Skill is the new currency across businesses today: IBM VP

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Published: February 25, 2019 3:37:08 AM

Last year, IBM India announced same gender partner benefits, being one among 13 countries to do so in a 12-month period.

Chaitanya N Sreenivas, vice-president and HR Head, IBM India & South Asia.

The future looks bright for India’s economy, fuelled by an entrepreneurial culture and youthful workforce, among other advantages. However, a looming talent shortage could threaten that future. New technologies, ever-changing skills requirements and outdated curricula are challenging India’s higher education system in its efforts to equip graduates with job-ready skills and employability, says Chaitanya N Sreenivas, vice-president and HR Head, IBM India & South Asia. “To address these challenges, India’s education leaders should consider providing students with requisite skills by partnering with industry, adopting new learning technologies and delivering experience-based, applied learning,” he tells Sudhir Chowdhary in a recent interview. Excerpts:

What skills will the future workforce require to remain relevant?
Our future workforce requires deep technical skills as well as broad domain knowledge. We are seeing a shift towards a full stack technology-based roles. In this changing environment, the ability and open mindset to learn is important. Apart from ability to work with data and analytics, other areas which will pave the way are cloud, cyber security, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, and Blockchain applications.

How is AI transforming HR operations?
At IBM, we see AI as a tremendous untapped opportunity to transform the way companies attract, develop, and build the workforce for the decades ahead. We are embedding AI and digital technology throughout the entire employee lifecycle.

We recently announced IBM Watson Recruitment advisor, an AI-powered solution that increases recruiter’s efficiency and enables HR to improve and accelerate people’s impact on the business. Using structured and unstructured data from applicants, it analyses and ranks the candidates that are the best match for the job, removing any human bias. This empowers our hiring managers and HR professionals to choose the most promising candidate based on the merit of their skills and experience alone and ensure a diverse and inclusive culture as well as build efficiencies in the process.

IBM’s Your Learning platform powered by Watson cognitive capabilities creates a personalised learning environment for each employee, providing a 24×7 interface that responds quickly, flexibly and creatively to the changing technical and business landscape. It provides search, browse, career roadmaps, plus customised learning channels, while its learning analytics link consumption patterns with skill improvement and business impact.

How is IBM expanding the concept of diversity to include more than just gender?
Inclusion and diversity has been one of the core values of IBM and we have always been supportive of other constituencies, like people with different abilities and LGBT+ inclusion in the marketplace to remain an employer of choice for the best talent pool. The launch of a rainbow pride version of our iconic 8-bar logo is a symbol of IBM’s commitment to diversity.

In India especially, we have rolled out several initiatives, the most recent one being our pilot collaboration with Project Vayati, which is an outcome of a consortium we started last year of 30 companies to discuss LGBT inclusion. Project Vayati is being undertaken with Solidarity Foundation and Interweave to skill, empower and recruit marginalised transgender persons via third-party employers.
Last year, IBM India announced same gender partner benefits, being one among 13 countries to do so in a 12-month period. This year we rolled out benefits for covering gender affirmation surgery in IBM India, a true progressive step. We are also looking at the concept of ‘inclusive role models’—under which employees known for supporting inclusion and diversity tell their stories on social media thereby inspiring others.

What are your key priorities as IBM India HR leader?
Skill is the new currency across businesses globally and in India. One of my key priorities include building a workforce that is ahead to the market shifts and which can compete in the era of AI, cognitive and cloud. To keep up with the changing market landscape and emerging technologies the workforce needs to constantly up-skill itself to be relevant in the coming years.

What is your advice to companies looking to build an agile workforce?
To build an agile workforce, companies have to think differently about their traditional ways of approaching work. Leaders have to start with outcomes and experience in mind, and form teams that are empowered to work flexibly and independently. This means less focus on process control and top-down management and more focus on small, nimble teams making rapid progress.

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