Uberization – The next frontier of innovation in HR

Uberization is a metaphor for phenomena where mobile technologies are leveraged to connect a buyer and a seller by creating a digital marketplace for services; eliminating the traditional middlemen, who could be playing the role of an aggregator or capital provider or logistics/infrastructure provider etc.

HR has been playing the role of representing talent to business and business to talent. In doing so, they also play several of the administrative roles that ensure compliance as per agreements and policies. However this role of playing the middlemen between business and talent will eventually shrink and HR will need to reinvent itself for the new role it needs to play in an and being threatened by Uberization of HR.

Talent Acquisition: Responsibility of staffing a company always resided with the HR. However Uberization is changing the story by connecting talent to business directly and turning HR only into only ‘paper shifters’, a role that is rather outsourced. Its not just LinkedIn; but I was involved in brainstorming of an Uberized tool targeting staffing companies where business can directly connect with talent and finish contracting directly – short circuiting HR and the staffing company both!

Talent Administration: Payroll and workforce administration are heavy weights in Talent Admin. Both these functions are experiencing heavy automation resulting in reduction of HR and Uberization is only making the pace faster! Mobile GPS based attendance and wearable devices are latest in attendance tracking for mines and infrastructure that is making the process more seamless and automatic thereby connecting the Business with Talent short-circuiting HR. Mobile based ESS\MSS and Natural Language processing based helpdesk are connecting Information to Talent directly reducing administration tasks in HR

Talent Development: Learning has already seen glimpses of Uberization where Talent is directly connecting with content. MOOCs, Social platforms and corporate wiki are leading the way reducing learning organization to only compliance certification department. Performance management has been down away with in most companies for more continuous feedback; short-circuiting HR.

Now that the trends are clearly showing that Uberization taking over the role of the middlemen, what will HR do? They don’t need to represent talent with Business because business is directly connected with Talent. The answer lies in the question – HR needs to be Business. It could mean further thinning of HR but that is with every function in the company as Uberization pushes the productivity frontier. You may question, so who would represent Talent? Balance of power has switched considerably in favour of Talent and will continue to do so. Thus Talent will present itself!

For what client is willing to pay for?

I was in a marketing class when I had a transformative experience; we were introduced to a new idea that jolted a deep rooted faith. It unfolded like this; we were discussing “what is Value Add?” and several of us spoke about our understanding but the final conclusion was that “Value Addition” is activities for which client is willing to pay. And it had a very important corollary, Non-Value Adding activities are those activities for which client is NOT willing to pay.

My earlier philosophy was that a company must do what it believes is required– irrespective of whether the client is willing to pay for it or not. I believed that cost of such activities for which client is not willing to pay for should be added on top of the cost of activities for which the client is willing to pay for. However after paradigm shift, I started believing that non value added activates should be at best be eliminated!

Steve Jobs once famously quoted “When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.” But this quote didn’t have any meaning for me.

A few days back, I was at a very famous 5 star hotel for my holidays. My family and I were awestruck at the beauty of the hotel – the architecture was phenomenal. On the last night of our stay, we invited our relatives for dinner and we were thoroughly impressed by the hospitality and comforts. After a sumptuous dinner; my wife and I walked our guests to their bike. We had a good walk until we reached the basement – When we reached the car park we realised it was a different world! It was at best shabby.  Then we walked to the bike parking and the situation worsened – it had instructions all around – parking at owner’s risk, don’t leave helmet on the bike etc… We felt bad that such a beautiful hotel had such a bad basement. It was dirty, no paint … plain ugly! It hit us more badly when we realised this parking was mainly for the employees who took such good care of us! It also made our guests go to a place so bad before they could get to the restaurant.

I felt why did the hotel leave the place so bad? I stumbled upon the fact that normally clients never get to this place! We never had before! We left our cars to chauffers for parking!

What do MOST clients pay for? Food, beautiful rooms and corridors, hospitality… Those are all top class! Who cares about comfort of the employees and their parking? So it becomes a “Non-Value Adding” activity and cost.

Uberization, The next frontier for Innovation

Uberization is a metaphor for phenomena where mobile technologies are leveraged to connect a buyer and a seller by creating a digital marketplace for services; eliminating the traditional middlemen, who could be playing the role of an aggregator or capital provider or logistics/infrastructure provider etc.

Capture

I consider Uberization as Industrial Revolution 3.0 because of its disruptive ability and ability to drive next phase of productivity gains, which is now getting stagnant. It essentially eliminates the middlemen thereby creating more margin for seller and lesser price for buyer without any loss of quality to the service. The fact that the buyer and seller are closer also increases the ability of seller to customize product more by understanding their needs better. Also the digital marketplace is highly scalable and thus a proven model can be taken across geographies rather quickly. Online market place also provides benefits that an aggregator traditionally provides such as brand awareness and consistent and unique value proposition. It also could help meet compliance requirements and bring discipline to the market once it takes sufficient scale.

Are there flipside to it? Yes of course! Recent times I have seen some; Uberization empowers the buyer and the seller and it expects them to use the power judiciously. Also Uberization is a new phenomenon and Law and order is still catching up to protect the seller and the buyer. This makes the buyer and seller more vulnerable. A segment of buyers and sellers are still having change management challenges and have not adapted to the new ways of operating. This has led to multiple channels of order for seller; complicating the value chain.

Despite the challenges, Uberization is the way to go because dream of every nation is to create a society where there is minimum inefficiency between the seller and the buyer and Uberization delivers on this promise.

Designing for what?

Today I took a long walk in Paris. It was a wonderful evening walk and just after rain had cleaned the city and rejuvenated the river.

I saw many Monuments, different building designs, different looking cars… and I found them rather odd. I wondered why they were designed the way they were. I felt may be they were designed right way but they look odd to me because I am not used to seeing things that way; may be I am used to seeing things a particular way and those ways are the ‘right’ ways in my mind. May be I should get out of my concepts and change the definition of right more broadly.

Well then what’s a right design? How do I get away from my bias?

Design that meets a purpose is right design. So what is the purpose and should the purpose be right for design to be right? At the outset, it seems apparent that if the purpose is right, then perhaps the design that meets the purpose too is right!

Let me check my heuristic on what is the most common purpose in India?

  • Efficiency?
  • sabse kum may sabse jyaada?
  • Usne bola… woh samajh daar hai… (par mujhse kum)

I don’t have a very strong heuristic for what purpose drives Parisians but one thing is evident, there is a need to be ‘different’. May be sometimes, when there isnt much to ‘better’, ‘different’ is just fine.