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Brands Need To Be Always Prepared For The Unexpected: Harshvendra Soin, Chief People Officer & Head - Marketing, Tech Mahindra
The next years of transformation will be driven by enhanced and personalized human-centred experiences says Soin in an exclusive interview with Krishnendra Joshi, Editorial Lead, BW People.
Harshvendra, a big congratulations to you for winning the BW People Champion of the year award at the BW People HR Excellence Awards 2023. You have donned many hats in your illustrious career. Would you please take us down memory lane and share with our readers about your formative years?
Before joining Tech Mahindra, I was the Chief People Officer at Fortis Healthcare Limited, looking after all areas of Human Resources. I have also worked with Aditya Birla Retail Limited as a Chief People Officer before Fortis. I have had the opportunity to take up the role of Senior Vice President - People Excellence in Bharti Enterprises, before moving as the Head – HR for Bharti Retail Ltd. Again, I have also worked with the Oberoi Group and Punwire Limited and throughout my career span, I have strived to create innovative HR processes and policies. I am associated with Tech Mahindra from 2012, and currently, I don the hat of Global Chief People Officer and Head of Marketing at Tech Mahindra.
With the experience I have gathered over the years, I endeavour to ensure world-class infrastructure, facilities, safety, comfort, care, flexibility, and recreation opportunities for people to optimize their potential, thrive in a great environment, become the best versions of themselves, strike a healthy work-life balance and achieve all this without hurting the planet.
What is the array of work you handle at Tech Mahindra?
From employee management and record keeping, the focus of HR functions in leading organizations has now shifted to employee engagement and building company culture. The core responsibility of an HR professional is now to act as an enabler who understands employee needs and expectations as well as the factors that motivate a diverse workforce. The fierce competition to acquire the best talent has made the function a lot more dynamic and I toil hard to ensure a steady talent pipeline and optimum utilization of people by leveraging powerful initiatives for talent attraction, development, engagement, and retention.
As the people leader, I try to ensure a unique journey for each TechMighty through diverse teams, hyper-personalized moments that matter, and tech-powered human experiences. I encourage the incorporation of talent, learning, diversity, culture, purpose, wellness, and technology in HR, and innovate to deliver a superior experience.
As the marketing leader, I always communicate a uniform, consistent brand message within and outside the company. People communications, employer branding, and stakeholder relations are my focal points which help me ensure that Tech Mahindra’s brand remains strong, open, and honest.
As the corporate services leader, I attempt to ensure world class infrastructure, facilities, safety, comfort, care, flexibility, and recreation opportunities for people to optimize their potential. This aids people to thrive in a great environment, become the best versions of themselves and strike a healthy work-life balance. With a sharp focus on sustainability, I aim to create the best workplace experiences for the people.
What would be your top three learnings from your career and how it transformed you as a professional?
One of the biggest learnings has been that while technology has been an enabler, moments of truth are always human - Reevaluating the level of automation of HR and providing a “human interface” to employees where personal interaction adds value. In this digital world, human beings are our most valuable resource and with the hybrid working model ramping up, what matters most is the outcomes instead of the output, so, Performance Management has become more about enablement rather than measurement.
The next important learning is that brands need to always be prepared for the unexpected. Customer behaviour and business practices will keep evolving, especially amidst heightened geo-economic fragmentation, financial sector vulnerabilities, and the climate crisis. Those in the technology sector especially have the advantage or rather foresight to engage across different sectors to keep a pulse on, influence, and drive actions around emerging market and consumer trends. This involves actively engaging with tech enthusiasts, early adopters, and industry experts through online forums, industry events, and social media platforms. By listening to these stakeholders, brands can gain valuable insights into evolving consumer needs, pain points, and desires. We need to go beyond simply reacting to trends—instead, proactively anticipate the future and act on it to make it better for all.
At the BW People HR Excellence Summit and Awards 2023, you spoke about how a great employer brand outperforms others. What to your mind are the key parameters for building an industry-leading employer brand in today’s VUCA world?
For every company wanting to build an employer brand, identifying unique differentiators that translate into stories holds the key. Although technological expertise, focus on employee development, and an inclusive and diverse work environment have contributed to the brand story, the buck does not stop there. Creating purpose-driven people-centric and performance-led culture is imperative.
These recent world events have only proved what we have always known: the human experience is more powerful than anything traditional marketing can achieve. It is authenticity in your brand voice that resonates most deeply with your customers and employees. It is essential for brands to put purpose before bottom line and work with humanity to create solutions that add value and make a real difference. It is important to build a powerful brand narrative that not only engages at a CXO level to inspire and influence change at the very top, but also breaks silos on the ground with well-executed strategies that build deeper connections with our customers, partners, associates, and stakeholders. Emphasis must be laid on creating a culture of expression among employees which creates a deep sense of belongingness and fosters a high degree of employee engagement within the organisation.
I admit, these are just words for an employee, the essence lies in making the words come alive, and this is where you can differentiate yourself in the market as an industry-leading employer brand
Again, in the current scenario, there is a need for the workforce to be future-ready and thus the need to be a part of the global reskilling revolution is imperative. Considering this, learning and development practices aimed at skilling associates in emerging technologies like 5G, blockchain, IoT and cybersecurity will endorse company values to gain a competitive edge. Most importantly, establishing a cohesive identity with the right set of core values, a unified voice, tone, and visual elements, will create familiarity and build trust in the market and amongst associates. Once employees and customers feel they truly know your company, they will organically become your biggest endorsers and brand ambassadors.
Do you see AI technologies like ChatGPT replacing HR professionals in the future, or will they enhance the productivity quotient of HR departments?
Automation has become increasingly common in the HR space to reduce the time taken for repetitive tasks, improve the employee experience, and provide operational insights that take up valuable time of HR personnel that could otherwise be used more productively for the betterment of the team and organization.
Technology has indeed been an enabler, but I believe, moments of truth are always human – and matter more. Reevaluating the level of automation of HR and providing a “human interface” to employees where personal interaction adds value, should be the chosen way ahead. In the past, HR has automated too many tasks. It needs to provide a real human interface at points in the employee journey where personal contact is generally expected. Undoubtedly, Technology will continue to play an important role in HR, but the focus will shift from digitalizing processes to implementing new self-service tools, to acquiring analytical capabilities to use big data. The idea is to adapt HR systems to the new normal, to create positive experiences for all employees while continuing to focus on their safety and well-being and the well-being of society as a whole.
What message would you like to give to HR and corporate professionals on embracing change upskilling and achieving success and in the current disruptive work environment?
The accelerated digital transformation offered us an opportunity to deliver seamless customer experiences regardless of channel or place. The next years of transformation will be driven by enhanced and personalized human-centred experiences, providing profound customer insights, technology enablers and operations capabilities to help customers in their transformation journey and embrace digital disruption.
Organizations must focus on employing comprehensive investment strategies across the full suite of digital technologies, from advanced analytics to machine learning. Robust skilling initiatives must be introduced to keep the talent pipeline brimming. These investments correlate positively with financial profit and growth, demonstrating not just the advantages but also the need for digital transformation as the world transitions to new ways of working and enhanced customer expectations.