The Era of HR Tech: A Q&A with Pallavi Srivastava
Fay Welch recently sat down with Pallavi Srivastava, Asia Pacific & Greater China Talent Leader for Global Technology Services at IBM. With an HR career spanning over 20 years and a depth of experience in HR Technology, she shares what she’s seeing in the space and its impact on the future of HR.
1. Tell us about your HR career trajectory?
I’ve been an HR professional for 23 years and was fortunate enough to start my career as HR started to undergo it’s transformation from being a support layer to impacting the business as a strategic partner.
I have been an HR technology consultant (trained in PeopleSoft and Oracle HRMS), an HR Business Partner and have worked in Recruitment, Compensation, Leadership development and Talent. I also had the opportunity to lead M&A and outsourcing projects, giving me a rich exposure to transformational agendas.
2. What have been some key career highlights and challenges?
There are three career moves that have helped shape me into the HR professional I am today.
First: the shift from a pure HR Business process consultant to an HR Technology consultant, where I worked on PeopleSoft and Oracle HRMS projects. These projects helped me build my technology consulting skills as well as an understanding of how technology can enable the HR function.
Second: are the opportunities I’ve had to work outside my home country of India. In the US, at the Corporate HQ as Executive Assistant to the SVP HR. Here I learnt more about future focus, building an outside in view of HR, looking at ourselves through the lens of our competitors, as well as a broader focus on the company as a whole. Then in Singapore, as ASEAN HR Business Leader for the Consulting unit. This shift allowed me to hone my cultural adaptability skills and the ability to decipher and differentiate global versus local strategies and insights.
Third: being part of the Digital Transformation journey at IBM. While being familiar with HR technology, we all experienced a learning curve during the digitalization of our own HR processes. Looking at HR processes through the lens of employee experiences and adopting new ways of working such as Design and Agile Thinking.
3. What do you enjoy most about working in HR?
Designing solutions that create an impact on the business. Executing programs forms a major part of what HR leaders do today. However, they do not necessarily add value because of constraints in the business, technology and people environment. In my current role, I look at the interlinks, dependencies and conflicts of these programs, taking a holistic view on intent versus impact, and I co-create approaches with clients to achieve outcomes that matter. I enjoy utiltising HR technology and correlation and prediction tools of analytics, these help be proactive rather than reactive on people issues.
4. What are your current thoughts on the industry?
It’s one of the best times to be an HR professional if you are ready to embrace both HR technology and a business mindset. HR is yet again undergoing rapid transformation, its legacy existence as a strategic but primarily support function is being reinvented and the mindset is now to look at employees as customers. Research suggests HR Technology has seen close to a 20 billion dollar investment in the last 10 years and most of that has been in people analytics capabilities, and more recently around leveraging AI based algorithms for solutions. There is an amazing amount of innovation happening in this function which presents its own opportunities and challenges.
The aspiration of moving to mobile enabled employee offerings, integrated talent management systems, big data analytics and AI offerings continues to force corporates to seek an ecosystem of vendors and partners, and at some point, they will need to provide a consolidation platform as well. This space will continue to undergo change and morph into newer versions. Josh Bersin, one of the global HR thought Leaders, has already started talking about moving away from Integrated Talent Management systems to HR in the flow of work! HR teams will need to be ready to adjust and accept these changes.
5. What do you think are the biggest challenges facing HR in the future?
The implementation of HR Technology is already leading to the redesign of jobs and how we work. I believe there will be three key challenges that need to be addressed sooner rather than later:
1. HR professionals will need to have a high level of comfort with people analytics alongside a deep understanding of the way work and decision making happens. We will be called upon to leverage technology, harness analytics and make an impact on how work and decisions happen in the future.
2. HR technology players will have to be more accountable in relation to the principles of ethics, bias, transparency and corporate citizenship when it comes to coding. This will mean that Technology coders will have to become HR subject matter eexperts on HR policies and regulations – we will see skill sets merging here.
3. The HR Function will need to get started on and then accelerate their transformation. The HR Technology ecosystem currently has so many players and no one operator has the capabilities that can sustain all predicted or unpredicted transformations. Choosing the right Technology Partners, leveraging the ecosystem of vendors, how to leverage the gig economy for Talent, managing the dilemma of Gen Z talent and much older employees together in the workforce, and reinventing processes and systems to align in an orchestrated manner will challenge all HR leaders.
6. What career advice would you give to someone wanting to start an HR career?
1. Join HR with the perspective that you are joining a Business function like any other that helps run the organization. Having strong relationship management skills and enjoying working with people is not going to be enough to be successful. HR needs to help connect employee’s aspirations and goals with that of the organization. What we do in HR is now proven to add value to both the top and bottom line of an organization’s profitability. For example, Employee Engagement can be shown to have a monetary value and to drive customer satisfaction and growth. Understanding the business’ P&L and financial metrics is core to being able to add value. HR involves critical thinking, analytical abilities and innovation just like any other function. There are now several examples where CHROs have succeeded into CEO roles.
2. People Analytics, HR Technology, and being comfortable about working with Data and numbers is a core capability needed to succeed. One needs to be comfortable with the tools and technologies available to analyze Big Data such as Cognos or SPSS modelers. Also having the subject matter expertise needed to ask the right questions, create hypotheses and test ideas and trends. It is about pattern identification and leveraging insights for predicting trends. This ability needs to be developed irrespective of which field one comes from. We are already seeing HR professionals being hired from non-traditional backgrounds such as engineering, actuarial services, statistics and data mining.
If you would be interested in being interviewed for a Q&A feature piece, would like to discuss the market or learn more about current opportunities, please get in touch with Fay Welch at firstname.lastname@example.org