As organizations the world over have shifted to the remote work model on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing that has acquired even greater importance is the role of HR to build a more resilient workforce in order to ensure business continuity.
How do you think the role of HR leaders needs to evolve given that they are at the front of this crisis in ensuring that the workforce becomes more adaptable? What are some of the workplace changes which leaders will need to lead their organizations through in order to be agile and future proof?
To deep dive into this, we have with us Kamal Dutta, the Managing Director India, Skillsoft. Prior to Skillsoft, Dutta was Managing Director of Asia Growth Countries for HPE Software, which included India, SEA, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Korea. Skillsoft is also our Presenting Partner for TechHR India 2020 where we will be delving into adaptable tech for a reset in our world of work in detail.
Here are a few excerpts from the interview-
2020 has been a tough year. How do you think it will impact the way skills and learning needs to evolve?
There is always a silver lining even in the worst of times. HR leaders and L&D heads over the past six months have faced a storm of unprecedented disruption. From a global pandemic to economic uncertainties, this in many ways is the biggest reset of our times. L&D teams in my opinion are central to lead and built organizations for the new normal. For that, they need to adopt new strategies and tools to deliver. They have to look at alignment with business outcomes and how well they are delivering by building a more resilient and adaptable workforce that can accelerate growth and innovation.
As COVID-19 has shown, organizations will have to equip themselves to deal with the rapid rate of change and all sorts of crises. What do you think are key characteristics of a leader who can lead through a crisis?
Leadership has not been constant throughout-there have been many multiple disruptions-digital transformations, business and supply chain constraints, trade wars, and so on, and so forth. On top of that, we have a pandemic and economic instability. But through all of these, leaders have built some level of resilience through the challenge of change. There were certain key characteristics which were always there-and as a company, we have been looking at those very carefully. In my mind, there are 8-10 competencies that have become more relevant than ever before which include things like building and leading successful teams. But today more important is creating a successful business evolution culture-we all work remotely, so how do you build that?
This is also a time when we are telling leaders to use their emotional intelligence and lead with EQ as well as IQ. So, there is a need for not only the top leaders but everyone to ensure that their teams are doing critical thinking, and have cognitive flexibility. How do they do problem-solving and decision making in this time as there is no playbook that they can refer to? You have to write a new playbook, you have to do some critical thinking.
“So in my mind, for the agile leader of tomorrow and the new normal, it will be about perseverance and flexibility.”
At the same time, you have to lead virtually. So the accountable leader will be the one who leads and gives that confidence to his teams, his partners, and his customers that he has a vision, a strategy, and is building the right skillsets and competencies required in the new normal.
Moreover, as the George Floyd incident revealed, there is a need for embracing diversity and people at all levels need to remove unconscious bias that exists in our societies and our organizations. It’s a tough time but leaders have to lead with mindfulness, with values, with ethics, and have an executive presence.
How do you think the role of HR leaders needs to evolve given that they are at the front of this crisis in ensuring that the workforce becomes more adaptable?
HR and L&D leaders are pretty central to organizational transformation. I think their first objective will be to ensure that employees are safe. So there is a focus on wellness and safety and ensuring that they are compliant with some of the workplace changes on account of COVID. They need to work on the employee handbook and the leaders’ handbook for COVID times. The second area they need to double down is really business compliance and security, particularly because we have seen a tremendous rise in remote workers' cybersecurity being targeted. They are not protected under a firewall anymore. Previously it was the CIO’s responsibility; now it is the HR’s responsibility to create the right awareness so that employees know how to protect their data and to protect themselves from cyber-attacks.
Lastly, they need to plan for the next stage of transformation for this new normal-be it technology, business transformation, productivity, collaboration, or learning. The biggest job that they have right now is to curate, curate for each and every role as much as possible to ensure business outcomes are met. It is time for them to work more closely with business than ever before to mitigate their challenges. Also, with increased automation, HR leaders need to think more about employees in order to make them feel secure and ensure they have multi-disciplinary skills and the roadmap to move from one role to another.
What are you most looking forward to at TechHR India 2020?
For the first time, Skillsoft is a Presenting Partner for TechHR. And this time, I am very excited for the five days of curated learning as I am sure the sessions will be very, very insightful. I am very impressed by the global thought leaders who are part of the conference this time. So I think this is an opportunity for everyone to participate and contribute and as a community to rewrite and reimagine the playbook for the new normal.
Meet Kamal and many more trailblazing leaders from the world of HR and Work Tech at People Matters TechHR India from 10th -14th August.