Organizations Need To Reinvent And Invest In Building Capabilities To Succeed: Director HR, Kellogg South Asia

In an interaction with BW people, Rohit Kumar, Director HR - Kellogg South Asia shares his opinions and observations about the changing scenario of L&D, crucial need of communication, and dynamics of workplaces in the phase of Unlock.


Communication with employees will become more vital in a permanent WFH scenario. To what extent do you think communication can help an organization?

The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly changed life, at an individual and an organizational level. The daily office hustle, commute to work, face-to-face meetings, coffee machine discussions, informal catch-ups, and essentially several face-to-face touchpoints have been replaced with a virtual e-connect. Such an overhaul of the working style can be unsettling and overwhelming for employees. At such a juncture, communication becomes vital to ensure that employees stay connected and anchored. For instance, at Kellogg, we have moved to a structure that enables both Macro (organization-wide) & Micro (within teams) formal and informal connections. Our 10-day leadership connects with the larger organization ensures that employees feel connected even while they’re working from home. 

Equally important is the micro engagement, where each line manager ensures that they are in touch with their teams across levels and they understand the needs of their teams and the challenges they are facing and how we can help them. For example, a working mother would be facing challenges in the current work arrangement different from an employee who is single and staying alone. A simple alignment with one’s manager on work prioritization and flexibility of time required to deliver that task fuels better emotional-wellbeing at both ends. Apart from these, informal team bonding sessions can help diffuse stress and helps build belongingness, even in a virtual setting.

Post the lockdown, workplace dynamics are changing considerably. How do you visualize a workplace in an unlock phase?

Over the past few months, we have seen the workplace dynamics and the ways of working go through a complete overhaul. In the initial phase, organizations acted with agility to tide through the crisis and unforeseen challenges. With technology enablement and new rules of engagement, organizations adapted almost seamlessly to the work from the home regime, and at a scale, earlier unimaginable.

As we gradually start opening offices, organizations are likely to face three big challenges:

a)      Workplace Safety will bring a new dimension. With the highest levels of awareness around safety and hygiene, and social distancing protocols to be implemented and adhered to across offices, office safety guidelines will be far more stringent

b)      Sustaining organization Engagement & Energy - the new normal would get defined by some employees working within the office premise while the rest working remotely. This situation, where the workforce gets split across physical spaces, will test leadership and line managers’ capability to drive engagement, inclusion and whether the entire team can stay energized

c)      Recalibrating Organization Processes, Structures & Capability to WIN in the new normal will become the true test of agility for most organizations

People's feelings and emotions are still somewhere in the grey. What are your plans to reinvent employee engagement?

No matter how much we call all of this as ‘the new normal’, we are bound to feel a certain level of an anomaly in our daily lives. In such a situation, it is necessary to bring in a sense of normalcy and continue to do everything we did before, albeit differently. To keep our employees engaged, hyper-communication and staying connected is the key. We continue to share stories & updates about a new business or even about areas we can improve on; keep the communication as simple as the way one would normally talk in the corridor or at the cafeteria eating sessions. Besides, we continue to stay invested in our people and have been hosting various sessions on current topics that are gaining traction – Holistic well-being, Ergonomics while working at home, etc. Lastly, we are also trying to figure out ways to celebrate key employee occasions virtually.

How are you keeping employees well connected and engaged even in this contactless world?

In current times, it is critical to keep various touchpoints alive in the employee life cycle - be it a virtual on-boarding session for our new employees, mid-year performance conversation, career conversations, creating IDPs or rolling out virtual learning and development sessions, thus reinforcing our commitment to invest in ourselves and build capability.

Even though it is a technology that has been a big enabler in a well-connected & successful work from home arrangement, the foundation of its success lies in the trust between the leaders and their teams. The trust in employees has brought alive the empowerment and a strong sense of responsibility at the employees’ end.

According to you, how would the future of L&D and training look like?

Today it has become critical for organizations to reinvent themselves and invest in building future capabilities to succeed & win. There will be a need to not only re-invent the Leadership & Development (L&D) strategy but also to embrace new technology and tools to deliver it virtually. While virtual learning has not taken off much in the past, there’s a need for it and it will see better traction across organizations.

At Kellogg, we are focused on putting our L&D interventions in full throttle – be it investment behind building functional capabilities or leadership development interventions. We have seen increased participation coupled with great feedback on some recent interventions that we have rolled out virtually like weaving the virtual sessions with action learning projects to enable on the job learning and coaching interventions to help self-reflection.

What are those powerful lines that are keeping you sane and upbeat? What are things you love to do other than being an HR Leader?

As someone said “In the face of adversity, we have a choice, we can be bitter or we can be better”. I find it very inspiring to stay upbeat in the current scenario. This crisis has also taught me to value health and relationships and has made me realize how less we need to survive.

I have rediscovered my passion for food all over again – this time with a lot more time cooking in the kitchen - surprising myself and others around me by my latent culinary skills - which were buried deep, waiting for a time like this to come by and nudge me.


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