Rebooting talent & tech for a new normal

Professional's Choice

Karuna Agarwal, Director – Future Tense HR

‘Digital Transformation’ is a catch-phrase that is fairly cliched, mesmerizing many and befuddling a few. How often have you thought of this phrase as a destination, rather than a journey? Well, it should be taken as a journey and a truly experiential and enriching one. The destination for a business remains as sacrosanct as ever, in the form of ‘commercial success’.

‘Digital’ gained even more gigantic proportions with the tragic arrival of COVID-19 and the resulting lockdowns. It forced organizations and individuals to adopt virtual channels and tools like never before, particularly to replace interactions & meetings in person. Mobility emerged as ubiquitous within the Digital sphere.  For many, this was an unconsidered stun but not for those who had embarked on the earlier digital journey and had a seamless transition. For those struck by the shockwave, the pandemic leaves four distinct categories of organizations, based on their Digital quotient:

For organizations gearing up the Digital highway and the potential tailgaters, their ambitions would rest on two key propellers – Talent and Technology, both providing interesting facets in the past few months. Coming out of the recent turmoil, the right approach towards Digital evolution should be ‘Empowering for the new normal’ instead of ‘Securing for the abnormal’.

Many say it’s ‘Digital or Dead’ in the times ahead, but one doesn’t need to turn into an Apple or Google overnight, or even in the long term. A calibrated approach to digital, in sync with reality and the scale of business, would be both affordable and sustainable. From the prism of talent and technology, the current trends internationally as well as in the U.A.E., reflect the following:

Talent Acquisition & Enrichment – Current Trends

Virtual Hiring – Managing all/most of the interview and selection process through online interactions and video calls

  • Trigger: Restrictions on people’s movement within and between countries
  • Impact: Timely recruiting; cost reserve funds; expansion of sourcing pool to different regions, especially for an expat’s dominated market, for example, the U.A.E.

Building Candidates’ Pipeline – Beginning ahead of schedule for future/potential openings, using a more drawn out period to diversify the search and also tap strong candidates

  • Trigger: Business slowdown causing salary cuts and lay-offs, more flexibility on notice period
  • Impact: Preparing well for business recuperation; leverage on salary costs

Enriching Current Workforce – Adopting more technology (virtual sales/remote working) and professional skills for current employees instead of laying them off and hiring new people

  • Trigger: Lockdown necessitates staff to use digital tools to continue business operations
  • Impact: Business continuity with experienced workforce; no rush for hiring; unlocking talent and higher productivity

Digital Onboarding & Induction – providing easy self-help tools to new employees to build their awareness of the organization and complete joining formalities

  • Trigger: Decreasing lead time to adapt and prevailing risk of compulsory quarantine period
  • Impact: Save employees’ and HR’ time; Allows remote on-boarding

Enhancement of Technology – Emerging Trends

Developing eCommerce Capability – introducing or enhancing online channels (portals, marketplaces, WhatsApp), own or third party, to support the rise in online shopping

  • Trigger: Because of risk or convenience, consumers were forced or preferred to stay at home and order online
  • Impact: Higher sales potential; more brand visibility

Providing Work Mobility / Flexibility – introducing VoIP, Video Conferencing, cloud-based business & ERP tools to facilitate remote working (Microsoft Teams, Cisco Jabber, Zoom, etc.)

  • Trigger: Restrictions within & between countries, Connections with internal/external clients
  • Impact: Business continuity; Better availability & response time

Digital Marketing Investments – Usage of digital media to reach out to both B2B and B2C customers, as a substitute to traditional TV & Print media

  • Trigger: Lesser movement of people makes it imperative to reach them on digital platforms
  • Impact: Better targeting & measurement; Scaling the eyeball barrier; Beating competition

Analytics-led Optimization – establishing new capability to digitize organizational data and convert them into actionable insights for better decision-making

  • Trigger: Pressure to make up for lost business revenues and recessionary fears ahead
  • Impact: Resource optimization; Business intelligence to maximize sales opportunities

While these trends may sound familiar, their understanding is often understated. A cultural vision or shift should certainly precede or accompany a digital shift, to realize such ambitions and benefit from

  1. Better speed to act/react;
  2. Expanded reach of stakeholders;
  3. Ability to connect anytime,
  4. Saving of time, and
  5. Cost efficiencies.

As highlighted earlier, Mobility stands as a key driver of Digital transformation – if Digital is the bank’s ATM of yesterday, Mobility brings that ATM to the users’ doorstep today, at the place and time of their choice, on-demand!

Karuna Agarwal, Director – Future Tense HR has
championed international recruitment for over fifteen years,
in the UAE and India. She has excelled in multi-sectiral recruiting
across the organizational chain and specializes in executive search.


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