“When we were promoting in the last six months, we ended up selecting people who were more communicative, transparent and document the things that they do – those are the people who stand out in the post pandemic era,” said Kamath, who feels the company’s policy of getting people promoted internally has played out well in the last few months that underscored “trustworthiness” as one of the key leadership traits.
The Covid-19 pandemic has posed the ultimate leadership test for business leaders across the world, prompting several companies to groom future leaders to equip them with skills to do business in the new, disrupted world order. Communication, collaboration, speed, adaptability, resilience and a high degree of emotional quotient (EQ) are some of the key traits that will define the leaders of tomorrow, said CEOs and HR heads.
Companies across sectors such as Aditya Birla Group, Tata Steel, Mastercard, Vedanta, Power Finance Corporation, Bank of Baroda, and RPG Group are in the process of upskilling their future leaders to suit the current context of widespread disruption, new digital formats, and remote mode of working.
“Cos are upskilling their future leaders to suit the current context of widespread disruption, new digital formats, and remote working”
“In the last six months we have flipped and changed our leadership programmes significantly to bring in new parameters of doing things virtually and incorporating the enhanced use of technology and digital into learning,” said Santrupt Misra, CEO of carbon black business at Aditya Birla Group.
Capability to manage crisis with calm and resilience, while keeping everyone focussed, and the ability to collaborate with multiple stakeholders are critical skills that leaders should possess in the new normal, feels Misra.
Diversified miner Vedanta has introduced a people growth initiative to identify and empower high-potential internal talent for leadership positions. The company recently elevated 200 young executives to leadership roles including cross-functional profiles.
“Vedanta has introduced a people growth initiative to identify and empower high-potential internal talent for leadership positions”
“To fast-track their growth trajectory considering the ‘new normal,’ we have designed digital platforms to track their progress and provide necessary support,” said Praveen Purohit, deputy head – group HR. The Anil Agarwal-led natural resources company is currently in the process of identifying the next set of 300 leaders.
RPG group will have a new development programme to bring in a certain level of digital savviness in all its employees, including leaders. Apart from this, the company has introduced several programmes on emotional skills in the past few months.
“The pandemic has led to a significant advent of digital technology, which makes the basic understanding of critical technology like AI, ML etc and basic digital skills a business imperative,” said Supratik Bhattacharyya, chief talent officer, RPG Group.
“RPG is giving digital training to all its employees, including leaders. It has also introduced programmes on emotional skills”
At the same time, social and emotional skills need to be upgraded. “Leaders must have a high level of communication skills to engage teams remotely as well as empathy for what people are going through. EQ has to be significantly higher,” he added.
Steel major Tata Steel is also coaching future leaders. “Front-ending crisis, understanding, assessing and developing operating ideals in the organisation and getting coached as well as coaching others simultaneously are the key areas of focus,” said Suresh Tripathi, vice president HR at Tata Steel.
Leading public sector lender Bank of Baroda is revamping its leadership programmes to suit the current context of digital formats and remote mode of working.
“New skills need to be picked up and there will be a high level of emphasis not only of technology adaptability but also on key leadership traits such as resilience, sensitivity, empathy, emotional quotient, remote team-building and virtual collaboration,” said Joydeep Dutta Roy, Bank of Baroda’s head for strategic HR and HR integration.
“Front-ending crisis, understanding, assessing and developing operating ideals, and getting coached as well as coaching others are the key areas of focus”
State-run Power Finance Corp (PFC) has tied up with leading B-schools and management institutes to train present and future leaders. At middle management level, executives who are due for promotion have to now compulsorily go through a training programme and assessment on digital capabilities, among other things, before they are considered for the next higher level.
“The future of the workplace seems more digital than it used to be with organisations embracing work-from-home as a policy to ensure employee safety. Hence, it is extremely important for companies to impart training in order to build necessary capabilities,” said P K Singh, director-commercial, PFC.
Global financial services company Mastercard is aligning its leadership development approach to the future of work and focusing on identifying and mentoring the leaders.
“We are focusing on upskilling on cognitive flexibility, creativity & innovation; adaptability & resilience, curiosity; social intelligence, negotiation and virtual collaboration,” said Priti Singh, senior VP – HR, South Asia, Mastercard.
Dabur India is emphasising on risk-taking ability for its future leaders, said Executive Director-HR Biplab Baksi. “There is enhanced focus on speed of delivery, fail fast and learn fast,” he added.
“Middle-level managers have to now compulsorily go through a digital training programme, before they are considered for the next higher level.”
But, the industry remains divided on the question of whether there were enough leaders to lead in the new business and socio-cultural environment.
Aditya Birla Group’s Misra is of the view that there would not be a dearth of talent as the core competencies of a leader remains the same. However, some like Bhattacharyya of RPG Group are sure “There definitely is a void in the industry talent pool in the kind of leadership skills required. It’s time that companies step up to develop these capabilities and those that can upgrade fast can reap the benefit in future.”