Aparna Sharma, CHRO Lafarge has extensive experience in HR and its various dimensions. She claims her career choice was one by chance and not by choice. She shares her valuable insights with us along with her take on Technology and the future of HR.

Post her graduation degree from Bhopal, she had a keen interest in appearing for the Civil Services examination, however, due to the Mandal Commission, the delay in Public Administration exams led her to open doors to options like a Master’s Program from TISS and a Master’s degree in International Study from JNU. She started her Masters at TISS and after the first semester, she discovered her inclination towards the field, thereby, forgoing the option to do Master’s at JNU altogether. Having exceeded the performance expectations, she topped her class in the first and second year along with a varied work experience and training at six organizations. Her approach towards HR has always been a futuristic one and this can be dated back to her first research publication called ‘Future of Work for 2025’ – a discussion based on 6 dimensions, published in an international journal in 2005.

Aparna has also authored “Reality Bytes-the role of HR in today’s world” – a book intended for students and early career HR professionals and a practical guide for line managers and business leaders. With more than 45 launches across the country, it has also been translated in Hindi.

Technology: A futuristic aspect

Aparna considers Technology as a key factor towards the futuristic workforce as projected in 2025. However, from an HR perspective, it is just at the onset as far as learning and development is concerned. An evident example of this is usage of social media sites like Linkedin and mobile usage for recruitment purposes. Recruitment methods will advance and surveys will be app-based even for the manufacturing industry.

She claims that we are moving from a stage where organizations did not permit the usage of social networking sites on company servers to a stage where employers engage with their employees in the external world through social media. The websites provide knowledge of what type of technology is trending and how products and services can be promoted in more efficient ways.

Considering the above, we still cannot replace human capital by technology as we need people to do the “thinking” instead of robots. In the era of nationalization coming in wherein bulk and mass jobs will be replaced by machines, we still cannot dismiss the fact that the intellectual processes will still stay with humans and talents and the specialization will actually mark differentiation in terms of competence.
Hence, technology is seeping with the key differentiator being “Specialization”.

Aparna views the future of the manufacturing sector as bright and promising with amplified trust in it 30 years down the line in comparison to the present scenario. This sector today, comprises baby boomers and Gen Xs and we observe Gen Ys’ increases preferences towards the service industry. However, if the ‘Make in India’ mindset and practices continue along with labour arbitrage, impetus from the government and economies of scale, we can look towards increased preferences towards the manufacturing sector in comparison to the service industry in the future.
At present, it is difficult to lure the workforce with a certain skillset towards manufacturing organizations. A revamping effort towards our outdated educational curriculum is the need of the hour to make people more employable as our growth will become stagnant if we continue to produce more engineers than needed.

Revamping the Education System:

Aparna discusses the need of the hour to revamp our education system and make it more contemporary. Her inputs include:
• Include more advisory and board members from similar industries to design the curriculum.
• Autonomy to institutions to design the curriculum and a paradigm shift from the excessive control.
• Make ‘Teaching’ a more lucrative career choice so we have experts on board to impart education efficiently
• Curriculum should be more application oriented
• Reduce the ‘burden’ of theoretical knowledge so aspirants do not look for shortcuts. In such a case the breadth increases and the depth of knowledge reduces.

An insight towards Diversity in Organizations

According to Aparna, there is an increased level of diversity in organizations in terms of sexual orientation and disability however inclusion has not caught up to the same level. For example, in the light of recent events, we as Indians have managed to become intolerant about people from Pakistan and in turn towards certain sects in our society.
Diversity does not imply giving quotas to minorities as it negates the idea of being a global citizen. In our country, there is still evident discrimination towards other religions and nationalities for example, most muslims are considered terrorists. Thus, the focus should shift from Diversity to being a more ‘Inclusive’ society.
Diversity is a tool to acknowledge differences in cultures however, Inclusion if the tool to bind those differences and make them work together.

You cannot do today’s job with yesterday’s methods and still be in business tomorrow – Alfred Chandler
HR’s Futuristic role in Inclusion

HR vision at the moment is not futuristic and consumed with day-to-day activities which do not significantly contribute towards the growth of the profession. There is a level of maturity which needs to be acknowledged and honed across the industry instead of just one or two organizations altering their employee policies with a futuristic and inclusive mindset. Why is there no change seen from the remaining 100 or 1000 organizations?
HR professionals need to have a more open-minded approach and not be judgmental and this perhaps means rewriting certain theories of HR itself. It is thus going to take fresh minds and a fresh pairs of eyes to be able to look at the canvas and then look at what policies and what strategies to frame for the evolving workforce.

Thus, the role of HR will become more business facing and people who do not integrate HR into the business will suffer and will purely remain “Operations-centric”.

Aparna sees tremendous change in the future as the existing structures in the professional strategies will become redundant. Motivation for employees will be different and work life integration will take a step forward and more organizations will be willing to discuss these policies at length very soon.

We thank her for sharing her thoughts with us.