Article: Bolstering leadership through talent development at all levels propels organizations to success

Leadership Development

Bolstering leadership through talent development at all levels propels organizations to success

HR identifies individual strengths and addresses gaps by collaborating with managers. Thereafter, it offers opportunities for employees to bridge these gaps through training, mentorship, coaching, and on-the-job learning, says Vandana S Ahuja, Organisational HR Adviser & Executive Coach (ICF), Executive Director at Metamorph Dynamics Consulting.
Bolstering leadership through talent development at all levels propels organizations to success

In an exclusive conversation with People Matters, Vandana S Ahuja, Organisational HR Adviser & Executive Coach (ICF), Executive Director of Metamorph Dynamics Consulting discusses key strategies for learning and development, leadership training, and DEI initiatives that align employee growth with organizational success.

Here are the edited excerpts: 

Q. Could you provide insights into crafting an HR strategy that fosters sustainable business growth, considering the ever-changing business landscape?

Human Resources (HR) has consistently been at the forefront of driving organizational growth and sustainability, and it is certainly no exception in this regard. HR plays a pivotal role in promoting and facilitating sustainability, as we serve as the catalysts for people's development and act as partners in their growth journey.

One of the key areas where HR can make a significant impact on sustainability is by raising awareness within the organization. We have recently been discussing the 2021 IPCC report, which underscores the fact that nearly 40 to 70% of an organization's sustainability efforts must prioritize sustainable behaviours and, of course, business models. When it comes to cultivating sustainable, eco-friendly behaviours, who better than HR to champion this cause within the organization? This is a significant aspect of HR's role – bringing sustainability to the forefront, instilling awareness among employees, and nurturing sustainable behaviours throughout the organization to contribute to this vital cause.

Q. In your experience, how does HR play a pivotal role in driving organizational success, and what key factors contribute to this achievement?

I believe that HR consistently serves as the catalyst for people's success. What are organizations, after all? They are groups of individuals collaborating, and while you can have the best products and offerings unless they are propelled by people, they will merely exist. Thus, when HR facilitates success and promotes business growth, it does so by tapping into the potential, skills, knowledge, and talents of individuals.

Drawing from my own experience as an HR head, I understand the significance of harnessing these human potential attributes. It's a vast, ever-evolving landscape that organizations can continuously tap into and leverage for their benefit.

Q. Could you share your insights on effective talent development strategies, coaching methodologies, and techniques for enhancing employee performance within organizations?

Coaching plays a vital role in various facets of organizational development. Firstly, it is instrumental in fostering leadership growth and the development of high-potential talent. Moreover, coaching is particularly valuable when it comes to helping individuals transition into new roles. For instance, when someone is promoted or when a newcomer joins the organization, coaching can provide essential support in helping them feel comfortable and effective in their new positions. Integrating coaching into practice facilitates assimilation into new roles, even at senior levels, such as C-suite executives and functional heads in multinational corporations. Coaching is especially valuable when guiding talent through significant changes, such as international relocations.

Coaching is also a valuable tool when identifying and nurturing young talent within organizations. While HR and managers collaborate to identify promising individuals, coaching accelerates their growth by helping them recognize their strengths and areas for improvement. This approach creates a safe and confidential space for employees to explore their potential and growth opportunities. It provides dedicated, uninterrupted time for individuals to think differently and develop their skills.

In addition to working with emerging talents, I also focus on the development of women leaders. There's considerable untapped potential in this area, and although progress has been made, more can be achieved in advancing women into leadership roles. 

Turning to the realm of learning and development, it's important to acknowledge that today's workforce is often stretched for time, especially with the adoption of hybrid and remote work arrangements. Learning and development serve as effective tools to bring employees together, highlighting the value of skill enhancement. The integration of Gen Z into the workforce, a tech-savvy generation, demands a departure from traditional classroom-based training. They seek quick access to information and a deep understanding of concepts. In my experience as an L&D professional, I've observed a shift from conventional training methods to technology-driven solutions. For instance, I've collaborated with e-learning platforms that offer a comprehensive catalogue of courses to cater to a wide range of employees, as well as focus on leadership development. We've integrated these resources into employees' performance plans and assessed their progress on their development journey.

The final piece of the puzzle is aligning learning with career progression. Organizations must communicate the tangible benefits of skill development to employees. This involves demonstrating how the acquired skills bridge gaps and enhance their job performance. This, in summary, encapsulates my experience in fostering learning and development within large organizations, including Fortune 500 companies.

Q. Given the tech-savviness of Gen Z and the potential discomfort of senior employees with new technologies, how do you approach their learning and development? What strategies do you use to effectively design initiatives or programs for them to learn and upskill in this context?

Let's delve into three key elements: 

Already successful leaders investing time in training: 

This relates to the organizational culture and its imperative for adaptability. In a constantly changing, VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world, modern leaders understand that their success hinges on continuous self-improvement. For example, during my master's program in 2020, I conducted research on resilience and change management. I interviewed CEOs from various backgrounds, including Australians, Europeans, Americans, Singaporeans, and Indians. Surprisingly, they were willing to draw images to share their childhood resilience experiences. This demonstrates that, regardless of their achievements, leaders acknowledge the need to evolve to remain competitive in a dynamic marketplace.

Leaders adapting to new technologies:

Leaders often adapt swiftly to compete with tech-savvy generations. However, they understand that they can't be experts in everything. Smart leaders embrace humility, acknowledging that they may need help with technology and being open to learning from their team members. Just as we ask our children for help with smartphones, leaders recognize that seeking assistance from their team fosters a collaborative and productive work environment.

Successful strategies for investing in employees' career growth and development

It is the core of an organization's success. Employees strive for growth, but their definitions of growth can vary widely. It could be financial, expanding their roles, receiving recognition, or acquiring new skills. HR plays a pivotal role by identifying individual strengths and addressing any gaps that may exist. Through collaboration with managers, we provide opportunities for employees to bridge these gaps, whether through training, mentorship, coaching, or on-the-job learning. Our goal is to take individuals from their current stage to the next, thereby contributing to talent development and overall organizational growth.

Q. In today’s trending work arrangements, including hybrid and remote-work models, could you provide your perspective on the advantages and challenges associated with working from home, and how HR can address these issues effectively?

Remote and Hybrid work arrangements are currently at the forefront of many discussions. Organizations across various regions and markets are taking different approaches. For instance, in countries outside of India, there is a growing openness to embracing a hybrid work model, where returning to pre-pandemic norms isn't the primary focus. In India, I'm encouraged to see a similar shift towards providing flexibility to employees, even though it may not have been as evolved in the past. This shift is becoming increasingly evident in my interactions with people in a professional context.

It's essential to recognize that the pandemic has brought about significant changes. People have developed new preferences and routines, adapting to the flexibility of remote work. Additionally, the younger generation, which entered the workforce during the pandemic, has experienced remote work as the norm. Surveys, such as the recent one by Michael Page, indicate that approximately 77% of new-age workers are seeking more inclusive work practices, including remote work and flexibility.

These changes offer employees both flexibility and autonomy, as long as they can effectively manage their work and deliver results. Embracing these shifts in work dynamics is justified and necessary for organizations to evolve in sync with our changing times.

Q. What strategies or initiatives do you recommend for improving HR processes and, subsequently, increasing employee satisfaction and engagement?

In terms of enhancing HR practices and processes, it's imperative to view everything through the lens of providing easy access for employees, leveraging technology, and ensuring simplicity and ease of implementation. We are operating in a modern-age workplace, and these considerations are vital.

Technology plays a significant role in enhancing the efficiency of our processes and making them accessible to our workforce, regardless of their location. As we discussed earlier, in a world where hybrid and remote working is becoming the norm, technology becomes a key enabler in ensuring accessibility.

Simplicity and ease of implementation are equally essential aspects. Efficient HR processes are characterized by their straightforwardness and the ease with which they can be put into practice. When we apply these principles, we can confidently say that we are meeting the criteria to benefit our employees effectively.

Q. In your experience, what practices or initiatives have been effective in promoting diversity and inclusivity at all levels of an organization?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have become increasingly prominent topics, with ongoing discussions and initiatives in this space. Interestingly, I come from INSEAD, my business school, which has a DEI vertical within our alumni association. This platform allows us to actively promote DEI programs among our alumni, furthering the cause.

To truly make DEI successful, it starts at the top. Leaders must prioritize it and invest time and resources in their DEI initiatives. It's not enough to merely express a desire for DEI; leaders need to monitor progress and measure success. Inclusive leadership skills are crucial in making leaders more aware of DEI. These skills, such as active listening, empathy, emotional intelligence, fostering a sense of belonging, and promoting inclusive communication, play a significant role in creating a diverse yet inclusive environment. Coaching can be instrumental in helping leaders develop these skills, especially for those who may require additional support.

When it comes to employees, Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) have been highly successful. They provide a safe space for individuals to share their thoughts, experiences, and ideas for strengthening diversity and inclusion. This grassroots approach fosters a sense of belonging within the organization.

Moreover, creating awareness throughout the organization is essential. Training programs on diversity, addressing unconscious biases, promoting cultural awareness, and enhancing inclusive communication are effective tools for raising awareness and encouraging empathy, respect, and understanding among employees. This, in turn, contributes to a more cohesive and collaborative workplace.

Q. What steps can organizations take to address biases and create equitable workplaces where every employee has a fair and equal opportunity to thrive?

Biases are a part of being human, and in the workplace, it's essential to acknowledge their existence. The key is awareness – being conscious of biases and making a deliberate effort to set them aside when making decisions or providing opportunities. This shift in mindset is crucial for fostering equal opportunities within an organization.

The next step is ensuring that our processes, policies, and practices are inclusive and provide equitable opportunities for everyone. This involves examining work practices, making policies more inclusive, and eliminating barriers during implementation. By doing so, we create an environment where diversity is celebrated, and all individuals have a fair chance to thrive.

Lastly, it's important to view our colleagues as peers and simplify our interactions. We are all part of a team working together toward common goals. When we prioritize our shared identity and objectives as a team, the differences in backgrounds, languages, and origins become less significant. It's about recognizing that our collective success benefits each of us individually. The more we embrace this perspective, the more these biases and divisions will fade away. Success is a collective achievement.

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Topics: Leadership Development, Executive Coaching, #HRTech, #HRCommunity

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