HR Tech Interview with Purbita Banerjee, SVP, Head of Product Management at Korn Ferry

Journey into Tech

Please tell us about your role and how you arrived at Korn Ferry.

Korn Ferry is an admired global leader in recruiting, organizational consulting, and HR. As senior vice president and head of product of Korn Ferry Digital, I am responsible for the Korn Ferry Intelligence Cloud HR platform and digital products across the entire employee lifecycle.

I’ve spent 15 years in the world of HR Tech – which combines the best of collective human intelligence, technology, and AI to work together for the humans at the center. I’ve built cutting-edge people solutions across Talent Management, Talent Acquisition, Learning & Development, and Performance Management. At Korn Ferry Digital I have the exciting job of combining these and other solutions to create a unified end-to-end human experience at work.

Korn Ferry is a great place for someone like me because the company is rare, if not unique, in its 360-degree involvement with employees’ entire journey. From consulting to digital solutions, we work with Global 20,000 clients to maximize human potential – attracting the right talent, onboarding that talent, setting up the organizational design to make people successful, providing solutions for engagement and retention, and delivering career-enhancing learning and development. We have decades of best practices, data, and collective human intelligence which, coupled with AI and digital technology, enables us to drive to better human outcomes. I am passionate about our mission to create pathways to success for humans at work.

How has the HR technology landscape evolved in the last 2 years?

Technology doesn’t evolve in a vacuum. It evolves to meet customer needs. The pandemic accelerated the shift that was happening anyway, giving rise to the democratizing of HR, in which employers and employees embraced shared responsibility to make work more humane, purpose-driven, engaging, and rewarding. HR is maturing from something companies did to their employees to something companies do with their employees.

The pandemic, with its universal embrace of digital, compressed a decade of evolution into a couple of years. One standout has been the rise of Talent Intelligence Clouds, which integrate multiple HR Tech solutions companies use into one set of silo-free solutions. Intelligence Clouds bring data, analytic insights, and better decisions into one place.

The thunderous arrival of ChatGPT in late 2022 threw a spotlight on another trend that was already happening: the rise of generative AI in HR Tech. All of us in the industry are reengineering our products to harness generative AI, but we must be incredibly careful because the technology comes with multiple warning flags, from inaccuracies to bias. We’ve got to make haste carefully.

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Which HR technology companies do you passionately follow and why?

I’m always watching for how the overall HR Tech ecosystem is evolving to make sure we are innovating along with others as we build our own applications. Today no single provider, however comprehensive, can solve all customer problems. Ultimately, my focus is to constantly look for ways our Korn Ferry Digital applications integrate and work well within the tech investments our clients have made.

Our focus is to deliver a system of insights to make decisions, and to create end-to-end human experiences at work. To do this we’ve got to leverage as well as add value to other apps in the ecosystem. The market leading HRIS (HR Information Systems) and ATS (Application Tracking Systems) ecosystems are prominently on my radar. Another space I watch intently is the collaboration platforms employees use because we build our applications in the flow of work for employees. These are evolving constantly and are continuously redefining the way people collaborate and work.

Could you tell us how the rise of AI makes workforce management easier?

The role of AI in HR is the focus of often contentious debate. My view: a technology that creates greater efficiency, speedier innovation, and a clearer vision of the future for organizations, as well as flexibility, upskilling, and career-long mobility for workers, is rich with promise.

Now let’s talk about AI applied to workforce management. Workforce management is comprised of three components: 1) How we set up the organization, 2) how we are bringing in the right talent, 3) and how we are nurturing the talent internally.

1) In setting up the organization, AI, used within the proper framework, can analyze, understand, and optimize ever-changing organizational needs in ways that benefit and future-proof both organizations and their employees.

By “framework,” I mean success profiles. Success profiles define what “good” looks like in a role. Using success profiles as frameworks, AI is a powerful tool in (re)defining the universe of work, clarifying career architectures, defining skills and competencies for various roles, and delivering actionable solutions that enable leaders to manage talent and create future career opportunities for their teams.

2) In hiring the right people, AI can help ensure you’re matching individuals to the right jobs. Conversational AI can bring to the hiring process. AI, when used correctly, can also improve diversity in the workplace by ensuring a fair candidate screening process free of bias.

3) AI helps with internally enabling employees with the right opportunities and choices so they get a great employee experience, empowering them to grow within the organization while remaining engaged and fulfilled.

The key to AI is data. At Korn Ferry we have billions of data points accumulated over 20 years of experience at all levels of client workplaces on human behavior, engagement & performance drivers, compensation, preferences in hiring process, etc., which allow us to enable better insights, decisions and actions for company leaders, HR, and employees.

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Has the HR Tech stack become a core foundation toward gaining digital transformation in the modern era? Any case study or specific research that you would like to highlight stating the role of HR tech stacks in digital transformation?

There’s no organization on the planet that isn’t undergoing digital transformation. Progressive companies want digital acceleration – getting to the promised land faster than the competition.

There are two ways to interpret that question, so two ways to answer it.

The first is that the modern HR Tech stack is becoming more integrated. With the rise of Talent Intelligence Clouds, companies are smashing the silos of their old HR Tech stack and integrating all the data and insights from multiple separate solutions into one much more flexible and useful corpus. And that, by its very nature, accelerates digitalization.

The second is that the modern HR Tech stack is very useful in finding, attracting, and retaining the talent organizations need to speed up digitalization. The more a company uses tools of the modern HR Tech stack – AI, analytics, big data, etc. – the more it will attract, grow, and retain the talent needed to continuously accelerate digitalization.

To cite just one example: It’s absolutely imperative that companies continuously upskill and reskill their workforces to accelerate digital capabilities. To do that, they’ve accumulated enormous Learning & Development libraries that are simply too big for employees to wade through. I call that “the problem of plenty.” Using AI-driven success profiles – a key element of the modern HR Tech stack – organizations can illuminate a targeted, clearly-defined, custom-designed learning path that cuts through the problem of plenty and enables upskilling and reskilling at maximum speed and efficiency. 

We are hearing a lot about the role of analytics and big data intelligence in workforce development and talent acquisition. What is the future of these technologies in the HR space? How does Korn Ferry influence adoption of these technologies in the global market?

When ChatGPT became the fastest-growing app in history in late 2022/early 2023, it proved something we’ve seen coming for a while: generative AI is going to change every single solution in the HR Tech world. I can speak for Korn Ferry and say we are reengineering absolutely everything to take advantage of the upside of generative AI to enhance customer value while assuring customers we’ll protect them from the downsides, such as wrong answers, misinformation, and bias.

We view the current generation of generative AI not as a panacea, but as an accelerant. As I tell my team, ChatGPT is a great way to get to B-minus faster, but our customers demand A+. We are moving forward faster thanks to generative AI, but the faster we evolve, the more careful we must be.

As to Korn Ferry’s role, I believe we are at the forefront of creating the right point of view for how our clients and customers should adopt AI-powered HR Tech tools. It’s very much the same as with Talent Intelligence Clouds. There are these great new tech tools, but they sit atop layered frameworks that are only as valuable as the underlying data and analytics.

I will shamelessly brag that Korn Ferry – because of our history and breadth of consulting, best practices and HR technology products – has the most comprehensive dataset when it comes to the world of work and understanding human behavior at work. So we can layer technical advances faster and more responsibly on top of our golden foundation to help clients define their HR and talent strategies. And we do not leave clients to do this on their own. We follow up with strong change management capabilities to support our clients on the journeys via our world class consulting offerings.

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Your take on the role of CHROs and Chief People Officers and why they should focus on getting familiar with HRTech tools?

How could CHROs and CPOs not focus on the HR Tech stack since today’s HR Tech stack defines where and how employees work, collaborate, grow, interact with the organization and each other, even how work itself gets done?

As for the role of CHROs and CPOs, I came across a great interview in Human Resources Executive with Christy Pambianchi, the Chief People Officer at Intel. She said, “Somebody in my job needs to be knowledgeable in the ways people are living their lives, the way society is carrying on, what it means for the way work gets done in the workplace, and how technology can both enable and enhance employees in the workplace.”

Ms. Pambianchi prioritizes CHRO/CPO values just right: as important as HR Tech is to the experience of work, it’s primarily important for leaders to understand how people are living their lives in and out of work, and what pressures they may face from contemporary society. Enlightened CHROs and CPOs like that will help their C-Suites develop optimum HR strategies, and then the best of HR Tech will help them execute with economy, precision, and maximum business success.

Thank you, Purbita! That was fun and hope to see you back on HR Tech Series soon.

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Purbita is an accomplished Digital Transformation leader in the Talent Acquisition and Management space. She architects the strategy for Korn Ferry’s digital suite.

She has successfully launched innovative solutions in the Talent management space, solving critical challenges faced by Fortune 1000 companies. She has set up Talent Analytics and Big Data Labs to cultivate innovation and identify new tools to resolve the toughest talent challenges.

She has been a speaker for Human Capital Institute on AI-based recruiting tools to explore the impact on candidate experience. She has over 15 years experience in building cutting edge people solutions and has developed and managed solutions across Talent Management, Talent Acquisition, Learning & Development.

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Korn Ferry unleashes potential in people, teams, and organizations. We work with our clients to design optimal organization structures, roles, and responsibilities. We help them hire the right people and advise them on how to reward and motivate their workforce while developing professionals as they navigate and advance their careers. A global organizational consulting firm, we help businesses and the people in them to thrive.