IBM’s Chaitanya N Sreenivas On Changing Dynamics Of Performance Management

While highlighting the importance of technology integration, Chaitanya N Sreenivas, Vice-President & HR Head, IBM emphasised and said, “The CIO is a key partner in helping the CHRO envision a long-term roadmap for tech adoption to drive HR transformation”


In the last few years, performance management has witnessed a  tectonic shift from being a yearly to a continuous system. Managing performance is integral to internal talent development and making most of your existing workforce. Infusing technology in the system is a ‘need to have’ now that helps to reduce skill gaps, reduce external hiring, and drive productivity like never before.

In an exclusive interview, Chaitanya N Sreenivas, Vice-President & HR Head, IBM shares his insights as to how the changes in performance management and talent acquisition unfold? From an HR leader’s viewpoint, how rapidly HRs are required to align strategies with the recent trends in the performance management space using the new-age tech-enabled toolkit. 

Performance management has taken a new shape. How efficiently productivity tools are enabling HR managers or leaders? What productivity tool are you using at IBM?

We had embarked on a journey several years ago to align to the new ways of working. Firstly, we adopted, company-wide, tools (such as Box, Webex, Slack, Mural, Trello) to communicate, network, share information, and collaborate on projects across geographical boundaries. Secondly, we prepared our teams by promoting Design Thinking, Agile and Virtual Collaboration. This turned out to be very helpful when most of our workforce shifted to working remotely during the pandemic. We have also incorporated cloud-based, mobile-ready tools for Learning, and Career Management & Growth. These tools have empowered employees to be agile and work seamlessly.

We have also implemented a management dashboard that brings together diverse data points and helps managers manage their teams and make informed decisions. The dashboard includes information regarding employee salary, performance, their learning agility, it could be around how they stack in terms of their skills, to their current job, etc. The managers can view all the data in one place and can make quick and informed decisions.

Technology is a key enabler for managing performance in work from anywhere model, but do you encounter any challenges with technology?

Technology is much more than an enabler. It helps us to gain a distinct competitive advantage by giving us new insights, encouraging learning and creativity, improving productivity and efficiency. The CIO is a key partner in helping the CHRO envision a long-term roadmap for tech adoption to drive HR transformation. The HR technology portfolio must be managed like any other, measuring the benefits, ROI, improvements in operations, and overall success in achieving HR transformation goals. We must also be mindful of challenges such as availability, security, and data privacy.

Talent acquisition will be a digital-led process. How the landscape of talent acquisition has changed overall for IBM? What are the major challenges?

Talent Acquisition, among the HR functions, has been one of the first to adapt to the changes in the last year. They have transitioned to an almost 100% virtual mode of operations. Every stage of the process from shortlisting candidates, sourcing, and selection, to offers and onboarding, is now handled virtually. Talent Acquisition has strong measurements that constantly evaluate the effectiveness of tools and processes. Given the virtual mode of working with the digital person-to-person interaction, the challenge will continue to be in being able to attract top talent, giving candidates a great experience, and making the onboarding experience personalized and memorable.

The Future of Work is a broad term that encompasses changes in labour markets, government policy, prevalence and advancement of technology, workforce dynamics, employee expectations, and leadership culture. We should understand it in the context of complex interdependencies between these factors. The organizations that do this and are best prepared would be winners.

What are the top three factors you would advise to be taken care of while managing interdependent or interlinked teams in this hybrid work model?

Our rich history and culture are our strengths and gives us a competitive edge. So, the first and the most important factor is to preserve our culture. The second would be to establish strong systems of support to ensure that communication and collaboration happen at all levels in order to achieve common goals. Lastly, to ensure that we continue to be outcome-focused, and our measures of success reflect positive business outcomes.

What changes do you foresee in the next year that how technology will impact the workforce holistically? How the future of work will look like in a tech-enabled new world?

We noticed few trends in the last year. Many of our clients now understand that technology can be used to power their business and run their services from anywhere. While there are some clients who prefer to have technical resources and people closer to their own locations. We also have rapid advancements in digital technology, automation, and AI. In the current scenario, it’s important to have a workforce that is flexible and highly skilled. In the new tech-enabled world, our focus would be to ensure that we create great employee experiences, invest in skills, and in managing the overall well-being of our employees.

How HR as a function will maintain ‘Tech and Touch’ in a digitised world? Do you think it will be a flawless journey and will take HR to an aspired destination?

We are experiencing something new, exciting, and challenging. It reminds me of lines from one of Keats’ poems, where he writes “Then felt I like some watcher of the skies; When a new planet swims into his ken.” As the workforce transforms and we have a mix of on-site, hybrid, and remote employees, HR’s role would be to lead in establishing a new culture of engagement. We would need to shape positive employee experiences where there is a strong sense of the organization’s culture, a feeling of oneness and community, and a strong support system focused on employee well-being. Business leaders and managers will have to be partners in leading this change. Nothing is perfect but perfection is an ideal that we must target for, learning from what we do, and constantly improving.

In a hybrid work model, an office can be anywhere. How HR leaders are grooming Top-tier leaders to empathise and understand the multi-fold challenges an employee might be facing?

The key skills and attributes that we would look for and develop in leaders are to build Trust, have high emotional intelligence, and resiliency. Apart from this, be strong communicators, encourage collaboration, and be open to change and experimentation. These would help in addressing the employee expectations in the hybrid work model.


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