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HRUnplugged: The one thing about HR that can never be replaced by computers

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Meena Anand, Managing Director and Head HR, Global Business Services, Standard Chartered Bank, elaborates on how the key capabilities of a great HR professional will still be relevant throughout IR 4.0.

Q In this competitive talent landscape, what is one way Standard Chartered stands out from others when it comes to attracting talent?

It’s not just one thing, and indeed, that “one thing” could be different for every potential  new colleague.  Standard Chartered is a deeply resonant brand with a fantastic employee value proposition. This starts from having an inspiring organisational purpose: “Driving commerce and prosperity through our unique diversity.”

Quoting our Chairman, José Viñals, “We are a bank with a soul. For us this is not just a job, we are here on a mission”. Coupled with that is a strong organisational culture which we have been refining over many years over Standard Chartered’s 160-year history. It pervades all aspects of decision-making, not just the traditional HR processes such as promotion or performance management.

Q Research often cites HR is slow to take on change and technology. Do you agree with this? If not, why? And, if so, what can we do about it?

I would separate change appetite from technology adoption. HR is one function that I see constantly changing and refining its practices and processes.

In terms of technology adoption, we have a real opportunity as a function to further leverage technology, but we need to do that more mindfully. We can’t expect the introduction of a new enterprise resource planning system, for example, to address existing people management capability gaps.

Two very simple things that we can do to facilitate the shift is to look for ideas in different places – outside of our own organisation (some smaller organisations are doing some fabulous stuff); or different functions and encourage feedback across teams.

I see organisations of the future having a number of “nodes” or “blueberries” where groups of colleagues come together for dedicated periods of time to solve a specific problem.

Q Despite the increased focus on technology and IR 4.0, some things just can’t be replaced. In your opinion, what is the one thing about HR that can never be replaced  by computers?

I see the overall number of jobs in HR remaining largely the same, the mix, however, will certainly shift. If you are familiar with Kai-Fu Lee – one of the gurus of AI – and his work, HR clearly has a firm place in IR 4.0. AI cannot yet conceptualise, manage complex strategic plans or interact with empathy and compassion – the key capabilities of a great HR professional.

Q Moving forward, what will organisation structures of the future look like?

A blueberry pancake! Seriously, I see organisations of the future having a number of “nodes” or “blueberries” where groups of colleagues come together for dedicated periods of time to solve a specific problem. What ties these different groups together is the main part of the pancake, that is, the organisation’s culture and working practices.


Vital stats: Meena Anand is an experienced global HR professional with strong expertise in organisational development, learning and M&A. She currently leads the HR function for Global Business Services – the 27,000-strong shared service centre for Standard Chartered Bank. Before that, she was the Group Head of Employee Relations and Conduct based out of Singapore. In the past, she has held senior generalist and specialist HR roles at Barclays and UBS.


This interview is part of our CHRO 4.0 special edition where we we introduce you to Human Resources’ Advisory Panel 2019, and pick their brains on the burning questions the function is facing.

Read more here: CHRO 4.0: Decoding the HR skills of the future

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