‘Embracing Disruption and Harnessing Technology is the New Normal’

Man and machine will coexist and their synergy will reach a new level, says Unmesh Pawar, Partner and Head of People, Performance and Culture, KPMG

Q. Tell us briefly about yourself, your career, key achievements and awards.

A large part of my career involves helping individuals, functions and companies get to their potential. Therefore, it is really been about transformation, helping individuals inside of their work area as well as outside. It energizes and excites me.

Coaching, mentoring and teaching are a few things that comes naturally to me. It’s the human spaces that fascinate me. As far as awards are concerned, early 2019 brought a pleasant gift for me as I was adjudged the  HR Influencer by more than 1,600 contestants of HR 40Under40 Program organized by Jombay.

Q. What’s your success mantra?

Success mantra is linked to intentions. If the intentions are noble, then making the changes happen is relatively easy. Helping individuals make change in their behavior, influencing leaders in changing their stance from the position they take, and aligning the vision of the leadership to that of the organization are some of the challenges that I have successfully overcome in my career. I believe in investing relentlessly in people who I work for and also in those who work for me.

Q. What are the key forces shaping the future of work?

Embracing disruption, harnessing technology and digitalization is the new normal. Entire business models are getting wiped out. Take the example of automobile companies who now have competitors from non-auto sectors, that’s technology companies. Unless a company has one foot in today and another in tomorrow, it’s well nigh impossible to survive, let alone catch-up. Leveraging AI and Robotics will be a key differentiator. It’s commonly believed that AI will take away jobs but that’s not entirely true. Robots will aid humans. They might take away some jobs but we need to be positive that they will also bring in efficiency, enhance productivity and therefore free up our time to focus on more value-add, strategic jobs. If at all jobs will wither away, it will happen due to Automation which is another realistic scenario. But Automation will happen in routine, rule-based, repetitive jobs. Managing people and human emotions, empathizing, motivating are intangibles which robots will not be able to do. Managing multi-generational workforce and keeping them tied to a higher purpose will be another important force shaping the future of work.

Q. Will humans become primarily ‘consumers’ of output produced by automation?

We are reaching an age of coexistence, when we will see man and machine come to the level of synergy to really create happier personalized experiences that will respond to the individual needs. As technology advances, we will see machines take up far more pushing the realm of human creativity and abilities to the next strong tier. Therefore, I generally believe that machine will enable the experiences and will work as directed by the humans.

Q. What role do you think social media will play in the future of the workplace?

Social media will continue to be all pervasive. The potential of the social media to blur the boundaries of public and private channels intermingling is mind-boggling whereby people will choose what aspect of life they would want to make public or keep in private.

Social media also gives organizations a medium for identification of candidates. Similarly, it helps prospective candidates to identify workplace without going through the complex interviews.   

The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and similar other regulations the world over are strict about data protection and privacy for all individuals citizens of the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA). We will have consistent law everywhere which will allay fears of individuals regarding data misuse by the organizations.

Q. Almost every era thinks the challenges it faces are different. Is this time different for HR? What are some of the global HR Trends impacting the profession?

Well, disruption has begun to impact. Its momentum will get stronger. Use of AI, ML (machine learning) will get bigger. Those who do not jump on the bandwagon will become irrelevant. Learning and Development, Employee engagement, Performance Management are some of the domains leveraging AI, ML. In the years to come, it will expand to almost all facets of HR function. A very interesting development is the emergence of new roles in HR. Employee Experience Consultant, People Performance Architect, HR Brand Manager, Behavioral Scientist, Coach for Digital, People Planner are some of the new roles we will see in near-term. Employee Experience will become critical. Creating a best-in-class employee experience by redesigning the way an organization delivers value through HR is gradually emerging as a trend. On the Performance Management aspect, the shift is happening from the traditional approach of goal-setting, mid-year review, annual appraisal to the new age Performance Management behavior which entails regular feedback and multiple check-in conversations. Organizations are experimenting with bell curve and performance year-end rating as well. Differentiated variable pay, focus on rewarding high performers too have begun to find suitors. Another dimension is the shift from performance alone to potential and performance. HR professionals are in for some exciting times ahead.

About Unmesh Pawar

Unmesh Pawar is Partner and Head of People, Performance and Culture, KPMG. He has over 25 years of experience and comes with strong expertise in talent management strategy and operations, talent acquisition, development and management, employee relations, inclusion and diversity and human resources transformation. Through the course of his career, Unmesh has held several high level leadership positions, his most recent stint was with Accenture where he spent 17 years in a variety of roles. He also served as their Global HR Managing Director of the Products operating group.

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