Transforming HR- The Shift To Digital


When we talk about this migration from manual to digital HR many leaders, many organisations are plagued with challenges. I have heard many of them tell me that we want to change this but we are stuck so let me share with you what typically are challenges that most people are confronted with. One is this entire issue about security. Will my data be secure, if everything is going to be digital? What if someone hacks, what if a virus were to corrupt and so on and so forth. What if I put on the cloud, how does it save? Some of these are legitimate concerns because the reality of technology hacking the reality of your viruses is here to stay. But let’s look at it positively.

There will always be the worry; there will always be the naysayers, there will always be reason to say oh this is not going to work and that’s how the world has changed all these years, over centuries, there will always be this set of naysayers but I always believe the infraction of a law is no reason for its annulment. Similarly, therefore because there could be theoretically security issues not to attempt, I think it is going to be foolhardy because let’s be honest as new viruses and new hackers get active so also the security and defence mechanisms. But it is a challenge, but there is also a slew of solutions which ensure security. The other big question people ask is-You know my CEO or CFOs are asking questions on ROI? I think this is about influencing, influencing both with data and influencing with philosophy.

I think HR is not always about instant noodles, it is really about trying to explain the new culture. It is all about making a new workplace and if you start adding all the dimensions of what a new agile, efficient, responsive, high experienced workplace delivers and therefore enables far better decision making and therefore more productive organisations answering a small ROI investment on technology to enable HR is not really a big debate. It is just about how you will make sure you put your arguments together and comprehensively. The third big issue of change that I hear from a lot of people is about resistance to change, and this can come from different people, it can come from sometimes CIOs, the technology guardians of companies. Sometimes these are turf issues because as digitization has come in a lot of decision making bias has moved away from technology ownership to function ownership including HR. It’s possible, but it’s all about making sure that you explain and articulate the joint partnership rather than the resistance. The leadership, not many leaders are tech-savvy yet, and even if they are, they still prefer the paper and the pen, and therefore this entire world, a new world, especially in old age economy companies is a resistance and I think it’s again about explaining to people the value of digitization, demonstrating the speed and impact of digitization. The logic of how changing demographics within the company and possibly if your client expects you to move to a different world, but there are people who feel a little cagey about the change and of course employees.

Many organizations today are living with multi-generational categories of employees. So at a level, you have millennials who will not accept the world beyond digital but you will also have many people who started their careers 30-35years back, and they are still struggling with this entire thing including their impressions on job security and therefore job anxiety. So resistance to anything new is natural, and it can stop change, but the solution is how do you influence the reality of the world that existed and finally the reason that stops change is what I call lack of skills. We just don’t have the skills and because we don’t have the skills the natural response to a new world is-sabotage it. Now, is it a big deal? My father learnt everything about using the computer and using the smartphone after retiring after 37 years in the civil service which historically has been a paper and pen reality, and he learnt it almost 20 years back, and I, therefore, believe it is all about orientation. It is all about how do organizations, how do leaders, how do HR handhold people to go through this experience. Today a lot of digital work is intuitive, it is not about coding and programming, and therefore lack of skills is more in the mind than in the substance, but these are all issues that impact change, efforts and could be constrained to some, the counselors don’t give up, don’t surrender, influence this change.

I had once written a tweet ‘if we want to win, we need to first believe we can all sceptics notwithstanding. It is not enough, but it is non-negotiable’, and I think this entire nuance of change management in the context of the new digital world. So what can you do to accelerate change? Essentially four things-

Shape the landscape, move from technology isolation to helping people see technology as a means to a purpose. The CEOs have their role to play, the CHRO also have their role to play, but ultimately it is about how will you shape and influence the landscape and I think this is very important. How do you communicate? How do you measure success? How do you share a vision of transformation? How do you ensure that this becomes an experience which is positive, which gets gamified? Employees experience it in the right way, and at the end of the day, of course, you need to ensure that you get maximum value for the buck that you spend.

The second thing that one must do, and we don’t do this well enough is to prepare proactively. It’s a big shift from capturing just pure operational data and many companies are not even there to actually capturing data as curated information. You know if you just dump data, it is actually of no value add, but you can curate data to get insights, to get analytics which can almost help you predict outcomes and therefore help you be very sharp in your decision making, but this is a big mind shift, mindset shift for leaders and companies. It’s about data-driven practice, it’s about simplification, it’s about transparency, and I think CEOs have to walk the talk, they have got to lead it from the front and I think HR in its area has to define data which adds meaning, what insights lead to business decisions, focus there and of course work with leadership in influencing this entire absorption, work through all the change management challenges but it is all about preparing pro-actively.

The third suggestion that I have about accelerating this change is – Think big and think disruptive. I believe the world of incremental changes and advances is dead. The world will actually subsume you, many times over before that and I strongly believe in bringing in disruptive technology, it collapses time cycles. You don’t need today to do things incrementally, you can actually crunch timelines, you can go from nothing to right at the top and CEOs need to be the sponsors of this disruptive technology, even if you fail, fail quick, fail fast and recover. But I think this is very key, and I think from HR perspective, a CHRO perspective, try and make sure that things are available to people to do on their smartphone. People are not going to be sitting on their desktops and just logging away their hours anymore. Help people assimilate, absorb, accept this as something which makes their lives easier and in that process help prepare the company for disruption because at the end of the day transforming companies is one of your biggest deliverables in contemporary times.

And the last suggestion, if I may – to accelerate change to a digital HR reality, is to recognize people are the key again and again. It’s not just about buying technology. It is about ensuring that starting from the leadership people accept digital transformation and transitions. CEOs can particularly talk about it; it’s all about repeating the vision, making sure that people understand the vision, buy into the vision and most importantly lead digital by example. People do not just want to believe what is being told to them; they like to see things. So if CEOs and the senior leadership, the CHROs can role model this, it’s good for the brand, and it is good for business. It is agile, speedier, quicker and there some very good examples of chief executives who do this, there are very lousy examples of chief executives who still don’t do this. There are great examples of CHROs who do it, there are lousy examples of HR managers who don’t do it, but I think if it is done right and role modelled right, people are very keen to absorb and follow practices and behaviours of senior leadership. So these are the four changes that I believe can accelerate transitions of companies from a manual HR reality to a digital HR reality.

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Innoventia – Search For Disruptive Innovation in Healthcare

Keeping up with Cipla’s innovation-driven credo, happy to share one of our big initiatives towards the same. Check out Innoventia.Cipla.Com to participate & reinvent the way we deliver healthcare.

I take this opportunity to also write my thoughts on why an initiative like Innoventia is much needed in our times.

They say when data is tortured enough, it will confess to anything! This couldn’t ring truer than now- when ‘sharing’ has become a way of life, thanks to the digital takeover of our lives. Everything is under the impact of the fastest moving phenomenon in recent times: CHANGE. In fact, change is the new technology, permeating everything, especially healthcare.

We are already witnessing applications for blockchain and more uses for AI, especially in diagnosis. Analytics has become the new buzzword. In the broad sweep of AI’s current worldly ambitions, machine learning healthcare applications seem to top the list for funding. Clearly, healthcare is no longer about the passive delivery of diagnostics, drugs and infrastructure. Guess why?

Along with the diseases, patients are changing too – across the spectrum of understanding, knowledge, and management of diseases given the emerging technology canvas.

So what’s next? Innovation is the only answer – to tide this wave of life-altering times to transform the delivery of care.

Therefore, is it healthcare or tech care? A question that will perhaps be answered through the lens of innovation.

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#WorldBookDay: Books That Have Influenced My Life

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Meet Challenges Head On – Dr Ranjana Pathak To Women Leaders In The Making

My journey has been a roller coaster ride, filled with laughter and some tears. The challenges were numerous, since I started at the very bottom, this forces you to learn, understand the nuances of the job, the expectations of the organisation, and the regulators.

This job soon became a career and now a calling. I have always been driven, spent hours reading trade journals, studying books on key topics such as chromatography, the USP etc. By the way, the USP is a great book to learn from if you are in the lab. When I started my career, I was the only girl in the QC lab, it was daunting because I had zero experience, this was a challenge to overcome. For me it was a new country, working for the first time in my life, so I suppose the survival instinct kicked in. I have always been very focused. I have the drive to be the best in what I do. These two traits have enabled me to be a perennial student, keeping me in the learning mode. I never liked the status quo and always opted for harder tasks, taught courses because it would force me to learn and be challenged by pharma executives. The need to excel has been with me literally all my life which drives me to take challenges head-on.

In summary, it is my purpose, drive, doggedness, persistence and courage that have enabled me to overcome the numerous challenges that faced me and I know I am not alone! I have also been blessed with having a very supportive family, bosses and colleagues.

Challenges for women leaders

Time is the biggest challenge, the pharma industry is competitive and by nature, timeline bound. There is seldom tomorrow, everything seems to be needed yesterday, a very fast paced, exacting and demanding industry, full of challenges, some anticipated and others binding. For women, to play their classical roles in society and families becomes difficult, because of their innate nature.
Women from time immemorial have been jugglers, they must juggle the needs of their families, children, work, friends, communities etc…the list goes on and on.
Given that the number of hours is limited for all, women need to be able to prioritise the ‘must dos’, and let go of those tasks that cannot be done and will not matter in the long run, ‘take help’ from family members, friends, neighbours to be able to juggle everything on their plate.

Creating a conducive growth environment

The government can and should execute laws that are conducive for women to work, the organisations then must follow through to make the workplace environment safe. School and universities should promote science and maths so children join science rather than hanker for business degrees alone, don’t get me wrong we need those as well but I think I see a tip towards business. If there is no product, there will be no business to manage. Today’s generation wants instant gratification, the millennials are different from the baby boomer generation, their needs and tolerances are not the same. Careers in disciplines other science seem to be more popular. The pharma industry needs sharp scientists, engineers, biologists, microbiologists, physicists, computer science etc. to ensure that new drugs/devices are developed, existing drugs are made more affordable, the quality is uncompromised. This is a daunting task where the government can help in ensuring the platforms exist. The government can do a lot to make this feasible for women/ girls in urban and rural schools.

Need for regular campus placement

There are more number of science graduates coming out of universities who want to join the pharma sector. However, due to lack of job opportunities, they have to change their career goal. To address this, the pharma industry needs to be present on the campus to educate the graduates of tomorrow about the needs of humanity (need for medicines) and the need of society.

Success Mantra

To my newcomers and those that are stalwarts: Always do the right thing, be courageous, know your subject, believe in yourself, look at yourself in the mirror each morning and say—Wow, I am looking at a great piece of art that is going to make a huge difference today!!! If I can do it…You can do it better!!

This article originally appeared in Express Pharma.

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Books: A Cerebral Affair

“A Reader lives a thousand lives before dying. Those who never read live only once!”

All of us enter youth and the corporate world with the quiet confidence that we can change the world. Alas, this lasts only “until the coarse necessities of physical existence drag us from the height of thought into the mart of economic strife and gain”. Our everyday challenges – finding and then doing well in a good job, keeping up with an often fragile relationship, the heavy load of expectations from our parents and ourselves, lack of clarity on what we really want to do in life, the rat race and constant comparison with our peers – often pull us down into mediocrity. And the grand idea of being the very best we can gets quietly put aside.

So Why Read Books?

If we agree that good counsel can help us become much better, what better guide than books? Mentors and teachers can come and go and may turn out to be false Gods. Why not drink from the ageless wisdom of good books, learning from the myriad experiences of some of the best of our species?

As Durant said, “When life is bitter, or friendship slips away, or perhaps our children leave us for their own haunts and home, let us come and sit at the table with Shakespeare and Goethe…”

But What Exactly To Read?

There is a book for every mood and occasion. Choosing few recommendations is not easy (±130 million books have been written!), so let’s decide how we will choose:

  • Life-changing: Will make us wiser. That can bring fundamental changes in our thinking and attitude, answer the big Why questions.
  • Engaging and Fun: We want to grow, but also enjoy the journey. We may not have the patience (yet!) to go through deep but boring books.

Let me start with a few recommendations from my side (click each link for more recommendations and a short summary)…

(If you want more, see my blog on 100 Books To Make Us Wise).

Part of what makes a book memorable is our own life experiences that can relate to it. So look out for what appeals to you. Obviously, choose the books very carefully. Good books can be an everlasting love affair, just as bad books can be more enervating than a date gone horribly wrong.


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