Article: Building organisational resilience is table stakes: DN Prasad’s vision for HR leaders


Building organisational resilience is table stakes: DN Prasad’s vision for HR leaders

In this insightful interview with DN Prasad of GovTech Singapore, we tap into his insights on the evolving role of HR leadership, unlock strategies for driving organisational change and more.
Building organisational resilience is table stakes: DN Prasad’s vision for HR leaders

In our quest to spotlight and celebrate the future-forward HR leaders shaping the industry, we got into an exciting conversation with D N Prasad (also known as DNP), Senior Director - People & Organisation at GovTech Singapore. 

DNP brings a wealth of experience as an Executive Coach and transformational HR leader, with a track record of leading scaled transformations and nurturing organisational cultures and careers. As a coach for the People Matters and Aon 'Are You in The List' 2024 awards, DNP will play a pivotal role in identifying and nurturing emerging HR talent, aligning with the event's vision of recognising bold, resilient, and future-forward leaders.

Here are some excerpts from the conversation.

In your role as an Executive Coach and HR Leader, what is your take on the evolving role of HR leadership, particularly in navigating volatile business environments and fostering future-fit organisational cultures?

As a practising Executive Coach and a custodian of the People, Organisation and Culture at GovTech, Singapore, I believe the role of HR leadership is undergoing a transformative shift, especially in the face of quickly evolving business environments that necessitate the need to cultivate future-fit organisational cultures. There are evolving needs, a few of which I am highlighting:

  • Strategic Influence and Agility: HR leaders need to embrace the calling need for strategic influence. We should actively participate in shaping business strategies, aligning them with talent management, and anticipating workforce needs. Agility is a critical skill in the face of market dynamics to technological disruptions and global events as they are all shaping the influence on organisations to adapt quickly. 
  • Employee-Centric Approach Always: It is always, all about people. Putting employees at the front and centre of decision-making is non-negotiable. We must continue to champion employee well-being, engagement, and growth. A positive employee experience directly impacts productivity, innovation, and overall business success. Listening to employees, understanding their needs, and fostering a sense of belonging and purpose are critical. This approach builds resilience during turbulent times. 
  • Culture as a Strategic Asset: A future-fit culture is inclusive, adaptable, and aligned with the company's purpose. We must actively promote Leadership, Values, Purpose, and Inclusion. Culture is a true differentiator for attracting and retaining talent.
  • Communication, Change Leadership and Resilience: In volatile environments, change is constant. We need to focus on consistent and constant communication with our employees and must excel in change management, where we collectively move forward. Building organisational resilience is becoming table stakes. 

With your experience in building and scaling organisations, what strategies do you believe are essential for HR leaders to drive organisational change and adapt to the demands of a rapidly evolving landscape?

Most times, “Back to Basics” helps! When in doubt, go back to the drawing board and break down the challenge at hand.  

  • Understand the WHY and start building the WHAT and the HOW: Understand the Organisational goals and priorities. Prioritise efforts by aligning HR goals with overall organisational objectives. Assess HR Needs and Goals; begin by objectively evaluating your HR department's current state. Identify gaps and challenges, which include structure, competence, and capabilities. If we are not “Fit-for-purpose” to start with, we cannot go far with a “fit-for-future” journey. Set clear objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs). These guide your transformation efforts.
  • Change Management: This might sound like a broken record; but, we should not trivialise the importance of being thoughtful and inclusive when managing change or transformation. Clarify roles for every stakeholder group,  define and communicate milestones and goals clearly, recognise gaps in required skills and competencies for success (and, actively begin to upskill), anticipate potential roadblocks and be prepared with possible ways to address them.  
  • Prepare the Organisation and the Function to be Open to Possibilities: Build an HR Tech and Data/Analytics ecosystem to stay agile and relevant. It is equally important to understand how culture impacts transformation, and that leaders and leadership can have an outsized influence on the journey. 

In your experience, what role does coaching play in nurturing leadership potential and fostering a culture of continuous learning and development within organisations?

Bill Courtney, an American  Football Coach, Entrepreneur and Motivational Speaker once said, “The effectiveness of a leader is best judged by the actions of those he guides." 

That aptly describes my sentiments towards the importance of coaching; not only does it call out the criticality of coaching, but it also spotlights “Leaders as Coaches', something I have been a big believer and practitioner of, since my days at Google. 

Coaching plays a pivotal role in nurturing leadership and fostering a culture of continuous learning within organisations. Among the areas it covers and can address are:

  • Develop self-awareness in leaders and coachees. It helps them recognise their impact on others, understand their strengths, and identify areas for growth. It offers a “Mirror” to them to help reflect on their behaviours and communication style.
  • Coaching encourages leaders to embrace change and be on a path of Intellectual curiosity so they can adapt to evolving organisational needs. Coaching also provides balance and helps leaders practise Intellectual humility.
  • Coaching provides psychological safety for leaders and coachees. It helps them role model and offer the same to their teams, so they promote stronger employee engagement and a positive organisational culture. When leaders actively listen, empathise, and communicate effectively, they create an environment conducive to growth. 

As a coach for the 'Are You in The List' awards, what key qualities or competencies do you look for in emerging HR leaders, and how do you envision these leaders shaping the future of HR?

As with any performance assessment - I will be keen to look at a combination of and balance in the WHAT and the HOW aspects of the emerging HR leaders; a blend of leadership behaviours and functional competencies. 

If I were to offer some specifics, these would include:

  • T-Shaped Competencies: These will include Foundational Competencies such as data analytics, emotional intelligence, and decision-making. It will also factor in Specialist Domains such as Strategic Workforce Planning,  Organisational Design, Leadership Development and Coaching. 
  • Agility: As I shared earlier, the business environment is dynamic; and so is the HR landscape. I would like to assess the Leaders’ ability to swiftly adapt to the “Shifts”. 
  • Innovative Thinking, balanced with Contextualisation: HR leaders must think beyond convention. They should explore novel solutions, challenge the status quo, and drive organisational and functional innovation. 
  • Multigenerational Savviness: Today's workforce spans multiple generations. I would be keen to understand how effectively HR leaders understand the unique needs, motivations, and communication styles of each group, to bridge generational gaps, and foster collaboration and inclusivity. 
  • Tech Fluency: Gen AI is truly upon us. We can stay away from digital transformation at our peril.  (HR) Leaders must grasp these technologies, leverage them strategically, and manage the necessary change. 
  • Humility and Empathy: The ability of leaders to actively listen, learn from others, and work on their self-awareness is a basic requirement for their growth and that of the function. Empathy fuels better employee relations, conflict resolution, and a compassionate workplace, playing also a role in strengthening the culture. It is non-negotiable.
  • Intellectual Curiosity: HR leaders should model a commitment to lifelong learning. Staying updated on industry trends, best practices, and emerging tools is essential. Learning agility ensures relevance and growth.  

Looking ahead, what emerging trends or challenges do you foresee shaping the future of HR leadership, and how can HR professionals prepare themselves to navigate these changes successfully?

Some significant trends have emerged and continue to evolve in the past couple of years, since and post the pandemic. These will define the future readiness of HR as a profession and include:

  • Hybrid Work Models: The pandemic has reshaped work dynamics, emphasising the need for flexibility. Organisations are adopting hybrid and flexible work arrangements, allowing employees to split their time between office and remote work. And, now, we are also witnessing a return to work. A balanced approach to flexible work can enable organisations to enhance flexibility, trust and choice for their employees, attract talent, and optimise real estate as needed, by incorporating more collaboration spaces rather than the traditional desks.
  • Employee Well-Being and Mental Health: A recent McKinsey study underscored the importance of organisational resilience, a key trend for 2024. And, this is as much a function of employee resilience, which can have a direct attribution to holistic well-being. Mental Health is deservingly a mainstream conversation and will and should continue to remain so. A mentally resilient workforce contributes to productivity and organisational resilience.
  • Addressing Quiet Quitting: Employees disengaging silently can harm productivity.HR monitors subtle signs of disengagement, such as decreased collaboration or lack of enthusiasm. Early intervention prevents talent loss and fosters a positive work environment. The trend emphasises the importance of continuous engagement, feedback loops, and an employee-driven approach to solving organisational challenges. 
  • Human-AI Collaboration: Rather than viewing AI as a replacement for HR professionals, we should emphasise collaboration or can I say coexistence. The synergy between human intuition and AI-driven insights can lead to more informed and empathetic HR practices. However, we must not force-fit AI or any tech for the sake of it. The pace of adoption depends on factors like organisational readiness, technology infrastructure, and HR professionals' openness to change. Change management becomes very critical. We don’t need to go to the Big Bang if we are not ready for it. We can “Think big, start small, act fast”. 

The evaluation process for People Matters Are You In The List powered by Aon is underway. If you are eager to know who the emerging future-forward HR leaders of 2024 will be, follow the #AreYouInTheList.

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Topics: Leadership, Executive Coaching, #AreyouintheList?

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