India: The Future of Work for HR is One That is Global in Scope, Diverse in Skills and Cultures, and Defined Very Differently Than it is Today. – Stacy Harris

Interview by SHRM India

Sierra-Cedar Inc., is a part of the The Sierra-Cedar Group. They are known for their industry-based consulting expertise in technology and systems for  industry applications, strategy and research, business analytics, performance management, and enterprise applications. They also help their clients manage and upgrade client’s applications as well as technology infrastructure. They further guide and support them in implementing and integrating cloud-based services.

We got in touch with Stacy Harris, the Vice President of Research and Analytics at Sierra-Cedar, in charge of the Annual HR Systems Survey and Research Function, to gain insight into their Sierra Cedar HR Tech Landscape Study for Asia, and to understand how India is faring on HR Tech. Stacy will also be sharing her knowledge and experience at SHRM Tech’17.

Here’s an excerpt of the email interview with Stacey Harris.

Tell us a bit about the Sierra Cedar HR Tech Landscape Study for Asia? How is technology adoption in HR in Asia as compared to the rest of the world? Where does India stand?

The Sierra-Cedar HR Systems Survey is the longest running, most widely distributed, and most highly participative research effort in the HR industry, annually tracking the adoption, deployment approaches, and value achieved from HR technologies. This is an open and free resource for the Global HR community—focused on providing a resource that can be leveraged for HR systems strategy, devising a plan, justifying investments, and ultimately for executing their HR technology vision. On an average, we receive over 1,500 Survey responses from a wide range of industries and organizational sizes. We conduct extensive cleansing so that our final data is accurate and represents single organizations. Our target participants are HR practitioners and leaders at the centre of HR technology decisions, implementations, or change management efforts. We also find that executives and business leaders are aware of their workforce issues, and consider the Survey to be of interest.

This was a wonderful year for Global participation in our Survey, with more than 20% of our respondents coming from organizations with an HQ outside of North America this year. We are particularly excited about the data we have from the Asia Pacific region as well as the individual India market this year. 

Here are a few data points about those organizations that participated in each group this year:

  •  The average employee plus contingent workforce of the organizations that participated in the research from Asia Pacific overall was 21,993 and from India was 44,461. Generally when we are building a presence in a region it is the larger organizations that tend to participate early on, as they are often in greatest need for benchmarking their own growth and HR technology maturity.
  •   52% of those India based organizations that participated in the research had operations and employees located outside of their headquarter location of India.
  •  The average HR resource per total number of employees for the India based organizations was 74 employees per 1 HR resource, slightly lower than our Global average as well as the APAC average.
  •  64% of the India based organizations plan to increase their HR Technology budgets this year, compared to just 51% of the remaining ACAP market, and only 42% of our Global organizations. 

The Asia Pacific Market generally has lower HR Technology adoption levels than our Global Average in almost all HR Technology categories, for example only 78% of the Asia Pacific organizations have adopted a full HRMS solution. On the other hand 93% of India based organizations said they had a full core HRMS in use, more aligned with our Global Average. While Asia Pacific market as a whole has less HR Technology adoption, India’s areas of lower HR Technology adoption are in Benefits, HR and Workforce Analytics, Succession and Career planning solutions, as well as social technologies.

Among all the HR functions, which one is most tech savvy and which area needs to improve on technology usage? What things does the management and the HR keep in mind when rolling out new technology in the company?

We generally find that across all of our data that compliance and efficiency driven areas currently have the highest levels of HR Technology adoption such as HR administration, time and attendance, but I wouldn’t consider them the most mature – simply the group that has been using technology the longest.

Our data shows that organizations that have invested heavily in talent-driven practices or data-driven HR practices generally use a wide range of HR Technology to achieve their goals and rarely categorize them as neatly as the vendor community would like them to.

When rolling out technology, HR should start with a vision of the outcome they are trying to achieve with that technology, and make sure that outcome is clearly communicated to executives, business leaders, and end-users so everyone knows what success should look like. Too often implementing a technology is viewed as the beginning and the end of the project, but it really is just a tool for achieving a critical business outcome that should be clearly defined. 

How does the future of work look for HR?

The future of work for HR is one that is global in scope, diverse in skills and cultures, and defined very differently than it is today. Over the next 20 years we can expect to see the creation of a wide range of workforce categories that have always been in existence but rarely tracked in HR – we’ll see a growing contingent workforce that might work across multiple businesses, within multiple communities, and across different functions within our own organizations. HR will also see an increase in automation and artificial intelligence in all work areas. HR’s role will actually shift back to focusing on the more human aspects of their job as the administrative work becomes part of the technology ecosystem. 

Given that a lot of the basic HR roles can be automated with the help of tech, how do you see the role of HR evolving in the future? What new skills does the HR professional need to succeed in the workplace of the future?

I touched on this in the previous question, but HR’s role will become more data-driven and more instinctual all at the same time. As data-driven decision making and automated technology grows we’ll have more time to invest in the company’s relationship with their current and future workforce, understanding them as individuals and as a group of people that connect with the organization. HR will need to understand factors such as behavioural motivators, cultural and social understanding, interpretation of law and regulations as it relates to employees and workforces, and company brand management issues.

There’s a lot of stress on HR Analytics nowadays. According to you which are the areas that HR should use analytics in?

HR Analytics is an important topic, and we look at it in three categories:

  •  Measuring the work of HR itself (HR Efficiency and Alignment Outcomes)
  •  Measuring desired workforce outcomes (Talent and Readiness Outcomes)
  •  Measuring the relationship between the workforce and business (Business Outcomes)

All three of these categories are important, and serve different purposes for HR – but usually HR needs to focus first on ensuring that they have a good process for HR analytics, one that includes outcome definition, data cleaning, feedback loops, context setting, communication models, and actionable outcomes. Without this process in place, HR analytics becomes siloed and often can do as much harm as good when decisions are made in a vacuum.

Among all the available technology tools which one is most useful or popular with HR?

The most useful tool for HR is the one their employees are willing to actually use – if a workforce isn’t willing to or can’t access, input data, and use data from an HR system then it is an exercise in futility. 

Which tools or platforms do the employees prefer?

Employees prefer applications that make their life easier, that reduce workloads, and are easy to access when and where they need them. Mobile HR is only valuable if employees have access to Mobile technology – HR technology needs to be accessible where an employee is doing work, dealing with a life situation, or having a conversation.

A lot of companies grapple with the issue of how to measure the ROI for HRTech. What is the best way to measure it? How can HR convince their top management to approve funds for new technology and systems?

This is difficult, beyond the initial automation and efficiency factors – once an organization has reduced the paperwork and removed manual work the additional benefits of HR technology aren’t found in savings, but rather in value creation. The business case for most organizations today is based on:

  • Filling Skill Gaps
  • Company Brand
  • Employee Retention
  • Customer Satisfaction
  • Workforce Productivity
  • Risk and Security

The ROI is only as solid as the importance of these factors to the business outcomes.

What technology trends in HR can we look forward to in 2017?

In 2017 we are going to see the Cloud conversation expand beyond North America into the Global Market, only 13% of the India based organizations that responded to our survey are currently using a SaaS HRMS environment today but 33% were planning on changing their primary HRMS in the next 12 months, this is twice as high as the Asia Pacific average and our Global average. Organizations are rethinking their HR Technology environments.

We can also expect to see more focus on Talent Management applications, 57% of India based organizations are investing time and resources into a major Talent Management technology initiative next year, and 48% of India based organizations plan to increase Talent Management roles in their organizations.

We’ll continue to see existing HR platforms invest in embedded HR analytics tools and benchmarking data-sets, 47% of the India Based organizations plan to increase roles in HR Analytics this year.

To know more about the latest in HR Technology, join us in the conversation with Stacy Harris at SHRM Tech’17.


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