Article: Identifying leaders of tomorrow: Sunil Duggal


Identifying leaders of tomorrow: Sunil Duggal

Sunil Duggal, CEO, Dabur India
Identifying leaders of tomorrow: Sunil Duggal

The CEO’s role is to craft the broad strategic framework for the organization, articulate it to the management and ensure that there is a talent pipeline to deliver on the business needs at any given point in time. The CEO’s role is moving away from operational activities. The fast changing business dynamics demand specialists’ attention, while the CEO is increasingly involved in crafting the strategic milestones and defining the strategy to build the talent pool to deliver on that.
Over the last 10 years, the skill sets as well as the aspiration levels and expectations of employees have changed drastically. The challenge is to harness new skills as well as manage employee expectations so that it is a win-win situation for both the employee and the organization. That is never very easy, because the present generation comes from a different frame of reference than those who joined at my time, who were more content and accepted a steady and slow growth path. The youth of today is a little bit more impatient. So, if you cannot satisfy the aspirations in terms of elevation of content, then you will lose them, because there is adequate talent requirement in the industry, in India as well as overseas. Thus, to cope with the situation, the HR team and the CEO work towards identifying the leaders of tomorrow, put them onto a fast track, ensure that their aspirations are met, give them additional responsibilities, provide higher levels of training and grooming for the elevated roles, and make sure they stay, because they will form the bench strength for future leadership positions. While we do this, we are cautious not to do this too visibly, because we do not want to create a cadre of people who are perceived to be superior to others. Dabur works on a democratic framework to do business, even as they work towards selecting the talent pool that is identified as future leaders.

Therefore, the first HR priority is to identify future leaders and ensure that they are retained and developed, because the more effective a person is, the harder it is to retain him/her, as they have a high demand in the market. We have a large overseas component of our business and my endeavor is not to populate it with Indian managers, but to increasingly localize. And there is a talent challenge, as we operate in emerging markets where there are cultural differences and talent pools are thin. So, to become a truly trans-national organization, the challenge is to acquire and manage diversified talent across different nationalities that will connect with customers at the local level.

As a CEO, my focus is on developing skill sets and identifying the right attitude for the business. We try to identify whether a candidate is a ‘can do’ person, who strives on challenges and big achievement, or is he more conservative in his outlook and thinking? We look for the former, because we believe that the canvas that we have is as big as we want to make it. We are an Indian company with no boundaries, categories or portfolios, unlike the multinationals, which operate in our space as they have to operate within the constraints defined by their principal organizations. Thus, Dabur tries to build an entrepreneurial culture that thrives on challenges and attracts talent, which is ready to take on tasks that are seemingly difficult, and also enjoy the challenge of pursuing the same.

I spend about half my time on operations and strategic activities, and the other half on people-related activities. So, recruitment, training, mentoring, and interacting with people takes about half of my time. At Dabur, there is a mandate for the CEO to be a part of recruiting people at a certain level and above. Employee satisfaction and retention are part of my matrix, and they are certainly entrenched into the whole performance management system.

With respect to measuring the ROI of the CEO’s time spent on people-related activities, it is very hard to measure that, and I do not think one should even attempt to measure it. It is something so fundamental and if we try to quantify it, we miss out on the fact that this is a mission critical function and so time has to be spent on it. Since we develop and groom our own talent, there is a need to spend disproportionately higher time on people activities than many of our competitive companies.

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Topics: C-Suite, Strategic HR, Leadership, #ExpertViews

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