'Talent alone cannot solve the future of work' – The Hindu BusinessLine

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Working well: Sreekanth Arimanithaya, Global Talent and Enablement Services Leader at EY Global Delivery Services
Working well: Sreekanth Arimanithaya, Global Talent and Enablement Services Leader at EY Global Delivery Services
Covid-19 pandemic had a profound impact on all aspects of life for people, society, and businesses worldwide. However, the period also ushered in a refreshed approach to how leaders and organizations envision a new working world, says
Sreekanth Arimanithaya, Global Talent and Enablement Services Leader at EY Global Delivery Services. Excerpts from an interview.

In what ways has Covid-19 changed assumptions about recruiting, training, and managing a workforce?
It set the tone for the future of work – impacting work, ways of working, workforce, and wellbeing.
· Democratization of the workforce. It has also allowed us to penetrate remote work locations where we do not have offices.
· Creative use of technology. In-person, interviews are replaced by video interviewing, psychometric analysis, and more data-driven decision making. Today we measure qualitative and quantitative data about candidates, something experimented with previously, but it has become a norm post-pandemic.
· Culture and community. As leaders and as the workforce, we are more focused and intentional about who we are and what we stand for. There is a greater focus on wellbeing, purpose, and a deeper sense of community.
· The emergence of the microservices economy. More conversations on remote working, flexibility and gig stints have given rise to the creation of gig roles and micro-service architecture in our workforce planning.
Do workplace inequities between remote and on-site employees cause headache to the management/HR?
The chances of such a situation happening are slim. We are creating a hybrid model where every employee can leverage both on-premise and work from home models. There will be no additional privilege given to any one ecosystem or the people working in it. The working model will be defined by the needs of the client and the business. For example, if there are tasks that can be completed in silos, then remote work is great, but the more of customer touchpoints, socializing, etc., is best done in person. So, it would be a blend of both.
From an organization standpoint, some of the jobs where the professional is an individual contributor or can work in a silo have provided us with the opportunity to attract talent from remote locations where EY GDS does not have its physical presence.
When we look at the future of work, the workforce forms an important pillar. The very genetics and makeup of the workforce have been evolving for a while now – it is more diverse in terms of classic markers like gender, race, ethnicity, generations, etc., and how an employee wants to be associated with the organization.
Have talent-sharing partnerships emerged as a major HR strategy these days?
First, the business of talent is business. How do we align talent strategy with that of the business? EY talent strategies are to be aligned to the business strategy that will eventually help us achieve the organization’s collective goal. Second, whose business is talent? The fact is it is everyone’s.
With that as a preamble, we can conclude that the business and the employees execute the talent agenda.
Today, we have a diverse workforce — not just in the traditional dimensions of diversity but also in employment (as gig working continues to penetrate traditional workforce models). Geographically too, we are more fluid as we build more agile and global teams. The scope of our roles and functions blends into the larger business vision, and all this must be sustained in a single ecosystem.
Talent alone cannot solve the future of work; there needs to be an ecosystem of technology and service providers to provide an integrated experience to the employees and clients.
M&As, which gathered steam after the global financial crisis, are finding favour in the pandemic situation as well. Are employee interests being protected suitably?
When businesses transform, they are re-imagined to be ahead of time. This could be with the adoption of technologies, processes, business models. All of these will create disruptions as we move from legacy systems to future-focused models. The key is enabling both people and organizations to be agile.
In all M&As today, the key success measure is the talent and culture metrics. This makes people’s interests the core of all business decisions.
Do you think the benefits of reduced office space requirements, decreased commute time and continued employee retention have outweighed the negatives?
Pandemic expedited some of the aspects of remote working at a scale most organizations had not tested earlier.
However, the way things are evolving remote and on-premise are not two separated ecosystems that we compare and pit against. In either case, they both do have their pros and cons for people and organizations. A success measure for organizations will be to enable employees to leverage the best of both ecosystems.
Has HR given a good account of itself managing the conflicting interests of employee scrutiny and personal privacy during the pandemic?
Absolutely, at EY, we have strict policies around sensitive data, which include People data. We are guided by the local regulatory rules and our policies regarding personal processing data as an organization.
When data needs to be used, we analyze it at an aggregated level, not at the individual level. In case we must use personal data, we go through EY policies and procedure followed by taking the permission of the concerned individual before it is processed.
It is a fine balance between Talent, technology, and policies that are designed to protect the data.
Do gig workers offer employers management flexibility? Don’t they need separate performance management systems?
The essence of gig work is that it enables flexibility – both for the professional looking to curate a customized career path and for organizations who need to manage the dynamic skill needs of the current work environment.
At EY GDS we believe in providing equal opportunities for our gig professionals to contribute, learn and grow.
One such equitable experience we provide is through our EY Gig Knowledge Credentials program, which gives our gig workforce access to a plethora of learning opportunities, help enabling them to boost their skillsets, making way to more career opportunities within and outside of EY.
Sensitization of counselors to manage a team with a diverse group of employees also helps in assimilating gig working within the organization – enabling easier adjustment, a sense of belonging and positive outcomes.
So, traditionally when we calibrate the performance in gig working, the onus has been on the gig professional, as they must showcase their credibility and ownership during the project. A case in point, being the performance score or ratings for the project. This is evolving to be more agile.
Today, the gig workforce is around 10 per cent of the employee strength most organisations have, and I expect these numbers to grow significantly up to 30 per cent in the future.
Another significant insight is that around 50 per cent of the professionals in the private talent cloud are people on full-time employment in another organisation. That is why at EY GDS, we are looking at ways to leverage the private talent cloud and creating internal gig opportunities where our people can work on projects that go beyond their regular scope of work.
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