Even a year and a half ago, the conventional wisdom was that offices were critical to productivity, with companies competing for premium office spaces in major urban centers around the world. The pandemic has forced the adoption of new ways of working. While terms such as ‘remote working’, ‘hybrid workplace’ and ‘collaboration tools’ are here to stay and will more than ever become an integral part of the way we work, CXOToday speaks to Sathidevi S. Raj, Chief Information Officer (CIO) at Randstad India, one of the leading hiring companies in the country to understand how organizations can prepare for this ‘back to the new normal’, how technology is changing the HR landscape and why a hybrid hiring model is set to become the standard going forward.
How do you see the larger HR tech landscape today? What are the areas talent leaders should focus on right now?
One of the most important decisions made by organizations in this post-pandemic phase is enabling their workforce to operate remotely. This necessitates many HR interventions to be taken into a digital platform. For example, employee training, which was more in-person programs are now digitally adopted with the latest cutting edge technologies like AI, AR/VR with more gamification to ensure both the experience and engagement of the employees is not compromised.
How are you sailing through tough times? What has been your greatest challenge and learning so far?
Crisis brings opportunities! So in line with our “Tech and Tech” philosophy, I am glad me and my team were able to leverage the opportunities within the organization and we enabled our business teams with tech platforms that supported the smooth functioning of their business. We walked the journey with the business through these tough times and worked hand-in-hand. We also have many more interesting projects in the pipeline. The greatest challenge however was to enable the shift from simply managing IT to leveraging technology to create value for the business, as this is our priority and is now a requirement.
New technologies have been at the center of trends—from mobile-first consumer shopping preferences to the promise of artificial intelligence in critical decision making that have reshaped the competitive landscape and disrupted business models. No matter what business you are in, companies need to be tech-forward and technology needs to enable the business.
What are the key areas of HR function that you have seen maximum tech implementations in the last few months?
HR involves several portfolios – recruitment, Performance Management, Compensation & Benefits, Learning and Development, and many more. At Randstad, we have developed in-house HR systems in certain critical functions like PMS, C&B and Talent Management. These systems were custom made to suit our internal HR concepts and processes and they were also aimed at ease of functionality and elimination of manual interventions, thus saving time and improving efficiency.
What are some of the most common workplace challenges that global companies are now trying to solve with technology?
Working from home has become a new hurdle for many—one not limited to IT. If the transition to remote work has been difficult, IT offers several training courses, specifically designed to help teams maximize virtual technologies and improve soft skills that are more critical when co-workers are in separate locations. 3 major common challenges we all face today:
- Workload concerns are the highest in today’s new world. Better manager oversight and strategy is required to address this issue. Automation may also be a solution as a means to reduce time-consuming tasks that are not a high priority. This will ultimately reduce the workload concerns and help employees spend more time on value-added services to the clients.
- Cyberattacks are growing in size and sophistication. Organisations cannot take IT security lightly. An analysis of worldwide identity and access management by the International Data Corporation (IDC) revealed that 55% of consumers would switch platforms or providers due to the threat of a data breach, and 78% would switch if a breach impacted them directly. Customers aren’t willing to put their data at risk. The problem is, there aren’t enough IT professionals with cybersecurity expertise. 40% of IT decision-makers say they have cybersecurity skill gaps in their teams, as per the survey. It is also identified as the most challenging hiring area in IT. Current IT professionals who know the industry are more apt to transition into successful cybersecurity professionals.
- Skill gaps: Globally, IT skill gaps have increased by 155% in three years, as per industry reports. They can no longer be ignored, especially because lack of necessary skills can be attributed as a reason for increased employee stress, development and deployment delays, and increased operating costs. Strategic and continual training is the need of the hour. IT professionals need better support and organizations need to invest in their employees’ skills now. This is critical.
How would you describe your leadership style?
The one who takes up leadership roles, don’t just have the responsibility to guide in the present, but, they should predict the future scenarios and give a suitable suggestion and prepare the lot for it. My leadership style is inclined towards this.
I remember the sayings of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, “All of us do not have equal talent. But, all of us have an equal opportunity to develop our talents.” These words would certainly motivate anyone to work on their skills and to grab every opportunity that life throws at them. Leaders should always focus on enabling their people to enhance their skills both professionally and personally.
I would like to be an “Exceptional Leader” – inspire my team to be excellent in whatever they perform and strive to make the organization and our workforce future-ready.
Are CIOs, especially women finally getting a seat in the boardroom? What else can companies do to improve diversity?
Yes, no doubt about it and in Randstad India we have 40% women in the management team and overall 47% women in the organization. More and more women are getting seats at the table. However, we can do a lot more in helping mid-level women employees rise to senior levels. There are several reasons for which women take a break in their career and not everyone has the same mental agility. However, this can be enhanced through mentoring and right coaching that will help women be independent financially and maintain their identity.
What excites you the most about this company? What challenges within the company are you most occupied with currently?
The Human Forward culture is our brand promise and Randstad lives by it. I have experience working with many IT companies in the past, but I can confidently say that I’ve never experienced the true essence of tech and touch culture, the way I did here at Randstad. Humanity and integrity are the core values of this organization and at Randstad, everyone demonstrates these values. So if you ask me what would you prefer, Skill to Work or Will to Work, it is always Will to Work. I don’t see any challenges because we have planned and implemented many key initiatives during this pandemic to take care of our employees’ well-being – both physically and mentally. The technology team is now working towards giving a great remote working experience to all our employees as this phase is expected to continue for some more time.
What do you predict for workplace trends and recruitment in the next 1-2 years?
Technology will scale collaboration and communities will be built through software. In an increasingly remote reality, employees want to collaborate and work more efficiently and facilitating this will require technology that offers transparency, and is easy to use. Given this swift emergence of virtual collaboration, professionals will welcome the new world of work by expanding their tech skills and remote work acumen. Job seekers will continue pivoting their careers to work in different industries or geographies, as 3 in 5 (62%) unemployed job seekers in India report being open to the idea of exploring new career paths to navigate these challenging times, as per industry reports. Further, remote jobs are an emerging trend in APAC, and India is found leading the region in terms of the remote job application growth. The new world of work will also see an exponential rise of ‘solo entrepreneurs’ as people are expected to use the internet to maximize their skills and talent, in a bid to reimagine their lives and careers.
Workplace trend continues on driving experience and engagement for a hybrid workforce, and organizations will continue to hire for a digital mindset. Virtual recruiting is here to stay. Companies have dabbled with video interviewing and remote assessments in the past, but this pandemic has inspired many of them to create an end-to-end virtual recruiting process for the first time. To conclude, I would say, just as hybrid workforce models are set to become the standard, a hybrid hiring process that combines virtual and in-person elements will become the new norm.