

"I really liked the very diverse gathering we had-- representing not only diverse industries but equally diverse and thought-provoking ideas. I would be very happy to be part of such events in future." - Abhishek Misra, Shell