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Digital HR - Will It Plug the Attrition?

Monday, October 9, 2017, 17:45 Hrs  [IST]

There is no industry, business or work which is insulated from the digital disruption today. Work, workplace and worker are evolving in the digital world. Therefore, it is important businesses and business leaders re-orient their focus so that they adopt digital systems, tools, practices and platforms to create and sustain their human capital. In a service industry like hospitality, which is fraught with high attrition, it is high time the industry adopted digital technology in organising their HR professionally. P Krishna Kumar makes an effort to understand the digital penetration in HR functions in hotel industry in India.




We always talk about and listen about India’s demographic advantage as 65% of the population is less than 35 years of age. But, this demographic advantage can work to the country’s economic benefit if the talent, aspirations, etc. are put to good use, but at the same time can pose challenges if not handled or nourished properly. The young India, the Millennials, GenX, etc., are quite aspirational and therefore nurture dreams and ambitions because of their high exposure to latest communication technology. This reflects in their engagement at every level, especially at the work place. Unlike the baby-boomer generation, they look for work-life balance, steady career growth, better treatment at the workplace, etc.

Hospitality industry, although known as a people’s industry which requires high level of service orientation, it does not carry a very good image when it comes to nurturing talent and providing career growth opportunities. World over, hospitality industry is known for very high turnover ratio of employees. In India, this is said to be as high as 30% by many studies. Considering the high shortage of talent and skilled people in the industry, and also comparably high attrition rates, it is quite vital for the industry to re-orient their HR strategies as has been practiced in many other industries. The sweeping changes in the digital communication technology have opened numerous avenues which can be customised for the industry needs and requirements.

The fifth Annual Global Human Capital Trends Report 2017 by global consultancy, Deloitte, in their report has highlighted the need for business and HR leaders to revisit their conventional strategies in line with the digital disruption that is happening in the world. In an age of disruption, HR leaders need to be prepared to “rewrite the rules for how they organise, recruit, develop, manage and engage the 21st century workforce,” the study says.

The study has a dedicated section for travel, hospitality & service sectors of the industry, which points out the unique predicament of the industry and the imperatives for ‘reorientation’ in its HR strategies. The THS sector’s too much of emphasis on both strategic activities, i.e., designing the customer experience, and operations, i.e., delivering that experience consistently and efficiently in a cost-effective manner are sometimes at odds when it comes to designing the organisation of the future and developing the next generation of leaders, the report notes. This sector has “disproportionate number” of “tenured personnel” who are not ready to change and “embrace Digital HRWill It Plug the Attrition? There is no industry, business or work which is insulated from the digital disruption today. Work, workplace and worker are evolving in the digital world. Therefore, it is important businesses and business leaders re-orient their focus so that they adopt digital systems, tools, practices and platforms to create and sustain their human capital. In a service industry like hospitality, which is fraught with high attrition, it is high time the industry adopted digital technology in organising their HR professionally. P Krishna Kumar makes an effort to understand the digital penetration in HR functions in hotel industry in India. Cover Story the new ways of working”.

“Both cultural and technological transformation will be required to attract younger digitally-savvy candidates and to meet their expectations for collaboration, information access and mobile learning. At the very least, TH&S companies should start integrating digital tools such as social media and video chat, into their recruitment processes, as traditional job fairs become less effective in attracting and screening candidates, particularly in a geographically dispersed work environment. They will also need to rethink the employee experience, putting it on par with the customer experience in terms of focus and attention,” the Deloitte report says.



Digital HR
Whole lot of changes are happening in the HR management across industry on the back of digital technology advancement. As in other functions related to asset, HR management is also steadily moving to the ‘Cloud’. Digital platforms are highly used for posting vacancies, analysing applications, selection of right applicants, interviews, etc., which are even seen as minimal digital engagement in the HR today. To my utter disgust I learnt, while attending a HR technology conclave recently that, nowadays software is available which automatically matches a job aspirant’s resume with his social profile, interests, activities, etc., automatically. System also compares the profile with the profile of the best performing employee and alerts the HR leader accordingly. Analytics and predictive analytics are helping HR managers to take informed decisions today.

Commenting on the changes that is happening due to digital disruption in HR management, Janine Fernandez, Director -Human Resources, Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre and Lakeside Chalet- Marriott Executive Apartments, said that technology has had a major impact on recruitment, training, data storage and performance management. “Earlier for recruitment we had to rely on newspapers, printing jobs on papers, etc. but, nowadays with technology it has become much easier and advanced in terms of posting jobs on various social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook where we have an access to posting jobs and communicating it to a million people. Even the interview processes have simplified with the help of applications such as Skype, where the person doesn’t have to be personally present for an interview. In terms of training, earlier only classroom trainings were possible but nowadays people have access to thousands of online trainings where they can sit at home and learn,” she observed. Technology has also reduced the paper work involved as data can be stored safely and securely on digital platforms. There are software available for performance assessment as well, she added.



Information & Communication Technology (ICT) are currently utilised in progressive HR teams include cyber, cloud, data, mobile and social media platforms, informs Sujata Guin, Vice President – HR, Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels. “Big Data combined with other forms of technology such as robust ERP systems, data mining technology, etc., enables HR in real time analytics, to plan, predict, innovate, compete and create value. Social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook help in hiring. We have been on a centralised SAP Human Resource Information System for the last ten years. Through SAP HRIS, we have been enabled to integrate disparate HR Systems across units, steamline and standardise processes and practices, eliminate non-value adding processes and increase efficiency through process automation, enhance employee engagement through interactive self-service convenience, etc.”

Talking about the benefits of using such digital platforms, KR Sridhar, Corporate Head of Human Resources, The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts, said that they help in saving lot of time, money, and brings with it lot of convenience and flexibility to the HR functions. “A custom-engaged platform saves a lot of money in Application Tracking systems, testing cost, saves time involved in manual assessments, and create flexibility for both interviewer and interviewee. In short, such platforms help to tie several loose ends and also help in tapping talent from a wider pool available in the market,” he observes. For certain frontline positions, pre-viewing of video recorded personality assessments have proved to be highly beneficial for the HR decision making process and also helping in identify the ‘right fit’, he added.

Is Technology Helping Retention?
The primary purpose of technology is to ease the functional hurdles and improve productivity. In order to enhance productivity staff retention is quite important. Every organisation targets minimum of 20 to 30% growth in productivity annually. This kind of target would not be possible without augmenting the workforce. While ICT has brought in revolutionary changes in the way business leaders communicate with their associates at different levels, has it helped in reducing the staff turns over rate? Still, not sure!

“Technology can only be an ‘enabler’. Effectively utilised, technology can support ‘human connect’ and increase retention. Organisations which have traditional Indian hospitality values and have a strong connect with their front-line team members and can relate not only to their work challenges but also lend a shoulder to handle their challenges on personal front, have much higher retention rates,” says Sridhar of The Leela Hotels.

There are many factors that affect employee retention, but one that is sometimes overlooked is technology; however it is one of the most contributing factors, says Janine Fernandez. “A potential candidate or a new hire can learn more about his career development options and companies’ culture because of technology. It has helped employees in career development with the help of E-learning. Technology has made easier for employees to access company data, share work, transfer files securely. This kind of freedom really aids employee retention as the staff feels trusted. Technology has also helped in things like reminders for deadlines, automatic updates sent to them, online trainings and ease scheduling meetings,” stated Fernandez.

“Technology definitely enhances the employee experience and creates a sense of freedom and flexibility,” confirms Guin.



Impact on Jobs
Technology is generally perceived as a job destroyer. Too much of process automation through technology might also eliminate current job roles at different levels. It is being reported that Indian business conglomerate, Wipro, as part of downsizing their workforce has replaced productivity worth 12,000 people over 140 customer engagements by deploying 1,800 HOLMES bots in IT services. There were reports of Robots taking over certain customer facing jobs in hospitality industry as well in recent months. Therefore, what has to be construed from this in the long run?

The role of ‘Assistants’ will certainly be eliminated and replaced with ‘e-Assistants’, feels Fernandez. “Soon everyone will have a Siri-like assistant which will help them with their job. So not only will it be used in their careers but also in their day-to-day tasks. The role of check-in, check-out and cashiering are likely to be affected by the advent of technology in the coming years,” she predicts.

Sridhar has a different take on the same, “Technology will only alter the scope of jobs and also how they are done. Right balance of technology and job skills will ensure that scope of roles change over a period of time, but they will not be done away with.”

The 2017 Global HR Trends study by Deloitte concludes that the future of work will be the augmented workforce. ‘Robotics, AI, sensors, and cognitive computing have gone mainstream, along with the open talent economy. Companies can no longer consider their workforce to be only the employees on their balance sheet, but must include freelancers, “gig economy” workers, and crowds. These on- and off- balance-sheet workers are being augmented with machines and software. Together, these trends will result in the redesign of almost every job, as well as a new way of thinking about workforce planning and the nature of work’, the survey notes.

krishna.kumar@saffronsynergies.in

 
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