Over the last two years, as the working world moved rapidly from business as usual to cautious travel, office closures, and work-from-home mandates, the real estate sector underwent a tremendous change in the way it functions. One obvious way to respond to the urgent threat of COVID-19 was to adapt to innovative technology solutions to stay afloat and grow. Some of the leading players in this area such as Tata Realty have been doing exactly that. The company was challenged with multiple workplace related issues such as standardization of HR processes, tracking of end-to-end HR operations, and conducting virtual meets, among others, and was quick to leverage cloud and other digital technology to support HR and workplace efficiency. In a recent conversation with CXOToday, Reena Wahi, Sr.Vice President and Head – HR, CSR and Business Excellence, Tata Realty, discusses how, with the help of the right technology adoption, the company has shown resilience amidst COVID-19 and continued to grow in the housing finance space. Excerpts.
The economic activity in the real estate sector has been hit hard due to the prevailing situation. Currently, how is your workplace functioning – virtual or hybrid working?
The real estate sector was one of the most negatively impacted economic sectors of India in 2020 after the global lockdown. In early 2021, the sector showed some recovery but the country was hit by another wave. However, since the vaccination drive has been amped by the government the overall economy and the real estate sector has started to show signs of recovery.
TRIL was one of the first organization to announce work from home in the real estate sector. The company also fostered reduced working hours to help the employees cope up with the second wave. Almost 70 % workforce was working from home until we embraced a hybrid working model recently and the offices have reopened on roaster basis only. We have now moved to 100% attendance.
What role does new-age HR tech play in the real estate sector? What tools have helped you remain connected with your employees during the COVID phase?
New-age technology has taken over business processes across the economy regardless of the sector and the same applies to the real estate sector as well. We have an employee base of over 600 employees with offices across tier-I and tier-II cities. With such a huge and scattered employee base it was critical for us to implement robust policies to ensure seamless communication and integration. We decided to collaborate with Oracle to leverage Oracle Fusion Cloud Management to facilitate our development and automate our HR processes. We recently migrated our workloads to Oracle Fusion Core HR to optimize end-to-end HR operations, improve overall HR performance, and ensure future scalability.
Employee experience has been the most critical component in today’s era. How has Tata Realty helped employees to deal with the impact of COVID-19?
The pandemic highlighted the fragility of human life and brought with it unprecedented challenges that, in addition to the physical aspect, brought with them a variety of mental and emotional challenges. Employees are the most important asset in any organization, and their well-being is critical to the long-term and sustainable growth of an organization. TATA Realty has been at the forefront of proactive employee support.
We partnered with ‘1to1 Help’ to facilitate 24×7 free and confidential virtual counselling support. TRIL was also one of the first companies to launch ‘Specific Corona Cover Policy’ to insure the employees and their dependents. We tied up with Practo to provide employees with free online medical consultation. We also arranged for oxgen concentrators for employees when there was a severe dearth of oxygen cylinders in May. There was also a tie up with agencies such as Portea to provide employees with a free home isolation program. We also organized vaccination drives for employees and their families and now have a 99% vaccinated workforce.
Can you talk about some of the key challenges that you were facing in managing your HR processes and key role played by technology in addressing those?
We were previously facing some challenges with our HR processes, including issues with the standardization, scalability. Additionally, there were challenges in getting access to reports and analytics dashboards. We were able to overcome these obstacles by utilizing a one-stop solution that is easily accessible across platforms, user-friendly, scalable, and customizable for all of our business needs, thereby supporting our wider economic goals.
In 2018, Tata Sons’ subsidiaries Tata Housing Development Company and the realty arm of Tata Realty and Infrastructure were merged with the objective of ensuring synergies and improving business agility. Within a year of this consolidation, the pandemic struck and necessitated a massive digital transformation. It was vital to provide a seamless, uniform experience to employees while enabling them to perform HR transactions, access HR tools and individual records with ease.
This involved partnering with Oracle to optimize end-to-end HR operations, enhance overall HR performance and ensure scalability to address their future growth. The design and deployment of the tool was followed by systematic employee orientation and training leading to a 100% adoption within the first few months. Oracle Fusion has helped us integrate our data, access real time data, leverage dashboards, enable employee self service and performance management. Oracle can be accessed by employees on the go as well since it’s also available as an app. Tata Realty and Infrastructure became the first company in the world for both Tata Group and Oracle to implement Oracle in a completely remote setup.
What is your HR growth strategy for next 1-2 years and how are you using technology in driving this growth?
In the last decade, technology has greatly aided the growth of almost every industry, which has been further accelerated by the pandemic. There is no doubt that early adopters of technology gain a significant comparative advantage over their competitors.Our focus is on using cutting-edge technology such as AI, ML, and Analytics to automate and optimize our business functions to gain an edge over our competitors whilst safeguarding ourselves from external shocks. Cloud has been a strong catalyst in this regard, and we are excited to explore its full potential in the future.
We are digitizing all the HR processes in the employee lifecycle. The larger goal is to achieve a superior and uniform employee experience – hassle free, easy and transparent. For instance, we have a virtual platform called Sociabble that serves as a communication, engagement and employee advocacy platform. We’ve tied with Vantage to launch a platform for rewards and recognition. We’ve recently also launched a bot to enable quick access to information about policies and processes and to enable employees to raise tickets to the respective stakeholders in case their queries/issues are not resolved.
In the next phase, the bot will also enable employees to perform basic HR transactions at the click of a button.We are currently integrating all these platforms so the user experience is seamless. As process owners, the usage of technology helps us deliver with efficiency and accuracy. Plus the access to data and dashboards, gives us insights that further aid decisions.