Swatee Sarangi, in her role as the Head, Capability Development, Larsen & Toubro Limited, drives a robust leadership pipeline that consists of a seven-step approach and is also responsible for creating innovative leadership succession models and learning strategies.
With more than two decades of blended industry experience encompassing teaching, research, training, consulting and leading excellence in talent modelling, strategic visioning, learning, people, leadership development, culture, workforce diversity and work practice innovations, Swatee Sarangi is passionate about applying human constructs in the workplace and is an expert on bringing about organizational development through cultural transformation.
An academic Gold medallist, her Ph.D. is in the area of Talent Management and Organizational Development. As a professional in understanding the human elements that redefine a workplace, she has collaborated and consulted leaders and helped in developing future workforce competencies with global dimensions and reshaping the way leaders perceive leadership in a global landscape. As an HR Influencer, she illumines audiences on diverse themes in various global forums.
In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Swatee Sarangi discusses the most common challenges of digital transformation and how culture plays a crucial role in bringing about a sustainable and scalable transformation in a company.
What are the most common people challenges that you come across while driving any organizational changes?
People are at the heart of any organizational transformation as they make change happen. Most common challenges are people’s reactions towards change. Resistance and inertia to make a departure from the existing and old ways is the biggest hurdle. When people get into comfort zones, they fundamentally question “why change”. Adoption and readiness for change is certainly the biggest challenge. Sometimes, even if change gets started, momentum and sustainability becomes an issue after roll out. It manifests when change initiatives start with energy and rigour and then fizzle off without adding much value and making desired impact. According to me, more than skill it’s the will that can be a challenge in driving any organizational change.
What cultural traits must an organization possess before embarking upon a digital transformation journey?
An organization’s culture is exemplified through its practices, values, norms and behavior. Organizational trait of Perpetual Learning helps people stretch beyond conventional boundaries to try, experiment and innovate. They become Nimble to embark on transformation journeys. As organizations are adept at facing adversity with Resilience and bouncing back quickly after setbacks, digital transformations become easy. When Collaboration thrives and silos are broken, there is increased energy and greater momentum for change. These cultural traits help digital transformation plans turn to reality.
What cultural values do you think are critical for an organization to thrive in a digital era?
According to me, cultural values of Curiosity, Courage and Collaboration are critical for an organization to thrive in a digital era.
How do you go about building a scalable culture that can be replicated across geographies?
Creating a cultural blueprint that focuses on digital competencies is the first step. Informal learning through storytelling and knowledge sharing will help in gleaning desired values and behavior. Insights and experiences of senior leaders can define organizational credo. Bottom-up communication channels will enable people to feel psychologically safe and express attitudes and views. Defining and aligning the 5 P’s of Philosophy, Process, People, Policies and Programs around Digital will help in building a scalable culture that can be replicated across geographies.
What role can HR leaders play in driving digital transformations? More specifically how can HR leaders help their employees transition from being risk-averse to being open to risks in the digital age?
HR leaders can play critical role of strategic change agents. Their skill in assessing talent gaps and building people capabilities can be crucial for digital transformations. They can integrate people, strategy and technology dimensions can be a major contribution. They can play role of culture architects and create eco systems where people are empowered to think fearlessly, feel spontaneously and act decisively. They can sculpt and implement interventions that enable people to experiment and innovate using data and digital. Design thinking can propel people to empathize, ideate and prototype leveraging the Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Cloud. HR leaders can champion learning interventions, performance measures and incentive structures that are aligned with digital goals. This will enable people to take accountability for risks and drive innovations in the organization.
Your body can do it. You just need to convince your mind--is a popular saying among fitness enthusiasts. Similarly, how can business leaders build a culture that enables employees to overcome their mental blocks and embrace digital change?
I fully agree, more than skill set, it’s the mindset that matters in digital transformations. Having a culture where digital is a way of life sets the tone for embracing and advancing digital transformations. Getting people across levels to commit to digital agendas involves internalization of progressive values and behaviour. A culture based on growth mindset helps people explore and experiment possibilities to multiply value. Intellectual restlessness and impatience cultivates curiosity and inquiry. In fact, the ability to experiment and innovate is a direct outcome of an organization’s culture.
Business leaders can act as digital role models by not only being digitally savvy but also by being inclusive and adaptable in their style. They need to build case, momentum and rhythm for digital transformations. People are less likely to resist when they have had a hand in shaping it. Onboarding people through active messaging and powerful bottom up communication at every stage of the digital change journey will be helpful. Working in small empowered teams can help in building a fluid and networked structure and culture for change. Action learning can hone digital competencies. Thrust on sourcing, sharing and celebrating ideas on digital transformations can enable people to overcome mental blocks and embrace digital change.
Any particular tip to build a digital-ready culture?
People must be at the centre of any digital transformation. Focus on Upskilling and Reskilling, Cross functional Teams and Design Thinking can help build a digital ready culture.