As the world was coping with the disruptions largely arising out of innovations in technology there came another one, the mother of all disruptions so far that shook the entire globe, adversely impacting the economy resulting in liquidation of numerous enterprises resulting in job losses that the world has ever seen before. COVID-19 pandemic as it is infamously known as, its aftermath has had a profound effect on the HR function, and the office of the CHRO, in particular- the spotlight was indeed on, which was in any case long overdue. Traditionally relegated to a ‘second among equals’ in the corporate pecking order, HR is now not only expected to lead from the front, but reinvent its role from Administrator and Executor – to Catalyst and Path-finder. Two critical, interrelated questions appear. How HR can adapt with the technology to become successful, as it undertakes this transition? And – how can function be better equipped and fortified to serve the emerging needs of the employees, the biggest asset of the enterprise – the internal customers – and effect higher levels of focus, productivity in the emergent workplace?

With regard to present day technology, amongst many we see two sets of critical challenges for the function. First, HR, as compared to other functions, HR’s embracing of cutting-edge technology has been relatively sluggish and conservative for various reasons. As a corollary, HR professionals in general tend to be less technology-savvy than their counterparts in marketing and finance, and a mandate for swift adoption of technology may perhaps meet with resistance. Further, given that traditionally, both HR and IT have been staking claim to be the custodian of sensitive data/information’s, the relationship between the two has at best been an uneasy alliance. The challenge here can be overcome as follows. HR will have to be proactive in seeking assistance from IT and a step further, by way of active collaboration with them, not only in the technical upgradation of its systems wherever needed, but also in enhancing the technical skills of its resources.

The second challenge is rather sensitive and trickier. The new WFH and Hybrid models of working, powered by technology, have found a growing number of champions among CXOs. Overheads are reduced, as are commute times, and managers take advantage of this to institutionalize longer working hours, leading to increased output, at least in the short term. But there’s another side to the story: reduced teamwork, bonding and camaraderie, increased alienation, isolation and loneliness, digital fatigue, and growing concerns and anxiety about job security. While the benefits accrue to the office of the CFO and COO, the grouses and anxieties accumulate at the door of the CHRO, and if unattended, will sooner or later, impact productivity, the bottom-line and more importantly compromising the morale and level of engagement.

In such a situation, HR owes it to the human assets to communicate their concerns, and persuade the other stakeholders at the table, of the longer-term dangers of not heeding to the concerns of employees. But there’s also a deeper imperative – HR needs to use this predicament as an opportunity to build closer and more empathetic relationships with its human assets. A key pre-requisite for this is to have a deep, individual-specific understanding of not only the employee’s current mindset, anxiety level, resilience, but equally – if not more important – of the employee’s intrinsic capabilities, qualities and potential, which can be unlocked for effecting win-win outcomes. It can be safely assumed that success of an enterprise in the future will now largely depend on the ability of the HR function to drive and sustain this doctrine of “win-win’’.

With regard to behavioural assessments, traditional psychometrics follow the ‘disease model’ of medical practice: seek symptoms for areas of concern of improvement, identify the area of lacunae, and devise means of fixing the gap. However, the need of the hour is a more employee-friendly, empathetic, Strengths First approach of behavioural diagnostics.


The author is a Partner of X-PM India.