Shaping the Future - Exclusive International HR Day Insights

HR Insight

This article is authored by Shubha Shridharan, Group SVP, HR APAC, The Adecco Group.

Every year on the 20th of May, we celebrate International HR Day to recognize HR’s value and impact on the organization and its people. It would be fair to say that this function has undergone an enormous change in just the last five years, with a paradigm shift occurring around us in the way we work. The theme for this year’s IHR day is “Shaping the Future”. The theme focuses on the role of an HR function in creating an inclusive, invigorating, and sustainable organization. We sat down again with Shubha to catch her on the continuing evolution of the function and to get her view on how the function is responding to the expectation.

Why HR as a Profession?

I was not a natural HR candidate; I was a very happy semiconductor programmer and did not have much of an idea of what people in HR did during those days. My professor at college and one of my first managers positively influenced me to pursue a career in HR. I was quite skeptical then, but after close to two decades now, I am glad it happened this way. I think this is one of the most misunderstood and often undervalued functions.   

Of course, things are changing, but there’s more to do to extract the true value of an HR organization. I feel it is far more complex to sensibly represent emotions, aspirations, motivation and all the inherent tenets of human behaviours than any other facet that supports organizational success. Especially when the ask is to represent these at a consolidated level in the form of tangible data and insight – that’s when it becomes very exciting.

What have you learned over these years, and what is the latest expectation?

We have lived through the times when it was almost fashionable amongst HR folks to say, “I am not good with technology”, Numbers are too complex, and I do not want to do anything with them”. We have come a long way! You don’t hear such things nowadays. I feel there’s a genuine interest in the function towards understanding the business dynamics, financial data, systems and organizational processes to influence people practices and strategies. I feel thrilled about this evolution.

However, we need to strike a balance and not forget the true purpose of the function to sense and gauge the organisation’s pulse and translate them to a meaningful value. In short, an HR person should neither become too cold and lead only based on mathematical calculations nor become a cheerleader organizing endless engagement events without understanding its purpose. It has to be an optimal cusp of both where we safeguard broader employee sentiments and simultaneously do what is relevant for the organisation's growth based on facts and insights.

How do you achieve this?

It is both simple and difficult, depending on how you look at it. In any case, it starts with a solid understanding of our business and, simultaneously, the people who drive the business. The better you get at both, the greater the value you can create!

I would take the fundamentals of knowing the HR tools like Strategic Workforce Planning, Talent Management or a Learning Strategy, creating a compensation plan as a given! On top of this, we must also play a pivotal role in preparing the managers and leaders to build an inclusive, engaging and unbiased work environment. Building the right culture and environment, if left as an exclusive responsibility of just the HR function, will very likely not succeed. However, we must claim clear stakes in shaping, influencing, and augmenting the right culture through our leaders. That’s where it gets tricky. For that to happen and to be taken seriously enough to influence our leaders, we need to know what we profess and demonstrate its value objectively.

And that starts with

A) Understanding the business: initiating activities relevant to the business’s needs and not just a tick-in-the-box exercise (“things that fall into the category of - every other HR function does, so we need to do it too”…absolute no-no!). Our actions should be based on proactively understanding the business needs.

B) Simplified people processes: The function needs to take our people along at every stage of the employee life cycle – as a function, we tend to complicate simple things. Our aim should be to simplify each step of how an employee experiences work in the company.

C) Proactive sensing of organizational needs: Because of our ability to build proximity with our employees, we need to become trusted allies and partners of our people to sense the spoken/unspoken challenges and fears and strive to create meaningful solutions to address them. While it is impossible to fulfil all human desires, we can strive to be the custodians of creating an equitable and safe environment where our employees feel treated objectively and with respect.

D) Preparing our people for the future: As a function, we have the access and the luxury of constantly learning about the changing patterns of work; we need to use this knowledge and help to augment a learning culture to help our people prepare for the future. When people learn and grow, the organization automatically flourishes.

E) Be bold: Often, we do not take the courage to speak our mind. We are often unsure of our ability to create an impact. Once we have our facts, logic and clarity of intent in place towards making things better for our people and the organization, we should be bold in speaking up and taking responsibility to execute things that matter! 

Don’t ask for permission endlessly to do a good job… just do it – thoughtfully and respectfully and always preferably with a smile.

As shared at the Harvard Publications Roundtable 2023

About Adecco Vietnam

Established in Vietnam in 2011, Adecco Vietnam – a member of The Adecco Group - is the leading Payroll, Recruitment & Outsourcing Agency in Vietnam. We provide one-stop solutions for all Human Resources needs. Operating for more than 60 years, The Adecco Group has 38,000+ passionate employees in 5,000+ branches across 60 countries and territories worldwide.


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