Changes to the working world are being driven on many fronts, as generational shifts in attitudes, the introduction of robots and automation and more engender rapid transformation.

Now, suddenly, the new reality of COVID-19 is demanding businesses change the way they operate just to stay in business. 

For Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs), embracing digital work models has become an immediate necessity, and the pandemic a catalyst for a strategic change in people management that might otherwise have taken years.

Many large organizations, however, have legacy HR systems that prevent them from becoming streamlined and operationally efficient. But to manage people in the digital world, where employees can (and due to the coronavirus in many roles now must) work from anywhere, multinationals need a uniform HR process. This should be standardized throughout the employee journey, from recruitment to retention.

The example of one multinational, which embraced change well before the coronavirus pandemic, illustrates the benefits for companies facing up to the new world of work.

The company’s HR systems were hindering employee management. Dependencies on HR were leading to delays in completing tasks, which in turn translated into poor operational efficiency. 

In 2019, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) deployed its Workforce 4.0 concept to help the company design and adopt modern HR practices using Oracle HCM Cloud. New processes were defined, and disparate HR systems were consolidated on to a single platform.

Next, TCS helped the company automate and standardize HR approval workflows across 28 countries. With minimized process delays and faster decision-making, the company increased employee productivity and delivered an improved and consistent user experience.

In total, 19,000 employee records were converted to the new platform, improving data quality, reducing maintenance overheads and delivering operational efficiencies across all business units. The solution also addressed diversity and was deployed in 19 languages.

Since its launch across the organization, Workforce 4.0 has significantly increased the effectiveness of its HR operations across the network.

What is Workforce 4.0?

Arunava A. Chakrabarty, Digital Sales Leader & Cloud Evangelist at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), says companies can deliver better business outcomes by implementing digital technologies. Organizations that do this are best positioned to thrive in times of disruption and change. 

Workforce 4.0 is about unleashing human potential fuelled by AI, automation and emerging technology, he says.

Moreover, it is about making work more meaningful, smarter, simpler and more agile. Today, all enterprises, schools and many other organizations are forced to find new ways of working in order for people to stay connected with each other and the business. 

“But how prepared are enterprises and their workforces to work in a digital era?” asks Jessica Molina, Director, HR Transformation, TCS Europe. “An unexpected world event elevates the opportunity to reinvent models of digital ways of working, including business processes.”

There are four pillars to the Workforce 4.0 philosophy: empowered, connected, diverse and talent. As Chakrabarty says, it is designed to empower CHROs to tap the potential of the next-generation workforce, enabling them to attract and retain the right talent to establish the enterprises of the future. Technology can be used to augment their experience.

At the heart of Workforce 4.0 is the realization that an outstanding employee experience leads to a state-of-the-art customer experience. This can be illustrated by what’s known as the HR Transformation Pyramid. 

Experience drives growth

“The HR Transformation Pyramid starts with employee experience (EX) first, that leads to customer experience (CX) and that leads to growth. It is all related. When the EX and CX are at the highest level, the business benefits will be at their peak and that is when you realize that you have embraced the future of work for your enterprise,” says Chakrabarty.

“Putting employees first is a good way to create a workforce that delivers strong performance,” says Ruud Geensen, Senior Sales Director, HCM for Oracle, who worked with TCS on transforming the HR legacy systems of the global multinational. 

“I would say two things. Make sure you have the highest employee experience − that is where it starts. I think technology makes it possible to work on the highest level of user experience,” he says.

The new normal

Chakrabarty says that in today’s global crisis, motivation, mental strength and effective collaboration between employees are paramount. “CHROs need to embrace the Workforce 4.0 principles to ensure their organizations go above and beyond to bring the best to their customers even during critical times,” he says.

Employee development needs to encourage flexibility, adds Molina. “A workforce that is able to deal with ambiguity can effectively cope with change, shift gears comfortably, decide and act without having the total picture, and handle risk and uncertainty,” she says.

TCS has demonstrated its flexibility by enabling Secure Borderless Work Spaces (SBWS) for its more than 400,000 employees during the global pandemic, enabling them to work from home and stay connected to colleagues and customers through social collaboration platforms like Microsoft Teams.

Inclusion is key

In this new world, people, culture and technology work together. 

Inclusion and diversity are core principles of Workforce 4.0, explains Molina. “You do not need only the smartest people. The best teams have a balance.

“That is why companies are also looking to become more inclusive. People should be able to be themselves at work – in the end, it is all about happiness.”

Jessica Molina, Arunava A. Chakrabarty and Ruud Geensen. Source: Tata Consultancy Services

Chakrabarty says that the key factor to drive a very successful workforce powered by diversity and inclusion is the employee happiness index. 

Organizations need to ensure that the employees have the sense of belonging to their firm and have a very strong bonding between colleagues leading to a very high happiness index.

Understanding the connection between people, culture, processes and technology is key to successfully implementing Workforce 4.0, says Molina

“I see companies struggle with the potential of new technologies within HR, how to redesign process models, how to deal with their people, wondering what kind of capabilities they need to successfully transform to new business models, what kind of experience to give, and so on.”

Embrace the unknown

Technology can be used to augment experiences in multiple ways. Personalizing the work experience and using data to make better and more informed decisions in hiring will be the norm for the enterprises of the future. 

“We urge HR departments to embrace the unknown, to leverage the ecosystem and to explore together how Digital Human Capital Management can support people experiences and the business,” says Molina.

“Organizations adopting the key mantra of Workforce 4.0 would be able to stay relevant and grow in today’s disruptive ecosystem,” says Chakrabarty.