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  • Writer's pictureDr. Rajesh Mohan Rai

ET HR World Interview of Dr. Rai

Interview originally published in ET HR World. Interview done by Rajesh Barnwal.

In an exclusive interview with ETHRWorld, Dr Rajesh Mohan Rai talked about how organisations can keep their employees motivated, the gaps seen in the ways companies go about training their employees and how these gaps can be filled. Edited excerpts:

With growing automation of key HR functions, how can HR leaders remain relevant for their organisations?

Like any other function, the role of HR function, as well as HR Leaders, is also undergoing change. To remain relevant in a more than ever automated HR function, HR Leaders have to ensure that the organisation is future ready and develop capabilities to do so effectively. They will have to relook at the optimal organisation structure and HR processes which are more suited to an organisation which is high on automation to grow and thrive.

Technology is advancing at an unprecedented pace; HR leaders must lead the shift at the organisation level, the entire mindset and behaviours to ensure they can lead, organise, motivate, manage and engage the Gen Z or risk being left behind. They will have to be the key resource to bridge the gap between what employees want and what the organisation offers in the gamut of learning and career development opportunities provided to employees. They will have to design immersive learning experiences to help develop leaders capable of thriving in the VUCA world.

HR leaders will have to move from purely a cost base to a more strategic, business advisor role, with a focus on talent management, efficient service delivery and a holistic design of the workplace.

Could you please elaborate on what does a Future Ready Organisation mean?

Being future ready means having the vision and the capabilities to compete in the world of tomorrow, ensuring the skills required in a foreseeable future are proactively either acquired or created in the organisation and the processes are continuously evolved and modified to create an engaged organisation.

In a time when people are mostly stressed, how can companies keep their employees motivated?

Everything in the workplace has changed, but what keeps employees motivated and what managers and leaders should do remain the same. As employees adjust to how, when and where they work, it is a great opportunity for leaders to do a better job at what they already know is important.

Create a sense of belonging by Communicating. The more information is shared, the easier employees can cope. Genuine Empathy would also help.

Ask your employees for suggestions and ideas. That reinforces the organisational commitment to them. The employees may surprise you with some brilliant ideas that haven’t been considered.

Provide guidance. How to manage their time while juggling responsibilities at home, coping with isolation, etc. This provides leadership and again demonstrates empathy.

Enable teamwork and collaboration. Get employees working together to solve problems. Use the tools to spread collaboration to mitigate the isolation of expanded work-at-home and other unfamiliar situations.

Welcome feedback. Solicit and welcome feedback. A critical component to engagement is employees feeling that they are heard. Soliciting feedback demonstrates Management’s/Leaders’ willingness to listen. Also, let employees know what actions have been taken on their suggestions/ideas.

Recognize good work and good deeds. Encourage employees to recognize each other in whatever ways are available. Management should take extra steps to recognize and reward employees for going the extra mile to help colleagues and customers.

Share success stories. Show employees their work is meaningful by sharing great outcomes.

Trust employees to make decisions. Let employees know you trust them. It will help you get through this and will carry over when the crisis subsides.

Collectively, these actions can go a long way to reinforce the employees’ trust in the organisation and improve their impressions based on how you react in the face of crisis and uncertainty. This helps the employees to remain motivated and engaged.

What are the gaps that you see in the ways companies go about training their employees? How can these gaps be filled?

For most of the companies, the training still remains a tick mark activity. It is treated as a standalone activity. Till the time the HR Function is not fully aligned to business or Business does not include HR function in key decision-making process, this is likely to remain. In a standalone activity scenario, it’s all about Venue and Menu game for the participants.

To bridge these gaps, the first step organisations must ensure is that the Training Needs are assessed and identified using multiple sources of data. The prior buy-in from business must be ensured.

Training and development initiatives must be weaved in the organisation culture, becoming a part of Organisational DNA.

The training must be aligned to Management’s Operational Goals.

Training and Development Professionals must keep innovating the content and delivery methods and techniques. We have just seen and adopted one moving from face-to-face delivery to virtual delivery. The methodology and content need high level of customization as well.

Measurement of Effectiveness and Return on Investment must be done very seriously and rigorously.

How important is the Art of Story Telling in leading an Adaptive Organisation?

Transforming into an adaptive way of working has successfully improved performance, profitability and employee engagement in many organisations. A key component to driving a successful transformation is to inspire new behaviours across the team. The biggest challenges to achieving organisational adaptability are all cultural: organisational design, limited management support, lack of trust, and fear of transparency. In short, the adaptability of an organisation is limited by its leaders.

Here are three ways leaders can inspire and tell a story to successfully adapt and drive a transformation in their organisation.

1. Clarify your purpose

Leaders must ensure that team members are aligned with the core values of the organisation. A leader’s role requires the development of a clear purpose that can easily be defined and communicated while reaching up to the ultimate needs of the customers.

Every story needs motivation. In my practice as a Coach, I’ve encountered companies that have tried to implement a framework without a clear purpose. No real progress is made despite the application of new processes and tools. This creates only superficial results.

Instead, leaders must illustrate their vision of why they’ve chosen to embrace modern practices, and why that change is worth it for everyone. This helps to keep everybody honest.

2. Redefine the narrative through storytelling

Storytelling is a powerful tool to creatively outline the elements of the transformation. Any good story includes a hero, the destination, i.e. what transformation really looks like, the challenges that are in the way and the ways in which they can be overcome. The story has to be repeated again and again until sparks turned into embers.

3. Make it their story

The leader has to ensure that the change narrative became more than an executive mandate; it has to become a shared story. Shared story ensures that teams are able to generate value for customers by quickly responding and adapting to environmental or marketplace changes.

Embracing an adaptive mindset requires that leaders clearly define a purpose, weave it into a compelling story, and give their teams the chance to see the story is theirs, just as much as it is for leaders.

If you were to summarize your learning gained out of a career spanning more than 30 years, what would you say?

I would say that one must keep investing in oneself. I passionately believe that life is a boomerang. Whatever one would throw, the same would comeback multiplied. Collaborate, support and guide — these have been my values.

Why did you literally make people walk on fire? What did you want to achieve, apart from winning a proud place in Guinness World Record?

Out of the five elements of nature, Fire is the only element we have been kept away from. This develops a limiting belief in most of us. Apart from Guinness World Record, the participants who walked on Fire were made to overcome their limiting beliefs. We helped them develop the belief that when they could walk on Fire, they could achieve anything, moving from a limiting belief to an Empowering belief. This was one more purpose to organise this Fire walk to initiate a self-driven, self-guided development journey for the participants.



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