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In Conversation With Jyothi Menon, Head of Human Resources India & Head, APAC HR Service Delivery, UBS

Future HR roles will be more than human resource management. HR professionals will need to build deeper expertise in business strategy, and finance with sharper leadership skills to continue contributing meaningfully says Menon in an exclusive interview with Krishnendra Joshi, Editorial Lead, BW People.

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Employee development and skill enhancement are critical in today's fast-evolving business landscape. What are some of the key strategies and programs you've implemented to support these areas?

At UBS we have a holistic approach to development and skill enhancement based on three pillars – Experience. Exposure. Education. We believe that on-the-job learning and opportunities to be part of new projects and processes help with building a future-ready workforce just as much as instruction-led training programs. So when teams and individuals look at their development plans experience and exposure are integral part of the journey.

When we look at up-skilling, we collaborate and partner with businesses to develop functional competencies for e.g. upskilling developers or cross-skilling finance professionals. These competencies are defined through global ambitions and location-specific requirements to build a talent pipeline for the future. The governance for these technical career journeys is governed by functions to maintain high benchmarks for expertise.

For behavioral and leadership programs, at UBS University, our global learning initiative plays a key role in developing a curriculum that is future-focused and aligned to UBS’s Purpose and behaviors to deliver managerial and communication skills, data literacy, and personal effectiveness to name a few.

In addition, there are curated journeys for High Potentials to enable them to hone their skills and achieve success.

What are the most significant challenges and opportunities you see in the field of human resources today, particularly in light of recent global events and changes in work patterns?

The way businesses exist and operate has changed drastically over the last few years and the change poses questions that have no precedence. At such a time when people and processes are changing HR plays a critical role in the success of organizations today and tomorrow. Some opportunities I see are

  • Seat at the table – HR has always been an important function for corporates but with the change in demands from talent and the way organizations operate HR has one of the strongest voice and the ability to help shape the organizations success.
  • Relooking policies and benefits – It’s a great time for HR professionals to become experts and influence decisions (and even policies) that enable organizations to embrace new ways of working by making organizational policies broader and covering more themes such as benefits, flexibility, well-being, etc.
  • Increased diversity as part of workforce management – with flexible and remote working becoming a norm in many sectors this is a fantastic opportunity for HR to help drive the diversity ratios in organizations by engaging professionals from diverse locations, genders, and abilities.
  • Interface between HR & IT – Given the dynamic landscape, HR will need to play more strategic roles when it comes to change management. HR roles will see close interaction with the tech department to develop and improve tools for tracking employee lifecycle, HR communication, frameworks, and system management. 
  • AI - One of the biggest trends that will change the future of HR is AI. The bigger and better data will help to increase the value and efficiency of HR through analytics and organization of people-centric data.

As HR professionals, we often need to address conflicts and employee grievances. How do you approach conflict resolution and maintain a fair and respectful work environment?

Workplace conflicts happen everywhere & ignoring them can have a ripple effect. Seemingly small conflicts are important as they represent larger issues. Every unaddressed conflict has the potential to impact productivity, create trust issues, and have an inherent reputation risk.

At UBS we have a clear matrix to manage conflicts with Line Managers becoming the first point of grievance or conflict management. There are employee relations experts who offer guidance to line managers when they need additional support.

Employees also have various channels to report their grievances anonymously or otherwise with no repercussions and each party has a fair chance to share their side.

Employee engagement is a top priority for many organizations. What strategies or programs have you found effective in improving employee engagement and retention?

The evidence is clear – engaged employees perform better, stay in organizations longer, and experience lesser burnout. But what engages one may not engage another.

Our objective is to provide an environment that is welcoming to every individual, despite differences in skills, career paths, backgrounds, and ambitions and enable every employee to bring their best and most authentic self to work. 

We have set up a multi-touchpoint model that allows employees to engage in topics of their choosing whether it’s career development platforms, global and local networks for individuals of similar interest (for e.g. developer community, women in technology, veterans community, grad programs, and employee resource groups), or volunteering opportunities, and fun at work committees. 

The idea is to have an engagement touchpoint at every stage of an individual’s career that keeps them interested and helps them grow professionally and personally every day.

How do you see the role of HR evolving in the future, and what skills and competencies do you believe will be most important for HR professionals to develop?

Future HR roles will be more than human resource management. HR professionals will need to build deeper expertise in business strategy, finance and sharper leadership skills to continue contributing meaningfully.

The business landscape is quite dynamic with changes in regulation, industry standards, and the way talent behaves and works. This means HR needs to craft policies in an agile manner to continue driving business outcomes and equitable benefits to employees.

Learning and skill enhancement will become increasingly tailored to team and individual needs and HR professionals will need to be more deeply involved and technically adept to build relevant development journeys for the workforce. 

With many HR processes getting automated, communications and employee engagement will become critical to maintaining a human touch within the organization, and HR professionals need to develop enhanced people skills to succeed. Also given the dependence on technology, I believe every HR professional will need to be more digitally savvy and use tools and technologies to enhance outcomes.

With the rise of remote work and digital transformation, how has HR technology influenced the way we manage and support our workforce, and what trends do you see in this area?

As hybrid working becomes a permanent fixture in more organizations there will be a greater need for benchmarking tools and methods to track performance and analyze workforce data.

Recruitment technology has been at the forefront of driving this change and there’s a deeper deployment of digital solutions to build greater efficiencies through programmatic advertising, candidate screening, and interview processing. 

Within the organization, talent data with its wide variety of talent locations will become an even more important asset and organizations are exploring AI and data tools to help drive key business decisions for growth and strategy and talent decisions around upskilling, staffing, and scheduling. This includes the digital learning and development area where we already see use of gamification and virtual reality playing a critical role with workforce being scattered. There is a huge scope in this area with mobile apps and dynamic learning journeys becoming the norm.

As HR for HR Tech evolves more HR services will become tech-enabled leading to more data-driven roles for HR professionals.

Leadership development and succession planning is crucial for organizational growth. Can you share some key principles and practices for identifying and nurturing leadership talent within a company?

By the end of this decade, we will have a new generation taking over as leaders and it’s important that we create the right environment for them to succeed. As the world becomes more volatile organizations need to prepare future leaders to manage the ever-changing political, social, and economic landscape. Some of the key steps to nurturing budding leaders are

  • Building a stronger connection to organization’s vision and mission so that potential leaders are already aligned to the what and how of the business and share common ethos
  • Identifying the strongest contenders early on and keeping them fruitfully engaged till they are ready to take on leadership roles
  • Having a robust leadership development framework that is relevant to the changing times and business requirements
  • Tracking leadership objectives as part of key performance indicators can be a great way to ensure a pipeline of effective leadership

What emerging HR technologies or trends do you believe will have a significant impact on the future of HR and how is your organization preparing for them?

Technology will play a key role in enabling HR to contribute more effectively and efficiently. Digital solutions will be pivotal when it comes to recruiting, employee life cycle management, and learning and upskilling. They will also play an important role in automating processes and many HR services will no longer require human intervention. Technology will also be an important enabler for culture and employee engagement and HR professionals will need to become more digitally savvy in the future.

While robots cannot replace humans, the quality of roles will be enhanced in most areas and HR will be one of them. The key focus will be to maintain the fine balance between technology and the human touch.


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