A CEO needs to ensure that employees and leaders develop the capability to adapt to the change and volatility in business conditions
We are past the point where a CEO needs to assess the importance of talent in the scheme of business priorities. Talent is a top priority for any CEO. A CEO’s talent plan should be more long-term rather than short-term. The long-term impact that a CEO should aim to make are two-fold: Talent and culture. These two parameters contribute the most to the long-term success; even strategy is temporary. A CEO needs to ensure that employees and leaders develop the capability to adapt to the change and volatility in business conditions.
Today given the volatility in the environment, it is not possible for the top person (or even the leadership team) alone to stay on top of the changes and respond to them. By the time an organization codifies and institutionalizes the learning from a change, the next change is already here. So in these times, it is particularly important that organizations focus on helping people contextualize the change and figure out their own responses to these. Of course, it all needs to fit into a strategic framework. The CEO has to drive these initiatives that prepare people for uncertainty.
As the head of a business, there are two key areas which I personally drive in my organization. The first initiative, which I drive personally, is help the senior leadership be more adaptive and anticipate changing business conditions. In our business, the pace of change in technology and consumer behaviours has increased dramatically. So our leaders have to learn to read the signs and determine how best to help their clients through these changes. It is a combination of training and mentorship to identify the ways in which business conditions are changing and what leaders need to learn and unlearn. The initiative focuses on leadership in a digital world and I personally train and coach leaders in the company as part of this initiative.
Another initiative which I personally drive within the company is in the area of talent development. Talent development traditionally has operated in the ‘push’ model where the organization initiates and delivers training to its employees. We want to move to a model that reverses this and creates a ‘pull’ from employees to own and organize their own development and careers. At any point, the structure will offer options for an employee to choose which training programs to attend, which development interventions to involve and what skills to hone. This model automatically shifts the responsibility of development from the organization to the employee. This is similar in structure to a marketplace where an employee views the kind of options available at her/his disposal and can choose and customize a development path. This is ambitious and a large change in both behaviors and perspective.
Sapient has always been very focused on hiring right and we spend significantly more than the industry average to hire the right talent. Once candidates join, the company takes their development very seriously and helps them build careers. As the head of a business, I track engagement scores, leadership succession and leadership development. I also spend my time in personally mentoring the top talent in the company, mapping talent for development and succession. Almost 30-40 per cent of my time is spent on performance management, feedback, coaching, and managing organisational talent. I also help set direction on talent management initiatives in the company.
RAJDEEP ENDOW is the Managing Director of Sapient India