Article (June-2018)


Excellence comes with challenging the status-quo

Kaustubh Sonalkar

Designation : -   President-HR and Chief Executive Officer

Organization : -  Essar Foundation, Mumbai


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How do you define culture of excellence in today's business world where it seems to be captured and governed by digital technology?
KS Excellence is not a destination but a way of being - It's a mindset. It is an incessant process of achieving breakthrough through collective power of people and the technological resources.
Any Organization that has ability to swiftly adapt, internalize and respond to the ever changing business environment by leveraging technology and its people, will deliver superior business results.
People will always be at the center stage and where people are involved connecting with them emotionally is very important. So, many of the transactional HR aspects may get digitized owing to the advent of futuristic technologies, whereas your transformational HR will remain human driven. It should always be a blend of the new and old.
What are the key characteristics of the new-age culture of excellence at work place?
KS The world of work is evolving radically. Rise of tech savvy, hyper-connected millennials at the workplace certainly will require a culture that highly resonates with them. They see workplace as a hub of innovation and a place to be social - collaboration, as they value relationships and teamwork.
In-order to keep this new wave of people engaged we need to provide them with a compelling employee experience. Your futuristic practices and policies should appeal to the generation who are currently 12-15 years of age or in school.
The new-age workplace should exhibit :
  • A mindset to embrace creative, diverse, liquid workforce in terms of age, gender, region etc. 
  • Pioneering mindset which is constantly innovating, experimenting and challenging the status-quo.
  • Nurturing agility, adaptability and re-skilling.
  • Leveraging entertainment as medium to drive connect and engagement.
  • Digitization with high human connect.
  • Customized employee solutions in terms of development, benefits and facilities.
  • Fosters open, two-way communication with frequent informal touch points thereby encouraging camaraderie.
How managers should manage the change and instill culture of excellence in approach and attitude of new-age workforce?
KS In the digitized world today, memories are short and relationships shorter. Where earlier positions and designations would command respect, now people in those positions have to prove their mettle in their offline and online personas to hold on to the respect of their teams.
Managers should not be caught up in this web of belief that people with many years of experience are the only ones who bring in value. They should be welcoming of the Gen Z population with the belief they harbor. They need to be more people centric and inclusive in their approach and willing to let go of control. They should attempt to build an eco-system that encourages, empowers teams that promotes camaraderie. Brings-in the excitement to work on challenging assignments, provide the team a sense of purpose and aid learning which is more experiential in nature. Build a relationship based on mutual respect. They need to take on the role of a mentor/coach recognizing, rewarding right behaviors that help in building a sustainable organizational culture.
What are the challenges likely to be encountered in developing and sustaining the culture of excellence? 
KS One of the biggest challenges is ensuring managers' adaptability to the shifting priorities of a new-age culture infused into a traditional organisation. It is important to pre-empt and keep pace with fast changing business dynamics. The right leadership, with a mindset geared towards people enablement, can spearhead and drive excellence at the workplace.
In the current scenario, how do you suggest to developing a culture of excellence?
KS In my view, current scenario of digitization coupled with rise of multigenerational workforce need not be over-hyped. The crux of the matter remains that people are integral while weaving the fabric of culture amidst the change one encounters. I have experienced, that the moment you embrace and connect to their heart they will adapt and surprise you with what they can achieve. Just shed your myths, inhibitions, be more adaptable and embrace the new-age sea of opportunities.
What is the role of HR in setting organizational expectations for excellence?
KS HR should align itself with the business agenda and support it well as people for the base of any business. As an HR leader, partner with the CEO to support business initiatives. Provide employees with the incubating environment where they enjoy challenges & thrive to perform better collaboratively. Enable, engage and making it easy and fun for them to perform better. Provide them the avenues to fulfill their career aspiration. Sustain the commitment towards excellence by continuously nurturing the behaviors, skills & competencies that drives excellence.