Article (November-2021)


Leadership : Leadership development process should be non bureaucratic and fair

Rajorshi Ganguli

Designation : -   President and Global HR Head

Organization : -  Alkem Laboratories Ltd., Mumbai


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How is the concept of next-gen leadership evolving in the face of current business situations?

RG The topic of next-gen leadership has always been there, however it evolved with time. At every point of evolution of an organization there has been concern or interest to safeguard the future of the organization and thus in some way or the other management showed interest in the concept of next-gen leadership. The fundamentals of leadership will never change, be it how it was 50 years back, or currently. However, certainly the context changes, and thus if we see from a current time lens it assumes different significance compared to an earlier period.
The current business situation is more dynamic and uncertain in comparison with perhaps even few years back. There are constant disruptions and headwinds at socio-political, economic and regulatory levels across the globe. Developments in one part of the world rapidly impacts business in other parts because of super connectivity and global market place concept. Example- the ongoing Corona virus which largely affected one major country has caused business uncertainties and stock market plunge in multiple countries in matter of weeks; it was not even a matter of discussion even few weeks back across the world. The other major disruptive forces of today are digital and technological innovations. Companies are forced to innovate and change at exponential rate to stay relevant. It is believed that three to four out of every top ten ranked companies in their industries won't exist in the next five years, making innovation a matter of survival. New business models are evolving every other day. What is the most differentiating factor in developing the latest breakthrough? Is it the big idea or big funding? Entrepreneurship or discipline? Taking risks or following processes? Perhaps all these and many unknown ones are needed to stay ahead of curve.

Thus, in light of the current business context the concept of next-gen leadership is perhaps more important to sustain organization beyond the success of today. Today's and future leadership is all about sensing change, developing learning agility, navigate uncertainties, innovate, keeping connected, engaged and stay ahead of the curve.

What are the likely challenges that an organization encounters in building its future leadership pipeline?

RG Building future leadership pipeline comes from an organization's ethos and culture. It has to be led by the CEO and management. It is also about investment in talent and taking bets. Very often organizations spend time, energy and focus in dealing with immediate requirements of leadership. Solutions to leadership vacuum are often addressed by hiring to get a plug and play talent. A high volatile talent market has further compounded these issues. Only few mature organizations have installed processes and system to systematically identify and groom talent as part of succession planning and successfully placing them into leadership roles. The following challenges are seen in organizations that have focused on building future leadership pipeline :

Retention of key leaders : Given the dynamic nature of any industry and vast gap between demand and supply there is a constant challenge to retain talent and leaders at all levels. Especially if the churn is more at junior to mid-level then developing next-gen leaders becomes a dream. What compounds the issue is lack of example of in-grown leaders at top which makes others do not believe the process.

Develop vs. hire : Companies often struggle to decide whether to hire from outside or promote from within. Lack of patience and constant churn in talent makes it difficult to rely only on the developmental model. To compound this issue, there are often different sets of lens looking at talent internally and externally, thereby making calibration challenging.

Hiring challenges : While some bit of external hiring is always essential but getting it right also doesn't work always. Especially for old and mature organizations informal networks in the organization are so strong that the hired individual may be excluded and not set up for success. For start-ups and companies in new domains lacking talent, the issue is often where to look for fresh talent and what are the must-haves and nice- to-haves in the recruits.

Functional experts vs. Leaders : Organizations needs both but often lacks both as well. While well rounded leaders are necessary but very often technical experts at top are also equally essential. Very often technical and functional experts aspire to become general management leaders because of societal & peer pressure but find it extremely difficult to cope up over a period of time thus doing injustice to both.

Do you have any mechanism in place to identify key skills and capabilities invest in the training and develop next gen leaders for your organization? Pl. share.

RG Alkem is currently an USD 1.2bn company operating in India, US and several other markets. It is fast growing and aspirational. To fuel its growth we need a constant pool of leaders at all levels. Training and development is a key function at Alkem. HR constantly partners with business to understand the needs of today and future and develop suitable training and development intervention to support talent requirement of business. We run customized programs for sales, manufacturing and other function basis the training needs identified. Our key mechanisms to train and develop next-gen leaders are as follows :

Alkem Talent Development Centre- this focuses on identifying next-gen leaders in sales through a comprehensive assessment centre approach. It is designed around the competencies defined for the next level roles. Our sales leadership competencies are defined as per EDGE framework- Excel, Develop, Grow and Engage. Participants who successfully clear get into next level roles and those who do not clear are made to undergo further developmental inputs till they are ready.

For our mid to senior leaders across functions we use the framework of "ABCs of Leadership" (Alkem Behavioral Competencies for Leadership). A multi-stakeholder feedback process is in place to identify the developmental needs and thereafter target customized developmental interventions to prepare the next-gen leaders.

At very senior level we also developed a customized programme called A-LEAP (Alkem's Leadership Excellence and Advancement Program) wherein we partnered with ISB to deliver a multi-modular program over a nine-month period designed for those who can move into strategic senior roles going forward.

At the junior levels we run need based programs to develop next-gen leadership skills such as First Time Managers Program and other management development programs.

Given the dynamic shift in manufacturing technology requirements we also embarked on re-skilling workmen last year; in addition, we do Supervisory Development program for frontline supervisors.

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About the Author : Rajorshi Ganguli currently is President and Global HR Head, Alkem Laboratories Ltd., Mumbai. An alumnus of XISS, Ranchi, Rajorshi Ganguli  brings with him more than 25 years of experience in the field of human resource function across variety of roles both in India and abroad. Prior to Alkem he had long stints with Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories and Bharat Petroleum. Rajorshi has authored several articles, case analysis and is a frequent speaker in different forums. He has received several recognition during his professional journey.