We need to create an ‘Innovation Mindset’ in the organizational DNA: Susmita Tripathy, Anheuser-Busch InBev


According to Susmita Tripathy, Head Learning and Development, Anheuser-Busch InBev, “for embracing innovative disruption it’s very important to bring about a change the mindset of our people.” How do you do this though? Read the full interview to find out. 

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

If we look at the current context, we live in an age of disruption, an era of relentless changes and uncertainties. It’s a VUCA  (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world for us where all the companies and corporates are reeling under the ever increasing onslaught of disruptive forces like Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Automation etc. In this highly competitive world where things change at the speed of light, its innovation that drives the business forward. As a leader we need to accelerate the speed of innovation by fostering new intuitive & disruptive ideas, opening up minds to new solutions and encouraging agility amongst our workforce.

Innovation is not easy. It requires a mindset that is open to change, takes risks and it also requires execution with unwavering belief and passion. For me as a leader there are few cardinal elements which has helped me to embrace and foster innovative disruption in my organization and profession.

  • Letting go of the past: it’s important to get out of your comfort zone.
  • Bring about a mindset change: for embracing innovative disruption it’s very important to bring about a change the mindset of our people – we need to create a disruptive mindset where people are strategically agile, adapt to rapid changes and showcase competitive spirit. Basically, we need to create an ‘Innovation Mindset’ in the organizational DNA.  
  • Enable technology: provide all possible exposures to emerging technology through trainings, conferences, cross industry collaboration.
  • Create a culture of continuous learning for broadening knowledge horizon.
  • Encourage new and innovative ideas and provide a platform to implement the ideas – like hackathon, tech talks etc.
  • Creating capabilities around analytics, robotics, Machine Learning, automation, design thinking.
  • Removing fear of failure: why people don’t take risks- encourage people to speak up, question the status quo and take risk and do experiments.
  • As a leader, be empathetic and approachable and create a culture of candor and transparency.
  • Perseverance: seeing things through and staying the course.
  • Doing it together: leveraging the power of collaboration.

What are the strategies you employ to upskill your workforce?

Well in today’s world, the pace of change in technology is exponential, creating an imperative for organizations to set their own narrative for the future and be proactive about building long-term competitive advantage.

When we hear the words artificial intelligence or virtual reality, there is always an apprehension, especially as an employee. There is so much of speculation that in the coming years technology will soon make employees obsolete and robots may, in fact, take over the world. Even now we hear that people’s jobs are being cut, tenured service engineers and programmers are losing ground to technology. In such dynamic situations it’s very important for us leaders to focus on rightly upskilling our works force to prepare them for the change.

From an upskilling perspective I always ensure that the employee development and the learning interventions are clearly aligned and integrated with the business strategy and needs and are deeply interwoven with the organizational values & culture.

Upskilling needs a very systematic approach with an overarching L&D framework to improve the capabilities of its people. It should offer an array of immersive, blended, need- based and aspirational programs for employee growth and enrichment underpinned with the emphasis on building a flexible, agile and adaptable workforce.

The Learning and Development function must provide learning at the speed of need and help employees acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, capabilities & behaviours which drive efficiency, alignment, agility, and business impact. The development interventions should encompass a range of on-the-job and off-the-job methods complimented with adult learning principles. They should be carefully designed and crafted based on exhaustive learning need assessments such as:

  • Strategic Directions from Business Heads
  • Performance Gaps and Individual Development Plans
  • Focused Group Discussion with Business Managers
  • Learning Need Assessment Survey

 Some of the key upskilling approaches are:

  •  “State of the Play” – Key Employee Development Programs

These are as series of knowledge and skill enhancement programs that are customized based on role and business requirements. These could be a blend of Soft skills, Technical, Domain & E – Learning programs

  • Microlearning / Capsule Programs
  • Mentor Mentee Program for People Managers for accomplishing their developmental milestones
  • Virtual learning – virtual classroom programs allows you to upskill employees regardless of their location
  • Coaching for leaders
  • Top Talent Programs and Technology Academy
  • Informal learning interventions like Lunch and Learns, Brown bags, flip classes, conference cross industry collaborations  etc

How do you win at talent management? 

Creating a talent strategy isn’t easy – but when done right, it can be very rewarding.

For me winning the talent war requires a paradigm shift toward giving employees more control of their own development – with the right development opportunities at the right time–and a clear path forward to achieving their career aspirations.

A winning talent management strategy is one which drives performance through integrated people management. It must include the  full scope of HR processes to attract, develop, motivate, engage  and retain high-performing employees.

Some of the key talent management practices which makes a winning strategy are:

  • Strong Employer Branding: Having a strong brand attracts even the best candidates
  • Great Candidate experience during onboarding
  • Continuous learning and opportunities for upskilling

After all, once you’ve recruited the best people, you want to make sure they remain the frontrunners in the field, right? 

  • In- boarding: when people are promoted internally, they also need support to achieve maximum productivity
  • High Engagement initiatives -Engaged employees are motivated, perform well, and are more likely to stay
  • Robust retention plan through succession planning and providing comprehensive career path
  • Adequate rewards and recognition, culture of candor, transparent Performance management system and regular feedbacks are also essential.
  • Its also important to identify the high potential employees and create a pipeline of leaders and strong talent pool

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

Every organization has its own unique culture which goes a long way in creating the brand image of the organization. To me organizational culture means the way we do things around here , the rituals of our company, the company climate”, “the reward system”, “our basic values”  beliefs , leadership landscape ” and so on.

Organisational culture plays a very pivotal role in enhancing and driving efficiency at work.

Organizations must have an enabling culture creating an environment of candor and have open and two way dialogues between employees and management at all levels so that employees easily embrace and adapt to the culture.

It is important for employees to understand and assess the organisation culture as well as determine how they can impact its success.

Some of the crucial cultural factors which propels efficiency at work are:

  • Effective communication with employees and setting the right expectations
  • Showing the big picture to the employees and sharing the organizations goals and visions
  • Creating a respectful workplace and allowing employees to contribute
  • Providing a safe work environment
  • Providing a culture of learning, rewarding good behavior and enabling technology

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

Technology has become omnipresent in every walk of life. We live in an era of computing, big data , gaming, internet of things and mobile. With Analytics, social media, mobile technologies, cloud-based technologies – the world of human resource, recruiting, people engagement and development has transformed from desk and paper process to much faster and wider business processes.

Technology can help transmute talent management from a cookie cutter approach—where we  simply copy an approach used elsewhere to a space where we really think about what we are trying to accomplish and use technology as a means to that end.

For example – Technology can help organizations attract some of the best and brightest minds. Through technology we can create a smooth, seamless, fast and highly pleasing candidate experience at the time of onboarding.

Technology can even be used to conduct performance evaluations, where all these things could be tied together so you’d have all the aspects of evaluation, recruitment and hiring, and classification and compensation on a single platform. Then, you could also work with learning management platforms for educational processes, mobile enabled engagement platform and complete the full circle of employee lifecycle.

Technology offers infinite potential and can bring about remarkable transformation in the talent management lifecycle. Technology and Talent management processes  are going to intersect in a big way and bring about a revolution in the world of employee life cycle right from talent attraction, employee engagement, development to employee retention.

For example creating Algorithms for Hiring – Automating the hiring process, creating apps for Feedback, Culture and Engagement and using real-time, ongoing pulse tools, feedback apps and blind social networking tools make it more responsive and flexible with the employees. Things like people analytics is taking over as they help understand employees and how to keep them highly engaged, what makes employees stay, what makes them successful and what can be done to build business strengths like leadership, innovation and customer service into the workforce.

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