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Gaurav Hirey (UTR featured image)

Case study: How CHROs can leverage technology, AI and data analytics

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Teledirect Telecommerce’s group director of HR and talent development, Gaurav Hirey, talks us through the contact centre’s adoption of cloud-based talent platform two years ago, the challenges and solutions identified.

Q. When you joined Teledirect Telecommerce early this year, your mandate was to focus on leveraging technology, AI and data analytics for the HR function. What was the biggest challenge you wanted to overcome through this?

With the changing nature of the business environment we recognised that we need to not just be ahead of the curve but to try and create the future ourselves. We believed if we did not take the lead in leveraging technology, data and machine intelligence we would be unable to retain our competitive edge in the market place and be unable to deliver the high-quality levels that our clients are accustomed to from us. Hence we decided to focus on building our systems and processes to become truly future ready.

We wanted to improve product quality and the speed of decision making for our leaders and frontline managers – in order to raise the quality of our product. If we could achieve that we would be able to not just delight but deliver exponential value to our clients and help them in their growth plans. We also believe that using technology tools we would also be able to train and develop our people such that it would enable them to do their best at the job and deliver consistent high quality service.

Q. One of the biggest wins has been in the cloud space, where Teledirect adopted a cloud-based talent platform two years ago, and is implementing newer models frequently. Tell us about the journey behind this transformation.

Like every change journey we have had our set of challenges which come along with trying to define the destination as clearly as possible so that it is understood by all. Normally in transformation efforts what counts and matters the most is the top management support and our senior leaders are extremely aligned and have supported the efforts admirably. In some cases, they have changed their own way of doing things and walked the talk when it came to adopting new processes and technology.

With digital transformation comes change in people’s jobs, teams and the way they have been working. Managing this has been not easy but since we made a conscious decision to disrupt, the senior management commitment eased the journey. We also got support from experienced specialists who had either experienced digital disruption or have handled organisational change in their careers. Having people who knew how the journey takes shape helped in increasing our understanding of what to expect.

The biggest part of the change process is the mindset change needed by those involved. Resistance from people can potentially derail any change programme and we were lucky to have a project leader who understood this and very methodically worked to creating small changes leading to the big ones which allowed people the time to adapt without making them feel threatened. It is critical to break the journey into small manageable parts so that it does not overwhelm the people who need to ensure the change.

Managing expectations of deliverables and speed is a critical aspect of this process.

Managing expectations of deliverables and speed is a critical aspect of this process. There is need to keep communicating that this is a journey and would take some time as many leaders would expect immediate results which is not possible to deliver.

The other thing to keep in mind also is as one would make small steps the deliverables would gradually kick in and sometimes managing this expectation is absolutely critical since due to the investment of time and effort the leaders would normally want things to get done faster. Any process or change which involves people takes some time. Seldom do we see an instant turnaround in organisational processes and this reality needs to be consistently communicated and the expectations managed.

Q. Since the adoption of technology, what best practices and innovations have you undertaken to reimagine business as well as workforce experiences?

We are leveraging technology, machine learning and data analytics to enhance not just the candidate and customer experience but also the experience of our employees.

We have so far successfully merged most of our data into a single database and are now making strides into data warehousing to ensure we have all the information needed to make smarter, speedier informed decisions.

We have digitised our complete employee cycle: recruiting, onboarding , performance management and compensation. We have created a new digitised learning platform called Teledirect University for our employees to learn, connect, share and grow.

We are looking to provide real time support to our frontline teams to ensure they can handle any customer queries and offer the best possible solution to our customers.

We developed quite a few solutions in-house which we continue using, however we moved to SAP SuccessFactors over the last two years for our HR systems.

We have also developed digital recruiting and are leveraging artificial intelligence and other digital tools to evaluate and assess candidates , provide them with an amazing experience and engage them deeper with our organisation.

We today have the capability of providing a customised and personalised training and development plan for every employee working with us. Our systems also help us with succession planning and ensuring business continuity.

We today are at a stage where we are experimenting with predictive analytical models to identify the fit person for a role and to predict the optimal performance for an employee.

This is an ongoing journey with the way the business environment is we believe we are flexible and agile enough to adopt new practices and tools and integrate them into our processes and systems thus providing exceptional experiences to both our employees and our clients!

Q. Which vendor did you choose to work with? What considerations did you have in mind in the selection of a technology vendor – any tips to share with your peers in HR?

We developed quite a few solutions in-house which we continue using, however we moved to SAP SuccessFactors over the last two years for our HR systems and have integrated our systems into it. Selecting a technology partner is extremely critical and with our experience, we have learnt more.

Choose a partner who is reputable and has the expertise

The technology partner has to understand your complete business and not just the solution they are selling. This is probably the biggest challenge as finding someone who has done something similar in your industry may not be easy if you are taking the lead.

Check for client references

I have found visiting existing clients and seeing the system live and working is crucial for both you as well as the partner as it allows both parties to set clear expectations. If the expectations are not clear then during the implementation you will be faced with a gap that may become a major hindrance to the roll out.

Ensure on ground, on site support

While everyone claims to have it, ask for evidence to confirm if the support staff they claim are actually present in the geography where your implementation team is. Also ensure that there is onsite support at least during the implementation phase. If for some reason you do choose a partner who is not present in your geography ask them to provide onsite people and get that into your contract.

Commit time to clarifying outcomes and experiences you want to achieve

Normally I have experienced that organisations jump into a digital transformation journey without being clear on what it is they want to achieve. Being clear on the deliverables is critical to the successful implementation of the roll out. Ask questions and get answers from your technology partner. There is no wrong question to ask!

Ensure a connection

Look for technology partners who are committed to the future and are solution oriented. Who would take ownership alongside you for the success of the project. Look beyond the ones who are selling the product to you. Meet the execution team, get a dedicated lead and ensure a connection within the technology partner’s organisation to help you get the best support possible. Treat them well and they will indeed reciprocate is my experience!

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