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Ravi Bhogaraju head of HR Asia, global business partner textiles at Archroma

If you had a magic wand, what would you do?

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Ravi Bhogaraju, head of HR Asia, global business partner textiles at Archroma, explores how far the HR function has evolved, and how its leaders can deal with new processes and changes to better drive business.

Digital tools, mobile connectivity, a multi-generational workforce and social media have brought us some unique advantages and challenges – the most palpable being the pace at which we operate.

As disruptive technology shrinks product cycles and induces a hyper-competitive state, our time to react to remain competitive is also that much shorter. Added to this is the dimension of connectivity in the function, which has gone up tremendously.

Because of this, expectations from the function have also changed. HR is now increasingly gaining a seat at the table, and people and organisational capability topics are front and centre of business discussions.

Given the critical nature of these decisions, there is a burning desire to make quality decisions based on good data. However, most of the data and analytic solutions we have today are not there yet with regards to the ease of capture and representation of the data.

When it truly comes to answering the question – “can I see something that I can base my decisions on?” – you often don’t get something usable right away. There is also a big chunk of HR time spent on “data cleansing” – a phrase that’s become synonymous with every initiative we run, and we always dream of the time when information is available at the “push of a button”.

So what’s happening here and how do we create value as a function? Let’s take a step back and see what this is all about. A lot of HR organisations collect hordes of information, but in reality not many can derive much usable decision value from it because it’s administrative information and doesn’t feed into decision making.

Unfortunately, a lot of us tend to feed the beast, and then when we need to use the information, we come to a point of realisation: “Oh drat, this doesn’t work.”

It’s important to start with the end in mind. What do you want to do with that information? What kind of decision-making do you want to drive? Work backwards from there.

Now, let’s explore how this relates to our work on a day-to-day basis. I explore with the end in mind in two contexts – the external (go to market) and the internal (productivity).

A lot of the work business partners do is to contribute to formulate or refine business models. Here you want to hone in on that context – where do you want to win? What capability do you need to do that? Where do you stand in your organisation in terms of that winning capability?

The end game is being able to define and measure that winning capability – whether it is talent, behaviours or knowledge.

It’s important to start with the end in mind. What do you want to do with that information? What kind of decision-making do you want to drive? Work backwards from there.

Given the pace and the need to respond to market dynamics more often, we in HR are now involved in making “make, buy, rent” decisions, and I think as HR leaders we all are becoming really proficient at making these choices as we go along.

We are also becoming better at understanding the critical role of HR as business partners and being able to put across our messages in a way that helps everyone get behind the initiatives.

I am finding HR professionals are increasingly becoming better at working with numbers and data. This is critical because the messaging becomes more relevant and impactful. Internally, one of the key focus areas for many businesses is becoming more productive – aka “doing more with less”.

Businesses are constantly talking about not just improving top-line, but also flowing through to bottom-line initiatives. HR professionals have a lot to contribute in this space, but it’s about looking at where we spend our resources and what we get out of it.

Evaluating initiatives from the total cost of ownership (for technology projects) and also total spend (for others) and ROI are good ways to look at in making these initiatives business-relevant. Now, the key question to reflect on is: does the holistic HR architecture (policy, process technology and service) mirror the external business environment and goals of the organisation?

If, as a business, you measure success as payback within a year (or five), the HR architecture needs to be completely geared to align to that view. In my personal experience in leading big organisational changes, the biggest challenge is gaining this alignment. If you really want to step change the value delivered through HR, then you have to achieve this alignment.

If this means you have to shed old processes and rethink the way you work holistically, then that’s what you have to do to get there. If you don’t, you could cause “leaks” in the value proposition of the transformation (and the function). You can’t change one side of the story and expect to deliver impact.

Given the environment of change, social media and the pace of doing business along with other factors we looked at above, it’s time to focus “with the end in mind”. Are you ready to wave your wand and create a sustainable change?

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