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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A Disease Called Myth

Real life is the fertile hub of startling insights. Picture this scenario straight from life.

A 6-year-old Indian boy in an urban metropolis was diagnosed with mild persistent asthma and had been started on daily inhaled corticosteroid. At a follow-up visit in 2 months, his symptoms had worsened and the dose of the corticosteroid was increased.

During a home visit required by the research protocol, the research team noted that there were a significant number of incense candles and sticks burning in the living room, a place where the child spent most of his time. At a subsequent clinic visit, it was suggested to the mother that the incense burning may be the primary cause for the poor control of asthma. The mother responded in agreement that she was aware that this could be the problem. However, since it was her mother-in-law’s practice and something she could not oppose due to her cultural upbringing, she was expected to comply.

Cut to another story where an Indian mother expressed outright denial when given a diagnosis of asthma in their child. The acceptance of the diagnosis of asthma results in the acknowledgement by the parent that their child carries a chronic illness resulting in an “imperfect “child. Certain other beliefs attribute the cause of asthma to ‘lack of love’ from a mother!

Watch how belief further mutates into bizarre myths. Asthma is usually seen as a serious disease, which leads to death, a belief propagated by the Bollywood cultural movies and stories in which the Asian Indians are used to seeing the major actors clutching their chests while looking for their asthma inhalers and succumbing to their illness. Since the respiratory symptoms of asthma have usually been portrayed as life-threatening which often take the life of the person with the disease, a barrier in the acceptance of the diagnosis and the treatment of this disease is inherently prevalent.

More stories populate the diverse panorama of India’s socio-religious ethos. Spiritual healers are often used to do special prayers and create special magical concoctions, which are given to the child for their well-being and treatment of the chronic illness. Belief in horoscopes and their effects are well-accepted factors that can influence the child’s health. Horoscopes are evaluated by specialists to determine the chronicity of the illness and for prediction of improvements in those conditions. Special articles of religious significance are given to the child to wear. Removal of these articles even if required by medical professionals is considered inauspicious to the point where it may aggravate the symptoms of the disease and distance the provider from the family of the illness.

Home remedies, such as tea, hot water, walking, ginger and turmeric, are perceived to provide relief in asthma.

Clearly, there is a cultural/folk cognition of asthma -the disease that permeates all areas of life manifesting in cultural barriers and also affecting other aspects of the social fabric like matrimonial alliance!

The increasing diversity of the nation brings opportunities and challenges for healthcare providers, healthcare systems, and policymakers to create and deliver culturally competent services. Cultural competence is defined as the ability of providers and organizations to effectively deliver health care services that meet the social, cultural, and linguistic needs of patients. A culturally competent healthcare system can help improve health outcomes and quality of care and can contribute to the elimination of racial and ethnic health disparities. Today strategies skewered to move the health care system towards these goals include providing relevant training on cultural competence and cross-cultural issues to health professionals and creating policies that reduce diagnostic and cultural barriers to patient care.

At Cipla, we rose to the challenge by plunging into a ‘barrier-breaking campaign that attacks the root of the disease- ignorance that is currently rampant in fatal quantities. Berok Zindagi is a multi-channel communication arsenal that is aimed at eliminating the myths and reinstating the fact that asthma need not come in your way.

Because after all, cultural competence and therapeutic competence really go hand in hand.

Hopefully one day, blessed amulets and fish stuffed down the throat will give way to inhalation as an integral part of an asthmatic’s life.

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Campus To Corporate

This is the time of the year when graduates from technical and business schools join organizations across India. Often referred to as Graduate Engineering Trainees, Management Trainees, Post Graduate Trainees etc., this is a key transition that these youngsters are going through in their lives.

While they are taking a plunge into the world of work from the world of academia, learning is hardly over. While learning will be a life-long process, considering the nature of the transition, their learning over the initial few months at work will be both intense and immense. They need to learn about the organization, its culture and practices, the industry and the sector, the domain and skills associated with it, tools and processes that are followed as well as skills associated with work and personal effectiveness.

Here are some pointers on how they can learn the maximum and handle this transition effectively. Let me start with certain mindsets that they need to bring in.

I am a part of the whole – unlike student days wherein what one does impacts just their performance (my poor scores may not impact anyone else), in an organization, one is always a part of the larger ecosystem, a team. If I don’t do my bit, it is going to impact others’ performance as well. That is a big responsibility that one needs to be aware of always.

I am observed and assessed all the time – there are no periodical or term-end assessments to determine one’s knowledge and skill. Rather, one is observed on a continuous basis and impressions are formed. And all this will feed into evaluation. And it’s not just knowledge and skill, but more importantly behaviour – whether you are on time for meetings, how and what you speak etc that gets observed. In a way, every day is an assessment day

I am an equal employee – there is no teacher and student; the trainee is as much responsible as a very seasoned employee and needs to take the effort and initiative. One cannot wait for instructions and directions always

These mindsets can set the right context after which they can do the following to actively learn.

Pull learning – Unlike in college, learning will not be pushed always through a standard curriculum, sessions etc. One needs to set his / her own agenda – a personal learning plan – and leverage resources. For eg. one may want to start by learning about the industry and check for all possible online and offline resources that can help with that. Like everyone else they need to own their learning and get into a self-learning mode

Learn on-the-job – this is the most potent source of learning. As per the well-known 70:20:10 model, 70% learning happens on the job. However, this does not happen automatically just because one is at the job. One should plan it, seek it and consolidate it. At the start of the day, the youngster (and everyone else as well) should plan not just the activities but the learning aligned to it. And then seek that actively, through experience and more importantly through interactions. For eg. assuming the trainee is present along with the manager in a negotiation with a vendor, a 5 – 10 minutes discussion post that with the manager saying why did you do this, what model were you following, share a little more etc would help.

Reflection and consolidation at the end of the day would be very important to crystallize and sustain the learning. To quote John Dewey,

“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.” 

An online journal can be a good aid to jot down one’s reflections.

Seek a mentor – Mentor at this stage can be a huge developmental support. Mentor can be from within the organization or outside – a professor from one’s college, a senior from the institute etc. The mentor will not just act as a sounding board but can share perspectives and guide the trainee. I recollect my initial days as a school counsellor post college, when I used to travel from one end of the city to the other to interact with my mentor, who was couple of years my senior. Her guidance helped me in a big way to succeed in my initial years.

Form a PLN – PLN or a Personal Learning Network is another powerful source of learning. This enables Social Learning through sharing and collaboration amongst peers. Any online social collaboration platform can be the medium for this. While digital interactions are very much a part of our lives, the core purpose of a PLN would be sharing around learning. PLNs can be formed within the organization, say all trainees from a batch as well as outside, PLN of one’s batchmates across different organizations. Through external PLNs, I have often found that trainees are a very good source of information about external practices.

Gain the maximum out of formal training – One cannot ignore formal training. Starting with the induction / on-boarding programme that they would be a part of, trainees should take maximum advantage of all formal learning opportunities that the organization provides. This would include leveraging online learning platforms that many organizations provide.

Do not be limited by micro learning – Micro learning is the in thing. Byte-sized, short modules is what everyone, not just youngsters, favour. While micro learning has its value, I am of the strong view that it cannot replace mega learning. While micro learning can drive breadth, it is mega learning that will drive depth. One needs to understand and appreciate the value of mega learning and leverage it accordingly.

While the trainees need to own this, one cannot undermine the role of line managers and HR. They need to act as enablers and facilitators and sensitize and support trainees in the learning journey.

Let me end this with a quote by Henry Ford –

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young”

Let us keep learning and stay young forever!!

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How Cipla’s Self-Learning And Continuous Learning Approach Is A Game-Changer

Learnability is the biggest skill one can possess in the hyper-dynamic times that we exist in. There is a need for people to quickly learn and unlearn, and re-invent themselves if they seek to survive in the professional arena. At the same time, owing to how automation and technology are changing the nature of jobs, even organisations need to focus on continuously adding to the knowledge and skills of their people to stop them from becoming redundant. Gone are the days when learning and development were seen as a cost burden. It has now become essential for businesses that seek to sustain and grow in the existing volatile business scenario.

Cipla has been transforming its approach towards learning through focused efforts by its learning and development arm, Cipla University. In line with its philosophy of continuous learning, Cipla University believes in offering best-in-class training while promoting continuous learning that would enable all its associates as well as the organization on the whole Learn-Excel-Grow in a regular manner. This would not just lead to performance excellence in the present, but more importantly make individuals and the organization, future ready as well.

Hemalakshmi Raju, head- learning and development, Cipla says, “It’s not knowledge but a continuous learning approach that provides a competitive advantage.”

Raju shares that the organisation observed that there was a hunger for learning, and people needed guidance to be more efficient at what they do. More so, as the sales representatives in the pharmaceutical industry are mostly on the field and spend a significant amount of time, on-the-go. In addition, they have to deal with people who are way more qualified than them — the doctors. Even more challenging is the fact that their interaction window is limited to a few minutes versus the wait time that may be an hour or more.

It’s not knowledge but a continuous learning approach that provides a competitive advantage.

“Keeping all these challenges in mind, we realised that the field force required learning on the go such that they have anytime, anywhere access to relevant content. We launched mobile learning for the field force, a year ago. It allows them to utilise their wait time for learning, along with constant self-assessment on the same,” Raju explains.

The Company follows the 70:20:10 principle for its learning initiatives, and focuses majorly on continuous learning and self-learning. It has a unique programme called ‘Keep educating yourself’, under which it has provided its people access to a set of curated MOOCs. ‘My learning challenge’ is another unique initiative, that was organized sometime back, wherein employees could enroll themselves, pick a topic of their choice and spend at least half an hour every day, for ten days, learning the same.

Raju shares that over 250 people had enrolled for this programme across the globe, of which the best 10 were selected as learning champions. “The idea behind all these initiatives has been to inculcate in our people a habit of learning on their own,” Raju opines.

Cipla recently organised a learning expo at its office in Mumbai, with an aim to encourage self-learning and learning on the go. The event attempted to sensitise people and orient them to utilise various tools for self-learning through gamification.

Raju shares that the buy-in from the top management towards these digital learning efforts is extremely high and Cipla’s CEO, Umang Vohra and group chief people officer, Prabir Jha are strong proponents and ambassadors of the same

Looking ahead, Cipla is planning to organise social-learning drives, through digital platforms. It will include strong peer-to-peer learning through ‘tag and learn’ initiatives.

“Learning is not just about individual capability building but organisational capacity building” is a strong perspective held by Jha and Raju feels that Learning On the Go will be a key lever in bringing this alive.

This article originally appeared in HR Katha.

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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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