Q&A: Mahantesh Patil on Digital Transformation in the Age of COVID-19

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David Rice

Digital Transformation Q&A

Digital transformation is ramping up as workforces are forced into virtual environments and companies reconsider how we do business in the wake of a pandemic.

The truth is, a digital transformation has been coming for some time, with automation, machine learning and virtual customer and employee experiences expanding exponentially. To discuss how HR, employees and organizations as a whole can better prepare for this transformation, we sat down with Mahantesh Patil, Change Leader of Digital and Agile Enterprise Transformation for Allianz.

Patil will serve feature at our upcoming Employee Engagement and Experience APAC online event as a participant in a panel discussion titled “How Critical is Change Management in Digital Transformation of HR.”

HREN: We see this digital transformation taking place but it’s something that can be met with resistance from people. What advice do you have for HR professionals to help people see this as an opportunity to grow and evolve into a new era of work rather than seeing it as a danger to their futures?

It may sound harsh but already the future has been pushed in to a danger zone with the impact of COVID. People need to get ready for future proofing their skills as needed by the enterprises, and also HR functions. To move along the times, HR will be mandated to embrace digital transformation. The top executives or CXOs making transformation the goal would enable the HR to make plans and start taking "baby steps". Though it may see resistance initially, the acceptance of change would become part of regular activities.

HREN: We talk a lot about instilling a growth mindset in people as a way to help them embrace change, but what are some of the first steps to helping people get started on that journey?

The first step towards building a growth mindset is comprised of training, piloting and connecting with the performance outcome. The training becomes a critical part of enabling people to start building a growth mindset through the frameworks of Design Thinking and Agile ways of working. Piloting small projects to apply these frameworks to help create an outcome that can solve a problem of any magnitude. Most importantly the quarterly goals for HR should include the expectations on outcome using these frameworks. 

HREN: As organizations, I think we can all see the need for change right now and for many it’s not an option. But how do we keep evolving on a consistent basis so that change doesn’t have to be forced, it’s just part of what we do?

Again the response to the previous point is valid here also. Just imagine HR people doing something currently that was not taught in colleges or learnt in last couple of weeks. HR in manufacturing behaves differently than the HR in Oil/Gas Industry, so the question is how did they learn these practices? Similarly, change related outcomes need to be part of goals coming from top. I've used OKR-Objectives and Key Results Framework for this, which works to make any function to make "change" as part of regular activities. In fact, I did my pilot of OKR on HR functions!

HREN: With COVID being one of those rare events that touches the whole world, has the pandemic sort of level set digital expectations regardless of location? Do you think employees and businesses across the world are viewing the changes they’ve experienced in the same way and how do you think those changes will be permanent?

Yes, COVID has forced the need of transformation more like a tsunami than five year plan and has completely gone against the plans of any enterprise or set of people across the world. 

Irrespective of the employees and business viewing this change as needed or permanent, the world has been forced to practice the acceptance of this change. The acceptance has led to making permanent changes like new ways of working, remote work being accepted for more than 50% of working time, reduced office spaces, leveraging digital platforms, reduced travel budget and skill enhancement plans. 

Here is the kicker. I'd introduced a Digital Collaboration Platform before lockdown, which has helped to increase productivity by 20% during this crisis as if I knew when lockdown would be enforced. More functions have been implementing this platform now as a result.

HREN: When we look at the next decade, how close do we come to a hybrid workforce by the end of it? What will be the most difficult parts of that transformation?  

Decade would be a pretty long shot. Looking at the impacts being created across the world in terms of politics, trade, COVID infections repeatedly hitting the workforce and disruptions in business models. Transformation will be part of DNA, like how people got acquainted with writing emails on their own with advent of MS-Office than depending on typewriters or stenos.  Every school or university in the world has been forced to do "remote teaching", whether they had invested in the infrastructure or created channels before COVID.

Changing the mindsets and practices people are used to would be the greatest challenge of transformation, but we’re doing it right now and will need to continue.

Photo Courtesy of Stock Photo Secrets

HR Exchange Live: Employee Engagement and Experience APAC

HR Exchange: Employee Engagement and Experience APAC includes sessions with top experts in the HR field along with applicable, real-life examples of how a robust culture supports the workforce and the company’s bottom-line.  We also provide access to some of the most well-known and cutting edge solution providers to help provide technology and strategy to enhance the employee experience paradigm within your company. This FREE to attend event allows you to dial in from the comfort of your desk and listen to HR leaders live or on demand!