Financial Times

Global best practices in HR

By Ishan Dantanarayana, Director HR/Asia Head of HR for CCT Business Unit at Virtusa
The corporate HR role is increasingly influenced by globalization and the shrinking global talent village. The impending retirement of the Baby Boom generation worldwide is reducing the working population, leading to a shortage of talent in most developed countries. Offshoring, near-shoring and telecommuting are expanding to fill the gap. For multinational corporations, the demands arising from the need to integrate portfolios globally, align processes and practices uniformly, and increase the sophistication of deliverables means that sourcing talent is now a global search, especially as the talent pool in developing countries like ours grows in size and quality.

This growing talent demand is leading HR organizations to adopt innovative sourcing methods, such as branding, re-hiring, conversion of talent into new professions, campus reach programmes, employee referrals, recruiting workshops and open houses that go well beyond traditional advertising methods. Further, in addition to traditional interviews, HR recruiters now must learn to use role plays, assessment centres, psychometric profiling, job-specific tests, presentations and competency profiling.
In addition, HR plays an increasing role in employee retention, and can no longer function as an innocent bystander. HR professionals must rally team members as positive advocates of the organization, increase discretionary efforts, create buzz and provide constructive criticism.

Growing female talent pool
One silver lining in global talent pool is the dramatic increase in the number of females entering the workforce and pursuing professional careers, both in the developed world and in developing countries. A related trend is the change in traditional family structures, where single parents, both female, and male, are increasing. Moreover, the shrinking global village, which is witnessing increased travel across continents, is further increasing the global talent pool.

To an HR professional, these trends create the need to align people processes for greater flexibility to accommodate the female work force. Crèches, flexible work hours (combined with flexible compensation and benefits), work-from-home, part-time work and work-based child care are emerging practices. To respect diversity, HR professionals must ensure a fair, transparent, harassment-free, no-glass-ceiling work environment. Increased technology support, including video conferencing and speedy telecom services, are also part of the solution.

In addition, HR organizations are placing increased emphasis on innovative training programmes. Customized training and development (T&D)—including self and e-learning, are increasingly common. Educational sponsorships and focused business skills development programmes to meet corporate needs will play pivotal roles in creating business value through better-geared, highly-contributing team members. T&D will also have to provide technical and soft skills development, and in the process, enhance niche training with small groups or teams.

Growing productivity
Productivity is critical for businesses to stay ahead in the rapidly-changing global business environment, where success requires talent retention, profitable growth, strong brand perception, operational excellence, consolidating businesses across geographies, and strategic business alliances. Consistently, the key component of the global economy in recent years is rising labour productivity, as service industries benefit from a combination of steady technology gains, increases in workforce educational levels, and a maturing workforce itself.

HR professionals play a pivotal role in enhancing worker productivity within the corporation. They assess the business environment, culture and underlying political influences that have to be synergized, and typically lead the employee development programs that yield worker productivity gains.
Top talent development - Talented individuals are naturally motivated to seek career advancement, opportunity to contribute, learning and sharing opportunities, and independent work assignments. HR professionals are therefore tasked with identifying the top performers, creating fast track opportunities for them, enabling them to be partners in change, and creating forums for knowledge sharing with fast-track peers.

In addition, an emerging trend among the top talent in Generation “Y” is their aspiration to be more family-centric, where even males seek more personal time, such as paternity leave. This means that HR, as practiced in brand management by marketers, must look at the total job experience and customize careers to individual top players to maximize their contributions and loyalty.

Compensation and Benefits Programmes --
Changes are also required in the Compensation and Benefits (C&B) structures to face emerging market trends. Transactional aspects of pay and benefits in addition to the rational aspect of learning, development and the working environment are required to be evaluated as a total rewards package. Trends show that top talent today value their immediate earnings more than security in the role since well qualified individuals are highly marketable with global passports to choose a country to work in with relative ease. Thus performance linked, tailor made packages coupled with a variable component (VC) is becoming common. Management by objectives (MBO) driven pay components are becoming wide based with employers having to increasingly invest in their talent for the future.

Employee Retention Programmes
Employee retention has a direct, major impact on business productivity, and HR plays a central role in these programmes. While compensation and benefits are key stakes in employee retention, research indicates that “soft” factors play a larger role in keeping employees loyal. These include hiring practices that ensure a better fit at the time of hiring; strong orientation and on-boarding processes; close engagement with new hires; coaching, mentoring and employee counseling; cross-functional training, re-skilling and job rotations; strong social networks, staff delight events and CSR opportunities; employee satisfaction surveys; “fire-side chat” forums; and overseas working opportunities. In all of these, HR professionals play the roles of trusted advisor, consultant and execution arm, working in alignment with the functional heads.

Case of the IT industry
The IT industry is a particularly strong example of an industry heavily influenced by the global trends described above. Its global footprint, coupled with its strong growth fundamentals, gives the IT industry a leadership position in emerging HR best practices. Talent in IT is easily employable and deployable globally. This means retention is a critical issue and HR practices have to be the most current, people-friendly, career- and performance-centric, and the overall work culture must be a delight if IT companies are to grow and prosper.

As an example, Virtusa Corporation, where I am a member of a 4000+ global team and a company that has achieved a 50% five-year compound growth, is at the forefront of innovative HR practices in Sri Lanka. We recently won a gold award at the National HR awards, recognizing our Campus Reach initiatives, open culture, and quick promotion practices (40 percent of our staff received promotions in our recently-completed fiscal year).

Overall, irrespective of the industry in which HR professionals practice, their role is increasingly challenging, and those who demonstrate creativity and high energy will be in high demand. Hence, the dominant mantra for HR professionals in the global era will be to “serve those being led in an environment that creates a sanctuary for talent to successfully drive corporate goals.”

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