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Vicky Jain, uKnowva: “HR leaders need to put more effort and resources into data security”

When choosing security solutions, companies tend to forget that customer data is only one of many assets cybercriminals are after.

The sudden arrival of the pandemic forced organizations to work remotely, and while the majority of the businesses were quick to adapt and equip their workforce with devices and security solutions, collaboration and employee management tools were put on the back burner. Our guest today emphasizes that this approach can have devastating consequences and make not only sensitive company files but also personal employee data easily available to threat actors.

Today we are talking with Vicky Jain, the founder and CEO of uKnowva – a company providing innovative human resources management software that makes the modern workplace more collaborative, productive, and secure.

How did the idea of uKnowva come to life? What would you consider your greatest achievements throughout the years?

We initially started off with a web development company, creating a few tools for enhanced collaboration and better people management. When customers came to us with similar requests, we realized that we could grab this opportunity and develop it into a product and offer it to consumers. We tweaked some features and offered it for a few customers to try out, and the response we received was good. That gave us the confidence that we could take the initiative to an entirely new level. Thus, in 2012, we launched uKnowva, a cloud-based HRMS that offers a secure and private platform for employees to engage in seamless communication, networking, and knowledge-sharing. Our product utilizes the capabilities of high-yielding tools to attain increased productivity and accelerate growth.

Our greatest achievements over the years include the development of the disability feature within our HRMS, making it accessible for people with disabilities. The introduction of the happiness index is another key achievement that helps to measure the level of happiness of employees at different predetermined time frames using AI technology. The HRMS we have developed allows HRs to foster employee engagement across the organization and get 360-degree feedback in real-time, which most other players in the industry have failed to achieve.

Can you introduce us to your collaboration platform? What are its key features?

We offer a flexible, easy-to-use, and cost-effective cloud-based HRMS that automates and streamlines everyday HR tasks flawlessly. uKnowva HRMS has every crucial component of HR management starting from a self-service portal to employee directory to automated payroll to leave management to virtual biometrics and much more. By using uKnowva's HRMS, HRs can easily increase productivity and manage day-to-day activities more efficiently. The Payroll system automatically calculates salary from the data available i.e. investment declarations, leaves, holidays, tax deductions, etc. Our virtual attendance management allows employees to mark their attendance from any device. Also, we are the first HR technology company in India to launch the disability feature within the HRMS for specially-abled employees.

Even though there are so many employee management options available nowadays, why do you think certain companies still hesitate to upgrade their operations?

A lot of companies persistently use outdated computer hardware but fail to let it go simply because of the fact that they had invested a lot of money and employee time in the system. Also, while the HR department may be eager to introduce new changes to HR management, the leaders don't understand the benefits that arise with such an investment. Other than that, at times organizations fail to implement HR tech simply because of the lack of leaders to take charge of the entire process. Being inadequately prepared for the change can lead to confusion and delay.

How do you think the recent global events affected your field of work?

The pandemic has been a big driver of digital innovations over the past couple of years. With the work landscape drastically changing, business leaders needed to respond, recover, and thrive during uncertain times, and HR tech has been a great enabler for that. Also, employee engagement and retention emerged as the worst-hit aspects of organizations amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with that, a massive number of people around the world began to quit their jobs, causing the unprecedented problem of employee turnover. Faced with the adversities, companies were quick to adopt HR tech solutions to support their workforce as well as attract and retain talent within the organization. This led to huge opportunities for growth for the HR tech industry. In fact, our revenue grew by more than 120%, even during the pandemic. We also recently expanded to the MENA region owing to as a result of shifts in the market, technology, and work culture.

What are the most common issues organizations run into when managing a team based all over the world?

One of the obvious differences is that the teams are dispersed far and wide. This means that communication can’t be on the same level, especially when it comes to factors like noticing a person’s mood or how they’re coping with a task. With the employees out of the office, it can also be difficult to make sure that they are actually doing the work they are supposed to. Another big challenge is creating a unified company culture across geographically distributed teams. However, with the inception of state-of-the-art technologies and tools, these issues are increasingly becoming easier to solve.In your opinion, what cybersecurity measures are essential for companies with a majority of remote employees?

With the rise in remote working, some cybersecurity threats, in particular phishing, have become prevalent. One of the most useful security tips for WFH is to invest in a comprehensive antivirus suite for the employees. Employees working remotely need to use a VPN. While most people are aware that using a VPN will bypass geographic restrictions, a VPN also improves online privacy. All important files should be backed up daily in case employees fall prey to ransomware, for instance. When employees need to communicate sensitive information to colleagues, up-to-date encryption tools should be installed on the devices.

HR leaders also need to put more effort and resources into data security. Any loss or threat to sensitive employee data such as payroll information, healthcare details, home address, contact information, or date of birth has implications well beyond the HR department. It’s not just the personal employee data, the entire enterprise faces risk from data breaches or cyber threats since human resources are central to different processes throughout the organization.

Data is one of the crucial assets of an organization, and to keep HR data safe and secure, it is not only enough to invest in a modern HRMS but to ensure constructive collaboration between business owners and HRMS vendors to achieve the desired results. During the implementation of HRMS, every concerned party, like employers, vendors, and managers, should work together to tackle the security parameters efficiently. Cutting-edge HRMS provides advanced security features to make sure user data stays secure, both On-premise and cloud. HRMS security features cover nearly every aspect of sensitive data security, including physical security, encryption of data, controlled access, internal security controls, etc.

Recently, maintaining creativity has been a serious struggle for some organizations. How can companies foster creativity and innovation when most of the workforce is working remotely?

Organizations need to reimagine their business and adopt new capabilities while people work remotely. Companies need to understand the changes and devise ways to provide consumers with the solutions they are seeking. It is also vital to create a lot more interactions within a particular team or across teams, to maintain social connection and constant communication. Other than that, remote employees must also be made a part of brainstorming sessions through collaboration and video tools. This will create an environment where even remote employees can be made a part of the creative thinking process.

What do you think an average workplace is going to look like in the near future?

A large majority of companies are expected to embrace the hybrid way of working where people will work from home for a few days, and the rest of the days they'll work from the office. For that, the workspace needs to be more agile. Also, with concerns surrounding employee health and wellness, companies are expected to invest heavily in hygiene, health, and wellness. As per a survey by PwC, nearly 72 percent of companies plan on improving their mental health offerings over the coming years. Companies will also strive to create a workplace that fosters equity, diversity, and inclusion. Some organizations are already using techniques to initiate conversations that encourage employees to talk freely about issues such as sexism, racism, bias, and prejudice.

Would you like to share what’s next for uKnowva?

Presently we are focussing on increasing our presence in India and the MENA region. The MENA region has big potential for Indian tech start-ups as the region has a tech-savvy, highly diverse, and distributed workforce whose priorities include flexibility and ease of access in their flow of work. A few customers we have already onboarded in the MENA region are Khansaheb, Puregroup, Ravin, Masdar, etc. We also plan to launch a lite version of our app.

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