HCM in India: An Urgency to Innovate

SHRM HR Tech IndiaIn India – as in many yoga studios – it’s not uncommon to be greeted with the word “Namaste.” Loosely translated, it means, “I bow to the God within you.” Far more formal than the casual hi-how-are-yous we typically exchange at industry events in the States, it holds deep meaning – and implies a level of real respect. I find this word perfectly encapsulates my experience at SHRM India’s inaugural HR Technology Conference held in Mumbai last week.

If you’re like me, and typically work with US-based companies, you may not be aware of the state of things in India. As in the West, the country is going through a major renaissance – in the way they conduct business, the way they find business, the way they manage business – and human capital management is evolving rapidly as a result. But unlike in the US where HR leaders have been largely resistant to embracing innovative technologies, India is adopting HR technologies at warp speed.

As you might imagine, this is shaping the scope and function of HCM in some very interesting ways. In order to compete on a global scale – for business and for talent – Indian organizations must be able to acquire and develop talent quickly and effectively. The challenges of attracting and retaining talent and employee engagement are just as prevalent there as anywhere else, but there’s one key distinction:

Whereas many in the West seem comfortable with “good enough” HCM practices, such a notion is completely alien to India’s HR leaders.

Of the 450-some who attended #SHRMTech15, not one was content to be average. The hunger to know more, the urgency to innovate, the drive to be better was inherent both in the questions they asked in each session, as well as the candid conversations that filled every spare moment of the day. Namaste, indeed.

My role as an analyst takes me to a lot of conferences and events – too many, at times – but I can say with confidence that I’ve never attended an event that featured this level of enthusiasm and interest among its audience. The enthusiasm was contagious, and perhaps this is why I found myself just as engrossed in every session. Or maybe the folks at SHRM India simply put together a world-class event. Either way, there were a few personal highlights:

  • Point solutions will win over integrated suites – for now. The question of integrated suite or best-of-breed point solutions is as prevalent among Indian HR organizations as it is in the US. There are benefits and drawbacks for both, but in a country globalizing as quickly as India, immediate needs rule supreme. For now, I believe Indian organizations will be best served by augmenting the HCM capabilities they need most – be it performance management or talent acquisition.
  • Mobile matters – big time. In India, mobile isn’t just a popular platform; for many candidates, it’s the only platform they have to access the Internet. From a talent acquisition perspective, organizations lacking mobile-optimized career pages are severely limited in their ability to attract high-quality candidates who will struggle to complete an online application from their smart phones. But from a human resources perspective, BYOD practices aren’t optional – they’re inevitable. Those unfamiliar with rules and implications of a mobile-powered workforce are putting their organizations at serious risk.
  • Innovation is within reach. Throughout the conference, attendees were constantly comparing themselves to global poster children of innovation – the Microsofts, Googles, and Amazons – and asking, “How can we ever compete?” To that, I say this: Innovation can occur in any organization, of any size, in any industry. The notion that only those with big brands (and big budgets) can drive and sustain innovative HCM practices is simply untrue. Many of our award-winning clients have made a difference with nothing more than the dedication and hard work of a few forward-thinking individuals. Whether you’re running a customer service center in India or an IT help desk in Boise, innovation is within reach.

If I’m lucky enough to score an invitation to SHRM India’s next HR Technology Conference, I fully intend to be there. This rapidly evolving market is full of energy rare in this industry. For now, I’m going to have to revisit my research agenda for the next year to be sure I’m keeping tabs on things in India.

Kyle Lagunas, Talent Acquisition Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

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