Tell us about yourself. How did you pave your way into the HR industry?
Associated with Datamatics group for more than 15 years now, I currently serve as a SVP and a Global Head of HR and other business enabling functions. I think I enjoy the newness, simplicity and complexities of HR. Every day is a new day if you wish to explore, understand and contribute. I believe otherwise as well, our life is all about connecting and collaborating with humans and that is what we survive upon.
Enable, empower, work, learn, grow and celebrate together; being in HR, you get a chance to progressively learn the art of being with people. I started exploring work options at a very young age. I believed in WORK TO LEARN model. I joined, immediately after I finished my 12th, organization as a shadow profile to understand more about HR, marketing, sales, and finance. I spent little or more time, while I was studying, in all these functions to gain practical knowledge before I decided to join HR. I must say, HR was not my first choice initially, but eventually, it became the BEST one.
How much of a challenge is digital adoption going to be in the hiring process for college students?
Not at all a challenge! Actually, it’s erasing limitations and boundaries defined by traditional systems. In my view, it will positively impact and create more opportunities than challenges. Digitization has empowered people to embrace change, engage, communicate, connect, and collaborate more efficiently and effectively. I am sure it will make the hiring process faster, productive, and ADAPTABLE. Imagine the comfort of one integrated app or tool that is easy to operate and access anywhere. Technology implementation in the hiring process will increase exponentially and prove to be an enabler, if accepted correctly and adapted in a balanced and needed manner.
What is the impact of COVID-19 on your industry in terms of jobs and skill development?
SKILL DEVELOPMENT is the only recovery mechanism. Covid-19 has drastically impacted the global economy. Its impact on the IT sector is relatively low than others, but firms have faced several projects cancellations and delays in renewals. With experts predicting unprecedented economic downfall leading to significant job losses and pay cuts, organizations have become more conscious of future readiness. Organizations realize that the only way to take care of their business and people is JOB & SKILL DEVELOPMENT. The technology revolution has transformed our world at an unbelievable speed. There is no job security; companies and individuals today are working more on EMPLOYABILITY THAN EMPLOYMENT. I believe organizations are drafting strategies for strengthening their talent pool. The approach now is much more proactive than reactive.
“The progress of technology has changed the way businesses operate, the way we work, and we live, and it will further expand its reach and be a part of everything around us; we have to learn to coexist.”
In today’s changing scenario, what do you think defines an organization as a top employer?
Culture of the organization for sure! One, How organizations react and what actions they take under challenging situations says a lot about them. Culture is everything that we do with our system and people. In my opinion, the top four characteristics are:
CARE: Communication, Adaptable, Real and Experience
Communication: They are open, straightforward, transparent, honest, and empathetic communicators.
Adaptable: They are ready and prepared to accept and change, as per the need of the time and people. Processes and practices are more REAL & NIMBLE than RIGID in such organizations.
Rewarding: Here, employees know that their existence matters, they are genuinely appreciated, and the company values their hard work with ongoing skills and knowledge development.
Empathetic: It is authentic and transparent in all its actions. Not just the big picture, but the smallest one gets shared too. These organizations have a collaborative and collective approach to decision making and problem-solving. They respect individualism!
A company is nothing without its people. A top employer will always value its employees.
As the world is changing rapidly and is becoming technology-driven, how is the industry planning to cope with the technological advancements and adoption of automation?
Firstly, by accepting and adapting. Secondly, by building the required skills to adapt and take advantage of what technology has to offer. Lastly, embrace its potential and tag along. Technology is advancing at a dramatic pace; organizations have to keep up with a continually evolving tech-driven world. The progress of technology has changed the way businesses operate, the way we work, and we live, and it will further expand its reach and be a part of everything around us; we have to learn to coexist.
Technology is essential for any business; to get the most out of it, organizations have to make the RIGHT technological decisions and investments at the RIGHT time. Companies can’t advance without adopting technological advancements. It’s better to PREPAIR (Fix it, even if it’s not broken), than REPAIR (if it’s not broken, don’t fix it).
In the post-pandemic days, there may be jobs that get lost forever. Which jobs do you think are more prone to these risks?
For obvious reasons, job loss primarily in industries involving entertainment, recreation, travel, and food, is evident, resulting from virus impact and restrictions. Today VIRTUAL is the new REAL, and virtually all jobs will experience a significant role of automation in their day to day work. It is challenging to be accurate about the magnitude of job loss, but it is potentially massive. With COVID-19, tech advancement managed to reach its defined peak for the year 2020, and as a result, AUTOMATION is threatening more than 45% of Jobs overall.
Routine-based tasks will disappear fastest. Today, algorithms scan resumes, and Chatbots arrange interviews; there are self-checkouts at supermarkets and self-check-in at the airports. These advancements and adoptions have reduced the need for labor exponentially in the service industry. Research says, machines can manage 30- 70% of the job. Few examples are industries involving production operations, office support, administrative support, construction, installation, and maintenance and transportation. In a few years, humans will be doing what is ONLY HUMANLY possible, rest everything that can be managed by a machine will be at risk. But, MACHINES WILL BE SUBSTITUTING FEW OR MANY TASKS, NOT JOBS.
While short-listing candidates for employment, what are the top skills that today’s recruiters look for? What would be your advice to job seekers of today?
This technological revolution has forced us to rethink what we do and how we do it. Individuals will need few differentiator skills to thrive in the new tech economy. What employers look for is more than just technical skills. Core skills are essential to fulfil job duties, but it’s often the soft and human skills that do the magic.
Top 5 skills according to me that recruiters look for are ABCDE: Adaptability, Business Acumen, Communication, Decision making & Empathy.
It is a much easier task to train employees in technical skills, but soft skills are harder to teach. Firstly, I would suggest job seekers be subject matter experts but give equal weightage to complementing competencies and behavioural skills, and secondly, always have a learning mind-set and adaptable approach. It’s more important to be RELEVANT THAN AN EXPERT.
The shortage of skills and talent in the tech sector has been a long standing issue now. What do you think are the skills that are going to gain prominence post-pandemic?
The shortage of relevant skills and talent has been a long time concern. There is a demand-supply gap, mostly due to the traditional way of working and developing new and existing resources. The legacy approach always considered technical skill a stand-alone skill required to perform a task; it focused more on TASKS than JOB.
Organizations created more individual star performers than a winning team or set of leaders. Being great is essential, but collaboration and coexistence are the key connectors. It’s not about the task but people working, winning, and celebrating together.
Pandemic has moved REAL to VIRTUAL, so technology skills top the chart, and along with that, social and emotional skills will create bigger space and relevance in the coming future. I would consider 6 Cs as the current and future skills one should possess: Communication, Compassion, Coexistence, Creativity, Critical Thinking, and Collaboration.
According to you, which are some of the courses that job seekers can pursue to strengthen their resume?
The first advice would be to don’t follow the crowd or don’t do everything offered free of cost. RELEVANCE should be the primary criterion. Anything that is enhancing or enabling current profile or plans, those should not be missed.
In general, the future is all about automation, collaboration, and data, so courses on people/business analytics, agility, change management, computer skills, social media, communication, leadership & team player and people skills should be considered as per the aptness and relevance.
In terms of people input, what is the one thing that you believe a business cannot do without?
I would say two things: Purpose and Intent.
Both are critical, no matter how great a plan, proposal, process, or wish is. If we don’t have answers to WHY, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE & HOW, it will remain directionless and will never yield the required output.
What would your advice be for leaders and students as they reset for the new normal?
New is getting redefined every day, so we should be ready to accept and embrace the new and next normal.
Leaders should stay passionate and empathetic. Leading is not always walking in front (giving solutions or guiding); mostly, it's about walking along (compassionate) and a few times walking behind (counseling and supporting). My advice would be to stay patient, real, supportive, and transparent.
To students, I would say stay hopeful and optimistic. Invest well in yourself and become the best version of yourself. Keep learning and identify the differentiator that will make you shine. Master the art of being with humans and machines, learn to create real experiences with the help of Virtual tools, network with an intention and connect with a purpose, and lastly, don't just LEARN to WORK but WORK TO LEARN.
Dr. Ankita Singh, Senior VP & Global Head of HR
Vice President and Global Head of HR at CIGNEX Datamatics, Dr. Ankita Singh has over 19 years of progressive experience in managing and leading various aspects of Human Resources spanning across high paced business domains of ITES. Having completed HR and Business Strategy related Executive Management Programmes from IIM-A, ISB Hyderabad and XLRI, Ankita has mastered establishing innovative and competitive initiatives and institutionalizing a strong performance driven culture at CIGNEX Datamatics. In this exclusive interaction with Deepshikha Singh, Managing Editor, Higher Education Review magazine, Dr. Ankita Singh, Senior VP & Global Head of HR, CIGNEX Datamatics highlights on future of hiring post-pandemic and various innovative approaches to talent management.