Workday Podcast: How to Transform Resource Management

To get the best out of resource management, firms need to reimagine how they use technology and empower their teams. Shalu Manan, global talent supply chain leader at Genpact, a professional services firm, shares her approach.

Audio also available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

The fundamental goal of the professional services industry is to sell expertise to clients. That’s according to Shalu Manan, global talent supply chain leader at Genpact. Cultivating expertise, Manan explains, is all about cultivating people and talent. Firms must upgrade their services to continually create value for clients who sit in a wide range of industries, while also examining the aspirations of consultants and how their professional growth converges with successful client outcomes. 

It’s a tall order requiring a transformation in resource management. On a recent episode of the Workday Podcast, we spoke with Manan about how technology can help optimize resource management, how AI is evolving the role of the resource manager, and the latest trends.

Here are a few highlights from Manan, edited for clarity. You can find our entire podcast catalog here

  • “In a business of expertise, you have to have that fine balance of projecting what is coming five steps ahead from the customer’s standpoint and then see how you are going to make sure that you are matching this talent demand with the right kind of supply. That could be inside your organization or outside, but you have to move with agility.”

  • “I think resource managers have an exciting job to do at the cusp of economic value for the company and emotional value for the person. I have the best job in my organization to connect the two.”

  • “I believe artificial intelligence can completely change the way talent supply chains run. It has such a tremendous value for resource management. There are a couple of use cases. The first one is your ability to plan. There’s an amazing statement I share with my team a lot: Vision without action is a daydream, and action without a vision is a nightmare. And somewhere in between the vision and the action lies the plan.”

Julie Jares: If you're a professional services leader, you've probably put names on a whiteboard or in a spreadsheet to assign workers to projects. You may have found you don't have complete insight into the right people for some jobs, or the best insights into their skills, their availability, or even the highest priority projects. To transform resource management, firms need to reimagine how they use technology and empower their teams.

I’m Julie Jares, Senior Manager of Content Marketing at Workday, and I'm here with Shalu Manan, Global Talent Supply Chain Leader at Genpact. We'll be talking about how technology can help optimize resource management, the evolving role of the resource manager, and key trends to consider. Shalu, welcome to the Workday podcast.

Shalu Manan: Thank you, Julie. Thank you for having me. It's an absolute pleasure to be here talking to you today.

Jares: Thanks so much for joining us. So could you share a bit about yourself and Genpact?

Manan: So Genpact is a professional services company working from 30+ countries with 120,000+ employees. We are listed in the New York Stock Exchange. And we are focused on leveraging technology, data, and process to transform our customers' enterprise-level functions. And I've been with Genpact for over 22 years.

Jares: Congratulations.

Manan: Thank you. So myself, I am, as you said, the global talent supply chain leader. I'll quote Maya Angelou. I am a fan of her work. And she said that my mission in life is to not just survive, but thrive, and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style. And I really relate to that mission. I believe I'm here to make things better for people around me. And I'm driven by being a catalyst in helping our people achieve better and greater things from their career and find that meaning at work. So that's what I do every day in my job.

Jares: And technology, it's a good segue. It can play a key role in helping make things better. Certainly assigning the right people with the right roles is something that's important.

Can you set the stage for us and share some of the trends you're seeing in the professional services industry, particularly around talent and resource management?

Manan: So the professional services industry is fundamentally selling expertise to its customers. And expertise is all about people and talent, and how do you constantly upgrade our services with our intention to create value for our end users who are sitting in diverse industries. And you have to constantly look at the aspirations of our people and how it is converging with what is success for our customers.

So we are constantly at the cusp of balancing what our customers need from services as well as products that will create value for them and their end users, and how our talent is upgraded and relevant and upskilled to be creating that value for them. So in a business of expertise, you have to have that fine balance of projecting what is coming five steps ahead of you from the customer's standpoint and then see how are you going to make sure that you are matching this talent demand with the right kind of supply. And that could be inside your organization or outside, but you have to move with agility. You have to look for adjacency in the world which is so driven by artificial intelligence. And you actually don't know what kind of jobs will emerge in the new industries that we are all going to service. And you have to constantly correct yourself and move in a way that your talent is ready to not just service the customers, but your talent is inspired to make a great career for themselves. And that creates a unique, I don't wanna say threat, but challenge for the resource management organization, which is sitting in the middle of all of this dynamic nature of how employees' aspirations are evolving and how customers' expectation from the talent that serves them is, is constantly in that churn and change, so. I see that creating very exciting opportunity for all of us.

Jares: I was in the consulting world, and I know back then it was just spreadsheets and what you knew about someone and that's how you matched a client and an employee to something. And it was ripe for innovation, certainly.

Manan: Yeah.

Jares: You mentioned so many different challenges for HR and resource managers. How are organizations figuring this out? How are they solving it? How are they addressing it?

Manan: My personal take on talent supply chain and how organizations should look at matching this demand against supply is about the mission part of saying are you creating opportunities of matching employees' aspirations with your client success? So how are you making sure you're creating pathways for your people to find more meaningful work that makes them not just aligned to where they see themselves, but in that process, constantly create value. And here's the fun fact. You can go ahead and invest in skills and development of people, but if it is not fast enough, then your time to value for your customer can come in the way of your revenue acceleration. It could come in the way on optimizing your margins. And in the process, HR leaders will struggle with retaining great talent. Because if you look at all the studies today, most people do not want to be in organizations where they do not see a pathway to where they're going in terms of upskilling themselves and staying relevant and finding jobs that give them meaning. So you have to constantly balance that and how you leverage technology and how you use the power of data to get those actionable insights in time by seeing the demand being forecasted a couple of months in advance and matching it against the supply pools that are getting created, both inside your organization and what's outside available, and then making your choices. That makes a lot of difference in both speed to revenue as well as the margins and their health in making your organization sustainably profitable while staying relevant for your employees' success.

Jares: So I can imagine people listening to that and feeling a little bit overwhelmed. [laughter] So for firms looking to transform their approach to resource management, where would you suggest they focus first? How do you break it down for us to make it feel more approachable?

Manan: So Julie, if I step back, I would actually take a very simple approach. And, and it's a simple approach, but simple is not easy. It is, in my experience, one of the toughest things to go after. You must take a holistic approach. Now, what does that mean? I look at transformation from the lens of process, how do you get work done; policy, what is mandatory to be followed; and technology, how will you enable that process and policy to get followed. Right? And when you do good technology on a streamlined process, you generate some amazing data. And how you use that data, and what is that data telling you about the patterns of what gets done by those processes, if you have ways to capture those insights, convert them into wisdom that you can use to constantly refine and upgrade your processes and policies, you will service the people better. And these people are both your customers, as well as your employees. I personally believe that your customers' experience can never be better than your employees' experience. And in the job of the resource manager, or overall talent supply chain, if you think about it, it is about saying, how do I make sure that I have the process, the policy, the technology, and data working well for the people who are the center of the supply chain. And the formula is not just addition. It's multiplication. If you can figure out how will you put the focus on the right things at the right time.

And if I were to spell it out, I would start by saying simplify your process and policy first from the lens of the experience of the people. Second, standardize. You can never have great responses or results from good technology if you do not have a standard way of working. Now, I'm not saying that you will not have exceptions. I'm just saying simplify the process in the service of people you serve with an intention to make it universal, make it global, and make it work most of the time in the right way. And when you are following that path of simplify first, standardize second, and then automate, you get the maximum result from the technology that you apply. And in my view, anybody who's transforming the way they do resource fulfillment, the way they do talent demand identification, forecasting, and use that forecasting for workforce planning and taking staffing decisions, if they can be smart about aggregating the employee aspirations, preferences, their skills, their experiences, and mine that data, and then match it against what is the customer looking for as a service from your organization, and what does it mean for the jobs and the skills and the people that will serve, that matching, when done with good technology, can give you such meaningful insights to not just make good staffing decisions, but really purposefully guiding your employees towards a career that they're really proud of.

And in that process, obviously, your cost of fulfillment will come down. Your speed to service customers will go up. And, when I say go up, it will be accelerated and, and not slow down. And your ability to create value for all people involved will be much higher. And these stakeholders are not just the employee and the customer at that point. It's also the community that you as an organization will serve and support in achieving its dreams and aspirations. So I think resource managers have an exciting job to do, which is at the cusp of economic value for the company and emotional value for the person. And you have an amazing job. And I feel I have the best job in my organization to really connect the two, so to make good money, but while getting great outcomes for your people, so.

Jares: Yeah. So you spoke about data insights, and we know how important AI is about getting insights from data. It's always part of the conversation in business today. What do you see as the role of technology and AI machine learning in resource management?

Manan: It's a very valid question, and everybody's talking about artificial intelligence. I believe artificial intelligence can completely change the way talent supply chains run. It has such a tremendous value for resource management. There are a couple of use cases that I can talk about. The first one is your ability to plan. Now, there is an amazing statement. I share it with my team a lot. Vision without action is a daydream, and action without a vision is a nightmare. And somewhere in between the vision and the action, lies the plan. Now, using artificial intelligence, when you plan on the back of your pattern study, which gives you a model to refer to, and then you apply it on the real-world data, you start learning, and you start feeding back, and you start using that prediction to not just take smarter decisions, but you can go ahead and remove the biases that this process of matching demand and supply can have on people.

And while it can have a social value when you remove biases in terms of matching demand against supply, I think the power of artificial intelligence is not just restricted towards the analytics of the data and the intelligence or wisdom from that data and the pattern study and how it can predict for future in terms of what's your vulnerability of the deals that you are proposing to your customers. And if you can predict that vulnerability, you can pretty much predict the workforce that you would need to service that, that proposal that you've given to your customer. And your ability to then proactively plan for that talent, either by seeding fresher talent from the market, creating jobs for campus graduates who are young folks who don't have a lot of experience, but they have a lot of energy to do something meaningful. But they obviously need a longer lead time to get trained appropriately.

So if you can use artificial intelligence to predict the skills that are needed 90 days out to service your customer -- and you may not know exactly which customer, but if you see the pattern of your VINs and your talent that is linked to those VINs and services that you give to your customer, and you can use that intelligence to say, "I'm going to prepare a pool of ready-to-deploy people who are trained, who are ready to be put on customer assignments." I can create so many jobs for this fresh talent from outside. And I can create multiple career streams for my internal employees because I can open the market, in a way that I'm using that intelligence to tell them that, "Hey, you always wanted to do this job. It's going to come, probably, in 90 days. But to be there, you have these three training courses to finish." So I can put a recommendation engine, which could almost be like a career sherpa. And you don't need a human sherpa for it. You need an artificial intelligence-powered sherpa who in the system guides your career to say, "That's your dream job. And to be there, here are the 10 jobs that you might have to do in between. Here are the six certifications that you have to do. And it's a three-year journey for you." And when the job emerges, you kind of send a notification to your employee saying, "Hey, there's a job that might come your way. Just make sure you-- you're trained for it."

So I am thrilled by the opportunities artificial intelligence creates for both employees and employers to service our customers better. And I feel we are working against time. I mean, I want something as of yesterday. But yeah, we are all experimenting. We are figuring out how do we upgrade our matching engines, how do we create those career sherpas in the form of bots and tools for our employees, as well as how do I apply prediction engines for my forecasting of supply pools and demand in the market and use all that intelligence to create a supply chain that's proactive, that's predictive, and that's serving the people in its process of fulfilling demand.

Jares: It's so exciting to think about what we have to look forward to and the opportunities ahead.

Manan: Yeah, yeah.

Jares: Speaking more about the future, what do you see as the future for resource management, for professional services, in the next five years?

Manan: I think no one can predict the future at this stage. But if I were to take a stab at what I'm seeing in my own job and I'm seeing in the industry around me, resource management will move dramatically towards being a career advisor as well as a margin optimizer for the business. Now, let me put some color on it. Traditionally, people have thought resource management is all about managing bench, managing unbillable talent, finding ways to make people earn revenue. And here's a resource manager who's just checking who's coming off projects and finding them the next job and putting into that project. And their primary goal is, "Let me reduce the bench time people have, and let me make sure that the time spent on billable work goes up." And here's what happens. That as you think about resource managers in the new context, the way I'm looking at it and then the way I'm looking at the future and the play technology has and how we can empower the resource manager to do more than, than just bench management, I think majority of resource managers' time will go in using this, this intelligence which comes from tech and data to accelerate revenue for the organization, which means that they will truly become the staffing strategist for the growth in the business. They will bring a point of view which is based on what are the supply pools availability looking like, what are the skills and competencies they bring to the table, and how they can service the customer better, and what would be the time for me to fulfill that, including where will I get the premium of matching which kind of supply pool. And that will have a positive impact on the health of the margins in every deal that you do with your customers. Right?

So I think there is a very business economic value that resource managers will get beyond just managing bench. And in that process, they will become the best friend to employees because they will start using this intelligence that is seeded in advising employees what could be your next career move. So imagine if I could mine all the data for people who just have been like me. You know, just imagine that I'm a help desk analyst, and I want to know, people who were help desk analysts, where did they reach in 4 years' or 5 years' time? And if I mine that data for an organization which has been around for, say, 30 years and I see that this job was there 10 years back and now it's been 10 years, and I've seen people move through this job and I start mining this data to say, "Hey, you know what? A person who might be a help desk analyst can become an HR leader one day." And typically it takes them 10 years to move in that journey. And here are the kind of certifications they've done. Here are the kind of career moves they have done. Here are the kind of jobs they have done. Here are the kind of experiences they've had. And this intelligence can tell people, A, they're not alone. They don't have to be worried about, "Do I need to know everything about my next career move?" Maybe not. Just focus on doing a great job today. Invest in your upskilling and learning new skills. But know that people like you have navigated different jobs and reached multiple spaces. And just that power given to people through a resource manager can help people make great careers.

And I feel the future of resource management in being that career advisor while being a revenue accelerator is where the maximum value of talent supply chain will come. And resource managers will be tech-savvy data storytellers because they will do a lot of influencing to both the business teams, as well as employees to make right choices about their careers and about their staffing. And I think it's an exciting time to use both tech process and data to do a great job in creating value for the organization.

Jares: I want to focus on one thing you said about upskilling and learning. I know that that is something that you feel strongly, passionately about. And you have written about building innovation legacy. I would love for you to share a bit about what that means to you and how leaders can really empower their teams to be more innovative. We know it's so important right now. You have to keep learning and growing, or you're going to get left behind.

Manan: I think the advancement in technology, our ability to be able to do things which nobody imagined 10 years back, is empowering every person to think about their world and the people they work for, their world differently. And what that means is this, that everybody should be taught how to think about human-centered innovation. It is not something that you will just know it. You may be born with imagination. We're all curious at the way we are coded, right? But nature versus nurture are two important things. And I believe that innovation literacy, when nurtured from a young age, can help our people to constantly reimagine the future. They can use the power of how to solve problems in a more collaborative manner. They can explore new ways of doing things. They can be inspired by imagining something that doesn't exist.

And these are skills. While it's very easy to say you should be an empathetic leader, what does empathy even mean when I'm solving for the next staffing challenge for the next deal that I have to service for my customer? And it means that I should be able to not just suspend my judgment, but I should be able to emotionally understand what are the aspirations, what are the frustrations, what are the delights of the people that I am serving. And to do that, there is a discipline, and there is a structure. And we must teach young and old, if I may put it that way, how to solve problems in a more sustainable, more inclusive, and more collaborative manner.

And I feel strongly about it because artificial intelligence is totally disrupting the way we will work and the way the world will work. Well, gone are the days when, you know, certain technologies and their invention changed a part of the work, and you did not really worry about what happens to others. This technology is going to change the way the world operates, which means it'll change the way we all live, learn, and work. And what that means is this, that we, we may not be able to predict exactly what each one of us will be doing 5 years, 10 years from today. But if we teach people today, what are the skills to imagine and solve for problems of future by investing in the structure of innovation, by teaching people what are the stages of applying the right techniques, by making sure that we not just inspire people to think big, but also translate those big thoughts into achievable bite-size actions every day, that is innovation literacy. And you cannot run away from it because we all have a responsibility for the future generation to invest in that skill. And we will be accountable for it, because very soon, we all might become irrelevant to the world around us, because probably technology can do 8 out of 10 things around us, and then what? So we can teach them those jobs. We can teach them how to think. 

Jares: So how can leaders empower their teams to take some actionable steps to address what you've been talking about?

Manan: I think there are three simple steps to it. And I believe all results from people can be beautifully driven if every chain journey is thought through from this lens. So I call it three E's. The first one is enablement. It is about what kind of training and frameworks and toolkits can you provide to your people to learn human-centered design, to learn human-centered innovation, and to understand those techniques and how to use them in different problem-solving scenarios. So investing in that enablement is foundational. Without enablement, we cannot help people understand how should they do it. They need to know how.

The second E is enforcement. So while people are able to do something, it does not mean they are supposed to do it. So I can keep saying, "Folks, everybody learn design thinking. Everybody learn Lean Six Sigma, and everybody learn the next best technology that's coming because it can help you do your job better or service your customers better." And I can say all those things, and I can give them loads of training material. But I don't in any way tell them that you're supposed to do it. I don't make it part of their goal sheets. I don't make it part of their scorecards. I don't measure. And I think it's important that along with the training support and the knowledge support, the toolkits and the frameworks that we give our employees, we also tell them that it is important for them to make time to use those skills. So the second E is enforcement.

And the third E is encouragement. You need to influence the willingness of people to use those skills. So I can be a great organization, and I can say, "You're supposed to be innovative, everybody, and I'm going to give you all sorts of toolkits and all sorts of training material and all sorts of coaching support." But I don't influence intrinsic will to use those skills. And I keep mandating everything, and I keep linking everything to salaries and, and bonuses and incentives, but I don't encourage people because I don't have role models. I don't see leaders walking the talk. I don't see people being recognized for doing the right thing. I don't see being celebrated to be doing the tough task of learning a new skill and, and getting over the fear of failure. I don't see the psychological safety to make mistakes because it's part of the learning journey. When I learn something new, I will make mistakes. But if my culture in the organization does not allow me that sense of safety, that tolerance for ambiguity, that ability to nurture a questioning mind, encourage curiosity, now, if I don't do all of this, it doesn't matter.

That combination of three E's can genuinely help an organization not just do an uptick in the way they create value for their customers and their employees. But it will create meaning for people who are the center of serving their customers and even serving their employees. So that's how I think about how organizations can do a step change in the way they generate results and encourage innovation literacy.

Jares: Those are great actionable steps. Thank you.

Shalu, thanks so much for this conversation. It's been a pleasure speaking with you. We've been talking about the evolving role of resource management with Shalu from Genpact. If you enjoyed what you heard today, be sure to follow us wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. And remember, you can find our entire catalog at I'm your host, Julie Jares, and I hope you have a great workday.

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