How To Successfully Lead a Culture Transformation

Having led a few Culture Transformation programs in my career, including the one that I am leading in my current role and organisation, in my experience and perspective “U” as the leader of change and culture transformation “R” most critical to its success.

I believe, the following to be rudimentary and essential for a successful cultural transformation.

1) Indepth “As-Is” analysis of the current organisation culture – Understanding clearly what works well and why? and what’s not working well and why? What’s needs to change and why?

2) Clearly articulate a case for change and transformation. Define the “From-To’s” Detail and describe the values and behaviours of leaders and workforce that you want to see as an outcome of your intended culture.

3) Cast and define the culture proof points in terms of; a) voice of customers and other stakeholders about your organisation, b) stories and coffee machine talks within your organisation, c) How the Hero’s of the new culture will look like and what will be their values and behaviours, etc, etc.

4) Design and roll out a structured and innovative culture transformation program (with varied initiatives keeping in mind the organisational complexity in terms of company’s geographical spread, employee levels, etc). Be an executive sponsor and appoint a full time program manager to manage the culture transformation. Manage it like a proper program and not like an initiative or a small project.

5) Develop a robust change, communication and engagement – management plan. Involve and include all stakeholders. Make sure that the stakeholders understand their role in making it happen and own the transformation.

7) Lead from the front – Facilitate and shape an organisation-wide dialogue, listen to employees, challenge them, support them, create and nurture a”Network of Culture and Change Champions” they should be your critical mass… your extended team.

8) Design a measurement framework and process for monitoring progress and success of your transformation program. Change and transformation specific surveys based on Net Promoter Score (NPS) methodology are very effective. In addition, conduct dip-stick surveys, coffee corner discussions and keep measuring and feeling the pulse of the people and the organisation.

9) Refine what’s not working and reinforce what’s working. Do not add additional or new initiatives – bear in mind the change fatigue and keep it simple but engaging and exciting.

10) Celebrate success, recognise the new culture Hero’s, emphasis and reward them for the desired behaviours and values that they role model. Share success stories via the Hero’s and inspire others to follow the role models.

Culture building in organisations is a journey, your perseverance and commitment to the program as a leader will define its success. Make sure you manage expectation and not fall in the “overnight result trap”. Continuous improvement is key, as soon as you think your program is successful and the job is done – you will need to ready yourself for the next sumit or phase of the journey.

In my opinion good leaders lead and manage people effectively, but great leaders do that and build a culture.

Culture can become a ‘secret weapon’ that can make extraordinary things happen ~ Jon Katzenbach

What I learnt about learning.

Transforming something that’s already good is indeed a huge challenge and it needs a very different mindset and very competent set of people (as your team) who are highly skilled in making major transformations happen. I have observed that business and functional transformation has fast evolved as a center of expertise in many organizations and in some organizations it is also evolving as a permanent function. The landscape of learning (What, Why, How, When and Where of Learning) has changed significantly over the last one decade and some of the major paradigm shifts have happened due to the following:

1. There have been new research outcomes and suggestions in the area of neuro science and human learning that has helped us understand how people learn and hence it has compelled many to re-think their learning interventions and designs.

2. The advent of technology and disruption caused by the digital and social media has turned the concept of training and classroom learning upside down. Today, the technology of Learning Management Systems (LMS) has beautifully evolved from systems of record to platforms of sharing, networking, knowledge management and hence learning. The LMS functionality and its apps have made them a superior platform for learning on the go. Smooth dovetailing of the LMS with the HR ERP is helping connect the learning function with the overall competency-based HR processes of the company.

3. The unique needs, styles and aspirations of the millennials and younger generational workforce members have compelled many organizations to re-think their learning function and its offerings. The whole shift from traditional classroom-based training to mixed models of learning such as on-the-job, coaching and mentoring, open source learning platforms on the internet is picking up rather fast and every company needs to have a clear strategy, plan and a technology platform that can cater to this.

4. Sustained economic uncertainty has compelled organizations to become more efficient with the learning and capability building investment. Theoretically speaking, learning is still a discretional spending. However, many have learnt that not having the right capabilities, skills, competencies and knowledge makes today’s knowledge workforce inefficient and unproductive and that severely affects the organizations’ performance and perpetuity.

It is important that the learning function takes advantage of the fast evolving digital and social tech platforms. You better be continuously innovating and learning or you will soon become irrelevant to your audience and learners. For instance, 20 years ago not many would have imagined that high-street banking will die and all those beautiful bank buildings on the high street will become cafes, bars or boutique shops. Because of the shift towards online banking, the banks with the best online banking products, solutions and service and security will survive and win. Similarly, not many imagined that you would not have to buy a newspaper or watch television at home to keep pace with the world and its news. Today, I don’t buy a newspaper and watch television for news!! Look at what’s happening to the retail sector. I had never imagined shopping suits or shoes online, but today I do and it works well. Hence, make sure you have team members who are tech savvy and have the necessary skills and competencies for leveraging the best in class technology and social networking/learning platforms.

Moving from Instructional Design (ID) to Learning Experience Design (LED)

Companies and vendors still talk about instructional design (ID) as the core of learning content development. ID was at the core when the dominant medium and channel of learning was the classroom, where the belief was that the instructor or teacher is detrimental to one’s learning. Charles Jennings, my good friend and the father of 70:20:10 learning principle and framework helped me understand and learn how important and fundamental this learning principle and framework is. 70 +20 = 90% of your LED should be on the job with leader led support and just 10% should be formal (Classroom + E-learning). E-learning modules, even if they are available on the mobile, are categorized as formal learning offerings. One of my biggest learning was in the area of designing action learning offerings for people to learn on-the-job. The difficult part in doing this is designing and ensuring a standardized way for the leaders to coach and support their employees whilst they are in action learning mode. I must say that I continue to learn in this area every day. Another important learning for me was that the company has to make some clear strategic choices about what they will do themselves versus what they should buy from vendors especially in the area of learning content development. We built a small but a powerful content development organization in Pune for the Philips University and they are more a COE, where they do develop some of the learning content for Philips University but their primary role is to ensure quality of learning design and content for all learning offerings of our company and develop strategic vendors for the bulk of learning offerings. It works very well and I am blessed to have a fantastic team of highly competent and skilled people who are making a huge difference.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

I had once blogged on this topic and in my opinion it’s important when it comes to learning too. You can create the entire infrastructure and build all the technology platforms, but if you don’t work on creating a learning culture, culture where learning is sought, supported and celebrated – you will fail in achieving the desired impact of learning in any organization. Leader led learning is a very strong trait of any organization’s culture. It’s when leaders of the organization own, support and drive learning versus the Learning COE. Learning COE should be the enabler and the value creator and not the owner of learning. Building a learning culture is by far the most difficult thing when you are transforming learning and one my learnings is that it takes time to build the culture. It’s a journey – but you have to be at it.

1. Don’t confuse learning with leadership development. Learning is a sum of many parts, while leadership development, talent management, culture building, capability building, leveraging technology are some of the important parts. If you don’t embed leadership development under learning and treat and manage it separately – you might end up confusing the organization and there might be duplication of efforts.

2. Run your learning like a business. Most progressive companies invest significantly in learning and as the Chief Learning Officer you are managing significant budgets. Business acumen, the ability to manage P&L and be operationally excellent are pre-requisites for any CLO. Fortunately, I had done line roles in the past and had the experience of managing P&Ls and large budgets, but I learnt how to run learning like a business, which creates value for its stakeholders and measure its impact on the organization and its eco-system. The five practices of excellence—Project Management, Process Management, Change Management, Performance Management and Continuous Improvement—are fundamental in managing a large scale learning transformation program. Make sure you have the best-in-class people owning and leading each of the above-mentioned practice and apply lean and design thinking as you build the ‘Learning Machine’ for your company and run it like a business.

In conclusion, learning is indeed a very specialized subject and it has some very specific technical nuances, which one needs to learn. However, it’s not rocket science if you have a strategic mindset, are operationally savvy and have the will and wherewithal to learn and innovate. It takes time to transform learning and create a learning culture and in my experience it takes about two to three years to manage a project well. The transformation journey has its moments and every moment and experience over the past two to three years has been learning for me. If I was asked to do it all over again, I would say a BIG YES and will be able to do it more smartly because of my learning about learning.

I am re-blogging this article, which was carried by People Matters, a leading HR Magazine and learning resource for Human Resource Professionals. The original article can be accessed at http://goo.gl/VnUIsF 

How to launch a career in a sluggish job market.

Campus Journos

Globally weak economy, sliding Rupee, high inflation, policy paralysis, upcoming elections, etc, etc have slowed the growth in India and there are clear signs and forecasts that macro-economic outlook and GDP growth for 2014 will remain modest if not weak. Companies therefore, will be cautious in 2014 and are likely to focus more on managing and controlling costs as opposed to making big investments. As a result, hiring forecasts for 2014 might remain weak. Wise and progressive companies will continue to “invest cautiously” in hiring fresh engineering and MBA talent, however, there will be an unfavorable effect on the Engineering and MBA talent pool graduating in the summer of 2014.

How to best handle your career take-off in a sluggish job market, wherein fewer good opportunities will present themselves and chances of getting your dream job may not be that bright?

I have seen this about three times earlier in the past 24 years of my career where a major economic crisis has affected the fresh graduates (from a career take-off point of view). I have also learnt and observed how; some very smart students have dealt with it effectively. Based on my observations and experience, my 5 point advice is as follows:

1)      Don’t blame or doubt yourself and stay positive: It’s important to understand that this situation is not your creation and you are just a little bit unlucky to be graduating in these tough times. Stay emotionally strong and keep smiling. If you didn’t get a Pre-placement Offer or Pre-placement Interview from the organization where you interned as an MBA student this year – don’t get negative or cynical about that organization. In fact, thank that organization for what you learnt there and build and maintain good relations. Coz when the tough times are over that same organization could re-consider you. Most important when you are being hired by another company, your references will be checked with the company you interned in!!

 “Get going. Move forward. Aim High. Plan a takeoff. Don’t just sit on the runway and hope someone will come along and push the airplane. It simply won’t happen. Change your attitude and gain some altitude. Believe me, you’ll love it up here.” – Donald Trump

2)      Re-set and refine your goals and objectives: If you are amply clear that your dream job in your dream company isn’t going to happen – then re-configure your near term goals and objectives and identify and prepare yourself for the next best thing that’s possible and is lurking as an opportunity. Very important to have a Plan-B and more important to activate it.

“Re-setting goals and objectives doesn’t mean you are compromising with your vision and aspiration, in fact it means you are committed to achieving it” – iYash

3)      Don’t depend on your campus placement process alone: I have often said this before, the controlled and traditional methods of placing MBA students by running a campus placement process which is managed by a body of students and the school management is a big deterrent to the students prospects – coz, bright students are robbed of their choices and are forced into accepting offers from limited choice for the sake of placing other weaker students. Also the Indian MBA School’s campus placement process is not designed for sluggish times. It’s a socialist approach to ensure that everyone gets a job (assuming many companies are out there wanting to recruit from that campus) and then the college can boast of a placement record, instead of boasting of a top-class learning environment. Anyways, don’t depend on it and challenge it and change it, if you can!!

“If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” – Mary Engelbreit

4)      Leverage Social Media: Be present on Social Media Platforms, especially the ones that are used by companies to identify and recruit talent. My top three platform recommendations are LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Make good profiles and be present on them with the objectives of connecting, sharing and learning. In addition leverage on the connections you have already built with executives and friends you have made in the corporate world and seek their help in sighting and applying for the right opportunities.

“Social media is your opportunity to reach a massive number of people with transparency, honesty, and integrity.” – Brian E. Boyd Sr., Social Media for the Executive

5)      Value what you get: Whatever opportunity you land up with – value it and give your best to the company that hires you, work hard and learn. If you don’t value what you get and keep thinking about why you didn’t get what you sought dearly, it won’t help. There is nothing such as a second grade organization. Leaders, employees and their values make an organization and if you are going to be one of them, then make it a top-notch company. Work with total commitment and passion and you won’t go wrong in making a career!!

“Anyone can dabble, but once you’ve made that commitment, your blood has that particular thing in it, and it’s very hard for people to stop you.”- Bill Cosby

Wishing all the MBA students on Indian campuses (who will graduate in 2014) all the very best and now that you are experiencing the real world and its challenges, I would encourage you have a constructive conversation with your junior batch students and share with them your wisdom and importance of summer internships, which they are seeking right now for the summer on 2014. Most points mentioned above are applicable to them as well.

“Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” -Joshua J. Marine

How to Leverage Social Media in HR & Employer Brand Building

This is a Guest Blog By: Zenobia Madon, GM Talent Acquisition, Philips India (@zenobiamadon), Hussain, Mohammed Mansoor, GM Talent Acquisition, Philips India (_mansoor1) and Gautam Ghosh, GM HR and Social Media, Philips India (@gautamghosh). Am honored to publish it as an contribution from my colleauges, who make me proud and are leading the way on the topic of this blog at Philips India 🙂

Our experience with Social Media & Employer Branding (Brand building) has been very interesting and fruitful. During our 2012 annual HR strategy workshop – Yashwant Mahadik (@indianyash) shared his learning’s, forecast and vision about Social Media & HR and encouraged the team to come out with ideas and strategy to leverage Social Media in HR. Over the recent years, Philips India HR team has significantly transformed HR in the company and we have developed and built some top-class HR practices and programs to create value in business and the time was just ripe to leverage Social Media to share and learn. In response to Yash’s challenge and vision – Philips India, HR team’s journey in the space of Social Media started about a year ago – we realized that Social Media platforms are a great way to share what is happening at Philips India with our target audience. Objective was to share some of our exciting and cutting edge, practices, initiatives and events at Philips India with an aim of communicating our value proposition and continue to build a strong employer brand. Social Media is an exciting new white space, some of us also looked at it as an unknown animal with green horns.

Very quickly a core team sprung up to champion this initiative. We began our journey this time last year, with the launch of our We are Philips India Facebook page, (which was launched by (@AbhijitBhaduri) and we to refreshed our presence on LinkedIn and leveraged our company’s global relationship with LinkedIn – to not just recruit from it, but also learn and share from this platform. Then we planned on leveraging other platforms like Twitter & WordPress.

The more we indulged in leveraging social media the more we learnt that, “it’s not an easy task” – you need certain capabilities to do it effectively (and not many of us had those capabilities – what we had in plenty was enthusiasm and drive). Then we explored partnerships and support from Digital and Social Media agencies, most of them were rather inexperienced in context of leveraging Social Media for HR and especially in the area of Employer Brand building. We also realized that there were not many benchmark organizations which had leveraged social media in the space of HR and employer brand building. We therefore decided to chalk out our own path. Decision made was that we will build the capability in-house and learn as we go!!

We initially experimented with different initiatives on Social Media both for the internal (our employees) and external audiences and got some great learning’s (things that work and things that don’t). We also realized that while we had a lot of information to share about the exciting times at Philips, we needed to be cautious about what value add it would do to our external audience and how engaging it would be for them. One thing we were clear, we wanted to build our presence organically and via content creation.

At this point in time @indianyash hired and attracted our co-author of this blog post – @gautamghosh to Philips India and he started off by building awareness and capability of Social Media in the HR team and the senior business leaders. @indianyash was very clear in his steer that, we will build the capability by learning and doing it ourselves. Oh boy!! we did it or are doing it and its so much fun!! We, won’t elaborate on this part much, as a blog from @indianyash himself on this topic seems to be in the oven 

We then moved on to Twitter and the excitement and the learning journey was accelerated. We created a Philips India HR Twitter account and got the entire HR team (70+) on to Twitter. The team getting on to Twitter was awesome fun and the turning point. We had all of kinds – we had some early adopters who took to twitter like ducklings take to water and there were some cautious ones who observed and watched and gradually got on to it. The twitter world welcomed us with open arms. Very quickly, we all got hyper connected with the rest of the HR and Social Media stalwarts on Twitter.
We attended our first twitter #tag chat on invitation from @indianyash who was chairing it for the month of April 2013 (#IndiaHRchat hosted by our friend @tanvi_gautam) which was a fantastic experience. The pace of the chat, exciting discussions and multiple re-tweets which some of us received was invigorating. The #tag chat which was scheduled for an hour seemed to pass in a jiffy. We were dumbfounded by the millions of impressions we made and now we look impatiently forward to the next one every month. This encouraged the team to further explore twitter and we learnt a lot about Twitter.

Within a few months we were very familiar with the various platforms and started leveraging Social media for our HR initiatives. We designed & introduced a one of its kind initiative, #PhilipsHRtalks on 22nd April which was a huge success and created a lot of buzz. The session trended on Twitter, we got about 935,000 impressions and the video of the session which was shared on Youtube has got over 2000 views.
It is encouraging to hear from Industry leaders and HR thought leaders how impressed they are to see the @HRPhilips – HR team at Philips lead the way in leveraging Social media in HR. We also found it extremely easy to get visibility amongst our Global team, on some of our initiatives via both Twitter and ConnectUs (our internal social networking platform). The momentum and transformation was such that we all started to utilize our internal company social networking platform eagerly and effectively.

Another recent initiative which we conceptualized and launched recently is #CampusJournos, which is currently in progress. CampusJournos is an exciting initiative launched by Philips India to engage with MBA school students across India via Social media. The initiative is completely managed by us in-house, it is hosted on WordPress and is promoted via Facebook and Twitter. We have received an overwhelming response to Campus Journos from the MBA students across many business schools in India, since launch. We have received over 67000 views and 305 entries in its first week of Launch, which is very heartening for us. All this at no extra cost or budget.

In addition to above, we have vibrant and engaged alumni networks, who contribute actively to social media conversations about Phillips. We have encouraged active networking and peer-to-peer discussion around topics relevant to personal or professional development. In fact at Philips, Philips Alumni Group is an example of leveraging social media for re-attracting regretfully lost employees and this has been one of our robust channels of recruitment. In addition, our active involvement on select Philips LinkedIn Groups (e.g. Innovations in Marketing, Innovations in Healthcare) has helped us engage & learn from likeminded passionate functional experts. We do realize that we can further leverage LinkedIn and we are at it.

At Philips, we believe that every employee is a brand ambassador. And the best way to build or strengthen our brand is via employees – who can contribute to building the brand – inside out. To that effect, we encourage @HRPhilips to be active on social media sites such as Twitter and share their perspectives on a wide range of subjects. This exercise has been one of rich learning and fun – and has also provided the world-at large a glimpse into the knowledgeable and informed Philips employee and its rich culture.

We make no mistake in accepting that, we are still learning and it’s a journey. But the excitement and fun we have had in the past one year and the success we have tasted enhances our belief how powerful Social Media for HR can be!! This is written on behalf of @HRPhilips full team 