Animesh Kumar, Chief People Officer, Zee Entertainment, one of the prominent names in the HR industry started his new journey with Zee Entertainment in August last year; the industry veteran is managing every aspect of the company which deals in people and work.
In an interaction with People Matters, he shared his thoughts on traditional leadership vs. new age leadership, how technology changing leadership and things that CHRO needs to learn.
With global trends changing the way we conceptualize work, workplace, and workforce, how can CEOs and CHROs create flexible organizations and set a learning agenda to re-skill talent to adapt to change?
The emerging context of work, workplace and workforce require organizations to overhaul its existing processes, methods, and systems; rearchitecting them, not just for tech and digitally-enabled organization but also for the shift in social attitudes. The CHRO's role is to lead the organization redesign efforts, marrying it closely with technology adoption to create more responsive and agile companies.
Second, enabling organizations to thrive in the emerging context requires significant shifts in leadership mindsets. There has always been a generational gap between leaders and the wider organization (for obvious reasons). However, the gap in the mindsets between the two has never been as wide as it has been today. Societal changes, technology, talent scarcity, gig working, ubiquitous connectivity, the nuclearization of families and other factors are upending the traditional organization. The millennial workforce has grown up in this new context and therefore expects it.
Lastly, leaders have to adapt to this shift. For leaders, the knowledge acquired over the years of experience is now increasingly irrelevant. Leaders who have traditionally relied on "knowing more" are often at sea on how to lead in this emerging context. The role of the CHRO is to handhold leaders in making this shift. CHROs must lead the exercise of articulating the new format of leadership and deploy interventions that will help the leaders in acquiring the new skills required to be effective in the emerging context. If I had to pick a couple of areas of focus, it would be on improving the leaders' influencing repertoire and understanding the way technology is reshaping our businesses.
With the disruption of technology, is it correct to say that traditional leadership will be a thing of the past or the leaders are upbeat on enhancing the old-style under the technology umbrella?
The rapid advancements in technology and a shift in social attitudes is recasting the leadership format. Business models were evolving incrementally until about 4-5 years ago, and therefore experience was a key determinant of leadership. The experience helped leaders demonstrate more in-depth knowledge, superior insights, and better relationship networks. So as long as businesses operating in "more or less the same way" it made sense to continue with the format.
Some of the key shifts that leaders have to contend with are:
- Acquiring a wider range of influencing styles that allow leaders to go beyond expertise/knowledge-driven leadership.
- Aligning teams around a "why" or more loosely a purpose which requires a sharper focus on communication and storytelling
- Recrafting your employee engagement framework that shifts from directing to enabling
- Engaging more deeply with technology and digital to understand its impact on the business and bringing wisdom to bear in leading the organization through this disruptive change.
Can you explain what leadership activities you do in Zee Entertainment?
At Zee Entertainment, there is a lot of peer learning that we facilitate. We also provide access to diverse virtual learning methodologies that can upskill the employees. Currently, we are working on a program for deployment of senior leaders which will help them enhance the softer leadership elements set and drive them to manage teams more effectively.
How can leaders build a scalable culture that can be replicated across geographies?
I don't think culture is scalable. On the other hand, the core principles which underpin culture, are. If your core principle is customer service, you can ensure that the focus on customer experience is built in every geography that you operate in, but the practices that you will build will be unique to the cultural context of that geography. In fact, good leadership is about being aligned to the context in which you are operating and making these core values come alive in that context and that culture, rather than trying to use the one size fits all approach.
How can organizations groom successors in the executive ranks, ensuring a smooth transition that maintains the value of the business?
The Media & Entertainment space is witnessing a slew of changes with the emerging new trends and technology-driven innovations, disruptions, and opportunities for growth. The changes are rapid, and the magnitude is enormous. To continue matching the pace of the emerging trends, organizations must implement workplace flexibility enhancing the engagement and productivity needs of the employees. In order to maintain your leadership stance and relevance, you need to prepare the organization to compete in the new context by providing employees with efficient tools and processes to adapt to technology innovation & growth.
What are your key priorities as Zee Group's HR leader especially with regard to HR technology adoption?
Our key priority is to drive technology to deliver four key essentials- the first - consistent, repeatable, scalable models for transaction processing that delivers significant efficiencies. Second, leverage technology to capture more data that in turn will lead to a sharper data analytics platform that improves our decision making. Third, deploy technology to broaden our reach and reduce bias in talent acquisition. Whether it's because of our reliance on English or because of unconscious bias in the hiring managers, technology can solve many of these issues. Fourth, leverage technology to improve the employee experience.
How do you see the rise of digital leadership? What are the fundamental structural changes that are reshaping leadership in the digital age? How should women gear up to seize the opportunity?
The changes being brought about by technology and digital are very effective in reducing the structural inequities that women have traditionally had to face when competing with men or just working. I believe, "Work is what we do, not where we go." The simple fact that one does not need to travel to a specific physical location and work can be done almost anywhere and anytime, allows a much larger number of women to participate more effectively in the workforce.
But the emergence of technology, automation, analytics has a much broader significance for workforce constitution – the increasing importance of what we have traditionally referred to as soft skills – collaboration, networking, multi-tasking, emotional intelligence, managing diversity, storytelling, and others. For various reasons, women are better at this than men are and therefore better equipped to succeed in the new workplace. So, carpe diem! This is an opportunity for women to seize.