Evolving role of HR in Corporate India

"HR professionals now contribute to higher-level of thinking and advice –especially in the critical areas of Talent, Performance and Change Management." Anirban Das, Chief People Officer, Lakshmikumaran and Sridharan


Human Resources is undoubtedly one of the critical functions of any organisation as it deals with a most important asset of an organization – “Talent”. Having said so, HR as a function has also evolved over the past so many years. Initially, this function was transactional and was centered around Payroll, Leave Management, Policymaking, Hiring, Training and Employee File Management. But, now Human Resources or Talent Management has gone miles ahead to become a Business Strategic Partner having diverse roles - a Brand Builder, an Analyst, a Communicator, a Motivator and a Collaborator. HR professionals now contribute to higher-level of thinking and advice –especially in the critical areas of Talent, Performance and Change Management. HR professionals have started focussing on reasoning and learning the business; connecting and communicating with the employees, and collaborating with the stakeholders. The crucial role of HR today is to give employees an excellent company narrative to drive ethics, innovation and inclusive leadership culture at the workplace to ensure that each employee lives this culture every single day.

HR today plays a significant role in Employer Branding by not only being a Brand Builder but also ensuring that each employee becomes an active brand ambassador for the organisation. Today, the HR role has become more transformational oriented which is responsible for driving change projects and transformation in an organisation. It starts with addressing the very human needs such as ‘The need to be appreciated’, ‘The need to belong’ and ‘The need to believe’ so that an employee can make a meaningful contribution. The function entails imparting day-to-day performance management guidance to line management, managing and resolving complex employee issues, conducting effective, thorough and objective investigations, developing the workforce by identifying the training need and last but not the least, providing guidance and input on business unit restructuring, workforce planning and succession planning.

But what are the fundamental forces which have driven this change?

1. The scarcity of Talent: The most critical thing that differentiates the best company from a good company is its talent. A company which performs in the top quintile has a stronger talent pool than its competitor. It’s a competitive market, and nearly three-quarter of business managers believe that their talent is either insufficient and chronically short.

An Engagement Report reveals that only 25% of the employees believe that their organisation offers ample opportunities for career progression and development.

HR is playing a pivotal role in salvaging companies from this talent trap. HR has become a lot more proactive in supporting the leadership by attracting, developing and retaining the top talents. In the area of talent acquisition, the old role as an HR professional has evolved with the inception of Social Media. Today recruitment doesn’t stop with a job application, in fact, it starts online. So, an HR today needs to be a brand builder and a marketing person. HR also plays a vital role in bridging that gap by articulating Employee.

Value Proposition’ and driving consistent messaging so that the entire company espouses it.

2. Cost Pressure: India is evolving as an entrepreneur capital of the world. With so many SMEs aiming to scale up and challenge the established players, the pressure on large players is to reduce its cost while not compromising on the quality of product or service. A spate of M&A has also put pressure on companies to reduce cost through synergistic efforts. HR is expected to be the vanguard of this activity by reducing its own expense, participating in the due-diligence period and facilitating post-merger integration of the organisation. Today, one of the core goals of HR is to fully contribute to competitive advantage and continuous improvement on cost reduction.

3. Influence of Technology: Technology and social media are enabling companies to articulate ‘Employer Branding’ by the improved flow of information both externally and internally. This has revolutionised the HR function by changing the nature of HR processes thereby delivering enhanced services. The introduction of technology has dramatically changed the landscape of work for an HR professional. Rather than spending a significant amount of time moving and approving paper forms, an HR professional may focus on the higher value-added parts of human resources. For instance, an HR Intranet can integrate employee information management, career development, and performance management for current employees, and recruitment for prospective hires. Wide dissemination of external recruiting information can create a large pool of potential candidates while rapid online response can reduce recruiting cycles significantly. The speed and the level of analytics are crucial in the "Talent War."

Over the past few decades of blockbuster movies and Silicon Valley products, artificial intelligence (AI) has become increasingly familiar and infused with an aberrantly dystopian pull and the same has impacted HR function as well. However, Natural Intelligence (NI) will still be placed uniquely because of its ability to think, design and modify new forms of intelligence. Analytics and data can give you some perspective on the likely paths to take or the decisions to be made. But ultimately, it will be your Natural Intelligence and Intuition which will prevail and drive the organisation further. Its only through the combination of NI and AI, HR professionals will be seen as a game changer shortly.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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