Technology is an Enabler and Should Always be Seen in That Context: Chitbhanu Nagri, Director HR, Moonfrog Labs

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Read our interview with Chitbhanu Nagri, Director HR, Moonfrog Labs to know more about different strategies for upskilling your workforce.

What are the steps you take as a leader to embrace innovative disruption?

As a professional I have always kept my “curiosity cap” on. As a result – I am constantly on the look out for novel practices, technologies or solutions in my field. This approach, has helped build a mindset that welcomes change rather than resisting it and provides a head start in my journey to explore the new practices.

Over the years I have realized that “speed of adoption” is of huge value. It is important to start early, execute quickly and not get over-ambitious to expect a “perfect transition”.

I have also reconciled to the fact that one will have to experiment with few solutions, try multiple combinations, some will fail and few will show prospects of further exploration. The advantage of starting early is that – it provides additional time for such experiments without the fear of being left behind.

Finally it is important to continuously engage in dialogues with your teams and stakeholders regarding the “change management” journey, the business case for the change and the potential value you aspire to unlock. Without your teams and other leaders rallying behind you – any change is doomed to fail any which way.

What are the strategies you employ to upskill your workforce?

It is important to be crystal clear about the context that demands “upskilling”. It goes without saying that any progressive organization will continuously invest in the “Learning & Development” of their people. However one has to distinguish the need for upskilling vs the other L&D interventions. In my experience – upskilling is needed in areas that are strategic to the organization and have undergone major changes.

Having predominantly worked in HiTech firms – I have seen that focus on “domain knowledge” has been a huge differentiator. Organizations that have realized this and invested disproportionately higher focus in improving this – have got disproportionate returns as well.

So my strategy has been to have a keen eye to identify such areas that need upskilling. I have then attempted to put significant attention, resources & thought to figure out the roadmap for such efforts.

I have also been very particular about choosing only the best partners and platforms for such interventions. For example, a few years back we launched an ambitious “Sales workforce reskilling” exercise. Our Sales people were spread across 3 continents and several time zones. Despite that, we reached out only to the best Training Institution and covered all our personnel through a comprehensive course. We flew all of them to States and got them to experience the course in person. This required a huge investment in travel cost and also the opportunity cost of not having the Sales personnel available on ground. However we were convinced about the business case for such investment and also the need to engage only with the best trainers.

How do you win at talent management? 

Talent management is a vast subject and entails several critical elements that can help you succeed in developing exceptional talent. So without boiling the ocean, let me mention one phenomenon that has particularly caught my attention.

Few years back, I read about the concept of “smart creatives” at Google. Google believes in hiring the best talent and then providing them an ecosystem that provides autonomy and empowerment for this breed to prosper.

I have been very excited about this prospect and have invested to develop such an ecosystem in organizations I have worked with. Two interventions in particular have helped.

First: we have invested in developing capabilities of People Managers in general and particularly in context of managing the new age workforce.

Second: We have created several platforms for the most talented people to be able to take decisions regarding their careers, work, interests & other expectations. Providing them such platforms and a sense of empowerment has gone a long way in engaging them.

One important realization has been that there is an increasing discomfort with traditional hierarchical structures. With changing times – we have to structure organizations around small empowered teams, managers playing the role of a coach rather than a task master and engaging with people in open dialogues where dissent, individual preferences and personal comfort are gives fair amount of respect.

What role do you think culture plays in increasing efficiency at work?

This one is easy, at least intuitively. Take Amazon as an example, there is copious amount of literature available on what enabled their success. Anybody who has experienced their services, will vouch for their exceptional customer service and uniform experience across geographies. This could not have been achieved without a deeply ingrained culture that was driven right from “Day 1” and reinforced time & again.

Culture defines the kind of organization you are building. Over time, as tenets of culture strengthen, they reflect in the systems, processes, policies and behaviors that shape the organization – which in turn drives efficiency as a by product

Take for example the transformation that we have seen in the services of Regional Passport Offices from the time TCS has taken responsibility. The point to ponder is – has TCS deployed any earth shatteringly different systems or is it a differentiated culture, a better way of working that made all the difference?

What role do you think technology plays in talent management? How can technology bring about a change in the talent management lifecycle?

Technology is a huge enabler. In a virtual world, where workforces are spread across timezones – technology has unified them by way of seamless connectivity & collaboration opportunities. One personal learning for me has been – how I have seen solutions like Slack replace emails/telephones/sharepoints etc and bundle them all into one single platform. I have personally experienced how this has simplified engagement & collaboration.

In a world where personal preferences are of paramount importance, technology has provided us “on demand services”, “multi platform integration” etc. Today – I can start a training on my laptop in office & seamlessly continue it on my mobile device while being chauffeured home. I can join virtual classes, access unlimited archives & all of that on the touch of a button at my preferred time, place and device of choice. This one aspect has especially revolutionized the entire paradigm of Learning & Knowledge Management.

Finally the huge opportunity for disruption that “AI” brings. We are still in early days, but we already have chatbots driving employee interactions, automated on-boarding systems, content personalize and prediction of attrition trends etc. I believe this will be the single biggest game changer in Talent management over next several years. How fast we adapt to these changes & how well we integrate those to our organisational systems will determine how we will engage and manage talent in the digital era.

My only caution is that technology is an enabler and should always be seen in that context. It should never (and hopefully never will) overshadow the goodness of human connect and empathy.

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