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Managers as Coaches: ABB India’s CHRO On Building Constructive Culture
While highlighting the critical need for building a positive and hesitation free environment for employees, Raman Kumar Singh said, “It becomes even more important for managers to be empathetic today as it equips them to deal with varied experiences better while continuing to have an engaged and cohesive team, even when some of them are working remotely”
Technology has provided us with ways and means to stay connected; there is just a need to walk that extra mile to ensure there’s a real connect albeit our reliance on the virtual means. Coaching as culture takes this into account, wherein everyone, especially the managers and HR teams is trained on how to keep that connection alive.
In an exclusive interaction Raman Kumar Singh, CHRO, ABB India explains how focused are they on offering employees a cohesive work environment. He further throws light upon ABB India’s program 'Managers as Coaches'
Q1. How has the leadership paradigm changed during the pandemic?
During these unprecedented times, leaders who are strong on collaboration, agile, and have a sharp contextual awareness that allows them to adapt to the evolving situation, are likely to thrive. With uncertainty breeding anxiety, leaders need to over-index the support that they need to extend to their team members. Leaders are not just directing the team; they are expected to get on the ground and help the team members adapt and co-evolve to these ever-changing dynamics.
Q2. Why is it important for managers to also play the role of coaches?
The demands of the workspace are ever-changing, now more so as the definition of the workspace continues to expand. COVID-19 has further heightened this need as employees are increasingly seeking more than just professional answers from their managers as well as the organization. Managers must equip themselves with the skills to foster the well-being of their teams even in a remote setup, to provide them with avenues for collaboration, opportunities for professional growth, and even counsel them to stay centred in such unprecedented times. In its spirit, it’s a manager playing the role of a coach.
At ABB India, we have almost five generations working under the same roof. This will provide opportunities for growth and development, accounting for a productive and rewarding experience.
To bring about the diversity of ideas and experiences together, it is even more critical that we incorporate coaching as a culture. Managers must guide and empower employees.
Q3. How do you plan to train the managers to be coaches or guides within ABB India?
Through the "Managers as Coaches" program, we are culturally transforming. Our managers are being equipped with the right tools and training to guide teams and help them utilize their strengths to their full potential. The program started with the top leaders and will continue to offer tools and techniques to managers and employees across the organisation. We are also training our human resources team to become certified coaches to further strengthen and facilitate these cultural changes. We are also taking the support of professional coaches to guide select leaders in the journey.
Q4. How do the 'Managers as Coaches' initiative help create a positive effect on employees' mental health?
Each one of us needs a coach for practical, useful advice that can be incorporated into our lives for professional or personal growth. A manager, who guides and empowers, has the ability to hold a space where the employee can take a step back and reflect, ask the right questions and focus on what is really important for them.
Even before the pandemic, the overall health and well-being of our employees were our top priority. One of the major roadblocks with regards to mental health is one’s inability to talk about it or accept that it needs to be dealt with in a structured way. Through our internal campaigns, we encourage dialogue around mental health and expose the stigma associated with it. By creating a coaching culture, along with our existing avenues for well-being, we are ensuring every employee has someone to reach out to whenever they feel anxious, stuck, or simply uncertain about the next step. This also brings about a lot of trust in each other. Each of us needs to trust our managers to open to him/her for any conflict or simply to express ourselves.
While coaching our managers ensure they are sensitive to and are aware of their teams’ needs and well-being, our other avenues such as the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provide employees a platform to get talking to qualified experts who are available 24*7.
This program is confidential in nature recognizing the stigma associated with mental health. Similarly, our internal campaign ‘Here for each other’ encourages employees to speak openly about their experiences with uncertainty. Through these activities, we are opening a dialogue around mental health which is in tune with ABB’s culture.
Q5. Do you feel empathy quotient also plays a key role in keeping the workforce intact? How are you tracking an individual's performance and development?
Empathy is an important life skill, especially for a coach. We all come from different backgrounds, have our own set of personal responsibilities, and could be at various stages of life. For instance, a new parent will have very different challenges than a bachelor staying in a paying guest accommodation. Another employee, who has ageing parents requiring medical attention, will have their own set of ups and downs. It is extremely important to acknowledge this diversity and sensitize ourselves. In a remote working environment, if the manager fails to empathize, the team may not trust him/her and open up about their issues/challenges. Managers may not even get the opportunity to support the team in such cases. It becomes even more important for managers to be empathetic today as it equips them to deal with varied experiences better while continuing to have an engaged and cohesive team, even when some of them are working remotely.
We believe that such a culture will have a net positive impact on the overall performance of the organisation. For managers, we are tracking the inputs that are being provided in terms of their development and ensuring that all of our managers/employees and HR teams are trained over a period of time. We also have tools such as ‘One Simple Thing’, ‘Manager Connect’, skip level meetings, 360-degree feedback, engagement surveys, among others, that provide various avenues to the team to share feedback about the managers. These inputs in turn help us to design our people agenda and priorities for the year.
Q6. The new normal expect HR leaders to balance Tech and touch. How are you balancing it especially in the learning and development area?
We must now straddle that fine balance between going all virtual and still not giving up on the personal connect that a structured office environment would provide. Technology has provided us with ways and means to stay connected; we just need to walk that extra mile to ensure there’s a real connect albeit our reliance on the virtual means. Coaching as a culture takes this into account, wherein everyone, especially the managers and HR teams is trained on how to keep that connection alive. Besides, our ongoing initiatives such as ‘One Simple Thing’ ensure managers are having candid conversations with their teams.
On the learning front, the pandemic offered us an opportunity to further enhance our learning and development avenues. Whilst training are provided virtually, the ensuing interactions are quite lively. Tech intervention into L&D has made it possible to provide curated learning solutions for a personalized experience for employees and the engagement is higher in such instances. Additionally, we also take feedback regularly from the employees to understand their openness towards such technologies. As the new normal transforms itself every day, we are also finding out new ways to balance between tech and human intervention to provide the best possible learning experience for our employees.