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Jacob Jacob, Apollo Hospitals

Mastering the tools of HR’s trade

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Jacob Jacob, chief people officer, at India-based Apollo Hospitals, helps HR join the dots from a transactional role, to a service provider, and the new tools it needs to master in order to become a partner in transformation.

The HR function has moved gradually from being a transactions manager to a service provider, and is now in the next phase of progress towards becoming a transformation partner to the organisation.

While we see numerous articles on the impact and scope of HR’s contribution within organisations, the two most important factors, the development of HR professionals and the creation of required HR talent to take HR to the next level, have not been delved into as deeply as they should have been.

Sharpening the blade of knowledge

Continuous learning is crucial as HR starts garners more space in the boardroom.

The need for HR professionals with high acumen, a keen understanding of the business dynamics, and better insights into the workforce they manage are essential.

Connecting with the business, understanding the strategy of the CEO and the related HR needs, and managing changes in HR in tandem with business vagaries are the need of the hour.

The HR leader of today has to be a master in operations, finance, marketing, strategy, and in every other aspect of business.


HR tools and learning materials


The HR leader of today has to be a master in operations, finance, marketing, strategy, and in every other aspect of business.

The biggest challenge for HR in the current scenario is managing talent amidst fierce competition. Talent management has a broad scope – right from recruitment of the right talent to the development and retention of talent.

This requires HR to learn and unlearn. A continuous update of what is happening in the industry and region, and the awareness of talent availability and talent creation for one’s business is vital for HR.

The extra effort on evaluating culture fitment and job fitment before recruitment saves a lot of time and cost in the future. Development of internal talent and a well-defined succession planning framework also save cost of new recruitment, and ensure retention.

Tightening the leadership pipeline

Another challenge for most organisations remains the age distribution of the workforce, in terms of the different priorities and needs, both personal and professional, of a multi-generational workforce.

What is fundamental to overcoming these challenges is for HR professionals to understand the nuances of the business and the mindset of the employees.

A lot of effort has to be put in by HR professionals to talk to the employees, understand on-ground realities, estimate the impact of an initiative, and then take decisions to execute them.

Adding value to executive leadership decisions is another area for which HR is looked up to today.

Having a pipeline of functional experts – HR leaders and subject matter experts – for each of its sub-functions is vital to achieve this. This has to cascade down to the development of HR professionals at all levels across all sub-functions in the organisation.

Being part of HR forums, regular interactions with peers on industry trends, and networking/sharing information for mutual benefit is therefore crucial.

Creating an information network is as much a necessity as the creation of HR talent, for success in HR today. Being part of HR forums, regular interactions with peers on industry trends, and networking/sharing information for mutual benefit is therefore crucial.

Packing the toolbox

One of the reasons why we see a lot of professionals in their 40s leading large organisations today is because of their ability to keep pace with the latest HR developments and implement new, innovative and sustainable solutions customised to their business environment.

They see themselves as business managers, their business being people.

A one-size-fits-all approach is no longer the norm. Changing the norm as suitable for the day is the norm.

Learning the needs of business, and mastering one’s function would enable HR to replicate the same with all talent within the organisation. HR has the onus to show employees how to be the forerunners of change by mastering their own function.

One of the reasons a lot of professionals in their 40s are leading large organisations is their ability to implement sustainable solutions customised to their business environment.

Forward-thinking organisations have already started viewing HR as a strategic partner. To vindicate that is left on us HR Professionals, and it is only possible by mastering the art of HR.

A proactive and proficient approach to HR would ensure that it brings that value to the top and contributes its strength to the organisation. It is high time that we in HR rethink our role in the organisation and gear up to the challenge.

I remember when I took up my current assignment about five years ago, the mandate given to me was to ensure the creation of a robust HR department, critical to the business.

The first task I did was to understand where we were heading and correlate that with the talent repository available.

The questions I asked were – with where we want to go, will your current talent help you? If yes, what do you need to do to accelerate this, and if no what is the immediate task on hand?

Thus, this was the starting point to creating a more sustainable organisation. It proved to me that all HR professionals need to first understand what drives their organisation and how we can facilitate that extra element in creating long-term impact.

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