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Getting Leaders and the Workforce Future Ready

Getting Leaders and the Workforce Future Ready

Hiring, honing and harnessing human capital often calls for strategy adjustment in real time. In February 2018, the Indian School of Business hosted wide-ranging discussions on these themes at a Thought Leaders’ Summit on Shaping the Future of Human Capital Strategies.

“We need a new mind-set and a true revolution to adapt our educational systems to the education needed for the future work force”, Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum, 2017″.

Human capital remains the foremost strategic lever for enterprises to deliver sustainable stakeholder outcomes. Yet, India’s readiness to develop and deploy human capital is woefully inadequate. Among 130 nations, India ranked a low 103 on the 2017 World Human Capital Index. There is an urgent need for businesses to design and deploy human capital strategies that get our workforce future ready. Every aspect of how we hire, hone and harness human capital needs to be transformed. Strategy adjustment must occur in real time, factoring each enterprise’s own unique life cycle and sectoral needs.

The inaugural Thought Leaders’ Summit at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad focused on the theme of Shaping the Future of Human Capital Strategies: Priorities for Education, Research and Learning. A full house of more than 30 Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) from across industries participated in animated discussions on the trends and challenges shaping human capital practice. The event was organised by the ISB Human Capital and Leadership Initiative (HC&LI), in partnership with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and Singapore Management University (SMU). ISB proposes to build on the deliberations of the day-long summit and incorporate the learnings in the foundation for a proposed Centre for Strategic Human Capital.

Dean Rajendra Srivastava underscored the relevance and criticality of a human capital focus. The ISB vision for a centre of excellence revolves around India’s concerns regarding the development of its human capital. The Dean outlined two major challenges faced by the Indian corporate echelons. The first priority was making senior managers technology-savvy and adaptive as this era of digital transformation demanded. Second was accurately estimating the real value of human resource contributions that are mostly intangible in nature.

The Dean argued for greater collaboration between academe and practitioners in shaping human capital strategies, and for overcoming human capital challenges. A fast- changing human capital landscape that transcends global boundaries necessitates a closer and much more nuanced approach to managing human resources by coalescing education, inspired research and meaningful learning.

In his address, Chandrasekhar Sripada, Practice Professor, Organisational Behaviour and Strategic Human Capital Area, delineated two parallel targets for the HC&LI’s endeavours– human capital professionals and people managers. The people agenda falls between these two categories and only when there is a strong partnership between the CEO and CHRO that the people agenda will succeed, Professor Sripada said.

Keynote speaker D Shivakumar, Group Executive President, Corporate Strategy and Business Development, Aditya Birla Management Corporation spoke on the several trends influencing human capital. He underlined the significance of education and research in the area of human capital. Professor Richard R. Smith, Academic Director, Master of Science in Human Capital and Leadership, Singapore Management University was the other keynote speaker. Professor Smith shared his experiences in industry and academia: engagements that worked and others that did not, all provided food for thought.

Six breakout ‘roundtables’ facilitated the churning of ideas. The distinguished gathering also shared their experiences. The themes included:

  • Human capital strategies for the digital era: The rapidity of digital disruption is compelling organisations to adopt and adapt to digitisation. How can organisational human capital embark on this digital journey?
  • Building global organisations: managing across borders: Organisations increasingly operate from diverse geographies to capture the biggest possible chunk of the global market. How are culture, talent and leadership shaped in global organisations? What kinds of adaptability does the global marketplace force?
  • Measuring return on human capital: Unlike many other assets and resources, human capital is intangible. There is no singular, straightforward way to measure it, both because it is intangible, but also because they are many variables in play. Is it possible to develop metrics to overcome these issues?
  • Architecting leadership development for the future: An overhaul of leadership development practices is needed to accelerate the process of ‘seasoning’ and integration. Gestation to leadership effectiveness must be cut down. Can the designs and practices of leadership development be re imagined to address the needs of a new generation of leaders?
  • Fostering workforce diversity and inclusion: How do diversity and inclusion affect the workforce? How do they contribute to team and organisational success? What talent identification and grooming processes can help address the rising challenges of building inclusive and diverse workplaces?
  • Building organisational agility: scaling and shrinking in parallel: Organisations need to be ambidextrous in order to manage dual, often competing human capital needs. On the one hand, they need strategies to grow. On the other hand, they need strategies to prevent organisational bloating. How can they balance the two priorities?

Key take-aways

In the plenary session, group discussants reported on their respective themes. The reports covered the challenges, best practices, and expectations from business leaders in terms of education, research and in-career learning. Several key challenges cut across discussion groups. The speakers argued for leveraging digital platforms for external communication, emphasising psychological safety, fostering adoption mind-sets and developing leadership that is resilient enough to deal with uncertainty. Further, most groups agreed that creating spaces for human resources to experience and express vulnerabilities and to celebrate successes helps in building collaborative cultures where employees operate with greater self-awareness and empathy.

The panel discussion towards the end of the day had Rajeev Dubey, group Human Resources head of Mahindra and Mahindra, Gaurav Lahiri from Deloitte and Rajit Mehta from Max Healthcare summarising the key takeaways from the roundtables. The active involvement of the participants ensured high level information exchange.

The day-long discussions also highlighted the need for real-time learning, in addition to classroom learning on human resource matters. In their recommendations to the planned Centre of Excellence at ISB, the participants emphasised development of a real-world human resource curriculum, peer-learning and experience-based learning. Participants highlighted the need for structured and time-bound research as well as for periodic coordination between academia and practitioners to identify and shape human capital strategies.

A lot needs to be done in the area of human capital. Business schools can supply industry-ready students through relevant and timely offerings in education with new age curricula. Industry can sponsor business school research and in return, ask for actionable, evidence-based insights that predict target outcomes. Proven research-based models in human capital can help managers make more informed decisions mitigating the risk of frequent re-invention.

Getting Leaders and the Workforce Future Ready

Vineet Bhatt, Content Lead at the Indian School of Business, wrote this report with inputs from Glory George, Catherine Xavier, Balasunder Balasubramanian and Aravind Chandarlapati.

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