Kellogg South Asia’s HR Head on evolving as a leader with millennials
The fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector, the 4th largest sector in the Indian economy has been facing a slowdown. Growth in the FMCG sector has declined substantially in the last year, both by value and volume. While value growth, or revenue earned, dropped from 16.5 percent in July-September 2018 to 10 percent in the June quarter this year, growth by volume, or the number of packs sold, fell from 13.4 percent to 6.2 percent in the same period.
As the sector faces a slowdown and firms prepare for the changing needs of consumers, the role of leaders becomes all the more important. Owing to globalization and disruption by technology, business leaders today not only have to cater to the demands of demographically extreme consumers, but have to work with a diverse group of individuals as well. There are several challenges on their path as they move ahead in their journey. It is critical that their leadership style also evolves in tandem with the other trends that are shaping the future of work.
To understand how the leadership priorities are changing for business leaders, we interacted with Rohit Kumar, Director HR, Kellogg South Asia, and discussed how he has transformed his leadership style in the recent past. He also shared how he is creating more leaders at Kellogg.
Here is an excerpt from the interview:
How do you think the leadership and the expectations from the leaders has evolved over the years?
At present, the majority of the workforce includes millennials and now the Gen Zs have also started to join in. Naturally so, their styles of working and expectations are unique and different from other generations like Gen X or Baby Boomers.
With four in every five millennials and Gen Z preferring gig working rather than a 9 to 5 job, leadership styles have to be more flexible and adaptive than ever before.
From a conventional style of directive leadership, leaders should now focus on creating a workplace which is fun, democratic and yet high performing. Creating this balance in the culture is probably one of the biggest challenges for many leaders.
With the disruption of technology, is it correct to say that traditional leadership will be a thing of the past? How do you think the leaders can enhance the old style under the technology umbrella?
Technology has ushered in remarkable changes in the way we have been executing tasks and strategies at the workplace. It has also presented us with an opportunity to a better gamut of traditional leadership principles in practice.
For instance, remote working, working in hot desk environments, and virtual meeting rooms have become a reality. Hence, today’s leaders will have to adapt to accommodate these changes.
Secondly, the presence of technology has also led to information becoming a commodity. Information is now easily available, at the click of a button and an organization’s leadership is no longer the sole custodian of it. Once identified as a major qualifier to become a leader, information possession is no longer a luxury.
Hence, technology urges today’s leaders to focus on aspects of leadership such as mental conditioning. However, experience will always continue to be an important aspect for leaders. But how they utilize their experience and couple it with additional knowledge they can get from their team will help them in today’s era of rapid disruption.
Keeping the latest trends in mind, how have you transformed leadership development strategy at Kellogg? How are you creating more leaders at Kellogg?
As an organization, Kellogg has always been committed to creating a workplace and a workforce that is future-ready. And to make this vision an ongoing reality, we have always been focused on ensuring our leadership team keeps responding to rapidly changing industry dynamics through its own evolution.
We have invested in and introduced programs which are relevant for different work stages, from young leaders to seasoned leader programs. Line Managers are touchpoints that bring your organization to life and hence we are also focused on developing line managers’ capability.
Our most recent endeavor has been to launch ‘Coach’, which is a real time leadership barometer that assesses leaders on parameters such as trust, honest two-way feedback, and time invested in coaching team members on a quarterly basis.
The goal is to help each leader transcend different layers of leadership as they are not raised overnight.
How have you transformed your leadership style in the recent past?
My own leadership style has gone through many stages and evolved greatly.
I credit this sea change in my leadership to my largely millennial team at work and my two lovely Gen Z daughters at home.
I believe that I give the individuals the freedom and the liberty to design and deliver their own agenda. I have also become more invested in helping peers and teams around me grow and succeed as it is an extremely gratifying feeling.
Flexibility has become my secret formula now. I make the most by working with a future-ready workforce at Kellogg and by feeding off their sheer brilliance!