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BIG INTERVIEW IRA GUPTA Head of Human Resources, Microsoft India

The hybrid model is still a work in progress, and so is the kind of leadership that will be relevant to it. How much of a difference are leaders making?

July 2022 |


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How do we lead in a hybrid world?


he question of leadership touches very close to the heart for many members of our community. What kind of leader do we want to be? What kind of leadership is best for our organisation, for our people, for the broader community and society? As the world of work changes, with work structures and work models, job roles and requirements, even the entire definition of work shifting, the question of leadership becomes more pertinent than ever. The old styles of command and control leadership have been on the way out for some time, replaced by greater | July 2022

trust and flexibility and a mindset of enablement, but this evolution has been slow. However, we cannot dawdle any more. The future of work is upon us, and so is the future of leadership. Already, the pandemic proved to leaders around the world that it is in fact completely possible to take on a deeply caring and empathetic approach in response to the needs of the moment. Now that the initial crisis is past, replaced by today's uncertainty, we can hardly fold up the humanistic approach and put it back in the closet. A mindset of treating employees with trust, respect, and support is not like an umbrella to be left in a corner and taken out only when it rains – it is a roof, critical to the integrity of an organisation. Forward-thinking, futureoriented leaders already know this. The demand for evolved leadership styles is at an all-time high. And it is not just the top leadership, but the middle and front-

line management as well. Organisations have recognised that leadership in the future of work cannot be allowed to stop one or two levels from the top; it must trickle down to everyone in the organisational structure who has decision-making abilities. This issue's cover story highlights key traits, styles, and approaches of leadership that help an organisation to succeed in the hybrid world of work. We bring together the experience of industry leaders including Deepti Varma, Director – HR for Amazon in APAC and Middle East, Leslie Tarnacki, SVP of HR at WorkForce Software, Shashwat Mitra, Head of HR at KPIT India; we also consider the research and perspective of experts, and the commentary of executive search specialists. For our Big Interview this month, we hear from Ira Gupta, Head of HR at Microsoft India, who deep dives into the nature of

ysis Framework: Strategies To Drive Human Motivation (05 September to 07 October); Talent Analytics: Driving Organizational Impact (19 September to 21 October). You can reach out to for more information and to enroll. People Matters BeNext has shown us all, over the past year, how interconnected community and learning are. Now that we have extended our virtual learning programmes to leaders in Spanish-speaking countries, we anticipate even greater levels of diversity, inclusion, and community development upon the platform. As always, we welcome your views, comments, and suggestions regarding our stories. Happy Reading!


Bull’s eye!

From the Editor’s Desk

hybrid work, what the shifting shape of success looks like in this model, and what leaders can do to adapt. We're extremely excited for our flagship TechHR conference, which kicks off in a matter of days this August (India: 4 August; SEA: 25 August). In today's hybrid mode, we provide for a mix of virtual participation and much-welcome in-person interaction. Join us for a look at how the HR community can enable people in the world of work with #FreshEyes. And don't forget to keep an eye out for the results of our Are You In The List 2022 Awards. People Matters BeNext, our cohort-based certification programme, launches four fascinating new courses in the coming months. Designing Employee Experience in the New World of Work (08 August to 09 September); HR Business Partner in the New World of Work (29 August to 30 September); Gamification & The Octal-


Esther Martinez Hernandez Editor-in-Chief follow

M > @Ester_Matters F > estermartinez > July 2022 |



JuLY 2022 v o l u m e x I ii issue 7


cover story



Multimodal management: Expectations in the hybrid workforce

Prof. Richard Smith, Professor at Johns Hopkins University where he also serves as Vice Dean, Education and Partnerships at the Carey Business School

What is leadership?

37 Clinton Wingrove, Principal Consultant, Clinton HR Ltd


Hybrid team leaders need to create trust, psychological safety, and bring all voices to the table

Smitha Subhas, Head HR – Technology in India, Uber

Employees seek empathetic leaders

45 Deepti Varma, Director – HR for Amazon in APAC and Middle East




Treating Your Employees like Adults

Melanie Cook, Managing Director of Hyper Island Asia Pacific

Key strategies to drive DEI efforts in the hybrid world of work

Asmaani Kumar


The leadership imperative to the hybrid future

Shashwat Mitra, Head of Human Resources India, KPIT


What are we doing to develop leaders for the hybrid model? Mint Kang


Esther Martinez Hernandez Editor & New Product Content Strategist (Global)

Mastufa Ahmed

Sudeshna Mitra | Asmaani Kumar Ajinkya Salvi | Aastha Gupta Samriddhi Srivastava Associate Editor

Manager - design, photography, and production

Marta Martinez

Mamta Sharma Digital Head

Prakash Shahi

Senior Editors

Design & Production

Mint Kang Rachel Ranosa

Shinto Kallattu

Senior Manager - Research and Content Strategy - APAC

Jerry Moses


Senior Associates - Content

| July 2022

Senior Manager - Global Sales and Partnerships

Saloni Gulati


Sumali Das Purkyastha Published by

People Matters Publishing Pvt. Ltd. Owned by

People Matters Publishing Pvt. Ltd. Published at:

501, 5th Floor, Millennium Plaza, Tower A, Sushant Lok-1, Sector-27, Gurgaon 122009, Haryana, India. Tel: +91 (0) 124-414 8101

Note to the readers The views expressed in articles are those of the authors and do not reflect the views of People Matters. Although all efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the content, neither the editors nor the publisher can take responsibility for consequences arising from errors or omissions in the information provided. Reproduction in any manner without prior permission from the publisher is prohibited.

This issue of People matters contains 74 pages including cover


big interview



Leaders ought to accept they don't have all the answers

Understand the problem and create a transformative solution

Ira Gupta, Head of

Mukul Jain, founder and CEO of

Human Resources, Microsoft India

By Mamta Sharma

HR tech company HONO By Mamta Sharma

25 L e ad e r s h i p

Embrace Hard Truths to Develop Effective Leaders

By Jeffrey Pfeffer, Chair Professor of organisational behaviour at GSB, Stanford University & Dr. M Muneer, Co-founder at the non-profit Medici Institute and management consultant/advisor


62 T h e r o ad l e s s t r a v e ll e d

The Great Reciprocation: Loyalty is a two-way street

28 I n t e r v i w

The impact of inflation on the new world of work

Leslie Tarnacki, SVP of HR at WorkForce Software By Mastufa Ahmed

60 I n t e r v i e w

Build internal talent, rather than buy

Anneka Darashah, Director of HR, Lowe’s India By Asmaani Kumar

By Visty Banaji, Founder and CEO of Banner Global Consulting (BGC)

70 B l o g o s p h e r e

Five lessons from the mistakes of a remotework early adopter

By Gilles Bertaux, Gilles Bertaux, CEO and co-founder of Livestorm



From the Editor’s Desk


Letters of the month


Quick Reads


Rapid Fire


Knowledge + Networking

Featured In this issue Anna Tavis Anneka Darashah Ira Gupta Leslie Tarnacki

Mukul Jain Smitha Subhas Sudeshna Mitra

CONTRIBUTORS to this issue Clinton Wingrove Gilles Bertaux Jeffrey Pfeffer Melanie Cook

Dr. M Muneer Prof. Richard Smith Visty Banaji

July 2022 |


Letters of the month

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The world will be a chaotic place if we only have leaders like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk This is such a wonderful and pointed commentary on the quality of leadership today. Too many leaders continue to ride upon achievements that have become outdated in a greatly changed world, but do not have the capability to update themselves and hence cause their own company to be stuck in the mud. At the same time we idolise the flashy and noisy crowd but completely forget about the steady hands on the rein without whom a company collapses from within. We should overhaul our own view of leadership and greatness. - sHREYA tRIPATI

The algorithm that powers your employee value proposition Love this equation and how simply it illustrates the important things about employment. It clearly

shows that hiring and retaining talent is just like Price, Quality, Time, where you will get what you pay for. We cannot have our cake and eat it too. - tAMANNA gIRDHAR

June 2022 issue

Changemaker: Bringing the workplace culture forward

To the Boards of Directors out there, please have the courage to name more such CEOs and C-suites who can progress the organisation even in the face of resistance and adversity. Many businesses and companies need such strength of leadership. But labour along without it because the fear of change keeps decision makers from bringing in much needed new blood. - sURABHI SHARMA

Serious about being inclusive? Choose language wisely

Cannot believe that in this day and age we still need to be told to treat each other in a respectful and accepting manner. Great that companies like Capgemini have taken the lead not just to have paper policies but also training employees in being accepting and supportive. - mANGALESH DABRAL 8

| July 2022

Interact with People Matters

People Matters values your feedback. Write to us with your suggestions and ideas at

We cannot overlook the digital adoption gap

- krc pILLAI

Will technology replace HR?

A very painful question, and indeed, we have seen the low-value HR tasks taken away by automation and jobs challenged just as happens in other departments that digitalise. There is this ongoing struggle to stay up to date and find ways to improve, such that the whole definition of HR is changing constantly. - bHUMIKA pANWAR

You need a 'CPO' to face the future Coping with organisational cybersecurity challenges today

Seems that HR people have to be everything to everyone now! It's said in these challenges of cybersecurity that the employees are the biggest weakness and so they must be educated. Somehow that's falling into HR's arms as well, but I am not so sure we are the right people for it. Can't the Technology teams help with this education? - kRITIKA bAJPAI

This is a great reminder that although technology is the future, humanity is always a constant. We must have people who know not only STEM but also the philosophy, history, literature, psychology, all these things that characterise humanity. It is not just about leadership but about the entire social structure and social compact inside and outside the organisation, also the relationships and the organisation's very place in the wider society. - iSHALI GUPTA

Sedgwick @Sedgwick James Ong was featured in a podcast from @PeopleMatters2. Click the link to listen and learn about the changes in the leadership style required to lead a hybrid workforce. BlueJeans by Verizon @BlueJeansNet Flexible #RemoteWork hours promote connectedness without geographical barriers. Emerging technology like #VideoConferencing is furthering the capabilities of this modern era. Xpheno @Xpheno "I am thrilled to join Good Glamm Group and build the international team from ground zero.", says Asad Raza. Global Commercial Officer, @GoodGlammGroup. Click @PeopleMatters2 article… to know more. HRCurator @HRCurator Hybrid work can create a risk of exclusion: Deloitte's Global Chief People & Purpose Officer divers… @PeopleMatters2 #HR #HCM #HRM #HumanResources #Hybrid Working

l e t tqeur isc okf r t heea m d os n t h

More of such articles please. Anyone can buy and install technology today but to do so in line with business needs, and make full use of it, and to make sure it is well received and properly taken up by the people in the company, that is difficult. It is very helpful when leaders share their experience in doing so.

Tata Communications @tata_comm On #WorldYouthSkillsDay, @BajwaIna joins fellow industry experts in this @ PeopleMatters2 piece to share her views on the importance of arming the youth with skills in this new world of work & talks about Talent Central - our new upskilling platform:

Ericsson India @EricssonIndia "Driving a balance between business continuity and empathy is vital" Ericsson’s Priyanka Anand in conversation with @ PeopleMatters2 Catch the full interview here Plum @getplumhq Read @vinodc's article for @PeopleMatters2 on how the C2H2 formula helps CHROs build employee-first cultures. follow

M > @PeopleMatters2


July 2022 |


Gloat raises $90 million Series D led by Generation

HR Technology

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Staffing software provider Bullhorn acquires searchand-match platform SourceBreaker

Staffing software provider Bullhorn has announced that it has acquired Al-driven search-andmatch platform SourceBreaker, media sources reported. SourceBreaker is based out of London, UK, is already a partner in Bullhorn Marketplace. As part of the deal, members of SourceBreaker’s senior executive team will remain with the company. This includes

Upskilling platform Degreed acquires Learn In

chief revenue officer Adam Dale and founder and CEO Steve Beckitt. SourceBreaker will also continue to serve those customers that use customer relationship management and application tracking solutions that are different to Bullhorn. Upskilling platform Degreed has announced the acquisition of talent academy platform Learn In and the return of co-founder David Blake as chief executive office (CEO). Blake was previously the co-founder and CEO of Learn In. Degreed plus Learn In will unify the broader range of development options people use, spanning daily learning to long-term upskilling for individual career growth and innovation within organisations, it added.


AI startup GEO IQ to expand workforce by 100% in FY’23

Indian hyperlocal location AI startup GeoIQ has announced that it plans to double its existing employee strength by FY’ 23. This is in line with GeoIQ’s expansion plans, both for India and overseas. The company will hire across leadership & mid-level positions to lead their data teams in the financial and e-commerce sector. Currently 10

| July 2022

the company looks forward to hiring majorly for tech roles which are data scientist, frontend/Backend engineer, data engineer, product manager, business development manager, and inside sales.

Gloat, the leading provider of workforce agility software and pioneers of the AI-powered talent marketplace, announced its $90 million Series D round led by Generation Investment Management, with participation from Accel, Eight Roads Ventures, Intel Capital and Lumir Ventures. The funding positions Gloat to rapidly accelerate the evolution of a rich, dynamic talent ecosystem that can ride waves of economic growth or adapt to market disruptions, the HR tech startup said in a statement.

HR Tech platform Personio raises US$200 million in Greenoaks led funding round Germany-based HR Tech platform Personio has announced that they have secured US$200 million in a Series E funding round led by Greenoaks Capital Management. Previous backers of the company include Altimeter Capital, Alkeon, Index Ventures, Accel, Meritech, Lightspeed, Northzone and Global Founders Capital. The latest funding has pushed the value of the human-resources software maker to US$8.5 billion. It marks an increase in $2.2 billion in the company’ valuation, which stood at US$6.3 billion last year.


Tech unemployment rate falls by 1.8% in the US: Report

As workforce management becomes increasingly challenges in an era of talent shortage, organisations are focusing on boosting hiring activities, especially for tech roles. According to a study conducted by CompTIA, the unemployment rate for tech

occupations fell to 1.8%, compared to the overall national unemployment rate of 3.6%.

CompTIA's Tech Jobs Report reveals that the employment rate for the tech workers grew the most in the month of June 2022. The highest rate of hiring was observed in the IT and software industry with a rise of 10,000+ new hires by the end of June followed by data processing, (3,700+), other info services (3,600+), semiconductor manufacturing (2,300+) and telecommunications (700+).

Employee Management

Is New Zealand losing workers to brain drain?

Modern Health, a leading workplace mental health platform, shared that employees across the globe are struggling with burnout, resulting in losses in productivity, engagement and retention across organisations. The findings from its Global Insights Playbook also highlighted that women are more at risk than men for mental health issues, with the highest risk in Pakistan and India. Overall, men reported feeling higher levels of well-being. Globally, on average more men (22%) than women (17%) appear to be in the lowrisk category. Women's increased rate of mental health concerns is likely to be related to a variety of disparities like gender-based violence or socioeconomic disadvantage.

exacerbates an already tightening labour market in New Zealand. The country is grappling with a talent shortage, with a number of migrant workers still lacking.

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Women are more at risk for mental health issues than men, reveals new study

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Employee Experience

New Zealand is now facing an exodus of workers seeking employment abroad after the country relaxed its stringent border restrictions. New government data show more than 10,600 people have left the country in the past 12 months to May, in what many fear has become a ‘brain drain’ out of the country. The drain is expected to last until new immigrants arrive in the country in 2023. The departure of workers

Compensation and Benefits

C-suite leaders earning almost 324 times to average pay of median workers: Report According to a top American labor union, S&P 500 (.SPX) chief executives made $18.3 million on average in 2021, which is 324 times

the pay of their median workers and higher than the ratio in 2020. Corporate leaders' raises far outpaced wage gains that failed to keep up with inflation, said the AFL-CIO, in an annual report that has become widely cited as a measure of U.S. inequality trends. Reuters reported that The 2021 CEO-to-worker ratio in the S&P 500 was the widest since 2018, when the federation was first able to track the figure based on new disclosures. The ratio was 299-to-1 in 2020. July 2022 |


newsmaker of the month

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A legal right to work from home?



ast month, the Dutch parliament approved legislation to establish work from home as a legal right. Once implemented, the new law forces employers to consider work from home requests from employees as long as their profession allows it. It follows a tax exemption introduced in January, where employers can reimburse their employees for home office costs tax-free. The Netherlands is just the latest in a string of countries that have introduced legislation either supporting remote work or making it an employee right, and it is in a small but growing group that has further extended this legislation beyond the end of the pandemic. Last year, for example, Ireland announced the | July 2022

introduction of similar legislation that allows employees to request remote work. The Irish law, set to come into effect this year, also allows employees to disconnect from work, and it covers phone calls, emails, and switch-off times from office hours. The Netherlands’ new law comes at a time when many companies are still figuring out what the future of hybrid work may mean for their businesses. Research by employment site Indeed showed that global job listings that mention remote work have nearly tripled since the onset of the pandemic. Ladders, a career site in America, estimates that 25 percent of all professional jobs in North America will be remote by the end of 2022.

While some leaders like Tesla’s Elon Musk have fiercely defended the need to work from the office, still others have had a mixed reaction. Over the past year, multiple studies have weighed in on the question. According to Microsoft’s New Future of Work Report 2022, more employers are embracing hybrid work, but not to the extent that employees want. The same study reports that work-life relationships have evolved over time. But one thing is clear: Workplace flexibility and remote work have clearly become one of the key factors influencing an individual’s decision to join a company. It is also a key pillar in employer branding efforts to attract top talent. And now, it has become the subject of workplace legislation delineating and enforcing employee rights. As the conversations around wellness at work continue to influence workplace policies, it remains to be seen what impact such legislation will have on businesses as well as employees in the long term. From the right to disconnect to remote work options, the new norms of the workplace are redefining how businesses, governments and individuals think about worklife in the future.

Havas Group Australia promotes Vicki Bainbridge to Director of Human Resources Havas Group Australia has promoted Vicki Bainbridge as

Primedia Group elevates Tsholofelo Maimane as new Group Chief Talent Officer South Africa media giant Primedia Group has announced the elevation of Tsholofelo Maimane as the new group chief talent officer of the company. Maimane has been associated with the media brand since 2010 in various capacities, including various managerial positions in the group. She was most recently human capital executive for Primedia Outdoor and Primedia Retail both in South Africa as well as the rest of Africa, a position she will still retain along with her new duties. Arrival names Mandeep Bajwa as new Chief Human Resource Officer Equitable electric vehicles manufacturer Arrival has announced the appointment of Mandeep Bajwa as the Chief Human Resources Officer of the company. She brings almost twenty years of global experience across all facets of human resources strategy and development on a global scale. Previously, she served as the Chief People Officer at Gett, and has also worked in various leadership capacities at CloudKitchens and WeWork. In her new role, Bajwa July 2022 | jUly

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Adecco India hires Jayita Roy as Director – HR Global workforce solutions provider Adecco has appointed Jayita Roy as Director – HR, India. She will support the company's objectives and be responsible for talent optimisation and organisational culture. Roy has 18 years of experience in international markets. She originally joined Adecco India in January this year with the mandate of HR transformation for the APAC region, before taking on the leadership role for India. Prior to Adecco, she headed her own consulting and coaching firm in Bangalore.

the new Director of Human Resources, succeeding former Havas chief people officer/HR and talent director, Thierry Lalchere who has resigned to take up a new role. Bainbridge was previously Talent & HR Manager for One Green Bean/Red Havas. Alongside her promotion, Havas Australia has also added a series of new hires to its HR team.

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Clorox appoints Shanique Bonelli-Moore as Chief Diversity and Social Impact Officer Household brand Clorox has appointed Shanique BonelliMoore as Chief Diversity and Social Impact Officer as of July 2022, reporting directly to CEO Linda Rendle. In this role, she is responsible for driving all the inclusion, diversity, equity and allyship initiatives already underway in the organisation, as well as engaging internal stakeholders including existing task forces, employee resource groups, and international committees. Bonelli-Moore is also responsible for the strategy and execution of Clorox's community engagement and social impact programmes.


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is responsible for the London-headquartered company's strategy in managing all employees globally, overseeing global recruitment, people management and operations, diversity, equality and inclusion, and organisational effectiveness. Niyo appoints Jagadish B as Head of Human Resources Consumer neo-banking platform Niyo has appointed Jagadish B as its new Head of Human Resources. Jagadish brings with him over 25 years of leadership experience in people processes. Prior to joining Niyo, he was associated with Thinksynq Solutions as a partner. In the past, he has held HR leadership positions for India’s two leading telecom companies - Vodafone and Bharti Airtel. In his new role, he will be responsible for spearheading employee engagement, talent management and development, stakeholder engagement, internal communication, compliance, and health and safety environment. Deutsche Bahn India names Muukesh Gupta new Head of Human Resources Deutsche Bahn India, subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn AG, has appointed Muukesh Gupta as new Head- Human Resources of the company. Previously, he was the Head of Human Resource at CRRC India Private Limited. Gupta brings more than a decade's worth of experience in executing the people strategy for building a deliveryfocused high-performance organisation. He counts CRRC, Alstom, Bombardier as his previous employers, where he has worked in various leadership capacities. 14

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Wells Fargo names Kleber Santos as Chief Executive Officer of Consumer Lending Wells Fargo announced the appointment of Kleber Santos as the company’s CEO of Consumer Lending, effective immediately. In his new role, Santos will lead all aspects of Wells Fargo’s Consumer Lending business which includes Home Lending, Auto, Credit Cards and Merchant Services, and Personal Lending. He would continue to report to CEO Charlie Scharf. InfoCepts hires Majid Ali Khan as new Global Head of Talent Acquisition Data and analytics solutions firm InfoCepts has appointed hired Majid Ali Khan as global talent acquisition head, responsible for talent acquisition globally for all the six business markets of InfoCepts and other corporate functions. Prior to joining InfoCepts, Majid worked with Mphasis Limited – the Indian technology services and consulting firm based in Bangalore, as talent acquisition head for India & Poland. Brightcove appoints Trisha Stiles as Chief People Officer Streaming technology company Brightcove Inc. has appointed Trisha Stiles as Chief People Officer, effective August 29. Stiles will report to Brightcove CEO Marc DeBevoise, and will focus on strengthening and amplifying Brightcove’s organisational structure, talent development, and culture building. She brings over 20 years of experience leading human resources for Fortune 500 companies, including Tableau, CBS Interactive, and NBC Universal.

Ten Questions



Anna Tavis

Academic Director of the Human Capital Management Department, NYU School of Professional Studies By Mastufa Ahmed



What has been shaping work and the workplace in the hybrid era?

Top challenges HR leaders should prepare for? Unpredictability of the future; growing decision power of employees; complexity and power of technology

The aftermath of the pandemic, dramatic climate change, and political instability around the world


Accelerated technological innovation, unprecedented scientific advances, and the emergence of the younger generation of workers with the most purposeful intentions


How are organisations adapting in response?

They are betting on adaptation, agility and experimentation; they need to experiment, innovate and change


What stands out in the transition to hybrid?

It's not about the schedule but about the choice— choosing between location, arrangements, technologies, and, ultimately, about the “work to be done”

Technology again: what does this mean for HR?

The future of the workforce is at the intersection of data, technology, and humanity


Top area HR leaders should focus on in 2022?

Upskilling the HR function itself to be analytically literate and technologically agile


Why this particular focus? HR needs to understand technology, the impact it may have on humans, and leverage it in a way that helps humans flourish

The future of the workforce is at the intersection of data, technology, and humanity; HR should be able to leverage tech in a way that helps humans flourish

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What new solutions are emerging to these challenges?


So, what does HR transformation mean to you, today?

A test for HR: can HR adjust, adapt and continue to provide people solutions to the current needs of the business and the working people?


And what excites you about HR today?

The prospect of HR stepping up to the enterprise leadership role and helping organisations make peoplecentred decisions along the way July 2022 |



Leaders ought to accept they don't have all the answers: Microsoft’s Ira Gupta 16

| July 2022

While every organisation will have to define its unique approach to hybrid work, it will need to be grounded in flexibility, well-being and inclusion. In an interaction with People Matters, Ira Gupta, Head of Human Resources, Microsoft India, talks about how to empower employees to do their best in a way that works best for them, while balancing business needs and ensuring organisational culture is preserved By Mamta Sharma


inclusive and empathetic to the different needs of their workforce in a hybrid environment? How do you ensure communication channels between the organisation and its employees are always open? And lastly how do you ensure effective collaboration when half of the people are in office and the other half is not? For instance, it is becoming important for employees to understand and appreciate when and why they need to come to the office for it to complement their experience and the business outcome. The employer employee relationship is undergoing a radical shift. Employees around the globe are re-evaluating opportunities with a new mindset and renewed expectations from their employers.


What are the major challenges for leaders of a hybrid team? The diversity of experiences and perspectives is

best summed up by what we call the ‘hybrid work paradox’ which is one of the biggest challenges that come with a hybrid environment. Microsoft’s Work Trend Index survey found that nearly 74% of employees in India want more flexible, remote work options, while at the same time, 73% of them are also craving more in-person time with their teams. Secondly, one of the most felt aspects of remote work is the impact it’s had on our relationships. Our Work Trend Index finds that 32% of leaders in India say relationship-building is the greatest challenge of having employees work hybrid or remote. The other challenges are what I call the 3Cs - Culture, Communication, and Collaboration. How do organisations create a culture that is


ybrid work represents one of the biggest changes in how we work, and comes as the employeremployee relationship is undergoing a radical shift. Employees around the globe are re-evaluating opportunities with a new mindset and renewed expectations from their employers. Ira Gupta, Head of Human Resources, Microsoft India, says there is no single standard or blueprint for the future of work, and every organisation and every individual will need to create their own unique roadmap as they move forward. In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Gupta shares major challenges that leaders face when leading a hybrid team, ways to overcome them and what strategies work to effectively lead a hybrid workforce in the post-COVID world.

It is becoming important for employees to understand and appreciate when and why they need to come to the office for it to complement their experience and the business outcome July 2022 |



Data from Microsoft’s Work Trend Index finds that two out of three employees in India are more likely to prioritise their health and well-being over work than before the pandemic. A staggering 63% of workers in India who are currently hybrid are considering a shift to being fully remote in the year ahead and 41% of Indian employees (versus 18% global average) say they left their jobs during the past year because their current job did not meet expectations. Suffice to say that in the last two years, what people want out of work and what they’re willing to sacrifice for a job has evolved considerably. These are some of the many scenarios that every organisation will need to prepare for to empower their employees for the hybrid workplace.

What works for successfully leading a hybrid team in the post-COVID world? When it comes to preparing our employees for hybrid work, we are prioritising three things: social capital, knowledge capital, and human capital. Our culture pivoted on empathy and our core values of respect, integrity and accountability have been the north star as we navigate the new world of work. On social capital, we are focusing deeply on enhanc| July 2022

Managers need to play a significant role to enable an inclusive, effective, and consistent employee experience while balancing individual and business needs ing employee experience and maintaining the everyday connections between our employees, the company, and our mission. Employee experience is even more important in a hybrid world. On knowledge capital and continuous learning, we are investing deeply in employee learning, providing resources and personalised training content for employees to continuously learn, grow and skill themselves. Our culture is grounded in the concept of what we call ‘growth mindset’, which is essentially the belief that potential is not predetermined. Everyone can learn and grow. This

culture of learning is deeply ingrained in every part of our company and is reflected in everything that we do. The last aspect is human capital. We stay razor focused on ensuring employee wellbeing and supporting employees with their unique needs. The role of the managers and leaders is critical here and more important today than ever before. Despite the undeniable desire for flexibility, 62% of business leaders in India fear productivity has been negatively impacted since the shift to remote or hybrid work, while 85% of workers say they are as productive or even more productive

employees has been essential to helping us learn and grow. This has become even more important in a hybrid environment. We’ve therefore also evolved our employee listening systems to capture more actionable insights at an increased frequency. As a tools and platforms company, our focus has been on designing technology experiences that help individuals and organisations prioritise well-being, improve accessibility, and support flexible workstyles. For example, we are reimagining every aspect of the meeting experience in Microsoft Teams to make virtual interactions more natural, engaging, and human.

Can hybrid modes of work fill the chasm between expectations of corporations and aspirations of their people?

July 2022 |


How do you keep hybrid teams engaged? We offer flexibility to support individual workstyles, while balancing business needs. Our hybrid workplace guidelines allow for flexibility in work site, work location and work hours. Working from home up to 50% of work time is considered standard for most roles. We are focusing equally on building manager readiness to understand and support individual employee flexibility preferences through training, office hours, and HR consultation. Managers are encouraged to develop team agreements – shared commitments among members of a team on ways of working that allow the team to understand each

other’s work preferences and develop shared agreements that balance individual with team needs and set clear expectations for how the team would work together. We have also adapted our policies to ensure every Microsoft employee has the resources to be as productive, creative, and secure as possible. We’ve been on a journey over the last five years to ensure that our benefits not only focus on physical health, but also cover emotional and mental wellbeing. We renamed our sick leave to Sick and Mental Health Leave, enabling employees to take time for mental wellbeing as they would for physical well-being. We’ve also introduced Caregiver leave for employees in a caregiving role at home. We are always looking for ways to improve the employee experience at Microsoft and feedback from


compared to a year ago. Managers need to play a significant role to enable an inclusive, effective, and consistent employee experience while balancing individual and business needs. Managers also need to be more intentional about role modelling company culture and values, more thoughtful about understanding individual capabilities and unique circumstances and proactively coach team members for success across boundaries and help teams respond to the changing environment, opportunities, and challenges.




we are encouraging them to understand and leverage the flexible work options available at Microsoft, based on their unique requirements, in consultation with their manager, to establish the work arrangement that works for them. We are also empowering employees and managers with tools and resources to enable decision making and operationalise this flexibility as part of our hybrid workplace.


The last two years have resulted in significant changes in how employees think of work, their engagement with each other, and their expectations from the workplace. What we're experiencing is possibly the biggest workforce transition of our lifetime. An earlier such transition in the 1990s was enabled by technology and the internet to achieve greater speed, efficiency, and collaboration. This one, also enabled by technology, is rooted in the idea of Empowerment, Flexibility, and Inclusion. There is a need for employers to actively listen to and meet employee expectations, while also balancing the organisation’s needs. This will need companies to build a hybrid workplace that embraces flexibility, promotes inclusion, creates lasting connections, and drives innovation. While there is no single | July 2022

blueprint or design for successfully navigating hybrid work, focusing on flexibility, inclusion and well-being will be a step in the right direction to navigate the complexities and the nuances of a hybrid workplace. Our hybrid workplace at Microsoft is based on a commitment to flexibility that welcomes and enables diverse ways of working, relies on new learning and mindset shifts, considers business and individual needs, and is built on trust and technology. Our hybrid workplace guidelines allow for flexibility in work site (physical space where we work), work location (geographic location where we work) and work hours to support individual workstyles, while balancing business needs, and ensuring we live our culture. As employees plan the transition for themselves,

What's your advice to HR leaders to come out stronger post-COVID? The single biggest piece of advice that I heavily rely on myself is to always operate with a ‘Growth Mindset’. Part of this is accepting that we don’t yet know or have all the answers but still being willing to listen, learn, and take action to drive meaningful change. It is important to recognise there is no single way of working that applies to everyone and we need to embrace flexibility as part of the new hybrid workplace. While every organisation will define its unique approach to hybrid, what is clear is that it will need to be grounded in flexibility, wellbeing, and inclusion, in order to empower employees to do their best work in a way that works best for them, while balancing business needs and ensuring organisations live their culture.

Understand the problem and create a transformative solution In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Mukul Jain, founder and CEO of HR tech company HONO, together with latest big investor Aakash Chaudhry, open up on their competitive advantage in the fast-evolving HR tech solutions market By Mamta Sharma


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he HR tech start-up market is booming, as organisations seek to address the complex issue of not only managing their employees but transforming them, and attracting talent in the post pandemic working arrangements. People Matters spoke to one such startup, HR tech company HONO, on how they define and develop their competitive advantage. Mukul Jain, founder and CEO, HONO, together with latest big investor Aakash Chaudhry, discussed the opportunities that the new markets hold for the platform, and how they plan to leverage them to their advantage in the coming years.

The sweet spot

According to Jain and Chaudhry, the SME (smallto-medium enterprise) segment is very ripe for HR tech products and solutions, July 2022 |


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because there, the decision making is faster and more transparent. “That's a very, very sweet spot, with up to 30,000, potential clients in that segment alone,” says Chaudhry. SMEs, he explains, can change their processes much faster than larger organisations, and their implementation is quicker and less complex. The trick to matching that speed of implementation lies in the technology, says Jain. “The traditional methods of employee engagement are not relevant today. The entire workplace experience has been disrupted and the new workplace decisions cannot be instinct driven anymore. This era demands solutions that help to enable, engage and transform your workplace. It requires AI driven collaborations, engagements and sharp real time insights on employee productivity and satisfaction to maximise talent acquisition, management and retention," he says. “We understand the problem and then create an integrated solution on our technology which can resolve that particular pain point. For example, our solution supports absenteeism management by detecting unplanned absenteeism and automatically scheduling a replacement so that productivity doesn't fall, with| July 2022

This era demands solutions that help to enable, engage and transform your workplace. It requires AI driven collaborations, engagements and sharp real time insights on employee productivity and satisfaction out any higher costs for the company and without any human intervention, in an unbiased manner.” At the same time, Jain says that product offerings must be divided into two categories- basic technologies and transformation. “For nearly 60-70% of business houses, their basic needs are not fully met and until that is resolved, one cannot go in for a transformation,” he explains. Chaudhry elaborates on what this means for a company’s growth and direction: “There are many players who still only want to just use features, and there

might not be many who are ready for transformation. But there are always some early movers and we are fortunate to work with them and show them the outcome of this kind of progressive HR behaviour. So this represents a great opportunity for HONO to be the leading player in the transformation space.”

Investing in the ‘Perfect Recipe’

Chaudhry explains why he decided to invest in HONO: he actually began as a client of the company, and was struck by the quality of its product.

audience. Those ingredients are clearly visible, and it falls to us to take on the role of a chef, to build this recipe.”

The Blue Ocean strategy

HONO isn’t the only HR tech company to recognise that gap and opportunity. Competition is heating up as more firms try to seize the market. “Most players are coming in with the basics of HR tech enablement. So that obviously is already a crowded market. But for us, we’ve already progressed past that stage. We intend to focus on the 'blue ocean' and not get bogged down by the 'red ocean',” says Jain. Describing his plans, Jain says the company is venturing into geographies which have a decent population of potential clients and where companies face similar problems. These are mainly the developing nations, where

competition also tends to be lower. At the same time, these markets are in widely differing states of maturity and have widely different practices. “We intend to help clients in these geographies mature their practices,” he says. “In the process we will continue developing and maturing our product to ensure it maintains its differentiation as it is uniquely positioned to drive the dual needs of happiness and productivity in the workplace. From his perspective, Chaudhry feels that if a company can be very openminded about understanding what stage of HR tech evolution those countries are in, it will be able to grasp associated opportunities more effectively. “Some countries already have basic hygiene, payroll, and HR enablement and are looking for more advanced transformative initiatives

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"On one side, we had brand names whom we were paying a great deal for and still not getting satisfaction, and on the other side, here was this fairly involved company (HONO) whom we were paying in a very economical manner and which had the potential to grow at scale,” he says, about his investment decision. The platform, according to Chaudhry, needs only an extra push to take it to the next level. “When we started interacting with HONO, I could see how good it was in terms of work ethics, understanding the customer needs, translating those needs and pain points into a possible solution,” he says. “For India, there is a need for a very good HR tech company to come out from the country, create a global platform and make a product for the international

For India, there is a need for a very good HR tech company to come out from the country, create a global platform and make a product for the international audience July 2022 |


on the HR side. Those would be the front-runners for us to build that solution. Meanwhile, on the India front we focus on powering the Indian experience. Eventually, we will bring the transformative solutions we have developed in the other markets back to India as a strong competitor in the local market,” he adds.

business owners, it is always on our minds that you have your targets, your growth guidelines set out. “But how do you deliver if your teams are not aligned and not motivated, you’re not controlling your costs, attrition is not in your control, and the people aren’t engaged enough and trained enough to take up

In t e r v i w

Technology is not a job taker, as many people wrongly believe; it is actually a job creator

The challenge is here and now


ment, but also towards using technology as an enabler. “It’s not a job taker, as many people wrongly believe. It is actually a job creator, enabling people to make decisions in a more timely and accurate manner. So, I see a mindset challenge with business owners at both a micro and macro level: we have to open their minds to this perspective, encourage them to exper-

The world of work has changed forever, into a hybrid work culture, and there lie both the challenges and the opportunities, according to Jain and Chaudhry. “It's absolutely a new challenge for the business owners, the CXOs, and other stakeholders. Managing people, their productivity and engagement in a hybrid, forward looking environment is a big concern. As | July 2022

the current and the upcoming challenges. I don't think companies have a chance to advance in their industry if they don't leverage enough of HR technology, the enablement and transformative initiatives that we are trying to put together,” says Chaudhry. He adds that people need to open up and realise that this is not a challenge of the future, it is in the here and now. They need to change their outlook not only towards people manage-

iment until they reach a point where they are confident that the technology works for them,” he adds. On the HR function’s end, Jain advises HR to become part of the business team, get into key decision making and understand business problems. “Only then will they be able to solve those problems. HR is all about people, tech, and business now. Tech is the enabler here which connects business and people, and that’s where we come in. The convergence of technology and people needs a considerable amount of research and innovation," he says.

Embrace Hard Truths to Develop Effective Leaders Good leadership goes beyond popular qualities such as being inspirational, or aspirational traits such as modesty. Instead, effective leadership is about being able to use the resources at hand, in an appropriate way, to create lasting change By Jeffrey Pfeffer & Dr. M Muneer among other virtues. We say “apparently” because leaders are often quite successful at creating public personas that differ significantly from the reality of actually working with them. As an expert on power leadership, Jeff ’s work has established how power and influence skills are essential to getting things done. Power is the organisation’s last dirty secret, but it is

also the secret to individual and organisational success. Telling inspiring fables doesn't develop either the knowledge or the skills that help people become more effective in getting things done – and there are examples galore, whether in politics, MNCs, SMEs, or less prominent sectors. The pervasive “feel-good" approach to leadership development may explain

July 2022 |

L e a d e r s hi p


uite often we hear corporate honchos saying they need a more “inspirational” presentation on leadership to motivate their senior management team. According to them, content based on the realities of organisational life and related social science research isn’t uplifting enough. Such views are common in the leadership development and training industry. Many leadership development programmes feature well-known speakers telling compelling life stories about overcoming various physical or economic challenges. There are also events that feature engaging speakers narrating examples of leaders who “apparently” are modest, authentic, taking care of others, telling the truth, and building trust,


L e a d e r shi p

why such development is not effective. A Gallup study over two decades says that on average just 30% of employees are engaged at work. 17% are actively disengaged and the rest (53%) are “not engaged”. A 2018 survey reported that 80% of employees could do their jobs without their managers and only 53% thought their managers cared about their wellbeing, while an Edelman report found that 63% of executives felt their CEOs were somewhat or not at all credible. Another study says a mere 7% of senior managers think that their companies develop effective leaders. Much more research abounds with similar findings. The leadership development industry is worth billions of dollars but quite often it is a waste of enterprise resources. Isn’t it time to change this and do things differently?

Inspiration will not necessarily create lasting change


Inspiration is a goal of many leadership development agendas, but the problem with inspiration is that it is a poor method to achieve lasting change. The temporary motivational high wears off rapidly. Social psychology research evidence shows that social environments affect behaviour. Changing behaviour, be it in a 12-step | July 2022

abstinence programme or any other effort, requires altering the people in one's social network. Moreover, changing the physical cues that influence behavior is another important intervention. And as the quality movement taught us, the measurements that provide people feedback about what they should be doing and how well they are meeting

The qualities that leadership programmes relentlessly advocate, albeit wonderful, are frequently absent in contemporary political and corporate leaders their objectives is a third potent way of accomplishing behavioural change. Inspiration – not so much. A new venture is designing applications to push people to engage in “better” – based on the evidence – leader behaviours, under the theory that cuing appropriate behaviour will drive productive change. At the lowest level, leadership development efforts should stop measuring how much people enjoy a programme – a process that reinforces

edutainment – and instead assess the programmes against important objectives such as increasing engagement, decreasing turnover, ensuring sufficient numbers of leaders, and so forth.

Most leaders don't walk the walk

The qualities that leadership programmes relentlessly advocate, albeit wonderful, are frequently absent in contemporary political and corporate leaders. Modesty and many contemporary political or business leaders – Narendra Modi, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, Larry Ellison, even Howard Schultz – don't seem to go together. Decades of research shows that narcissism, not modesty, is correlated with being hired, being promoted, job tenure, and even sometimes group performance. The disconnect between what leadership development programmes advocate and what people see, often in their immediate environments from their own senior leaders, produces a high degree of cynicism and a reluctance to accept the lessons being proffered. All leadership development efforts would be well-served by changing the emphasis from aspirational qualities that are not only rare but often not helpful, to a focus on pragmatic skills such as the abil-

ity to exude presence, build useful networks, create valuable resources, and tolerate not being liked. These skills are associated with many success metrics.

Isn’t "leadership" as a term ambiguous?

Leaders Must Master Organisational Politics

Leaders need to get things done. Period. An important focus of leadership development efforts needs to be teaching people in leadership roles how to understand and use the principles of power and influence that are invariably essential for making things happen. Jeff has coached scores of people in the social science that permits them to understand power dynamics and principles of influence, practice using those ideas, and

then make them do amazing things in their careers. Years later they still remember, and use, their knowledge. Retention of learning should be an important part of any leadership development effort so that resources aren't wasted on transitory effects. Gerald Ferris, co-author of Political Skill at Work, has developed a political skills inventory and conducted numerous studies showing how political skill is associated with career success and leadership effectiveness. Those skills, and the influence tactics described by Robert Cialdini in his masterful books Influence and Pre-suasion, can be learned and practised. Leaders who don't master organisational politics don't stay in their roles very long, and many career derailments occur when people reach organisational levels

where jobs entail much more interdependence and the ability to influence others. Power and influence concepts do a much better job of helping people understand what they see in the organisational and social world around them and becoming more effective at making things happen. Far from Jack Nicholson's famous line in the movie, A Few Good Men, not only can people handle the truth, educational efforts that are rooted in the hard truths of leadership, even if occasionally challenging or unpleasant, are much more likely to produce lasting improvements in leader effectiveness.

L e a d e r s hi p

The concept of "leadership" and what we mean by effective leadership overall remains too ambiguous. There are many dimensions to leadership effectiveness: employee engagement, employee health and wellbeing, productivity, ethical compliance – the list goes on. These aspects are far from perfectly correlated with each other. Leadership development initiatives would benefit greatly from more focus. Organisations need to decide what the most important aspects of leadership are, and recognise the realities of trade-offs.

Jeffrey Pfeffer is chair professor of organisational behaviour at GSB, Stanford University; and M Muneer is co-founder at the non-profit Medici Institute and management consultant/ advisor. Twitter @MuneerMuh July 2022 |


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The impact of inflation on the new world of work


The future of the labour market remains uncertain as some companies scale back on hiring to prepare for the unknown. However, we are still in a hot job seeker's market, says Leslie Tarnacki, SVP of HR at WorkForce Software By Mastufa Ahmed


ompanies of all shapes and sizes, from small businesses to global corporations, are susceptible to the consequences of inflation. But how will inflation impact the labour market and broader world of work? Workers are requesting more compensation to offset the growing cost of living, while employers are forced to find ways to reduce expenses to make a profit. In conversation with People Matters, Leslie Tarnacki, SVP of HR at WorkForce Software, talks about inflation and its impact on the world of work and companies’ return to work plans. Leslie Tarnacki brings more than 22 years of exec| July 2022

utive level HR experience to her role at WorkForce Software. She is responsible for all global HR functions, including talent acquisition and onboarding, employee relations, organisational development, compensation and succession plan-

ning. She also partners with the leadership team on employee engagement strategies and sustaining a high performance culture. Prior to joining WorkForce Software, Leslie led HR teams for companies such as New World Systems (now Tyler

Technologies), Dorado Software, AiMetrix and Frontier Communications (now CenturyLink). Here's what she told us.

What do you think about rising commuting costs

employees to feel supported and increases productivity within the workplace.

Can inflation result in more job cuts, hiring freezes, and rescinding of job offers? The future of the labour market remains uncertain as some companies scale back on hiring to ensure security and prepare for the unknown. In some industries, we expect to see more businesses follow suit and implement hiring freezes and rescind job offers. However, we are still in a

Company leaders need to think beyond the traditional 9-5 work pattern and provide their staff with flexible scheduling to ensure retention and satisfaction and mitigate any additional financial burdens caused by inflation. Where remote work is not an option, more employers will need to offer alternatives to support employees. Deskless frontline workers can use technology to support them in these moments when they may want to pick up extra shifts to make ends meet, or even to request being scheduled with certain coworkers so that they can share rides to and from work together, saving on gas. This type of flexibility allows

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Do you think the soaring inflation will impact the future of work? With a sudden influx of highly skilled professionals back into the market due to job cuts and hiring freezes, inflation will certainly have an impact on the new world of work. Plus, many former retirees are finding their way back to the workforce and putting their retirement plans on hold, as the money they saved for retirement isn’t going as far. However, there are still millions of job openings available throughout the larger economy – many of which offer gig work opportunities. In this new world of work, I expect to see workers looking for flexible/gig roles to help them manage financial demands and to support a desire for more flexibility to accommodate their post-COVID-19 lifestyles. Company leaders need to think beyond the traditional 9-5 work pattern and provide their staff with flexible scheduling to ensure retention and satisfaction – especially as they seek ways to balance company needs with labour availability.

and how it might impact businesses' decisions to require employees to work on-site? Are we seeing more employers postpone plans once again? With gas prices on the rise – company leaders continue to receive pressure to reconsider their policies on in-office work. Many are providing their officebound employees with the option to choose where they work (in-office or remote) and right now, it's essential for businesses to show their employees this support in order to retain great talent

hot job seeker's market and there are plenty of businesses that are actively looking for ways to retain their current employees and capitalise on this influx of coveted talent now circulating back in the market.

As inflation continues, what impact will it have on employee satisfaction and wages? As the cost of goods and services continues to rise, employees may begin to feel underpaid and overworked – leading to an unhappy July 2022 |


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new job. We expect to see a slow down on the significant compensation growth of the past two years as access to capital becomes more challenging and companies begin to prepare for an economic slowdown.


In the face of uncertainty, business leaders must be prepared with the proper tools to maximise their labour spending and find ways to retain employees and unmotivated workforce. Some staff may go as far as requesting a pay raise or increased benefits packages to compensate. While most companies cannot match wage increases with the inflation rate or increase benefits for all staff, it’s imperative for them to invest where they can as it will show employees that they are valued and supported during this challenging time. Some ways employers can invest include providing technologies that make employees feel seen, heard, and connected, and encouraging workers to use these systems every day. | July 2022

Meanwhile, even as fears grow about a looming economic slowdown, the Great Resignation hasn’t really slowed down, according to reports. What’s your take on this? It has felt like a hot trend to quit and start a new job – despite the economic slowdown. Employees who are discouraged in their position are quitting in search of a better, more fulfilling role, without fully thinking it through or identifying what benefits, perks, and opportunities they value the most and the potential impact a recession could have on their search for a

How do you see the future of the labour market? What’s your advice for business and people managers? The future of the labour market is still unknown. In the face of uncertainty, my advice is that business leaders must be prepared with the proper tools to maximise their labour spending and find ways to retain employees. As a first step, leaders need to think about how they can implement technology to optimise their workforce, as well as to engage and support (not just manage) their employees – no matter where they are in the world. Implementing the right tools will allow companies to create connections and positive experiences, improve productivity, engage and motivate staff, in order to ensure successful business outcomes. Younger, digitally native employees are expecting to be armed with consumer-grade, highquality applications to help them successfully navigate the organisation, connect and collaborate with colleagues and managers, and be successful in their roles.

July 2022 |






| July 2022

The hybrid model is still a work in progress, and so is the kind of leadership that will be relevant to it. How much of a difference are leaders making?


July 2022 |


the crisis, but still a narrowing of the power gap that tends to exist in the majority of organisations. Leaders need to be more attuned to issues such as employee wellbeing, employer branding, and even employee experience – a concept that might have originated in the realm of HR, but which is in practice profoundly affected by the attitudes of top leadership. Organisations are also reviewing their succession planning: the leaders of tomorrow might need to be selected and trained quite differently from those of today. And members of the leadership team may even have to change the way they collaborate, as the leadership team itself becomes as distributed as the workforce. Most importantly, leaders' attitudes toward hybrid work is still very much a work in progress. A form of polarisation has emerged between those who are working on being more open-minded, and those who have given up trying to adapt and simply ordered their workforce back to the office. This month, our cover story looks at how leaders and their organisations are changing in the hybrid model, and how their ability to adapt is influenced by which end of the spectrum they are closer to. In the broader picture, how much of a difference will leadership make to hybrid work?


ow do you effectively lead and manage a hybrid workforce? Just as the remote and hybrid working model forced people to re-evaluate what performance really is, leaders have also had to review the nature of leadership. What is necessary, what is nice to have, and what could really be done without? Just as importantly, what needs to change with a distributed workforce? Just a couple of years ago, leaders and managers' response to the 'great work-from-home experiment' was wildly varied. Those who were more far-sighted and progressive quickly adapted and brought their organisations along with them. Some attempted to go about business as usual, while others tried to find a balance between embracing change and maintaining parts of the status quo. And a few, finding it exceptionally difficult to adapt, ended up falling back on micromanagement. Today, that same spectrum of responses continues to play out in the post-pandemic period, as organisations either settle into the new hybrid world or resist change. It's clear by now that certain aspects of leadership need to change in the hybrid working model. Leadership styles, for example, have to be more trust-based and more people-centric – a step back from the highly empathetic approach that emerged during


Multimodal management: Expectations in the hybrid workforce

When teams are spread across multiple locations and on modalities, leaders can be challenged to ensure that everyone has the same information, especially when frequent updates or changes are common



By Prof. Richard Smith



any organisations have adopted hybrid models of work that allow employees to perform their jobs remotely for portions of the work week. These new “Hybrid” practices allow flexibility and have quickly become the new normal in some industries. Recently, I joined a gathering with several emerging managers in California to discuss trends associated with hybrid work-life. Like many industries, the tech, bio-tech, professional services, and other sectors have embraced new flexible work practices. My interactions quickly uncovered that firms, especially those that rely on young professional talent, are dealing with intuitional management memory gaps – along with two years of | July 2022

management development disruption. What that means in real terms, is that in some organizations 25% of the workforce has no idea what the workplace or people management was like in the pre-pandemic world of work. As I delve into the emerging research finding, I note that this institutional memory gap takes different forms. For some of these young professionals who graduated from university during the pandemic, the concept of going to the office for physical meetings seems a bit odd. This is a stark contrast to the 20-year veteran leaders who expect employees to flock back into the offices and fill conference room spaces just like 2019. On the other hand, supervisors with five to seven years of experi-

ence are caught in the middle trying to blend the best of both worlds and are forced to develop their own approaches to managing multiple modes of working across physical and virtual locations. This memory gap is coupled with a shift in work mode expectations, which is a phenomenon created in the wake of COVID-19. When a significant phenomenon effects a population that causes behaviour or expectation changes (e.g. World War II, Great Depression, etc.) we call this impact a “Cohort Effect.” This pandemic induced shift to a multi-modal approach to management is a cohort effect as it has altered the expectations of workforces in many industries. While we recognise this change and see the

Task-Mode Reconciliation As organisations require workers to come back into the offices for a portion of the work week, questions arise if there is not value associated with having a physical presence in the office. Consider Jonathan

who commutes one hour each way to the office and finds that he sits at his desk all day with limited meaningful interaction with others in the office. With situations like this, it is no wonder that employees are challenging the need to return to offices. To address this, some leading firms are reviewing roles and tasks to determine and schedule activities by mode. In other words, if Jonathan comes to the office to engage in an in-person brainstorming session and social interactions with others, then he will likely see the value of the time in the office. While this task-mode reconciliation is not easy, the multi-modal manager will work to align what gets done by mode.

Modal Equality/ Inclusion With a hybrid workforce, managers have the opportunity to improve equality and foster more inclusion in the organisation. Remote


Ubiquitous Information Exchange

worked well when everyone was in the same virtual mode during the pandemic, the challenge in the hybrid work mode occurs when some people meet in the office and make decisions without posting to share with others. For example, consider Sanjana who leads a team of software developers and requires that all in-person meetings be documented to ensure equal access to information. Such discipline for documented meetings is rare, yet, keeping the ubiquitous flow of information takes strong discipline to make hybrid work teams aligned.


impact in organisations, it is often unclear how firms might develop managers in a way that addresses the challenges associated with managing people across multiple modes of engagement. Two things seem clear when diving into the details inside many organisations: 1) the shift to multi-modal management is here to stay; and 2) managers are not always well prepared for people management in this new reality. While research is trying to catch-up with these trends to provide new management insights, there seem to be some early signals of what is required for multi-modal management. Based on qualitative input from workforces across several organisations, four critical multimodal management skills have emerged:

When teams are spread across multiple locations or modalities, leaders can be challenged to ensure that everyone has the same information, especially when frequent updates or changes are common. Many teams have adopted collaboration sites such as Teams, Slack, or other tools which allow for instant updates and shared documents. While these information exchange and collaboration sites July 2022 |



working allows people with responsibilities at home to stay engaged in the workforce. Unfortunately, the early evidence shows that there is a high risk of inequity when some employees are working remotely and others are working on-site. Remote workers are more likely to have a slower career progress and less likely to feel a sense of belonging. Successful multi-modal managers ensure equal time with team members across each of the modes of engagement. Consider Helga, a consulting manager who manages a hybrid team of analysts. In addition to various team meetings, she conducts meetings with each individual on the team via Zoom each week in ensure equality – even if they are together in the same office location. Ensuring that every team member has equal access to the manager in each mode can be a challenge, and necessary to build a sense of equity and inclusion across modalities.

Social Capital/ Relationships

One of the common complaints about virtual working during the pandemic was the lack of social interaction, casual discussions, or spontaneous engagements in hallways or cafeterias. When managing the hybrid workforce, it is incumbent on managers to 36

| July 2022

find ways to build relationships and create social capital in the organisation. Without building relationships, work activities can become transactional and mechanistic, which can impact wellbeing and lead to burnout or turnover. Consider Chen, a manager of an industrial hybrid team, who sponsors online and in-person events for her team so they can get to know each other and build relationships. While some

Ensuring that every team member has equal access to the manager in each mode can be a challenge, and necessary to build a sense of equity and inclusion across modalities may consider these activities as unnecessary, successful multi-modal managers embrace the challenge of building relationships with an understanding that social capital can make a positive impact on well-being, engagement, productivity, and retention. The new world of work is still unfolding following the global pandemic, yet the cohort effect of hybrid work modalities is here to stay. While new manage-

ment research is underway to uncover more insights related to hybrid working, the four key areas related to ubiquitous information flow, task-mode reconciliation, equality/inclusion, and social capital/relationships have emerged thus far as management skills needed for today. As I reflect on my recent interactions with young professionals, I am struck by the ease at which they have adopted the skills of multimodal managers. As one young tech manager shared, “We don’t have experience managing in the working world that existed prior to COVID-19, we only know our business as it is today – so don’t impose your oldworld paradigms of management on our multimodal world.” This striking statement makes me wonder what the future holds as we experience a leadership cohort shift. My hope is that this change to multi-modal leadership opens up a promise for the future as we perhaps bring forward some of the good practices of leadership and use this period of time to reinvent some of the management practices that need to change to make great workplaces for everyone.

Richard R. Smith, PhD is a Professor at Johns Hopkins University where he also serves as Vice Dean, Education and Partnerships at the Carey Business School

What is leadership? It is not about power or authority, having subordinates, or even personality qualities or styles. It's about setting a goal, or an intended outcome, and garnering support for doing so By Clinton Wingrove

July 2022 |


The substantive question is really, “Why is remote working (the significant component of hybrid working) different?” We are only just beginning to really understand. Evidence is accumulating to show that remote working really is different. And, the use of some contemporary technology “solutions” has unforeseen side effects and consequences. These are some of the arising issues: 1. A dramatic increase in the number of whole team meetings. With virtual platforms they are just easier. Some studies put the increase since the start of the pandemic above 150%. The upside is that teams are getting together more often. Potential downsides include more group-



eadership has become one of those HR terms that are extensively used, defined differently by many, but misunderstood by most. So, what is Leadership? One of the best definitions I have seen was authored by Kevin Kruse, CEO, LEADx, in a Forbes article. He defined Leadership as, “A process of social influence, which maximises the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.” In that article, he explained that it is not about authority or power, not about having direct reports, and not even about traits or styles. But, it is about having a goal; an intended outcome, and garnering support for achieving it. In a similar vein, I have often differentiated Leadership from Management in the following way: Leadership: Creating a

vision of the future, bringing it alive, and securing the resources and commitment to deliver it. Management: Optimising the use of resources to deliver the vision in line with the mission, strategy, and values; making things happen. The two are complementary yet quite different. An appropriate balance needs to be struck between them. Unfortunately, many use an excess of management in an attempt to compensate for a lack of leadership.

Why is a hybrid world different?



As leaders, we need to define precisely why we are asking for things to be done; what the purpose of all our efforts is; what success will look like




5. 38

think; longer decisionmaking timelines; and a reduction in the number of more effective one-toone meetings. Various studies have also shown that around 75% of meetings now fail to achieve their objectives, if indeed they ever had any! Relationships are weakening due to virtual emotional distance – lower empathic responses during virtual meetings. Informal information flow is decreasing due to the lack of ad hoc face to face interactions and the cognitive disconnect this creates. Reduced decision-making | July 2022

efficiency and less radical decisions as consensus is used more widely for decisions that could have been handled by individuals. 6. Weaker information flow due to lower levels of conscious attention during virtual meetings – we are more easily distracted when in a virtual meeting than in a face-to-face one, and even more so if our own webcam is off.

What are organisations doing? Despite, or perhaps ignoring, all of those concerns, organisations have been forced to embrace hybrid

working. The general consensus on how to do it appears to include these four themes: Compromise – allow individuals to choose 2 to 3 days of remote working per week unless that clearly cannot work for their specific role e.g., receptionist, security guard, machine operator, teller, driver, etc. Implement a one-size fits all collaboration platform and use it for as many forms of interaction as possible e.g., messaging, virtual meetings, document sharing, training, etc. Manage performance by focusing on goals, objectives, measurable outputs. Encourage use of wholeteam meetings for general communication and decision making. These have little if anything to do with leadership. They are over-simplified, sub-optimal, generic attempts at addressing the symptoms. They come nowhere near to satisfying Kevin Kruse’s definition, “A process of social influence, which maximises the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.” They similarly fail to match my own definition: creating a vision of the future, bringing it alive, and securing the resources and commitment to deliver it. And, as explained above, they come with very substantial medium to long-term consequences.

Seven Keys to Success

If you really want to demonstrate leadership in a hybrid world, try these keys: Key 1

Bring your vision of the future alive Those working remotely need to be embraced. They need to feel that they are an important part of some-

Ensure that each individual understands the precise standards you seek This is not going to be accomplished via email or in whole team meetings. You may be the most articulate person in your organisation but that is no guarantee that anyone understands what you have asked of them. Yes, you have to define your expectations smartly. But you also have to check the other party’s understanding.

Key 4

Discover who you can trust by trusting them first “We can’t see them. So, how do we know what they are doing; how can we manage them?” The brutal reality is that those who express this view probably don’t manage their teams well anyway, even in the face-to-face environment! Trust is a great motivator. But, it is not about letting people do what you know they can do. It is about letting them try to do what you don’t know they can do. If that doesn’t sit well with you, management is probably not for you! There has to be trust before certainty – you have to let go.


Key 2

Key 3

That is not achieved by keep repeating it or by asking, “Do you understand.” In a one-to-one conversation you need to ask them, “Just to make sure that I have made myself clear, can you run back past me what you believe I want to you to achieve and the relative priorities?” and listen attentively to their answer.


Create a clear vision of the future “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there,” Lewis Carroll. As leaders, we need to define precisely why we are asking for things to be done; what the purpose of all our efforts is; what success will look like. Without that purpose, all our staff have is chores to do! With a clear purpose, they understand why they are asked to do things. Then, they can make better choices about how to use their time.

thing bigger. They need to feel that their efforts are contributing to some greater good. This has always been true of all employees but remoteness heightens the need. As leaders, we need to articulate our vision clearly, frequently, and with passion. We need to bring it alive. If we don’t actively demonstrate our commitment to it, why should they?

Key 5

Engage frequently, individually, and briefly with each of your team There are 7 critically important topics that you should discuss with each of your team, individually, and only one topic at a time – hence the need for frequent discussions: 1. Wellness – Checking July 2022 |


It is not about letting people do what you know they can do; it is about letting them try to do what you don’t know they can do









on and supporting the engagement and wellness of each team member; Priorities – Ensuring that each team member understands the prevailing priorities; Expectations – Ensuring that each team member understands the performance expectations of them (WHAT, HOW and GROWTH); Evidence – Collecting or sharing with each team member evidence of their prevailing performance; Recognition – Providing recognition and positive reinforcement (WHAT, HOW and GROWTH); Correction – Working with an individual team member to redirect unacceptable performance (WHAT, HOW or GROWTH); Blockers – Seeking input on what may be inhibiting performance.

Key 6

Make each conversation deliberate and focused, and listen If you want to know what is happening remotely, you 40

| July 2022

need to have focused conversations and listen very attentively. Do not underestimate how difficult that is! This is another reason why short conversations are more effective. They give you chance to practice and revise your approach after each one. Key 7

Recognise incremental successes Most of all, make sure that you spot things that are going well – how each person is going about their work, incremental achievements that they make, and so on; specifically recognise these. Ensure that your recognition is credible using the SBI approach: Situation: E.g., “The other day in the meeting with the procurement team I could see that they were putting pressure on you to go for the cheapest proposal.”

Behaviour: E.g., “I really liked the way that you listened to their explanation and then took them calmly through your risk assessments of each proposal.” Impact: E.g., “You ensured that we got the best option approved and I also believe that procurement learned something from you. Thank you for being so well prepared and holding the line. Yes, leading in a hybrid world is challenging. But, frankly, so is leading face-toface. The good news is that there are easy to do things that can make a big difference. Take a step back, think about your own needs and feelings, and take the actions that will ensure your team are informed, aligned, and supported. Clinton Wingrove is the Principal Consultant, Clinton HR Ltd

Hybrid team leaders need to create trust, psychological safety, and bring all voices to the table


It’s crucial that leaders possess empathy towards their team members, and that they are adaptable to accept and leverage different working styles to shape their team and organisational culture. Smitha Subhas, Head HR – Technology in India, Uber, explains why this is doubly important in the hybrid model


mitha Subhas, the Head of Human Resources for Uber’s Technology Group in India where she leads people practices for engineering and product teams that build innovative products and services for global markets across multiple domains, is passionate about driving a deep impact on all strategic people's elements of the transformational journey of a business. She also strives to create an enabling organisational culture where employees can thrive and bring their authentic selves to work. In her career spanning over 16 years, Subhas has

supported global teams in large-scale multinational organisations in HR business partnering roles and has built expertise in organisation design, change management, leadership, and talent development. She is also a design thinking practitioner. Before joining Uber, she has been with global technology organisations such as Dell, Wipro, and most recently with Cisco as the Chief of Staff for the Vice President of APJC human resources. In an interaction with People Matters, Subhas talks about her approach to hybrid work, aspects of lead-

ership or management that have become most important with a distributed team, and leadership styles that work best in the hybrid work model.

Have you found your own leadership style changing with hybrid work, and how? My own leadership style has become more focused on being dynamic and agile to be able to adapt quickly to the needs of the team and that of the organisation at large. Most importantly, my leadership has evolved to keep those we serve at the heart of our people initiatives. July 2022 |


By Mamta Sharma




At Uber, one of our core values is ‘Build with Heart’, which is about putting ourselves in the shoes of who we connect with and believing that our care drives us to perfect our craft.

How has your approach to hybrid work changed since the original 'great WFH experiment'? Hybrid work has emerged as a culmination of the prepandemic work-from-home ‘option’ to work-from-home ‘requirement’ over the past couple of years. It has given us a holistic view of both ‘at office’ and ‘remote’ working. Uber’s work philosophy has been rooted in employee feedback and that’s what is happening across our offices to adopt a flexible approach while providing choice and empowerment. This includes flexibility when it comes to choosing

an office location to work from, or a choice to work remotely. We also strive to offer flexibility at the office where managers and leaders have the freedom to provide direction on the in-person frequency, cadence, and collaboration with their teams and stakeholders.

What aspects of leadership or management have become the most important with a distributed team? There is less complexity when employees are all working remotely or when all are at the physical office but in distributed teams, there is a need to be more thoughtful to create an inclusive work environment. For this, the aspects of management that have become most important are for hybrid teams to make the best of the moments together to build strong

bonds, innovate, and create alignment. There is a need to listen and connect frequently to remain agile as a company. Uber has moved to a continuous listening model with employee surveys; we organise All Hands (town halls) at regular intervals, seek timely feedback, and have quarterly Impact check-ins.

What leadership styles do you think work best in the hybrid model? Based on personal experience, the following leadership styles seem to work best: Transformational leadership – This requires leaders to influence, inspire, ideate, and execute transformative ways for sustenance and growth. The ability to respond to swift external changes, transition to a new way of collaborating internally, or create followership with employees in a hybrid model requires

The aspects of management that have become most important are for hybrid teams to make the best of the moments together to build strong bonds, innovate, and create alignment 42

| July 2022

transformational direction and approach. Participative leadership – To allow teams the independence and empowerment to define and drive their work helps. It is a new normal for all and hence this leadership model allows for a diverse pooling of ideas on what could best work. It also creates a powerful meaning of work for all and instills ownership.

Tell us about some of the benefits and/or disadvantages you've observed in the hybrid or remote model post-pandemic. The pandemic allowed the world to test-case the impact of WFH and remote working on business delivery. We are seeing the following benefits in the hybrid working model: • Greater confidence in productivity irrespective of work location • Greater autonomy for employees to choose where and when they do their best work • Renewed focus on mental health and wellbeing • Savings on several infra-

structure costs • Better collaboration, building work relationships & innovation • Employee choice – they now have the flexibility to manage their own work schedule/location But we also see these challenges: • Potential burnout if we are not thoughtful about defined closures to work timings • Missing the inperson connect and team building in a remote setup • Managing the uncertainty around the rise and fall of the waves of COVID

What are some of the more thought-provoking decisions you've had to make around hybrid work? With the opening of offices in a hybrid model, one of the more thoughtprovoking decisions was July 2022 |


ship team role-modeled the focus on health by sponsoring and being champions of the programme and sharing their own experiences and journeys.


If your C-team is distributed, has that changed the way you collaborate? For a global organisation such as Uber, the C-team has always been distributed across multiple geographies and time zones so it was always a familiar way of working. From an infrastructure point of view, there has not been much change since the tools of collaboration have helped make the transition smooth. The change has been more from a cultural perspective – people aspects around employee wellbeing, and proactively sensing the pulse on the ground have found a centre stage in C-Team discussions and ways to collaborate. We recently launched the ‘U-Care’ initiative for our employees in partnership with leading lifestyle and integrative health coach Luke Coutinho or a holistic corporate wellness programme and the Leader-



helping employees re-navigate to the office from a 2-year set WFH pattern. We understood that the needs and situations of each employee would be unique, so we wanted to provide the needed flexibility and adequate time. This built confidence while providing safety both in terms of policies and structures, and also enabled teams to start planning the right cadence of bringing their teams together and use this period to set team norms, understand team sentiment and see what works best for the team. When driving large-scale people initiatives, we had to ensure that employees enjoy the same great experience

and culture irrespective of location. An example of this was when we launched a twoday event, ‘Springboard’, which focused on careers and development for our employees in tech teams. It was a hybrid event through a virtual platform and live sessions where employees could experience the events live in the office while giving an interactive experience through our virtual platforms. Personally, balancing the priorities and defining the boundaries more consciously in the WFH and hybrid work set-up at the start was a learning process. As an HR leader, it was about identifying the most

The ability to interpret ambiguity and simplify cause and actions for the team is a key skill needed in any leader

| July 2022

optimal way of being connected with the team and organisation in this new normal. There were several learnings and unlearnings as we were supporting teams through the ambiguity of the new reality. By focusing on what was controllable, prioritising what was important for positive people outcomes, and ensuring timely communication, we made good progress.

What skills do you think are most useful for leaders and managers heading a distributed team? I believe the ability to interpret ambiguity and simplify cause and actions for the team is a key skill needed in any leader. It’s crucial that leaders possess empathy towards their team members, and that they are adaptable to accept and leverage different working styles and shape their team and organisation culture. Leaders must strive to create trust and psychological safety within their teams and ensure they bring all voices to the table, including those expressing a contrary point of view. Lastly, effective communication is a non-negotiable in any leader, for them to be able to manage stakeholders and ensure synergy between business goals and those of individuals within teams.

Employees seek empathetic leaders, says Amazon's Deepti Varma The pandemic changed employees’ priorities and that change remains even as we have moved into the ‘return to work’ phase. Now, decision makers have to change their leadership styles By Sudeshna Mitra




hen the onset of the pandemic made remote working the norm, employees' priorities changed drastically. Mental health and wellbeing surfaced as major criteria affecting employees' willingness to stay with an employer. This mindset has affected even the ‘return to work’ phase, leading employers to rethink their policies to retain talent in the competitive market. How are leaders recalibrating their policies around their employees under such circumstances? In an episode of People Matters Podcast, Deepti Varma, Director – HR for Amazon in APAC and Middle East described the approaches and expectations of leadership in a flexible working model. We bring you exclusive excerpts of the conversation.

When well-being and mental health surfaced as two major criteria for job seekers and employees, decision-makers had to rework their employeeoriented policies. How do you view this shift? It was always an employees’ market. We always need to work backwards from the employee base and come up with policies and processes that find favour with them. At Amazon, we say we strive to be Earth's best employer and what that actually

means is: “How do we make every day better for employees?” The pandemic did help us realise that all of us could work in remote setup and collaborate across the globe. But then, remote working or flexibility always existed at Amazon and has been a drawing factor for many employees. So the pandemic hit us, we were better prepared as compared to some in the market, to whom this concept was very new. And we were able to July 2022 |



move quickly towards user tools to empower employees and aim not only at productivity, but also ensure that their wellbeing is met. You've touched upon a very important thing with the mention of well-being and mental health. While we always thought about employees mental health and wellbeing, these have become even more important in this period. Many organisations have started thinking about the policies, processes, and tools that will enable them to get feedback from employees regarding the same. Amazon has such a tool to ask people for feedback every morning, and we actually used this tool during COVID-19 to understand how people are feeling and what they would need. So, I feel that the focus has always been on the employees. But I think it became paramount during COVID19. And most organisations who would want to win the talent war would need to keep concentrating on this.

According to a recent survey, 96% of respondents seek at least some remote working facilities. How are your leaders recalibrating policies to attract and retain talent? Amazon is a very diverse workplace. We do not have a ‘one-size-fits-all’ policy because of the many kinds of businesses that we are in: we have the fulfillment centers, 46

| July 2022

We leave it to the business leaders and managers to decide how to get the operations done...we feel that our leaders will make the right decisions on behalf of their organisation and we want to give them that flexibility Alexa labs, Prime videos, AWS data centers etc. People hailing from all these different teams have different approaches and needs. So, we leave it to the business leaders and managers to decide how to get the operations done. We do so because we feel that our leaders will make the right decisions on behalf of their organisation. We therefore want to give them that flexibility. Some teams have ‘no-meeting Fridays’ to allow employees to rejuvenate during that time. So there are different experiments which other organisations are also doing and so are we. But we always believe that the right deci-

sion will be taken by the business leader and that is better than imposing an organisational mandate on coming back to offices on a particular day.

With the changing demands of the employees around well-being and flexibility, what amount of investment is being allocated to these? We've actually initiated loads of programmes through which we aim to attract people during these times. We have a Rekindle programme through which women who take a break are welcomed to join back at Amazon if they want to do

caregiving, maternity and others.

At Amazon, what do you see employees seeking in terms of leadership and policies in a post-pandemic world? I think that employees seek leaders who create a safe, productive and high performing diverse workforce. In fact, they would want to feel empowered by the leaders. Today’s workforce seeks personal success and wants to grow with the growing needs of Amazon. Employees want to be heard, and they look to work with a leader who can work backwards to meet them where they are coming from. They are also seeking organisations that would trust them because I think that gone are the days where the task to be carried out would be calculated, assigned and mandated from the top. I also think that employees are putting great priority on looking for flexibility. It is very important to offer the right employees benefits which align with the wellness roadmap of the organisation. The pandemic actually exposed that most organisations have not been thinking through their benefits strategy holistically. So those are some of the top priorities for both company and workforce that organisations should focus on. July 2022 |


An article published by Forbes states, “Flexibility isn’t just a perk that workers are looking for; it’s essential to their success, and they aren’t willing to let that go.” How do you view this statement? I think flexibility should have been given to workers even before the pandemic hit. I think that organisations should have flexibility as a culture because at the end of the day, employees are working because they are finding the work meaningful and adding relevance to their identity. Employees should be able to strike the right work-life balance and be productive so that they can leave a legacy behind. But as I said, instead of having uniform policy for all the businesses, we vest the discretion of flexibility with the business leaders. We also try to ensure that flexibility is allowed to those who may have special needs such as


so. Under this programme, we also give them the flexibility to work in different models if they say “I do want to take care of my family”. In fact, in addition to maternity policy, we have also rolled out paternity policy. We have also rolled out initiatives for people who want to take breaks for weeks or months. So these are some heavy investments that we are making in order to make sure that our employees are taken care of and they are enjoying their share of flexibility. During the pandemic, we had spent around $11.5 billion on COVID-19 related initiatives. We aimed to not only get products to customers but also keep our employees safe. In fact, we also rolled out an initiative under which we gave employees a facility to set up an ICU at home in case there was less or no availability of hospitals in their area.


Treating Your Employees like Adults

When leaders do not treat their employees as competent, independent adults, they create some of the greatest obstacles to an organisation’s success. How can leaders break free from that need for control and instead create a win-win situation?



By Melanie Cook



he idea of treating employees like adults should hardly be a novel one, even less so a topic that garners extensive articles. And yet. You hear this everywhere, in every corner of the world, in every industry. A tale as old as time: the overbearing boss. The condescending project leader. The patronising micromanager. Adlerian psychology calls this a vertical relationship, in which one person has power over another. A horizontal relationship, adversely, is where both are treated as equals. It is important to note that it does not mean equality of abilities or knowledge, but equality in power dynamics. One can have a horizontal relationship with someone much older or younger, in | July 2022

various stages of their lives. So why is it that leaders refuse to treat their employees like adults, and instead, choose to breathe down their necks? Why is it that almost all employer-employee dynamics are of a vertical nature?

Untrust begets untrust

The fact is that employees are adults, and should be treated with trust and respect. Ranking and rating systems, for instance, say that at best, employees need juvenile encouragement and at worst, should be pit

against one another. Same as attendance policies or strict dress codes, all of which displays a leader’s lack of trust in their employees. Rather than allowing employees the autonomy to be accountable for their own time and decisions, many organisations still practice top-down, sometimes military-esque management styles where employees are constantly monitored, berated or given patronising criticism. The problem with treating adults like children is that they are, in fact, adults, and will know

When leaders treat their employees like adults, it’s a win-win situation: people treat each other as equals so that everyone progresses in parallel, without detriment to either party

they are being treated like children. This leads to poor performance, lowers engagement and weakens retention. When leaders begin treating their employees like adults, it’s a win-win situation: leaders develop their relationships with their employees to become more horizontal, where people treat each other as equals so that everyone progresses in parallel, without detriment to either party.

Stinky Fish and the FIRO theory

The Buurtzorg Model

What does this look like in practice? Buurtzorg is a healthcare organisation that is seen by many enthusiasts as “a key part of the solution to challenges facing healthcare systems across the


what they’re doing. Participants change their selfconcept (e.g. “I’m not alone in feeling anxious about office politics”), therefore changing their feelings about something (e.g. feeling less anxious about office politics). Feelings drive behaviour (e.g. understanding office politics and why they happen), and behaviour drives results (e.g. reducing or dealing with office politics). Utilising models like FIRO provides a more nuanced understanding of the people around you. They’re not sheep waiting to be herded, but rather adults with goals, anxieties and unique minds and perspectives, that leaders should trust are clever and mature.


The FIRO (Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation) theory is a brilliant way to practice this trust. Briefly, the FIRO theory posits that selfconcept drives feelings, feelings drive behaviour, and behaviour drives results. The theory provides a fresh perspective on how to understand your own inter-

personal needs, as well as that of others’—understanding that all humans share these three basic needs will shape your communication style, tone and content while keeping a fundamental level of trust and respect. An exercise that Hyper Island does is Stinky Fish. Participants are asked to put their Stinky Fish on the table—a fear or anxiety that the more you hide and ignore, the stinkier it becomes. The Stinky Fish could be anything from anxiety over the unknown of office politics, to feeling left behind in an increasingly tech-centred world. Participants write this down and share it with the group, and that’s it. The beauty of this exercise lies in its simplicity. What Stinky Fish does is foster a climate of trust. Sharing anxieties lowers the facade of bravado, removing the idea that everyone knows

They’re not sheep waiting to be herded, but rather adults with goals, anxieties and unique minds and perspectives, that leaders should trust are clever and mature July 2022 |


ism is low. Ultimately, it boils down to trust. de Blok trusts that his employees know how to do their job best, and gets rid of arbitrary management and inflexible systems. The company’s motto is apt: ‘humanity before bureaucracy’.



Are you managing or are you leading?


Marie-Claire Ross, a coach who helps leaders and organisations improve trust in teams, posits that reducing micromanagement in the Marie-Claire Ross, a coach who helps workplace comes down to leaders and organisations improve two main factors: changing trust in teams, posits that reducthe mindset of the leader and teaching them how to deleing micromanagement in the workplace comes down to two main factors: gate. As a leader, there exists the changing the mindset of the leader polarity of taking the lead and teaching them how to delegate against the expectations to empower employees. On one hand, leaders should lead their own co-workers. world”, and one of the most with expertise, experience In the same interview, successful healthcare organBregman says of de Blok: “He and decision-making. On isations in the world. It is just trusts his employees and the other hand, leaders want led by Jos de Blok, who said to entrust their employees he doesn’t think he knows in an interview with Rutger with authority. But empowbetter how to do their job. Bregman, “Managing is erment is not giving employHe thinks they know better bull****. Just let people do their job.” how to do it.” And it seems to ees the responsibility of doing the leader’s job, it is work—the organisation has The crux of this model is about setting them up to feel empowerment: empowering been voted Dutch Employer comfortable with that responnurses to deliver all the care of the Year five times. According to a KPMG case sibility. patients need, rather than It’s an intentional, introstudy, the nurses, “freed from outsourcing it to nursing spective process that might excessive hierarchical rules”, assistants or cleaners. The take time. But when leaders company of 14,000 has no have increased efficiency, start to treat their employmanagers, no call centre and reducing the hours of care ees like the competent adults no HR department. Targets per patient by 50 percent, they are, everyone wins. while improving quality. and bonuses do not exist. Both patient and employee Workers are divided into satisfaction levels have risen Melanie Cook is the Managing teams of 12 who plan their Director of Hyper Island Asia Pacific dramatically, and absenteeown schedules and employ | July 2022

Key strategies to drive DEI efforts in the hybrid world of work HR leaders from the region give us exclusive insights into policies and practices that strengthen organizational diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts in their hybrid working models By Asmaani Kumar

tation of the hybrid work model and efficient execution of diversity and inclusivity frameworks.

Unique challenges

In conversation with us, Paramdeep Singh Anand, CEO at FieldAssist, raised an important point about the importance of managing not just a single employee experience but rather employee’s life experiences in the hybrid set-up. One of the pressing challenges in realising the desired outcomes of any DEI initiative is a lack of emotional connection. This is usually because of the lack of connection with the employee’s virtual avatar. What becomes urgent July 2022 |

The challenges around hybrid working models are quite unique. On the one hand, it’s vociferously demanded by the workforce as they’ve adapted to this working style over the course of the pandemic. But on the other hand, continued use of this model has been seen to exacerbate the feeling of disconnect if not implemented with foresight. People Matters spoke with leaders from the region about successful implemen-


common for those working from home to feel somewhat disconnected from the rest of the team. This feeling can become more intense if the employee belongs to a minority community.



ith organisations embracing hybrid working models over the last two years, we have seen that strategies often need to be customised per employee requirement. Adaptability is critical if one wants to reap the benefits of a diverse workforce. While leaders often discuss the value of flexibility in driving productivity and engagement, burning questions about strengthening collaboration and belonging are often left unanswered. And as we discuss over and over again the importance of sustaining an office work culture despite the absence of the watercooler, how do we ensure that gaps of DEI are bridged within hybrid teams? Expectations can vary wildly as members switch between working remotely and working from the office. It is very

Building bridges for a sustained, meaningful change



then is to redesign the approach with a people-first mindset. “In today’s context of hybrid, flexible models, some pre-existing biases have become more visible, and this is where we see resistance stemming from. For example, the ‘experience bias’ – the thought that the way things have always been is the way things always have to be. Then there is the ‘distance bias’ – our preference towards those who are co-located or those we meet in person more often,” shared Ashish Kapoor, HR Director at Eaton. Given the persistence of biases that often impact the outcomes of diversity and inclusion initiatives, it becomes an essential point in the conversation to understand the best ways to overcome this hurdle. In a strong answer to this question, Roshni Rathi, Partner and Seema Bansal, Partner and Director at BCG India, emphasised, “Companies won’t have balanced workforces unless they approach diversity like any other business priority, with clear metrics to understand gaps and interventions targeted at fixing them. Many companies don’t have clear data on the diversity of their talent pipeline/ workforce. As a result, they cannot accurately identify problems or launch tailored interventions. Companies | July 2022

need to establish clear and appropriate metrics with regards to: recruitment, retention, advancement, and representation—along with equal pay. They must measure progress over time.”

Leadership's role in overcoming biases in a hybrid workplace

“The pandemic was a gamechanger in redefining the workplace, and it made the hybrid work model a reality. To create an equitable environment, leaders must set the tone from the top and lead by example,” advises Dev Deepika, Vice President & Head - Human Resources, India & Sri Lanka at Fiserv. “Paying close attention to how the workplace is designed and managed helps keep employees motivated and reduces disparity. Since new rules of engagement have accelerated the need to accommodate employees in different work envi-

ronments, businesses must be prepared to address their requests quickly and effectively. They also need to ensure each employee, whether in-office or working from home, feels like an integral part of the team. Leaders need to focus on creating inclusive work environments that encourage collaboration from all, irrespective of location,” he adds. Engaging the leadership team in conversations regarding where biases might exist within the organisation is often the first step towards eliminating proximity bias and negating its impact, according to Rakhi Shaha, Vice President Human Resources, Mobileum. She also believes in establishing a practice of making a concerted effort to get to know team members on a personal level. “Empathy and vulnerability can be felt from screen to

Company leaders, with their influence and visibility, are uniquely positioned to enable an inclusive environment, and make space for dialogue and programming

ities also take the pulse of the employees to understand what’s on their minds. They ensure we actively listen and respond to feedback.”

Rathi and Bansal from BCG India believe leaders must demonstrate their support for DEI by publicly speaking about it and establishing inclusive policies. At the end of the day, the most successful programs are outcomefocused, with specific targets for which leaders are accountable. “Company leaders, with their influence and visibility, are uniquely positioned to role model behaviors, enable an inclusive environment, and make space for dialogue and programming. Line managers also play a critical role in ensuring that day-to-day experience for team members is free from bias and that systemic

July 2022 |


Leadership commitment critical

challenges are called out and addressed. To improve employees’ interactions with colleagues, direct managers, and leadership, leaders must focus on culture change. This is what we call the 1,000 daily touch points,” add Rathi and Bansal. In a hybrid workplace, the touchpoints are often more than an employee can keep track of, given the unique intermix of remote and in-person interactions backed by technology interventions. What becomes fundamental then is to recognise the long gaps that negatively impact DEI's outcomes. In addition, given the unique role of leadership in spearheading these strategies, they need to fully understand the feelings of inclusion and build safe spaces with consistent and ongoing efforts, adapting to the changing contexts, expectations and experiences.


screen, office room to office room, and it pays dividends. Do not assume but ask about people's needs, acknowledge them, and tailor your actions accordingly. Establish direct communication with co-workers who feel disconnected being from a minority group and see how they are doing. Make it a point to draw them into discussions. Be brave and acknowledge difficult situations, ask questions, and create space for people to openly share how they feel and what they need,” adds Shaha. Outlining some of the programs that Synchrony has led, Vatika Kaura, vice-president of operations at the company, says, “Conducting periodic surveys, virtual roundtables, Ask Us Anything sessions and other collaboration activities were essential to emphasise that we treat all our employees equally, irrespective of whether they are at the office or working from home. These activ-


The leadership imperative to the hybrid future As we journey into a hybrid future of work, what key points do leaders need to focus on? Here are six themes critical to the shape of leadership in the hybrid working model By Shashwat Mitra





hen Professor Nancy Koehn of Harvard Business School in her work published on HBR in 2020 said that “Real Leaders Are Forged in Crisis”, no one could deny it. A couple of years since, we now witness a world which has been changed greatly through the crisis. The leaders who have endured this are evolved, but continue to hold their individual views of the future based on their insights, experiences, judgement, perception, and anticipation. From the vantage of leadership there are multiple priorities to address, and one of those near the top of the list is the understanding of ‘hybrid’ for themselves and for their organisation. This field has been much researched, but the definition and manifestation of the term ‘hybrid’ remains unique for leaders and their employees. When the world was struck by the coronavirus, | July 2022

companies which offered flexibility (which I am oversimplifying with the term ‘hybrid’) as their unique selling proposition suddenly found that their nice-to-have option had become a necessity. Then, during the many quarters when the world slowed down, the talent market changed drastically, and a whole new talent war opened up. Now the newly mobile talent have started laying out their own defini-

tion of ‘hybrid’ as suited to their needs. Here is the leader’s têteà-tête with the journey towards a ‘hybrid’ future. A cognitive and realistic description of this journey has these six themes:

The trust imperative

The post-pandemic transition to hybrid has one common path of success, which is trust. It is not an option, nor can leaders take

ronment have been able to recover faster.

Transformation at the fore

Culture manifestation

A leader’s key focus post pandemic, irrespective of the degree to which they have implemented the hybrid model, is to help the last mile employee understand and personalise the culture. Culture needs to manifest in the same light to all in the organisation. If leaders’ focus has earlier been on culture building, the question of how to do that at scale and with agility in the hybrid ecosystem is the real test for leadership maturity. Furthermore, culture and employee value proposition needs to be reinforced for a hybrid workforce. Doing this without diluting any of the implicit and explicit cultural nuances, must be a leader’s focus while embracing a hybrid work setup.


The approach of transitioning was replaced with the intent and inevitable need for transformation. In the hybrid environment, organisations need to transform technology, communication tools, human capital systems, logistics, supply chain, and performance management. Even during the pandemic, spend on digital and technology increased despite cost controls. A McKinsey report, ‘Rethinking strategy for the new digital edge’, highlights that this number was as high as 65% for some respondents. Further, nearly 9 in 10 respondents in their study think that their business model needs to change (or has changed already). Leadership, in their journey to embrace hybrid, has to embrace transformation

at the fore and deprioritise the transitional or transactional approach to business.


their own time to build it. Organisations which were used to seeing the act of work happening now must get used to seeing the outcome happening, and not the act of it being accomplished. Dysfunctions in teams have to be ironed out, and fast. Leaders must trust themselves first and then trust their teams all the way to the last person. A trust-based management offers more opportunities of delegation, more opportunity for leaders to empower their teams, more opportunity to build hybrid teams, unlock talent markets which earlier were limited due to location constraints, and so on. This is a silver lining. When trust becomes an imperative, we know that people are more engaged and companies perform better. This is one of the reasons why post pandemic, companies which embraced trust as a leadership imperative in the hybrid work envi-

Communication in depth

With the hybrid or work from home model, boundaries which prevailed earlier at work start to fade. As written electronic communication

When trust becomes an imperative, we know that people are more engaged and companies perform better July 2022 |


A leader’s journey towards a successfu hybrid model needs to have spaces, opportunities, and the discipline to be able to hold leadership conversations in depth



Gratitude and empathy


(emails, chats, sms et. al.) became predominant fatigue has been setting in, and the depth of such communication is lost. How often are leaders, both at their level and at teams’ level, able to hold conversations at depth? In the absence of deep communication, leaders and teams both miss out on offering a psychologically safe environment, where people with whom they work can be vulnerable and feel free to share their thoughts on what they are subjected to. What’s more, leadership coaching and the depth of conversation is often disturbed by pop-ups, and reminders of the next meeting on screen. It is impossible to hold a discussion without distractions. Yet a leader’s journey towards a successfu hybrid model needs to have spaces, opportunities, and the discipline to be able to hold leadership conversations in depth. | July 2022

Plan B, C, D, E & F

Strikingly, 51% of companies worldwide had no business continuity plan (BCP) to meet the threat of a global emergency (like the pandemic itself) as highlighted by a report from Mercer. This deficit became glaring as the canvas of risk changed and teams had to adapt at scale. The cost of not being able to cope with crises is not just financial and reputational loss. It includes the anxiety and desperation added to the workforce, to real people. A leader’s hybrid journey absolutely must go beyond their Plan A. It must include many alternate plans in case the first plan does not work. As organisations mature and establish their hybrid model, they will be better equipped to anticipate, hedge and mitigate variables, and their layers of plans can slowly be reduced.

Not all roles, industries, or organisations are hybrid ready. Many people have endured the challenges of the pandemic to help organisations run their business, sometimes at great personal cost. Consider our front-line workers, medical and essential staff, employees working on site, and human dependent roles. Leaders need to be grateful to these people and appreciate all that they do for the organisation. That sense of gratitude is a virtue that all prudent leaders must practise every day. It cannot be left out as they set the strategy and roadmap for hybrid transition. I reiterate: “Real Leaders Are Forged in Crisis”, and it is the leader’s character that will determine how well they can ride through those crises. Shashwat Mitra is Head of Human Resources India, KPIT

What are we doing to develop leaders for the hybrid model? It's one thing to implement policies and processes to enable the hybrid model. But what about the all-important tone from the top – what are companies doing to shift their leadership search and succession planning to develop a more hybrid-savvy leadership? By Mint Kang


term, the benefit to employees is noticeably greater than the benefit to businesses and leaders. Employees are happier and more productive, but that productivity does not reflect in broader business performance – which is what leaders pay most attention to – for at least a quarter or longer. Meanwhile, HR teams pour time and resources into policies and processes to support hybrid work, while managers worry about the impact on collab-



ven as companies around the world invest in the infrastructure, processes, and training to enable a distributed workforce, a curious gap remains. Surveys over the last two and a half years have consistently found that employees and organisational leaders have widely differing views as far as hybrid work – or remote, or flexible, depending on a company's approach – goes. Part of the challenge is simply that in the short

oration. Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon might have called remote work an aberration last year, but the second part of his remark got a lot less attention – the fact that he had 3,000 new hires, most of them fresh graduates, incoming, and was worried about whether they could be remotely integrated into existing teams. The easy way out is, of course, to put a stop to hybrid work. A considerable number of leaders have already tried that, with some even threatening to fire staff who work remotely, or demote them to contractor status. That harsh response clearly indicates that such leaders still struggle with the idea that hybrid work can be anything more than a drag on productivity and an obstacle to collaboration, even when faced with opposing research and real-life examples from their peers. Is there a better way to close this gap? The best long-term solution might be to invest in helping leaders work through this cognitive dissonance – matching hybrid strategies with leadership development strategies that enable leaders to lead and manage effectively July 2022 |


in this model. So, for an external perspective of what companies are doing in practice, People Matters asked several search experts what they have seen in terms of leader recruitment and succession planning.



Doubling down on experience and competencies


A number of the key skillsets involved in leading and managing distributed teams have already been on companies' wishlists since long before the pandemic, say the recruitment experts. Nick Chia, Managing Director for Russell Reynolds Associates (RRA) in Singapore, shared that with global or pan-Asia executive search assignments, the ability to manage distributed teams with diverse backgrounds is always a requirement. On top of this, more emphasis is now being added to certain skills including agility, adaptability, communication, delegation, and influencing skills. Companies are giving higher priority to candidates who demonstrate these abilities. “We have seen these relevant criteria move up in our clients’ priority list,” observed Chia. “These were always there, but the ‘louder’ competencies – leading from the front, driving hard on execution, for example – were more visible and rewarded, and now the ‘softer’ competencies are | July 2022

moving up in importance given the ambiguity and uncertainty that continue to characterise the world today.” Agreeing, Alena Salakhova, Regional Director of SThree, said that the in-depth development of leadership competencies is key. “Your capacity to work should not be limited by the changes of the working environment,” she remarked. “Our customers on leadership levels also shared that the ability to be vocal, sincere and genuine will always remain essential.” And unsurprisingly, there is a high demand for leadership candidates who have experience with managing in the hybrid model. This includes candidates who held leadership roles during the pandemic, when they had to manage without physical interaction. “During interviews, I see questions being asked around how these leaders coped with hybrid work-

These relevant criteria were always there, but the ‘louder’ competencies were more visible and rewarded, and now the ‘softer’ competencies are moving up in importance

ing, what learnings they acquired, and what are some of the challenges they face in managing people,” said Jaya Dass, Managing Director at Randstad Singapore and Malaysia. “Organisations want to get a sense of the person's learning, agility, ability to flex, empathy for people, and whether they're willing and able to adapt – to change up policies and ways of working in response to adjustments and shifts in their environment.”

But has the underlying structure actually changed?

The search for hybrid-savvy leaders should, theoretically, be the first step in long-term strategic planning for leadership development and succession in the hybrid working model. But is that really the case? Dass doesn't think so. “If you're asking whether leadership competencies, skill sets, job descriptions, KPIs, management values, and such have been adjusted, the answer simply is: not yet,” she told People Matters. One major challenge, she said, is that even now, there is no broad consensus or actual clarity on what capabilities leaders need to have for long term hybrid working. In theory, hybrid or remote working shifts the focus away from inputs and

policy change behind the scenes on what the leadership team needs to be like. The competencies being tested for in interviews? They haven't been worked into job descriptions, KPIs, or management structure, and there is no official description for what a manager or leader needs to look like in a hybrid environment.” Part of the issue may simply be that the kind of structural and process planning required to overhaul the leadership itself – with the attendant implications on the entire organisation as a result – takes a long

July 2022 |


day to day operations, and toward outputs. But even under the hybrid model as it's currently understood, remote work remains regimented, adhering to the traditional 9-5 schedule, and collaboration between those at home and those physically in the office is still not factored in. “The structure of hybrid working has been put in place, and therefore there are conversations around areas such as insurance coverage, benefits, how to measure an employee's output or manage poor performance,” she observed. “But I haven't seen too much


The competencies being tested for in interviews? They haven't been worked into job descriptions, KPIs, or management structure, and there is no official description for what a manager or leader needs to look like in a hybrid environment

time to get moving, and is frequently reactive rather than forward-thinking. Then, there is the lingering resistance to change: two years of the pandemic has not been enough to really shift people's mindsets, as shown by the urgency with which leaders around the world have been demanding a return to the office. “There is still an old school mentality among leaders at the top level,” commented SThree's Salakhova. “We need a mindset shift and that requires time.” On top of these inbuilt challenges, the greatest obstacle to a long-term hybrid-savvy leadership may, right now, simply be that no one is quite certain what such a leadership needs to be. In fact, as Dass pointed out, many organisations are not quite sure what hybrid working in itself should be – and it may be too premature to even ask this question. “I don't think companies have pivoted yet,” she said. “There hasn't been a shift to the point where people say, let's sort out the structure and the leadership team; there's not really a clear sense that this (hybrid) is what the world of work will be like going forward. And to give the benefit of doubt, I don't think anyone knows the answer yet. But, I think it's in the making.”


In t e r v i e w

Build internal talent, rather than buy: Lowe’s India’s Anneka Darashah


“An integral and critical element for talent within the organisation links back to their succession planning and career growth. Focused development opportunities enable internal talent's growth into critical organisational roles,” advises Anneka Darashah, Director of HR, Lowe’s India By Asmaani Kumar


nneka Darashah is the Director of HR at Lowe’s India. She is responsible for the HR Business Partnering function at Lowe’s India. In her role, along with a strong team of seven, she is focused on building out the HRBP function, strengthening stakeholder partnerships and enhancing the value-addition for businesses in helping them drive their talent strategy. Her experience across 19 years spans talent strategy, consulting and its implementation in global organisations in IT/ITES and Consulting. She has | July 2022

previously worked with EY, ANSR and the Latin-American-based Falabella Group as Head HR for their India GCC. Anneka is passionate about growing organisations, and teams are driven by purpose and a culture in which values are core. In conversation with People Matters, Anneka shares her take on the critical competencies for effective hybrid leadership, how organisations can curate a robust internal talent-building strategy and the impor-

tance of a one-team mindset.

What are the critical competencies of effective leadership for companies with a multi-geographic presence such as Lowe's? For an organisation with a multi-geographic presence, leaders need to have a global mindset and openness to different perspectives for better collaboration. As one grows into leadership roles, competence remains essential, but other facets of leadership come to the forefront.

organisation and in-depth knowledge of the business aids in building the edge. However, based on the role/ business focus areas, we also assess the need for external talent to infuse different perspectives into the mix.

When it comes to building leaders from within, what are the critical elements of training future CXOs? Building leaders from within allows internal talent to work on highimpact and high-visibility projects, drive interactions with CXOs and build external networks. It also aids organisations in amplifying multi-geography experiences and focusing on diversity and inclusion. We did this through multiple learning interventions, experience-sharing sessions, team assessments and social learning engagements. Skills are the new currency, How does succession and embracing a continuous planning get redesigned in this new era of work? What is learning culture is the only your opinion on the build v/s way forward. buy approach when finding the future leadership bench? With key leaders spread Building internal talent across geographies, how do continues to stay ahead of we strengthen collaboration buy. An integral and critiwhen designing people and cal element for talent within business strategies? the organisation links back Strengthening collaborato their succession planning tion and partnership starts and career growth. Focused with a deliberate focus on development opportuniknowing that a key partties enable internal talent's ner on the other side is as growth into critical organiinvested in building great sational roles. Keeping with people and business stratethe ethos and culture of the gies as you are. It all comes

down to putting the organisation and its people ahead of the function represented by the leaders. Yes, some tools and technologies enable better work collaboration, but in my opinion, it starts with the mindset of being one team. Roadblocks are many, and the most obvious is geographic, but the intentional effort to build trust with the partner and not lose sight of the bigger picture will help overcome these roadblocks.

What are some words of advice you would share with leaders on managing remote teams and creating the right hybrid work culture? Leaders need to be more connected, empathetic and authentic. And it is essential for them to continuously build a sense of belonging to the larger team and the organisation by bridging its values, vision and business strategy. Through the pandemic, many have switched jobs and mainly joined virtually–in such a scenario; it is easy for them to feel detached and not have a strong connection with the company. Here leaders will have to play a more significant role in engaging their team members by bringing a sense of ownership, empowerment and connection of the associate's role to the larger organisation's goals. July 2022 |

In t e r v i e w

In diverse organisations, selfawareness, cultural sensitivity, effective cross-cultural communication, openness to doing things differently, new ideas and ways of working and thinking, collaboration, and partnership play a significant role. Here at Lowe's, we invest in our leadership development with several learning interventions through the leadership journey. Removing unconscious bias becomes the starting point to help leaders and associates understand the impact of the different biases they may have in their personal and professional lives. Once that’s out of the way, we combine experience sharing and social learning engagements with a critical focus on developing camaraderie, trust and respect to develop our leadership team further.


Visty Banaji

The Great Reciprocation: Loyalty is a two-way street

The road less travelled

In recent times, loyalty has gone from being a prized characteristic of the model employee to an antiquated appendage that prevents the free flow of human capital. What have we lost in the process?


tures are plain for all to see. What’s frequently missing in all the exit drama is the equivalent of the disloyal partner’s guilt. This column attempts to provide it.

From cooperation to loyalty


s he lay dying from a dagger wound, a man confided to his wife, "I cannot die without telling you the truth. I cheated on you throughout our marriage. All those nights when I told you I was working late, I was being unfaithful. And this year I had made up my mind to abandon you." She looked at him calmly and said, "Don’t fret now. Who do you think stabbed you in the back?" I apologize for altering a joke so old that it’s more taste-free than tasteless but | July 2022

I have been reminded of it every time there’s been a headline about the Great Resignation. Though that somewhat klutzy phrase was first used by Anthony Klotz, it seems to have become the defining problem of HR management since Covid times. Even in India, where the tragedies of the great retrenchments far outnumbered resignations, given the levels and job types that resigned, HR’s attention was hypnotized by the uncoagulating bleed. Unlike the joke, the culminating depar-

Cooperation, starting with kin and progressing to ever larger aggregations of people, was among the primary reasons for the supremacy homo sapiens acquired.1 The benefits started flowing from an early stage. "… [E]ven in foraging societies people regularly cooperate with many unrelated individuals. …[S]ocial life is regulated by shared moral systems that specify the rights and duties of individuals enforced, albeit imperfectly, by third party sanctions."2 With the passage of time, societies that perfected large-scale cooperation between greater proportions of their populations (while reducing the transactional costs through lubricants such as trust)3 came to dominate the globe.

of cooperation. In cases like religion, the time scale can well exceed the term of our natural lives. In the interim, the debtor continues to benefit from the initial and subsequent favours as well as the erosion of repayment value caused by forgetfulness and custom or by a 'deadly' event that writes it off altogether. Corporate loyalty, naturally, does not get as favourable a repayment schedule as religion. It is the company’s illusory hope, that it has near-divine latitude in deferring reciprocation, that is at the root of the great resignation and diverse disaffective diseases.

Types of loyalty

Before getting our teeth into corporate loyalty, it’s worth distinguishing it from other loyalties that operate within the organisation. Loyalty to the corporation competes with and is distinguishable from at least three other

workplace loyalties in the minds of employees. A brief review may be useful. Personal: Loyalty to other persons is the evolutionary origin of the emotion and, in its absence, it’s unlikely the others can form. Forster famously wrote: "[I]f I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country. … Dante places Brutus and Cassius in the lowest circle of Hell because they had chosen to betray their friend Julius Caesar rather than their country Rome.")5 While not going as far as Dante, I did place the willingness to abandon one’s mentors as one of the Faustian Triad of compromises racing rats make.6 Conversely, declaring one’s debt to them is part of the oath I proposed for HR practitioners.7 While eschewing betrayal, there is, of course, a line one should

The road less travelled

Loyalty evolved from cooperation and permitted partnership with a wider range of institutional and mythical objects than the latter. Harari explains the mythical aspect well (though he continues to use the word 'cooperation'): "Any largescale human cooperation – whether a modern state, a medieval church, an ancient city or an archaic tribe – is rooted in common myths that exist only in people’s collective imagination."4 It is not only in the range of protagonists that loyalty accepts more variety than cooperation. It is also content with repayment in a greater diversity of registers. A soldier who pays with hardship or even his life is normally repaid with reputation and honour rather than in the currency he used to demonstrate loyalty. Most importantly, loyalty’s patience in awaiting reciprocation can be on a totally different and much longer time scale than the tit for tat

Loyalty to the corporation competes with and is distinguishable from at least three other workplace loyalties in the minds of employees July 2022 |


The road less travelled 64

beware of crossing in helping a friend or mentor at the cost of the organisation. Professional: There is an even tougher tug of loyalties to resolve when the organisation (usually in the person of a business partner or boss) demands an action that is clearly at variance with the standards set down for the profession. This is clearest in the case of lawyers, accountants and others where the profession has a single rule book to follow. Infringement of professional standards, however, can be no less glaring in HR. I recall in days long past, when I was handling recruitment for a factory, I was asked to sign appointment letters for a group that had not gone through the selection process. The plant was in the midst of IR unrest and some 'toughies' were considered necessary to counter the violence threatened by the union. I refused, to the consternation of the worthy issuing the directive. I wonder which Caribbean Island I would be relaxing on today if a silly thing called professional loyalty hadn’t impeded me. Ethical: Closely related but even more fraught with threat (either to conscience or tenure) is the loyalty one owes to standards of ethical conduct. The instance I have quoted above could be interpreted in ethical terms but that would be presumptuous on my part. I was just being | July 2022

In demanding such devotion, companies are relying on the cooperative bias which evolution has bestowed on people the bureaucratic professional, refusing to recruit people who hadn’t cleared the interviews and trade tests that were prescribed. But there are clearly situations that cannot be explained away merely as impugnments of professional loyalty. Take the exploitation of contract labour. Even if the precariat meets entry standards, paying them a third of what other employees get is an ethical transgression, regardless of whether there is a legal workaround. The HR practitioners complicit in being disloyal to ethical standards and then, one day, facing short shrift from the company themselves, may perhaps echo Wolsey’s lament:

Had I but served my God with half the zeal I served my king, he would not in mine age Have left me naked to mine enemies.8 Organisational: We finally come back to our prime quarry. The detour, I hope has been useful in pointing out situations where an individual’s loyalty to the organisation cannot be permitted to crowd out other essential loyalties. The converse, of course, is also obvious. The organisation doesn’t hire individuals to share potlatch with pals, strut their professional peacockery or sprout saintly sermons. A fine loyalty balance needs to be struck between the

four types but that is not our present mission. Our immediate focus is organisational loyalty and how it can be eroded. Loyalty lost His loyalty he kept, his love, his zeal; Nor number, nor example with him wrought To swerve from truth, or change his constant mind Though single.9

modities, to be procured and utilized at the lowest possible cost and then dispensed with when their utility no longer justifies that cost.11 Employees, however, are expected to continue behaving with devotion and respect: We’re just being honest – not mean – In treating you like a bean. But while you’re still part of the scene Please think us your king and queen. Denigration: If Devaluation brings the worth of loyalty to zero, Denigration takes it into negative territory. The accountant’s abacus rarely finds it ROI-worthy to water and wait for internal plants to grow. One of the invariable consequences of commodification, then, is the infusion of exotics as overseers or replacements for indigenous strains. Once they cross a critical mass, the colonizers find it in their interest to equate loyalty with sub-standard quality.12 Loyalty then becomes the reviled, ridiculed, residue, finding refuge in the hearts of people who would have borne anything – except insult – for the sake of the organisation. Moreover, since the 'pungi' played to entice Hirgus13 sounds a very different tune from the curved bell that (overtly or discreetly) tolls the confines of internal merit increases, the material costs of loyalty July 2022 |

The road less travelled

Milton is referring to Abdiel but he could as well be writing a (rather poetic) description of the loyal employee desired by most companies. In demanding such devotion, companies are relying on the cooperative bias which, as we have just seen, evolution has bestowed on people. "Humans are inclined to engage in long-lasting relationships whose stability does not only rely on cooperation, but often also on loyalty – our tendency to keep interacting

with the same partners even when better alternatives exist."10 As we have also seen, however, loyalty is not a permanent overdraft account with no need for repayment reciprocity. It is in this return of affection and material benefits that commercial organisations can falter. Under the pressure of competition, shareholder demands and financially focused leaders, corporates unwittingly deliver 3D death-blows to loyalty. Devaluation: If this seems a word overloaded with monetary meaning, 'commodification' will do as well. Both refer to an emotion-free calculus of the costs and benefits of the people who give life to the business. Relationships pulsing with feelings become purely transactional. People are no longer partners (regardless of what vapid, value statements claim). They are com-


The road less travelled

are plain for all to see. The lesson is not lost on those who have stood and waited. Decapitation: Even after the calculator replaces the heart in employee dealings, three factors can retard the loss of loyalty and its substitution with an unfeeling transactional mindset: Time: By definition, loyalty is not lost at the first sign of neglect and, therefore, it is almost never too late to remedy matters. Temperament: Employees vary in the extent to


the non-precariat with some form of VRSopiate. Individuals who escape the axe realize there is no form of performance, conformity or bonding that can insure them against meeting the same fate. One bean is as good as another and loyalties have no place at such a canine feast. If one doesn’t jump ship when there is another craft conveniently near, one may be forced to walk the plank when only the sea surrounds. It is the combination of being treated like a com-

It is the combination of being treated like a commodity, being laughed at for being loyal and seeing the monetary and tenure consequences of remaining rooted that loosen and finally break bonds of positive affect which they hold fast to memories of emotionally bonded days gone by or to hopes of their return. "[Some] of these 'loyalists'… may simply refuse to exit and suffer in silence, confident that things will soon get better."14 Tradition: A few lucky institutions and organisations have such a rich history of caring for employees that it takes decades of brash 'beanisation' to destroy their culture.15 Despite all these retardants, the day finally arrives when the thousand cost cuts are succeeded by terminal chops – sedated for | July 2022

modity, being laughed at for being loyal and seeing the monetary and tenure consequences of remaining rooted that loosen and finally break bonds of positive affect. Phenomena like the great resignation (which also requires some external factors to be aligned) are among the end consequences of these ties willfully weakened by corporates over years. And that’s not the worst that can happen. When jumping ship is not feasible (as it frequently isn’t for the blue-collar workforce) negative emotions generated by beandealings

accumulate and can bring on sabotage, violence and other forms of retaliatory behaviour. It is those who were the most devoted servitors who become the most implacable foes once the tie snaps.

Recreating loyalty

It was entirely predictable, highly amusing and ultimately self-defeating to observe the exodus caused by the commodification of talent being countered by a typical commodity trader’s response: hiking prices. The personal interest the decision makers had in doing so also played no small part in the call they took.16 The price increase game is naturally one that every other trader plays and the net result not an increase in talent retention but cost. The only sustainable solution can be to reverse the commoditization of talent that has become virtually omnipresent and bring back bidirectional loyalty. The three steps to this end, in increasing order of potency and difficulty are: HCF to LCM: An earlier column dealt with the importance of and need to move from the HCF (HireCompensate-Fire) way of managing people to the LCM (Lead-Care-Motivate) method.17 Obvious as this answer may seem, it will take some time for firms to be able to deal with business fluctuations without resorting to retrenching the people in the


1. Peter Richerson and Robert Boyd, Not by Genes 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

Alone – How Culture Transformed Human Evolution, University of Chicago Press, 2006. Robert Boyd and Peter Richerson, Culture and the evolution of human cooperation, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. 3281–3288, 2009. Francis Fukuyama, Trust: The Social Virtues And The Creation Of Prosperity, Simon & Schuster, 1996. Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Penguin Random House, 2015. E M Forster, What I Believe, and Other Essays, G W Foote & Co Ltd, 1999. Visty Banaji, The Faustian Triad, People Matters, 27 July 2020. Visty Banaji, A hippocratic oath for HR, People Matters, 31 October 2019.

demands? In the first place, speaking out is only possible if the bean bleed (particularly of the speaking beans) has been stanched. As Hirschman pointed out in his masterpiece, "the exit option can sharply reduce the probability that the voice option will be taken up widely and effectively. … [V]oice is likely to play an important role in organisations only on condition that exit is virtually ruled out… [Contra-wise] loyalty holds exit at bay and activates voice." The kind of voice that makes a loyalty bond

virtually unbreakable, however, is one that emanates from the sense of ownership that is the concomitant of corporate democracy. Those two simple words imply a revolution that deserves at least a dedicated column. Too tall an order? Remember, loyalty has not just moved from an anachronism to an attractive option. It is essential if companies are not to pay ever more cash for ever lower retention and commitment.

8. William Shakespeare, History of Henry VIII,

Responses to Decline in Firms, organisations, and States, Harvard University Press, 1970. Visty Banaji, Is HR too fragile?, People Matters, 12 May 2020. Visty Banaji, But who will guard the guardians?, People Matters, 14 March 2018. Visty Banaji, Off With His Head - Is Due Process Past its Due Date?, People Matters, 17 July 2018. Visty Banaji, HR’s business should be happiness raising, 24 September 2019. Visty Banaji, ‘If you want people to do a good job, give them a good job to do’, People Matters, 24 June 2021. Albert Hirschman, Exit Voice & Loyalty – Responses to Decline in Firms, organisations, and States, Harvard University Press, 1970.

9. 10.

11. 12. 13. 14.

Act III, Scene 2. John Milton, Paradise Lost, Oxford University Press, 2005. Sven Van Segbroeck, Francisco C. Santos, Ann Nowé, Jorge M. Pacheco and Tom Lenaerts, The coevolution of loyalty and cooperation, IEEE Congress on Evolutionary Computation, 2009. Visty Banaji, People are not beans, People Matters, 13 July 2016. Visty Banaji, Is your HR Head a Jerk?- A Taxonomy of HR Asterisks, People Matters, 24 May 2018. Visty Banaji, Guns for (Corporate) Hire, People Matters, 10 May 2022. Albert Hirschman, Exit Voice & Loyalty –

The road less travelled

trenches. What will take far, far longer will be for people to believe that LCM is not just a formula for good times, which will be jettisoned with the next batch of 'volunteered' retirees. Sticky Happiness: After removing the HCF shears that threaten to cut loyalty bonds, comes the step of strengthening the ties. Just because loyalty doesn’t demand immediate returns, doesn’t mean we (at least the non-deities among us) can get by without providing any reciprocation for all time to come. The strongest and longest lasting bondstrengthening adhesive is aggregate people happiness.18 Its manna is least toxic and longest lasting if it is delivered through the enrichment and excitement of the job people do.19 Voice that Matters: Listening to the voice of the employee is important and this column has emphasised it more than once.20 But does it really rank higher in the scale of difficulty relative to the previous two (not inconsiderable)

Visty Banaji is the Founder and CEO of Banner Global Consulting (BGC)

15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20.

July 2022 |


Past Month's events Online Programme: Strategizing Organizational L&D: Performance, Productivity & Impact

Knowledge + Networking

People Matters

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>> Gilles Bertaux

Five lessons from the mistakes of a remote-work early adopter

W b lo g o s p he r e

hile the pandemic didn’t cause the shift to remote work, it certainly accelerated it. It also greatly expanded the number of roles being performed from out of the office. But working from home isn’t a new phenomenon, and as such, there’s a lot to be gleaned from those of us who’ve been doing this a while, because we’ve already made – and learned from – all of the mistakes. When I founded my company back in 2016, I had no specific plan to hire remotely. Like most startups, I got an office in a nice neigh-

borhood of a major city (Paris, in my case) thinking it would help in recruitment efforts. For some roles it was enough. But for engineers, the competition was too intense. We simply didn’t have the budget to hire candidates with the level of seniority we were looking for, and as a startup, we had zero cachet to leverage. We had to look elsewhere to find the talent we needed at a price we could afford. Eventually we made our first remote hire, a digital nomad who was residing in Chile. We learned the first lesson pretty quickly:

Resistance to time zones is futile

Our first instinct was to make our engineer in Chile adapt his schedule to French working hours. A six hour difference may not sound that bad, but starting your day at 3am sure does. He was a good sport and tried to make it work, but after about 2 months, we gave up and, instead, embraced asynchronous communications. Like many in the same situation, we implemented tools like Notion and Slack. We were 70

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still a small company and even as we grew, slowly, our remote hires were strictly in engineering. There was a bit of a learning curve, but the processes and structures that proved effective had time to develop fairly naturally. But then we started scaling, fast, and we learned lesson two:

Fighting the natural desire for face-to-face communication is a necessity

Also, particularly important for a company with a highly-distributed workforce, all cadences are live. This differs from meetings, which can be ad hoc and asynchronous. Determining whether or not a cadence is necessary requires establishing whether it will further one of a set list of purposes: synchronisation (ensures alignment and accelerates delivery on goals), growth (encourages bonding, alleviates frustrations and motivates teams), learning (fosters an environment of constant learning and information sharing), focus (helps make sure decisions happen day in and day out) and planning (enables analysis and adjustment of roles, duties, etc.). So, now we’re having fewer pointless, time-wasting meetings, which is great. We’ve got people using Slack and Notion, and that’s making everything seamless. Or not. Because as we grew our team with more people in more places, we learned lesson three:

b lo g o sp he r e

While we were a small team it wasn’t as obvious, but as we accelerated our hiring, adding different roles to our increasing remote headcount, we couldn’t help but notice that people wanted to meet. All. The. Time. It’s understandable, especially for those who had never worked outside of an office before. They were used to just walking up to a colleague to ask ad hoc questions and having impromptu conversations by the watercooler. They wanted to replicate this experience with endless virtual meetings. Not only did these interfere with productivity, they eventually burned people out of video calls altogether, so those that needed to be constructive were far less so. What we had to do was build a system that would satisfy that need to meet efficiently and effectively. Thus our “Cadence” system was born. Cadences aren’t the same as meetings. They are regularly scheduled, whether daily, weekly, monthly, etc., and they come in various forms such as one-onones, town halls, weekly touchbases and quarterly all-hands.

July 2022 |


Humans are excellent at miscommunication and misunderstanding. The problems this causes are amplified when you’re working across cultures and in non-native languages Adjust for – don’t just accept – the limitations of your systems

b lo g o s p he r e

Our Slack dependence was already firmly in place when we started realising that it was not, perhaps, always the best solution for our needs. After all, it’s built specifically for synchronous communications, so people are used to dashing off quick questions and getting immediate responses. When you’re small this is OK, but the more we grew, the more it became an issue. While not all of the channels were problematic, some were getting way too noisy. For example, the five people we had in HR and finance were getting bombarded with asks from the entire 165-strong staff, which, to them, felt like the impact was that of a category five hurricane. There was no question that we needed to hack Slack, or at least some of our Slack. So first we exported all of the data to figure out where the deluges were. After identifying those areas, we made modifications that allowed it to function more like a project management tool and less like an unregulated chat room. We did that by building a load balancing and ticketing system. With that system, we stopped messages going to an entire channel and instead, channeled them through a different node (i.e., we


| July 2022

set up one flow to create the ticket through our project management tool, Linear, with notifications through Slack and another that was 100% through Slack). The sender would get an immediate response, albeit an automated one. Not only does this response indicate “message received,” it points to where the answer might already be found. It also provides assurance that there will eventually be a response, which helps alleviate pressures stemming from the gap between expectation and reality when it comes to immediacy. The fact that there are a wide variety of individual differences in styles, expectations and preferences for communications leads us to to lesson four:

Protocols should be clear, codified and applied equally to all

Humans are excellent at miscommunication and misunderstanding. The problems this causes are amplified when you’re working across cultures and in non-native languages. The best way to mitigate these issues is to remove as much ambiguity as possible, and you do that by establishing rules and ensuring everyone knows and follows them. So we’ve made our communications protocols an important part of our employee handbook and onboarding process. The less grey area, the better, so we have dos and don’ts for everything from use of emojis to when you should or shouldn’t send direct messages. Since we’re a French company with a lot of non-French (and non-French speaking) employees, we also have strict rules about

where it’s OK to write and speak in French versus English, which is the primary language used throughout the company. This helps stave off feelings of alienation or simply getting left out of the loop. And that last point, being in the loop, brings us to the final lesson I can impart from my experience of being remote before remote was de rigueur:

Empower – but don’t force – people to get together IRL

ple, earlier this year, our growth and marketing team wanted to do an offsite with the operations and customer relations teams. After all, the three had been working extremely closely, yet they’d never met. Plans were made for 25 people to meet in Barcelona. Then other teams started hearing about it and they wanted to join as well. In the end, 150 Livestorm employees (or “Stormies'' as we call them) went. Out of a total of 165 employees. All by choice. In the nearly five years since we made that first remote hire, the world has changed by leaps and bounds. My company was fortunate to have already learned these valuable lessons by the time the oronavirus forced nearly every company to become remotework friendly, and I hope others can benefit from them as well. Because the transformation is surely going to continue, and even when you’re remote, you shouldn’t have to go it alone.

b lo g o sp he r e

In the context of office or no office, there are three types of people. First, there are those that thrive on being fully remote, perhaps because they’re more productive when they can work without interruption or they just prefer to be close to or at home. Then there are those who prefer being in an office, possibly because they like the energy or feel they perform best in the company of others. Then there are those who enjoy the hybrid model that allows them to get out of the house or not, depending on their mood or needs that day. I want to make sure all three types feel welcome at Livestorm, and that’s why I’ve not just kept the centralised office, but, and this is perhaps the most unique part of the Livestorm model, everyone gets a stipend that they can spend to satisfy their preferences. For some, this might be coming to Paris and working at HQ for a spell. For others, it could be paying for access to a local co-working space. For others, it can support entire team get-togethers in the location of their choosing. For exam-


Gilles Bertaux, CEO and co-founder of Livestorm July 2022 |


RNI Details: Vol. XIII, Issue No. 7, R.N.I. No. HARENG/2010/33504. Published and Owned by People Matters Publishing Pvt. Ltd. Published at 501, 5th Floor, Millennium Plaza, Tower A, Sushant Lok-1, Sector-27, Gurgaon - 122009, Haryana. Editor: Esther Martinez Hernandez

People Matters' People Matters' Digital Platforms Digital Platforms Engaging talent Engaging 300K+ 300K+ talent professionals in Asia Asiadaily daily professionals in

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Articles inside

t he ro AD L ess tr A ve LL e D

pages 62-69

Interv I ew

pages 60-61

The leadership imperative to the hybrid future

pages 54-56

Key strategies to drive DEI efforts in the hybrid world of work

pages 51-53

What are we doing to develop leaders for the hybrid model?

pages 57-59

Treating Your Employees like Adults

pages 48-50

Employees seek empathetic leaders

pages 45-47

Rapid Fire

pages 15-24

Quick Reads

pages 10-14

Le AD ersh I p

pages 25-27

Interv I w

pages 28-33

Hybrid team leaders need to create trust, psychological safety, and bring all voices to the table

pages 41-44

Multimodal management Expectations in the hybrid workforce

pages 34-36

Letters of the month

pages 8-9

What is leadership?

pages 37-40
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