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Sunday June 23rd, 2024

Dr Nivani Fernando on Bringing Strategic Human Resource to the Mainstream

Dr Nivani Fernando, Manager of Human Resources at Cloud Solutions International

Dr Nivani Fernando, Manager of Human Resources at Cloud Solutions International, a UAE-based software development company in the healthcare domain reflects on the often overlooked yet critical role of strategic HR planning. With a PhD in HR and a career exclusively in the tech industry, Nivani shares insights into managing and inspiring people, the most critical component of any venture. At a time when the tech industry is confronting a brain drain, Nivani has been instrumental in flatlining employee turnover at Cloud Solutions International, seamlessly bridging skills gaps in pace with evolving tech overhauls.

 Can you share some insights on how strategic human resource planning can effectively align with a company’s overall business strategy?

Strategic human resource planning is critical for business success in a world in constant change. It is a bridge that connects a company’s overarching business strategy with its most crucial asset—its people, and aligns HR strategies with business objectives ensuring that every facet of a business organization is geared towards a common goal, optimizing performance and efficiency.

The approach to strategic HR planning starts with understanding the detailed demands of the business—not just for the present but also for the future, and entails identifying the skills required to achieve current objectives and anticipating the needs that new technologies and market shifts might bring. A pivotal part of any HR strategy involves proactive talent management, where we focus on acquiring new talents and upskilling existing employees to fill emerging gaps.

We emphasize flexibility in our HR practices to accommodate rapid changes in the tech industry. For instance, when a new technology emerges that requires specific new skill sets, a strategic HR team is prepared to adapt fast, whether that means altering the recruitment focus or implementing targeted training programmes. This adaptability is crucial in maintaining the pace of innovation and competitive edge of a business, requiring HR professionals to build deep domain knowledge of the industries they are involved with and understand how people can thrive in their careers.

Strategic HR planning at our company isn’t just about filling positions or maintaining personnel records. It’s about creating a dynamic environment that evolves as quickly as the technologies we work with, ensuring that every team member is equipped with the necessary skills, fully engaged and aligned with where the company is heading. This strategic alignment ensures people can fulfil their roles and drive the company forward, contributing to a thriving organizational culture and sustained business growth.

 In your experience, what are the common challenges HR professionals confront when executing strategic human resource planning? How can these challenges be mitigated to ensure successful implementation?

In strategic human resource planning, one of the most significant challenges is ensuring that HR strategies align seamlessly with the rapidly changing needs of the business, especially in dynamic sectors like technology. However, HR often isn’t seen as a strategic partner, which can limit its effectiveness.

There are several measures to mitigate these challenges and ensure the successful implementation of HR strategies. Effective strategic HR planning necessitates ongoing communication between HR and other departments. This continuous dialogue ensures that HR strategies align with business goals and have the flexibility to adapt to new challenges. Regular strategy meetings and feedback loops between HR and leadership teams are essential to maintain this alignment.

Empowering HR as a strategic partner is crucial. It involves giving HR a seat at the table during strategic discussions and decision-making processes, fostering a culture where HR’s insights and contributions are valued at a strategic level. Educating other leaders and the workforce about the strategic importance of HR can also shift perceptions and demonstrate how integral HR is to achieving business outcomes, and this may include showcasing success stories where strategic HR initiatives have directly contributed to business achievements.

Additionally, HR should lead in developing agile learning environments that promote quick adaptation to new technologies and market demands, entailing plans to upskill existing employees and integrate learning opportunities into the career progression of every employee.

HR professionals also need to be adept in change management to effectively handle the human side of business transformations. This includes understanding how to communicate changes to the workforce, managing resistance to change, and providing support where needed to ensure a smooth transition, which can be constant and frequent in the tech industry.

 Can you provide examples from your current role on how setting specific goals has positively impacted the HR function and contributed to the overall business objectives?

In my current role, setting specific HR goals has significantly shaped both our HR functions and the broader business objectives with the direction of the management. We refined our talent acquisition process to align closely with the rapidly evolving technological demands of the IT industry. By proactively identifying skill gaps and strategically planning our recruitment, upskilling, and competitive employee compensations, we have mitigated common industry challenges, such as high employee turnover.

A pivotal initiative was our partnership with the Universities, where we recruited fresh graduates and integrated them into projects addressing new technological demands. This collaboration remedied our immediate skill shortages and fostered a sustainable talent pipeline equipped for future technological shifts, and incorporating fresh perspectives and innovative ideas from new talent has substantially boosted our productivity and technological edge.

A cornerstone of our HR strategy is the focus on employee happiness and satisfaction, underpinned by the belief that a satisfied employee is more productive. We continuously assess employee engagement and satisfaction, allowing us to refine our corporate guidelines and create a more conducive workplace environment.

Our approach to upskilling eschews the rigidity often associated with corporate learning. Employees enjoy free access to world-class learning portals learning at their own pace and selecting subjects that interest them or enhance their job performance. This flexibility promotes continuous learning as a lifestyle within our organization. On top of that, we conduct regular sessions with experts on technical skills, soft skills and work-life balance to foster personal growth and well-being.

Change management is another critical area where our HR department ensures seamless transitions through organizational changes, whether due to technological advances or strategic shifts. This capability is essential for maintaining operational continuity and minimizing disruptions.

We also maintain stringent oversight of HR operational efficiencies, including metrics like time-to-hire and cost-per-hire, which gauge our effectiveness in supporting organizational growth efficiently.

Moreover, the quality of hire is a key performance indicator we track to evaluate how well new employees integrate into our culture and contribute to our objectives. This metric directly influences our overall productivity and growth and ensures everyone is made a part of something more by contributing to something great.