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Onus is on employees to align themselves to emerging technologies, says IBM India’s HR head

Skills which were relevant twelve to eighteen months ago are not relevant now - the bottom line is that change is going to be constant, says Chaitanya Sreenivas, HR head, IBM India.

, ET Bureau|
Sep 30, 2019, 11.47 AM IST
Chaitanya Sreenivas, HR head, IBM India
There is an ongoing transformation of the recruitment process at IBM, right from sourcing candidates to aligning them for jobs, says Chaitanya Sreenivas, HR head, IBM India. In an interview with ET, Sreenivas says the company is also focusing on talent retention and inclusion, including helping employees build long-term career plans.

Amid ongoing disruption and changing skills, what are going to be some of your focus areas for the months ahead?
There’s an industry-wide transformation going on in terms of skills - not just in the platforms themselves, but also in the way we work. Our focus is on three things. First, skills - we are looking at how we can get existing and incoming employees trained in the new age skills of cloud, security, analytics, artificial intelligence, to name a few. Second, manager enablement - we want to help managers be better at what they do, help them use new AI tools to better engage with their teams, have more meaningful conversations. And finally, engagement - sharpening our initiatives on rewards and recognition, diversity and inclusion, etc.

What changes are you making to sourcing and retaining talent?
We have been focusing on transforming our entire recruitment process - starting with how we source candidates, to how we align them for jobs. We have the Watson Talent Advisor, which helps recruiters source more candidates that are better aligned to our requirement. It also helps to remove bias from the selection process. We are also piloting an opportunity where potential applicants can upload their key skills, and the platform can assist them towards aligning roles that match the skill set. We are also taking a closer look at how we retain talent - managers will now be able to see which of their team members is at greater risk of attrition, by looking at multiple sources of data, all brought together by AI. This will help in early intervention to arrest attrition.

There has been a lot of talk about AI replacing HR - what is your take on that?
I don’t think AI is replacing HR, I think it is changing the way we work. Some traditional jobs are becoming obsolete, but new roles are coming in. For example, today we have roles like design-thinking expert in HR, or architect in HR, which we never had before. The kind of work in HR is also undergoing a seismic shift - we’re moving away from purely transactional work to more strategic and advisory roles.

What is going to be the approach to diversity and inclusion in the coming months?
We have found our diversity very healthy at the entry levels, but the middle and leadership pipelines are where we have challenges, so we’re focusing a lot of programs there. We are concentrating our efforts on helping women employees build long-term career plans through mentorship.We also noticed that a large number of women coming back to work after a break leaving within the first year -we’re trying to understand the reasons for doing so, and helping them continue their journey with us; we have evolved a tech re-entry program specifically designed keeping this in mind. Through our various STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) initiatives, we are also aiming to bring in 200,000 girls into technology, in India.

A lot of tech firms, IBM included, have been grappling with ongoing disruption, and changing roles - and there have been layoffs across companies. Are there any new talent strategies that you’re focusing on in light of these layoffs?
We are placing a strong focus on retraining and re-skilling. Skills which were relevant twelve to eighteen months ago are not relevant now - the bottom line is that change is going to be constant. Re-skilling is now a hygiene factor. When we hire, we don’t just look at how much the candidate knows, but also attributes like adaptability to change, growth mindset, collaboration skills, etc. With the focus being on staying relevant, so those who are not able to scale up will not have roles. We are still hiring for roles from the external market and internally offering opportunities for reskilling, the onus is on employees to align themselves to emerging technologies and ongoing changes.

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