From the growth of fully automated manufacturing plants and assembly lines to the modern hi-tech financial services sector, the new millennium is all about technology convergence in terms of economy and business. Organisations have been leveraging technology to get a competitive advantage in today's highly competitive environment. If we look at the Fortune 500 list, the companies leading the chart are primarily tech companies such as Amazon, Apple, Alphabet (Google), or technology-enabled companies like Walmart, CVS Health and United Health. Many of these companies have demonstrated their business excellence in a relatively short period of time of their inception through innovation and optimum utilisation of technology.
From emerging tech startups to blue-chip enterprises, today’s technology industry is embedded in nearly every aspect of the economy. Continued growth in this area is practically guaranteed. I have been engaged for almost five years in IME Group, which is a distinguished business conglomerate of Nepal with investments in multiple sectors. Most of its businesses are pioneering in their areas, where technology is a major driving force. Currently, we have a technically strong team of around 300 and the workforce is expected to double in a couple of years as new technology-enabled strategic business units are being established.
Developing a strong human resources foundation creates the backbone for any organisation, but it’s especially vital for the tech world. Even with the far-reaching implications of the continuous strides and advances in technology, the industry as a whole faces many impactful human resources challenges across the board. There is a dearth of qualified and skilled resources. Studies have shown that only 7 percent of engineering graduates are employable while the rest require re-skilling. With a limited talent pool, there is cut-throat competition and companies are willing to pay whatever they can afford to get the best and brightest. Poaching is rampant in the industry. There is an influx of millennials in the tech workforce and these workers are very impatient. They want to achieve maximum career growth in a short period of time and switch jobs easily if their needs are not met. Here are my takes on HR challenges the Nepali tech sector is facing that can’t be ignored.
•Attracting and Retaining Talent: A skills gap torments the tech industry and the trend indicates that this HR challenge will continue. A survey conducted by the US-based international job listing website Indeed suggests that 86 percent of tech companies report that hiring talent is a top challenge for their business. As new technologies make existing platforms obsolete in a short period at an ever-increasing rate, this will likely top the list of IT HR challenges for a long time to come.
•Keeping Skills Relevant – Ensuring that workers of any enterprise have the skills and abilities the new marketplace demands is a key component of the current workplace revolution as by 2022, at least 54 percent of all employees will require significant re-skilling and upskilling, according to the World Economic Forum. Alongside this, today’s technology resources seek more from their jobs than just a great salary and solid benefits package. They are looking for things like flexibility, a sense of belonging, and an ability to learn. Encouraging and facilitating the opportunity to learn and grow is a win-win for your team as well as your company.
•Navigating the World of Benefits – Changes in employee benefits and facilities regulations as well as increasing costs make offering a competitive benefits package a challenge, even for large tech corporations, but especially for small tech companies and startups. A full-scale benefits package can, however, be the edge needed to attract the top tech minds.
Avoiding Employee Burnout – Burnout is a common problem in the many technical roles where working long hours appear to be the norm. Avoiding burnout matters for many reasons including:
•Negative effects on the overall work culture
•Lack of employee retention
Addressing Flexible Working - The restive tech workforce comprising mainly millennials look for flexible working styles. Organisations need to accommodate flexible working with flexible worktimes and remote working to engage talents. Also, with the rise of the gig economy, a large chunk of the workforce is being moved to the system of contract-based, remote employment. Business conditions affected by the Covid-19 pandemic have hastened it. The adoption of flexibility needs to be recognised as an enabler of positive development.
The new HR leaders in technology companies also have an essential role to play by replacing traditional leading practices and cost-cutting approaches with innovative new strategies, organisational structures, tools, processes and metrics. They should aim to be transformational leaders and change managers and deliver solutions through which HR can reshape itself and the organisation’s workforce to drive competitive advantages.
Proactive HR executives should harness the resources and skills needed to reposition themselves as new strategic leaders within the enterprise. There are several critical skills for technology sector HR executives to master in today’s demanding environment. The respondents of the KPMG Technology Industry Innovation Survey have ranked the following as the top five necessary skills:
•Digital business services (for example HR service delivery for efficient and effective hire-to-retire processes)
•Behavioural science for effective culture and/or mindset change
•Winning the ‘war for talent'
•Workforce forecasting and/or shaping to deliver the workforce of the future
•Managing multiple employee value propositions for a multi-generational workforce and/or different types of employees.
Now more than ever, HR executives at technology companies are required to assume the triple role of change agent, trusted advisor, and strategic business partner as they work even closer with the C-suite and functional leaders. They need to enact strategies designed to integrate data analytics, intelligent automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies into a workforce that today connects five separate generations. Based on my understanding, my advice to forward-looking HR leaders is to focus on :
•Reshaping the HR functions by using applications and new skills to leverage the significant value of transformational technologies like AI and data analytics
•Embracing workforce shaping as critical in creating and sustaining the workforce of the future
•Pursuing a deeper understanding of employee skills, strengths, goals, and purpose while creating custom–made employee experiences
•Valuing employees as ‘customers’ in an increasingly digital, global and agile workplace.
•Becoming comfortable with new technologies to increase connections and support overarching people-based agendas as tasks and roles are redefined.
(Gautam is Corporate Human Resources Manager of IME Group.)