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HR Is Massive Beneficiary Of Technology Models: Shobha Wilson Simon, Head HR, Alcon

HR are at the forefront of driving the business forward and effectively manage people who lead the organization’s growth

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Over the past few years, the use of technology has grown multifold and has been the driving force that is helping organizations engage with its employees efficiently and improve productivity. HR are at the forefront of it, driving the business forward and effectively manage people who lead the organization’s growth.  

Shobha Wilson Simon, who heads Human Resources at Alcon, a Novartis Division in India talks about their changes in role of HR over the time, hiring pattern of the company and challenges in the industry. 

How has employee engagement changed over the years? Is it any different for millennials?

Employee engagement is evolutionary because each generation brings new aspirations, emotional and rational needs to the workplace. In the workplace, we need to remind ourselves that a fun activity can create interaction but doesn’t equate to filling the emotional needs of an employee.

Today engagement is even more complex because we have multi-generational engagement with up to 3 generations at the same time in our workforce. Each generation engages a bit differently. We’re seeing millennials amplify the need for hyper customization to their ability, contribution and aspiration. Organizations with younger demographics focus on frequent check-ins and continuous conversation to keep them engaged. And coming up fast right after the millennials is Generation Z who will take us on our next evolutionary step. 

How has the role of HR changed with the shift in technology?

HR is a big beneficiary of technology-enabled models. Some of the key trends I see impacting the business, people and the HR function are Intelligent Advanced HRIS systems and workflows, application-based and byte-sized learning, self-learning and crowd-sourcing type project teams. 

HRIS technology and products enable Self Service which transforms stakeholder behaviours. Likewise, Employee Self Service empowers employees to update personal information on their career portals and link their profiles to LinkedIn which enables talent management teams to access talent across geographies.

Has the hiring pattern changed, with job roles being re-defined? What does the typical hiring process look like in Alcon and what skills do you majorly look for in employees?

Hiring in the past was limited within the industry but that way of thinking is changing. Being a medical devices company, we have started to attract and build talent from the best in class companies, not just healthcare companies, so we can be industry agnostic. We need people with the ability to examine and fix medical equipment so why not look at who else does this, such as airport service engineers. 

At Alcon, while we hire for competency, we are always looking for a culture and value. Doing the right thing is also key and our emphasis on compliance and integrity is a priority. 

What are some of the challenges in the HR industry? 

One challenge is having decisions made where they need to be made. In an environment where HR controls data and decisions, HR must strengthen decision frameworks and transfer decisions where they belong, with managers. Progressive organisations are empowering line managers to also be the first line HR managers and play the HR manager role for their teams. It rightly places pressure on HR folks to be upskilled in their functional domains and add true value as business partners.

How has the role of HR changed in the engagement and reaching out to the employees?

Engagement is not just being connected to employees, it’s enabling managers to drive everyday engagement and own it. In driving talent and performance management conversations and processes, the more effective HR folks are the ones who have invested in learning the key drivers of the business. This requires HR folks to spend time with both sets of employees, those who are at the front line executing every day and those who drive strategy.  

In our experience, successful and connected HR folks are respected and valued for their understanding of the business and connecting with all levels of the organization. A test of this is how often HR folks get out and do customer visits, spend time in the field, and understand ‘a day in the life of’ of employees. 

What policies have been adopted to retain the best talent in the company?      

The bedrock of keeping the best talent is conscious talent management actions. The levers you use range from hiring, managing the mix on a team, managers being encouraged to strengthen their teams with complementing strengths and experiences. 

Whenever we grow as a business and our product footprint grows, people grow. A good test of retention is when you have business cycles with peaks and troughs, where employees stay with you through the rebuilding phase. This shows a culture of true high performance and retention backed by a compelling purpose and great products that drive employee pride over the years.

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