Subramanyam S, Founder, President and CEO, AscentHR

Subramanyam is an entrepreneur with immense experience in finance, legal and business management. He is a corporate lawyer and a fellow member of “The Institute of Company Secretaries of India”. A finance and business management specialist, it was Subramanyam’s quest for bringing innovative solutions and services in the HR industry that led him to build AscentHR. His experience includes exposures in Advani Oerlikon group, Shonk Technologies in finance, HR and corporate legal services.


Companies are navigating unchartered territories in the times of COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 has taken the world by storm and brought forth a new norm as to how organizations manage the business. Organizations worldwide are tackling immediate issues of keeping employees safe, ensuring optimal utilization of staff, and maintaining the continuity of business operations.

These are the major challenges faced by HR Executives in this COVID situation:

  • Crisis Management or Business Continuity Planning
  • Manage flexible work arrangements
  • Manage employee communication
  • Address employee concerns on workplace policies
  • Engage employees in such situations and keep them motivated
  • Implementation of preventive measures
  • Review of current welfare policies
  • Ensuring maximum employee productivity during WFH

In conclusion, HR leaders had not envisioned that providing HR services to a distributed workforce with dozens or hundreds of remote workers and doing so quickly would become the need of the hour. But digital HR is soon going to be the norm with companies and HR heads embracing technology paving the way for a new way of working.

Can We Expect a Change in Work-Culture After COVID in India?

This is a period of uncertainty and demoralizes employees as a team contributor when his personal care/well-being becomes a priority. Many organizations do not have proper tools such as collaboration tools, videoconferencing solutions, and access to critical documents that will allow employees to work from home seamlessly. While social distancing becomes a necessity, the new work ways create distance in team bonding and need time to build upon.

The Coronavirus pandemic will change workplace practices, dynamics and the nature of jobs. Digital-first approach could be adopted by companies, but they will also need to invest in it accordingly. There are many predictions about a permanent shift in the work culture, as the tech firms will benefit, but some companies could find employees who don’t want to return to the office. Employers will continue to operate as they did before, once the situation returns to normalcy. The reason is the cost of operation in this way is much lesser than the remote working way. You will need a highly motivated employee, who is fully trained, will work independently without any assistance or support to work remotely to be able to make this a full-time option.

HR Technologies: Changing the Way People Work

The rise of HR technology, in general, is not only changing how we work but the work itself. We are beginning to see how new technologies such as robotic process automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning are impacting the workplace. With the help of technology, HR professionals are not just processing the candidate application but are connecting with them and developing relationships with new talent sources and gaining insights from sourcing the data. The use and application of analytics have improved the hiring process and employee efficiency.

Today these new HR technologies are helping to improve hiring processes, reduce the amount of rote work, and focus on employee experience—providing employees with proactive advice on performance, how to align their aspirations with opportunities, and how to get actionable feedback from managers. Most of the companies that have embraced HR technologies as a part of their strategic management tools are finding that much of the frustration of work can be reduced through direct access between the data and decision-makers. Now managers have people data on their fingertips which will enable them to offer the right opportunities to the right employees at the right time.

India, as a technology hub has contributed towards the development of many tech innovations across the globe directly or indirectly. With a diverse workforce, different regulatory practices and cultural practices in India, it was always a great opportunity to develop a competitive product that could meet multi-country or culture needs. While it was slow in adopting technology initially, India has seen a significant scale in the adoption of HR technology and mat be a pioneer in the digital transformation of HR processes. With remote working becoming a reality, HR would don additional roles of business in managing workforce productivity as well. At AscentHR, we see not just India and but the whole of Asia as an opportunity in the explosive growth of HR technology while challenges would remain in addressing geo concerns on regulatory/cultural practices.

The Relevance of HR Technology in Today’s Operations

Human capital management is an often exorbitantly expensive, time-consuming and complicated challenge. However, it allows the company to improve its internal processes, core competencies, relevant markets and organizational structure as a whole. Experts believe that Human Capital management technologies can improve productivity which will drive greater business growth and leave a positive impact on the companies.

HR Tech began its journey as more of a record-keeping and time/payroll systems which were driven more from a regulatory obligation. Over the last decade, HR tech recognized the need for employee engagement, employee learning and performance management as key contributors in its digital journey. Besides, it has been trying to add new ways of enhancing employee experience for Hiring, Onboarding and Rewards and Recognition. These remained focused on Talent sourcing and Talent Management. With the opportunity of the multi-location workforce coming into play into last decade which is further enlarged with work from home scenarios emerging now, HR will join Business Managers in managing Productivity, Culture management and ensuring it impacts P&L more on the profit side as opposed to being on the cost side so far. That is a new role and we will see HR Leaders becoming Managing Directors or CEOs in the coming years.

The Future of HR Tech

We are in the middle of the Information Revolution, facing fundamental changes to the way we live and work. Automation is revolutionizing how we work, and companies are taking note that next-gen Human Capital Management is the way to go to stay relevant and sustainable and provide work-life balance for its employees. The HR function is required to continuously evolve by adapting to the latest technology in the present fast-changing corporate ecosystem.

In the past years, digital HR management systems have become highly functional, making the HR management experience seamless and more productive. We believe that every domain within the HR function is undergoing significant changes based on the application of new digital and technologies such as:

  • HR Analytics/ Artificial Intelligence: AI can be used to solve real problems that HR and talent professionals are facing today. HR Analytics/Artificial Intelligence has a wide range of impact on the HR that is from improving employee healthcare to streamlining recruitment, from better employee engagement to removing unconscious bias; AI has a vast array of application areas. With all the advancements taking place, AI-driven technologies will continue to improve and increase throughout the HR sector.
  • Voice of the Employee (VoE): Personalized engagement of employees will be an HR buzzword in 2020, which means being more personalized and employee-centric than before. Facilities such as flexible in-time, WFH (work from home), organizing seminars and workshops to ensure employees feel valued are some of the responsibilities HR management should offer for the employee. Such practices not only lead to higher productivity and better prospects for all stakeholders but also provide better experiences for employees and organizations.
  • Software: Many companies rely on HR software because they help generate impactful ROL. HR departments can manage talent easily, keep employees happy, and drive productivity by selecting the best HR software solutions. HR software will become more potent in 2020 as HR departments see immense value in such software. This software is also used to predict which employees are considering leaving their organization. When data reveals, it will inform managers of the likelihood of an employee leaving their job is significant.
Advice to the HR Executives

We have seen the evolution of HR Professionals from Time/Payroll functions to new ways of Hiring, managing employee, managing their learning needs which have moved HR executives from an6 admin role to a more meaningful function. Adoption of HR Technology and new age practices will take them to the next level of active business management together with the core operations in any enterprise. This was a change that was due but is now pushed ahead with new ways of working coming into play. This is an opportunity to elevate their roles and contribute towards the business which gives them much better recognition than the industry so far identified the function with. (As told to the Editor)

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