Last Saturday, 23rd January 2016, I attended a panel discussion held at The Academy of Human Resources Development (AHRD), Ahmedabad. (http://www.academyofhrd.org/index.php) The celebration of the evening was in memory of the late Dr Udai Pareek who is widely known as the ‘Father of HRD in India’. Prof Pestonjee (co-founder of AHRD) and Major General Sanjiv Shukla were amongst the many esteemed guests present in the audience. Prof Pestonjee’s shared his memories of having worked with Dr Udai Pareek. Though Dr Pareek was not new to most of the audience, many aspects of his life and work was seen in fresh light. This is the true reflection of an intellectual’s life. True to his wish ‘Don’t mourn my death, celebrate it’, every speaker spoke of how one can live this philosophy. It was touching to hear the humility with which such a luminary Dr Pareek actually lived his life.
The panelists included a good mix of academia (Prof Khokle and Prof Singh) and industry (Shri Goswami, Shri Sharma, Shri Nair). Dr Rajeshwari Narendran (Director, AHRD) moderated the session in her trademark style which ensured the audience were treated to some of the best emerging ideas on human resource development. She involved the audience actively to bring out variety and depth to the conversation. At times I felt that I was part of a very large group discussion with an amazing moderator. The program ended with lighter chat over a tasty dinner. I (along with my friends) enjoyed the evening and had much to talk on our way back.
The discussions revolved around the challenges faced by HR today and the potential future that it is creating for itself. It was interesting to watch how candid conversations were had over tough questions. The discussions touched almost every aspect of HR and brought out how HR had to change in today’s knowledge driven society. Some of the key questions which I carried away that may be of interest to either a forward looking HR practitioner or an inquisitive HR researcher:
- Is HR a department or a service?
- Should HR get a seat on the board and be involved in business decisions?
- How can we make India the HR Hub of the world?
- Establishing why HR is needed in an organisation?
- HR should go beyond employees – how?
- Should companies do away with the Bell Curve?
- How should performance management systems of the future look?
- How should HR engage with employees?
- How should analytics be used in HR and by HR professionals?
- How should employees be inspired beyond rewards and recognition?
- Is there a functional arrogance amongst HR professionals? How is it affecting practice?
- How should the concept of co-creation be implemented in HR practice?
- How should HR be structured and made available amongst Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises?
- Should HR be transferred back to the line manager?
- How should HR handle exceptions?
I am sure everyone in audience left with a unique set of questions. These (stated above) are few of mine.
During the deliberations various academic publications were referred to and number of organisational examples cited. Major General Shukla ended the formal discussions by raising some interesting questions and providing potential projects for HR enthusiasts.
In a technology driven society wherein knowledge workers are on the rise, the HR function has both a plethora of challenges and opportunities. With the growing thrust on startups in India, the role of HR in its truest sense and spirit has only got to get more essential and important. As an entrepreneurship researcher, educator and advisor, I came away feeling high from the intellectually stimulating evening.