HR riding the wave of ‘disruption’

Shift in the demographics and talent development, technological breakthroughs, growing employee expectations & engagement and the globalizing workforce are directly influencing our people imperatives.


We are living in a world of disruption. Today’s businesses and individuals are responding to shifts that would have seemed unimaginable even a few years ago. Artificial intelligence is reinventing the workforce, robotics is changing the face of the shop floors, drones and driverless cars are transforming supply chains and logistics, changing preferences and expectations especially of the millennials is altering the demand and consumption pattern of almost everything. These are large, transformative trends that define the present and shape the future by impacting every facet of the business. At a time when business leaders are wrestling with unprecedented changes in the business landscape, it becomes utmost important to see if HR professionals are really equipped to ride the wave of disruption.

The megatrends are the tremendous forces currently disrupting the people agenda and the world of work. Shift in the demographics and talent development, technological breakthroughs, growing employee expectations & engagement and the globalizing workforce are directly influencing our people imperatives.

From a manufacturing point of view; I can relate this scenario to my current organization, Uflex. In partnership with its people and technology, Uflex has dared to disrupt its own products and processes and today it stands to be the largest player in flexible packaging in India and an emerging player in the global market. With manufacturing facilities in 6 countries (including India); across the globe distribution of products in over 140 countries and a workforce of almost 10,000 employees, it has its own people challenges. All our business heads across geographies place huge responsibility on the HR function to partner on their expansion plans with respect to the human capital.

Every business across industries are experiencing a wave of change which presents a wonderful opportunity for the HR function to embrace disruption in the way organizations work. Further, the HR practitioners must rethink how to prepare leaders and employees to succeed in this state of affairs. Dave Ulrich has perfectly quoted ‘HR is not about HR but the value HR creates’. 

HR leaders should consider three core priorities to be better prepared to help their businesses respond to change:

Embrace digital with agility: Digital technologies are reshaping the HR function. Automation is replacing jobs; big data and advanced analytics are unlocking access to abound information for the businesses. For most companies, the challenge in HR is how to use data in the first place, you won’t be able to go far these days without using data as a business prediction tool. Big data is essential to HR and L&D because it allows the conversations and connections which was once in silos and, hence, immeasurable to be captured and leveraged.

Leadership development to drive the next wave of growth: Many companies have not ceased to perform in the face of disruption. This has ensured future expansion for most businesses but unfortunately, generation of top leaders who are nearing retirement has been overlooked. In many companies there are not enough qualified successors to keep pace with the company’s growth. HR must play an important role here; by taking a holistic view of the entire leadership pipeline, HR can come up with processes to systematically build leaders from the bottom up. At Uflex, we have well-structured leadership development programs and interventions like LEAP, Next Gen Managers, ACE, leadership retreat etc. but the toughest challenge we face in the implementation of the above thought is to create a motivation for change when things seem to be going well.

Disrupt your own self: Disruption is never ending. HR function needs to continually disrupt itself in order to stay relevant. There has been a lot of negative read about HR like ‘it’s time to blow HR’, ‘it’s time to do away with the HR department’. Blow up and recreate yourself to maintain the credibility of the function. HR needs to be the center of expertise consisting of team of professionals with deep technical expertise in specialist areas such as recruitment, reward and talent management. This would empower them to provide solutions to the organizational people challenges.

As per one of the studies, 20% of the senior executives perceive their HR function as anticipators who would help them predict talent gaps, provide insight on talent and business goals. This is a big opportunity for the HR function to increase this percentage by helping businesses unlock its potential and drive tangible business outcomes. Ask most business leaders what is the single most important contributor to business success —majority have always realized it’s their people. Getting out of the comfort zone and embrace the change is the next big thing to do.

Finally, build an HR capability that will prove adaptive and sustainable in riding the wave of change or get consumed by it- the power of choice lies with the individuals.  To conclude, I must quote what my founder Mr. Ashok Chaturvedi always mentions- “HR is the face of an organization and it has the capability to change its shape, voice and color. It is the savior for every organization”.

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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