Article (April-2021)


Prepare people to face uncertainties

Dr. Arun Kumar Sinha

Designation : -   Visiting Professor (MBA & MHRM) and Ex - Senior Vice President (IR & HRD)

Organization : -  Aditya Birla Group, Kolkata


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How do you define the Leadership in HR in the present environment?

AK HR Leadership has always been an important factor in the business development process of the organisation in its different phases of competitive and environmental challenges. The organisations in which the HR Leadership has been given the right opportunity it has effectively contributed to better results keeping pace with the dynamic business shifts. The consequences of Covid pandemic were sudden and unprecedented. It has shown that nothing is more important than people - their physical and mental health. During this crisis for the first time the elevated importance of physical dimension of work was realised.

We are still operating under the shadow of Covid pandemic and must realise that the earlier working pattern and system will not lead us to successfully navigate the situation. Also, there is no certainty that in future any such situation will not emerge again. We need to prepare ourselves to face any such uncertainties with an innovative approach of working. Every crisis brings opportunity. In the new normal it is a good opportunity to build agile organisation with resilient workforce to achieve profitable financial results and sustainable business growth.

HR Leaders need to facilitate leaders working at different levels in the organisation with a new perspective on mindsets and skill sets in the changed business context. According to Peter Drucker "Only three things happen naturally in organisations: friction, confusion and underperformance. Everything else requires leadership". This is a time to get rid of all negativity and positively take care of mindset, heart set and health set of employees to build a vibrant world class organisation. This will require working with clarity, compassion, trust and collaboration at each levels while CEO should adapt to suitable leadership styles rather than replicating the past to successfully lead business transformation in the moments of ambiguity and uncertainties.

According to you, what should be the competencies of a good HR Leader?

AK HR Leadership is important for any type of industry as they play crucial role in strengthening the organisational culture befitting with the emerging business challenges and priorities, assemble diverse team of players, helping individuals and teams to perform at higher level. This also helps smoothly manage change, talent requirement and development. They proactively anticipate the emerging people challenges and address them with workforce strategy and innovative initiatives.

Competencies play a key role in transformation and how the future competencies are used impacts the organisation. HR leadership has considerable differences from other functional leadership as it follows strategic, people centric path for transformation.

The competencies of good HR leader in the changed business contexts are :

  • Cutting edge HR functional knowledge and expertise.
  • Clearly understanding of organisation's business environment, strategy, operations, competitors, customers and how it generates revenue and profit.
  • Think strategically and analytically- Able to translate external business trends into internal decision making and required action.
  • Excellent People skills.
  • Leading with empathy and Management by Examples.
  • Organisational Design and Change Management.
  • Re-imaging training and development.
  • Focus more on contributions along with performance metrics.
  • Planning for future of work- helping employees prioritise through short cycle work planning.
  • Building a better employee experience.
  • Role of Health, Well-being, psychological and physical safety.
  • Inclusive culture and gig economy.
  • Employee Engagement and connections.

These competencies will help HR leader find a place in C-suite and contribute strategically from the people side.

How you visualize the HR leadership role different from than it did before 2020?

AK The pandemic has not only affected the people but has also adversely impacted the business conditions. It has created fear, anxiety and uncertainties in the minds of the people and disrupted the businesses, economy and social life. HR leaders are currently facing the challenges unforeseen in the past and never imagined before. They need to help the organisation and the people to navigate through this crisis and come out with a strategy to bring back business continuity. This will help workforce return to work happily with safety and health protocols.

All processes of HR have been touched by the current situation and business context. HR leadership in different business sectors need to suitably address these with innovative approach to take care of current realities and people expectations. As Bill Conaty, Co-author of "The Talent Masters: Why smart leaders put people before numbers" advices -Never forget the human in human resources: "The best leaders balance a passion for the business with a compassion for people."

HR leader should now prepare the people to face uncertainty by becoming more energised, mentally strong, resilient, emotionally engaged with the work, psychologically safe, performance focused and agile mindset.

HR leaders can lead in uncertain times following the six principles of Harnessing uncertainty as suggested by Dave Ulrich. These principles are :

  • Tame apprehension - Turn mindset from threat into opportunity.
  • Envision the future - Anticipate future success what it can be.
  • Regulate expectations - Avoid disappointment through realistic expectations.
  • Experiment nimbly - Discover innovative ideas and solutions.
  • Guide choices - Make better choices and decisions based on information.
  • Collaborate frequently - Affiliate with the community to resolve uncertainty.

HR leader role will be to chart a strategic, people-centric path towards truly transforming the organisation which is ready to face the future challenges with strong determination and agility.

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