Mercer CEO on India's innovative potential in HR digitalisation

06 June 2019 3 min. read
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Martine Ferland has made her first trip to India since her appointment as the global CEO at human resources (HR) consulting firm Mercer, and has found India to in the early stages of its “journey” towards a digitalised HR environment, as revealed in an interview with the Economic Times

Much like developing countries across the globe, businesses in India were initially reluctant to embrace the wave of digitalisation sweeping across global businesses. This scenario has improved in recent years, as an increasing number of businesses in the country are investing in various areas of digital advancement.

However, firms that have invested in technology have been selective in the operations that they have sought to enhance, and HR has fallen far behind in this regard. HR as a field in India has been struggling with innovation for a number of years now, as most businesses continue to be satisfied with the structures in place.

A report from global professional services firm KPMG in 2017 revealed that nearly 60% of businesses in India lack an HR business case when it comes to devising change programmes. KPMG, alongside a number of other firms, have been vocal in emphasising that an innovative approach to HR is crucial to the new digital business environment.

Martine Ferland - CEO at Mercer

Ferland has reiterated this sentiment. As the business environment across the globe becomes disrupted by new technological implements, the right approach to staying above water is to maintain a degree of flexibility in business operations, and allow technology to make improvements where it can.

According to Ferland, data analytics is the way forward when it comes to recruiting strategies, given its ability to expand recruitment pools beyond a network of known associates. Data can also ensure that recruitment practices are fair and equal.

“For instance, we looked at how technology can help in debunking biases in recruitment, management and promotion process. A simple thing such as scanning a job definition and making sure the language used is gender neutral , doesn’t use terms that are heavily worded to appeal more to men than women, all can be done efficiently with technology,” said Ferland.

Commenting on her view of the Indian market, she said, “Indian companies are a bit more traditional in approach as far as using technology in HR practices though talent seems to be quite abundant here. The Nordic countries, for instance, are very advanced in HR using technology and so is it in the US. In India, I see it as a journey… they are keen on using technology but not there yet. However, the willingness and appetite to learn to be very tech-savvy as employees have been very impressive in talent from India. The depth and quality of talent and the level of efficiencies of people (from India) is second to none in the world… I don’t see it anywhere else.”