AMCHAM, under the aegis of its HR Committee, organized the Future of Work Conference on February 23rd and 24th. The conference began with Ms. Ranjana Khanna, Director General CEO, AMCHAM welcoming speakers and participants. She spoke about the evolution of HR during the pandemic. She also touched upon the essential elements of future of work – work, worker and workplace. Mr. Chaitanya Sreenivas (Chinni), Chairman – HR Committee, AMCHAM and Chief Talent Officer, Kyndryl, in his opening remarks, gave an overview of the two-day conference and enumerated committee’s activities over the last year. He also spoke about the importance of keeping employees motivated and engaged in the present changing times. Mr. Brian Heath, Acting Deputy Chief of Mission and Minister Counselor for Management Affairs, U.S. Embassy, in his inaugural address, said that despite HR not being the most glamorous function, it was still amongst the most important functions because people are at the core of everything. He reiterated the importance of people to people ties and how pandemic has accelerated the change process. The future of work would include increased use of technology, increased opportunities and emergence of hybrid working. He stated that people are closer now than they have been at any previous point in history. Despite the pandemic, the U.S.-India economic relationship prospered in every sector including science, healthcare, space, emerging technology, clean sources of energy, combating climate change, etc. He enumerated high level meetings between India and the USA in the recent past.
The keynote address was given by Mr. Sunil Barthwal, Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India. He said that a huge revolution was taking place in the future of work space and the ministry was also undertaking exercises to assess the magnitude of changes. Recent trends show the comfort of doing work from home and how it has erased the notion of location. Mr. Barthwal enumerated some of the important HR trends which included the rise of the digital platform economy and how India was among the top 3 countries where digital platform companies are expected to change the whole workplace scenario. Rise in gig workers and women participation were the other two important trends. It becomes very important to facilitate women workforce with equal remuneration, gender parity and maternity benefits. He also touched upon the favourable demographic dividend and the need to provide decent jobs and with gradual rise of the ageing population, the need for a strengthened social security fabric would be essential. While talking about the rising attrition rates he mentioned the increasing propensity to change jobs in the future which makes skilling and training very important. He also talked about employee mobility as all are global citizens now who need rapid skilling and upskilling. He assured participants that the proposed labour code was considering all these factors.
Session 1: Best Practices for an HR Professional in 2022: What is Too Little or Too Much was moderated by Mr. Ashissh Kaul, Associate Director – Knowledge and Advisory & Business Head – PSE Business, Society for Human Resource Management (India) with panelists Mr. Sayan Chatterjee, Human Resources Director, Beam Suntory India, Mr. Rajiv Burman, People Lead India, S&P Global and Mr. Rajiv Oza, Senior Director – HR, Stryker. The panelists recommended the HR fraternity to be spontaneous in talent retention, more flexible in their approach, be empathetic towards workforce while keeping pace with the market and imbibing digital transformation. Mr. Burman spoke about the importance of analytics, automation and AI in HR and how they would be an integral part of future skills. Mr. Chatterjee echoed the importance of technology, not only in HR practices, but also in understanding market dynamics and consumer patterns. While talking about talent retention in the present overheated job market, Mr. Oza spoke about inculcating a culture in which employees feel associated with the organization’s mission thus realizing the maximum EVP. Speakers also talked about how mental wellness acts as an enabler. The session touched upon pertinent topics like hybrid working and its impact on work culture, demographic dividend, agility and preparedness, responsible delegation and balancing global practices with local requirements.
Session 2: The Great Resignation and Changing Landscape of Skilling in India: What Was, What Is and What Ought to Be was a panel discussion with Ms. Deepali Bhardwaj, Executive Director, Human Resources, Cushman & Wakefield, Mr. Anurag Malik, Partner, People Advisory Services, EY and Ms. Pooja Mehra, Technical & Sales Skilling Lead, Microsoft Corp. India. It was moderated by Mr. Chaitanya Sreenivas (Chinni), Chairman – HR Committee, AMCHAM and Chief Talent Officer, Kyndryl. The session focussed on the great resignation and how it is impacting all sectors and organizations while determining the drivers of this trend. The panelists covered three significant attributes that were driving the phenomenon – skills, engagement and culture and the hybrid workplace. Ms. Mehra talked about the quantum of digital transformation happening due to the pandemic leading to faster adoption of data, innovation and paradigm shifts in the skilling culture. Mr. Malik touched upon work culture and employee engagements. He spoke about the dimension of culture being changed with a focus on the softer side, wellbeing and increased accountability. Ms. Bhardwaj covered the hybrid work environment and quoted studies that show productivity was not confined to physical workplaces. She also spoke about an ideal work scenario which would be different for every organization. Ms. Mehra enumerated key innovations at her workplace that included leveraging the power of technology, fostering culture of individual and organizational learning, integrating learning into tools and platforms, interspersing learning with your HR, giving field protected time for learning, etc. Mr. Malik spoke about the enhanced role of leaders by using innovative engagement techniques.
Day one ended with Session 3: Work Environment: The Endemic Way. The speakers included Dr. Kiranmai Dutt Pendyala, Head – Human Resources, Western Digital, India and Mr. Vijay Naugain, Director – HR, ChildFund India with moderator Ms. Archana Jerath, Director – Operations, SHRM India, APAC & MENA. Talking about an ideal work environment, the speakers highlighted the importance of bringing the human side of the organization at the fore front along with being diverse and inclusive. They also talked about having flexible work engagements, finding creative solutions, empowering employees and imparting the feeling of belongingness amongst the workforce. On the topic of impact on mental and physical wellbeing, the speakers shared instances of distress during the pandemic and how it was important to care and connect with staff. They also spoke about the responsibilities of a leader in fostering work culture. They pointed out that one’s leadership style should be adaptive and a leader should judiciously reward and recognize as means of motivation. An inclusive approach in contrast to control and command is desirable. Some of the possible pitfalls for a leader mentioned included having a rigid mindset and the inability to learn continuously.
On February 24th, the conference opened with Session 4: Labour Reforms for Enhancing Ease of Doing Business with CA Saraswathi Kasturirangan, Deloitte India and Mr. Vinay Joy, Partner – Corporate & Commercial, Employment, Labour & Benefits, White Collar Crime, Khaitan & Co. The session was moderated by Dr. Augustus Azariah, VP, Employee & Labour Relations (Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa), Kyndryl. The session covered pertinent aspects of the code including the definition of wages, timelines and probable priority areas for organizations, deviations from global compensation, gratuity, PF, maternity benefits, the concurrent nature of the code and problem resolution. They also talked about the inclusion of the service sector in the code and the provisions of the same. New elements like gig workers, work from home, extending social security to the unorganized sector, skilling, etc. were also discussed.
Session 5: People & Data: How Technology is Shaping HR Analytics featured Mr. Hari Abburi, Global Director – Caltech Executive Education & CEO, The Preparation Company. His presentation covered five big shifts that impact an organization’s people strategy. The shifts included: there isn’t a single industry company anymore, every business is a platform, technology and data business, agility is about how you do things – not just how you are organized, lines blur between customer and employee strategies and future of work was augmented. In his presentation, Mr. Abburi explained how people analytics must directly help innovation and growth. He also enumerated elements of future of work strategy and to be successful an integrated approach was essential. The presentation also covered an agile HR analytics model.
The conference concluded with Session 6: Leadership View: Now More Than Ever. The panelists included Mr. Adrian Mutton, Founder & CEO, SANNAM S4 and U.S. Business Centers, Mr. Manoj Madhavan, Co-Chairman – Medical Devices Committee, AMCHAM and Managing Director, Boston Scientific India, Mr. Sumit Gupta, Country Head, Cargill Business Services and Ms. Shobha Swarup, Executive Director – Human Resources, Emerging Markets & Indian Subcontinent, Diversey. The moderator was Ms. Archana Jerath, Director – Operations, SHRM India, APAC & MENA. The panel deliberated how the human resilience was put to the test in these turbulent times and how culture plays in building resilient organizations. The panelists identified that organizations were often the third layer of defense in case of an adversity, but COVID eliminated the existing layers, hence it was imperative to cultivate an open culture. Speakers identified how technology was becoming a game changer in recognizing and managing talent in today’s global environment. Technology removed the earlier barrier of distance and provided equal opportunity to all the employees and also imparted flexibility amongst the workforce. They also shared their views on the importance of skilling, reskilling and upskilling in making a future workforce ready. The importance to give individuals their own access to learning material that they could consume at their pace was highlighted. They also emphasized on moving through the innovation curve faster than others and the propensity to learn from all levels. They discussed how the pandemic opened possibilities for a diverse workforce like never before. In their concluding remarks, the panelists spoke about a balanced work life which should encompass allowance, acceptance and vulnerability. The conference was supported by Beam Suntory & Western Digital. More than 130 members attended the conference.