Lokendra Sethi is DXC Technology's Vice President of HR and India's Human Resources Head. Being a global leader with multiple hats, he focuses on driving a holistic people strategy aligned with the company's business goals. He has over 25 years of industry experience in HR strategy and service delivery; and has held leadership roles in both regional and global markets. In an exclusive conversation with People Matters, Lokendra shares his insights on how organisations can thrive in a remote-first working model by aligning culture, leadership, and technology.
With DXC Technology embracing a remote first working model, what challenges still need to be addressed? How are you at DXC Technology overcoming these challenges?
At DXC, what worked for us was the efficiency with which we were able to facilitate the ‘work-from-home’ setup as COVID-19 hit; and we decided to be a virtual-first company. Being a global organisation and already collaborating across geographies made this shift easier along with keeping our people’s well-being as the priority.
However, some challenges still need to be addressed and what comes to me first is culture and the importance of approaching it differently given the changing context. One of the important aspects of culture is the development of relationships which usually happens within the office space and building a sense of belonging, but these tend to happen less in the remote workspace. Moreover, the blurring of boundaries between work and personal life can contribute to several well-being issues. Maintaining these boundaries can often get challenging, but it's vital for employees' quality of life.
We have tried to address these challenges by sensitising our people on the importance of work-life balance. For instance, we encourage our supervisors not to schedule calls beyond work hours, which eats into your people's evening time. Those in leadership positions play a crucial role in ensuring that employees receive the benefits of virtual working by respecting their personal boundaries and, most importantly, focusing on outcomes rather than processes. Today's management teams must approach their people with a high degree of trust and flexibility.
What are the critical competencies of effective leadership for companies with a multi-geographic presence such as DXC? What are the traits of the leader who can make remote working a success?
The most significant difference in interactions today is that your people only know your screen persona, which is limited to exchanging pleasantries for 30 seconds and then diving right into work. This is all they know about you for employees who have joined you since the global health crisis. Therefore, it becomes crucial that we create a personal rapport and get to know each other beyond work. As I've said, the right culture is a key ingredient to the success of a virtual-first working model. As a result, we encourage both our leaders and our people to build connections beyond the screens to even turn on the camera and see one another occasionally.
Another key aspect that leaders and managers need to be cognizant of is that we keep recognizing and appreciating the good work done by our teams and DXC enables them by having in place robust recognition frameworks and platforms for individual and group efforts. This helps employees get positive reinforcements which are very crucial, especially in this setup. Managers are expected to communicate expectations clearly and challenge thinking, not schedules.
How does succession planning get redesigned in this new era of work? What is your take on the build v/s buy talent dilemma when it comes to succession planning?
I am a big believer in professional growth; one must consistently work at upskilling oneself so that their role within the organisation does not become redundant. Succession planning needs to happen across the organisation, and at every point in time, we must identify people who have the potential to replace us. This is even more important for the critical roles in the organization. Sharing information within the team and skilfully delegating tasks is one of the basic steps that contribute to effective succession planning.
Buying talent has always been more expensive than building talent; it's also uncertain because of the culture fit dilemma. Organisations always take a chance when hiring someone from outside to take on leadership roles. Even if you have a potential internal candidate just 70% ready to take on the role, I recommend promoting that person instead of hiring. Skills can always be built, and as an organisation, if you thrive on a culture which builds intent with the right skillsets, you will always have a talent pipeline.
For remote working models, succession planning gets even easier because the location constraints aren’t any more a bottleneck, and all you must do is hire the best person for the role and invest in their growth. This is what we do at DXC; 85 to 90% of our roles get fulfilled internally. Moreover, we ensure that our succession planning approach aligns with current trends to build leaders who can take on the future of work and create impact.
With key leaders spread across geographies, how do we strengthen collaboration when designing people and business strategies?
Collaboration is one of our core values; and be it in person or in a remote setup, it remains crucial for us to succeed as a global organization. We're finding new opportunities for leaders to come together through our global leadership programs which are mostly virtual and at times in person. I've noticed that when we have those in-person opportunities to connect, getting to know and connecting with people becomes easier as that’s how we are conditioned. But as I mentioned earlier, the shift has already happened and while we will try to enable some in-person connections at regular intervals, predominantly collaboration will need to be strengthened over digital platforms. I believe modern workplaces are here to stay and technology will be a key enabler in increasing and sustaining collaboration across geographies among leaders. At DXC, a technology company, this has been happening at an accelerated pace and we will continue to leverage the best of both these worlds as much as possible
What are some words of advice you would share with leaders on managing remote teams and creating the right work culture?
The world has changed over the last few years, throwing both ‘challenges’ and ‘opportunities to grow’ in our way. Today, as a leader, I'm much more aware of my team’s well-being and what's important is that leaders become far more humane and empathetic. Leaders also need to be self-aware as it is only then that they will be able to tell their teams about their learning and communication preferences, enabling interactions without ambiguity. Secondly, there is an increased emphasis on outcomes instead of constant visibility or availability. What has become fundamental is work-life integration and empowering your people to balance both simultaneously. Thirdly, flexibility is here to stay, and we must recognise that our people are giving their best regardless of where they work.
Finally, the new generation is far more tech-savvy than us, and it's time that we also keep up with the evolving digital landscape, be more agile and in sync with the changing dynamics of this new-age landscape of people and work.