In an exclusive interview with All Things Talent, Mr Kenneth W Wheeler, Vice President-Human Resources (L&D) at LogiNext Solutions talks about his journey so far, the importance of embracing artificial intelligence and autonomous
systems and how newer technology can improve work experience and create new business opportunities. He also shares insights on the importance of Adaptability Quotient (AQ) and how gamification can be used to transform the workplace.
With your rich experience of 16+ years spread across different industries, how eventful has your journey been like? What were some of the challenges and important decisions that helped you evolve into a leader and get where you are today?
The journey and the experience have been very uplifting, adventurous and richly rewarding. The flavour of different industries and a balanced work exposure of both corporates and startup ecosystem has helped me truly expand my technical, behavioural and Leadership skills making me more rounded professional overall. It has provided me with a
competitive advantage to extract the best of both the worlds (the calmness of an MNC and the craziness of a startup as one such example among many other distinguishing attributes). This blended mindset and experience largely influence how I today envision, strategise and execute my projects at work. One key decision was the risk I took to join a startup domain from a well settled corporate world in 2012 when startups were just shaping up. It proved to be a game-changer for me in more ways than one and I continue to thrive and bask in its glory. My evolution as a leader and what I represent today has been driven by two key perspectives:
1) Be mindful of the realization that what has got me success in the past will never be enough to get me success in the future and hence the want to continuously evolve and keep including additional skills to your armoury is always critical and
2) The genuine pride to uplift others, contribute to their success and be a people person at heart has driven me to significantly impact and influence the different stakeholders I collaborate with at work.
The genuine pride to uplift others, contribute to their success and be a people person at heart has driven me to significantly impact and influence the different stakeholders I collaborate with at work.
FUTURE OF WORK
Over the last few years, progress with artificial intelligence an autonomous systems has been quite extraordinary. What does this mean for work? Why is it important for HR leaders to grasp the significance of these developments?
AI and autonomous systems are now more than a trend, it’s a transformation. Industry 4.0 is upon us. This means connected and overall development of resources which includes hardware, software, processes, communication, and, primarily the human intellect behind it all. At work, we are in the middle of an evolution of how things get done, the skills required, the pace of execution, innovation and a disruptive mindset. It is a brilliant opportunity for HR leaders to make a significant contribution to re-define work and create an environment that is best suited to promote organisations success. In order to achieve that HR leaders must first themselves adopt a mindset and build a DNA within, to continuously evolve, disrupt, be proactive and create value for people, customer, business and investors. Another critical aspect for HR leaders to grasp in the midst of this massive technology movement is to understand that fostering a culture that promotes ‘emotional belonging’ for the workforce is really going to be a key differentiator for the longevity of employees relationship and connect with its employer. So, the significance of AI and autonomous system for HR leaders would really be to create a tow fold blended approach of 1) accepting technology and
emphasizing on the merit it brings 2) having a vision of ‘future-proofing’ employee skills and driving a sense of emotional belonging at the core of everything that an organisation stands for.
At work, we are in the middle of an evolution of how things get done, the skills required, the pace of execution, innovation and a disruptive mindset. It is a brilliant opportunity for HR leaders to make a significant contribution to re-define work and create an environment that is best suited to promote organisations success.
In one of your interviews, you talk about the benefits and the productivity gains from automation. Are you saying that the fears of machines taking over jobs are wrong? That we should look at the benefits more closely?
What the recent yesterday looked like is a scene from a Hollywood Sci-Fi movie, has today become a reality with drones, driverless automobiles, information available on voice command, vacuum transportation, VR & AR impact, smartphones operating home and car gadgets, space tourism in the making and much more. Technology innovation,
automation and bots are a reality today and we need to be acceptable of its influence, embrace it and stop neglecting it. What we must do instead is to create real alternate solutions and focus more on the advantage it brings to all of us. Report by world economic forum calls out that by 2022, 75 million current job roles may be displaced by the shift in the division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms, while 133 million new
job roles may emerge at the same time. Therefore, humans and jobs have not only survived but rather flourished with a notable paradigm shift in every industrial revolution and IR4.0 would be no different. While we are already seeing automation taking away administrative and repetitive work, on one hand, the sheer ability of newer technology to get more done in less time improves work experience, creates new business opportunity and uplifts our overall quality of life. We will see the new classification of jobs opening as we advance into the workforce dominated by digital natives. Human skills like communication, empathy, creativity, emotional intelligence are today more important than ever before. Humans are naturally resilient, and we will always find a way to adapt, evolve and survive – fighting or fretting about change is only counterproductive, put the spotlight on re-skilling, adoption and
How long will it be, in your opinion, before we start seeing a critical mass of automation being adopted in Indian workplaces? According to you, what are the top five workplace trends for the upcoming year?
Automation adoption is significantly on the rise and already forms an integral ‘mantra’ of industrial revolution 4.0. We already see automation transforming workplaces in different industry sectors and departments; however, the pace is
not full throttle just yet. It would be a several few years more before mass automation adoption comes in effect at full scale.
Top 5 workplace trends for the upcoming year would hover around:
1. Focus on self-development and self-re-skilling:
Organisations would rapidly tie-up with open learning platforms like Udemy, Coursera, Khan Academy (and many more) to allow employees to re-skill themselves on even specialisations outside their primary expert domain and be involved actively in making themselves ‘future-fit’.
2. Gig economy influence:
2020 will witness the rise of gig workers at a higher rate and we will start seeing a percentage decline of full-time employees. This impact would be relevant in both established MNC corporate giants as well as the startup ecosystem.
3. Emphasis on wellness and flexibility:
With attention to employee burnout increasing due to ‘mobile work’ which is causing ones professional and
personal worlds to be merged and intertwined wellness programs inclusion will be important in 2020 and beyond.
Similarly, the need to offer and expand space for work flexibility will continue to rise with slogans like ‘Work is where Wi-Fi is’ gaining more momentum.
4. Leaders equipment on EQ & AQ:
L&D investment in this key area would be critical and organisations would look to build these capabilities for their leadership group more aggressively.
5. Psychological safety & reverse mentoring:
Amidst the need for disruption and innovation, more companies would build strategy to foster a culture where employees work with the freedom to innovate without the fear of any consequence management. I also believe that with different generation workforce existing together, the real opportunity to collaborate and learn from one another’s
strength by means of reverse mentoring will be looked at seriously.
HR is the torchbearer of change management. HR empowerment must come from an entitlement of being a ‘Change Agent’ or a ‘Change Enabler’ and be involved at every step of change management right from defining the purpose, impact, execution planning to on-ground implementation.
It is a time where the world around us is always changing and handling change becomes critical to an organisation’s success. According to you, what is the right strategic approach to ‘change management’ and how can one ensure preparedness and stability for change by empowering the human resources department?
HR is the torchbearer of change management. HR empowerment must come from an entitlement of being a ‘Change Agent’ or a ‘Change Enabler’ and be involved at every step of change management right from defining the purpose, impact, execution planning to on-ground implementation. In that capacity, a successful HR strategy for change management must include the following ingredients:
• Communication transparency:
Ensure employees understand the need, purpose, the why of change and most importantly what it means for them
• Develop internal champions:
Handhold a few picked individuals (preferably include one representative from each department) to act as ‘promoters’ and proactively support the cause
• Emotional checks and balances:
Change is the only constant; however, change is invariably also discomforting and un-assuring. The emotional impact and influence if not prioritized and managed effectively can be the differentiating point between failure and success of any change management
• Wear the opportunity lens:
Infuse positivity by highlighting the benefits of change so everyone involved really looks at it as an opportunity and are steered in that direction
• Be an observant coach:
Keep your eyes on the floor and ears on the ground. Be vigilant to observe the impact and behaviour involved. Act nimbly to address any course that you identify as derailing the plan and coach your way to get things back on track
• Informed and involved:
Make all employees feel engaged and a part of the strategy. Encourage questions to be voiced. Act on valuable inputs/suggestions that come from the group. Reiterate the important role they play in the overall success
• Celebrate every small milestone:
It is important to be proactive in sharing and celebrating each success along the journey to build positive momentum all along
Furthermore, with organisations undergoing constant change, Adaptability Quotient (AQ) is becoming increasingly prevalent and emerging as the new competitive advantage. Do you think AQ will be critical for the future of work? How? Also, how can modern learning help it thrive?
Agility and Adaptation are the two most powerful keywords in Industrial Revolution 4.0. With invention and new age cutting technology surfacing almost at lightning speed, it now perhaps seems that one is always studying, learning and getting trained to keep mastering multiple skills. As an individual, if you are not comfortable with agile learning and adaptability quotient, one can find themselves less effective at work if not completely redundant. On the contrary, if you are driven by AQ, it will act as your unique selling point, thus, keeping you at the forefront of competitive advantage. In fact, if you succeed in highlighting your AQ skills in a job interview, you significantly increase your chances of being hired. With the situation at work and business models perpetually changing, the shelf life of employee skills is evaporating quickly too and therefore if you fail to be comfortable with change – how would you ever find yourself ‘settled in’. AQ does not come naturally to all and such rapid constant change can rather be overwhelming. The silver lining, however, is that AQ can be developed and that is where modern learning comes to the rescue. Look to adopt the following approach such as:
• Simulation of a real-world scenario
• Gamification concept
• Workshops that promote innovation
• Take advantage of Multiple open learning forums (MOOC)
• Using virtual collaboration tools
• Mobile nugget learning and real-time on-demand access to learning at the comfort of their choice and picking
• Opportunity to work in projects outside your core domain
• Applying the concept of ‘tours of duty’ popularize by LinkedIn founder, where employees repeatedly take on new roles in a company to gain operational experience across multiple areas
All these attributes of modern learning can help organisations equip, empower and facilitate employees to feel encouraged to transform and update their skills as an on-going learning process.
As an individual, if you are not comfortable with agile learning and adaptability quotient, one can find themselves less effective at work if not completely redundant. On the contrary, if you are driven by AQ, it will act as your most important unique selling point, thus, keeping you at the forefront of competitive advantage.
What are some of the biggest initiatives you are currently working on at LogiNext? How do you ensure that these initiatives help in building an employee culture that translates business imperatives into organisational capabilities?
At LogiNext, we are on a mission of building a tech empowered and people-led organisation. Initiatives to support this purpose is built on our People Strategy that is principally governed by 4 pillars of success:
1. Spirit of Intrapreneurship:
Ownership of being the CEO/CTO of our own vertical and projects and feeling empowered and responsible for its success.
2. Tech Innovation & Quality:
Build for scale, build for impact, be pioneers in tech innovation while keeping Quality at the forefront of everything we do.
3. Learning & Development:
Driven by mantra of #investinyourself, #befuturefit and #beyourbestversion
4. Blend of Formal & Informal Set-Up:
We are formal and serious in the way we do our performance reviews, set our quarterly goals, make our decisions and we are Informal in the way we dress, way we walk on the floor and the way we have fun!
The combined effort on all 4 pillars strongly supports us to build a culture that meaningfully translates all our business imperatives into organisational capabilities. Our tech team are as customer and business-centric as our business team and that is a significant gene at LogiNext.
Many organisations are using gamification to improve employee engagement, enhance employee skills and solve complicated issues. How can HR leaders use gamification to improve company culture and retain valued employees?
Gamification to me has the power to transform our workplace. More than a technical approach, it is a ‘mindset’ which when nurtured and prioritized, acts as a solution to foster high engagement motivation, team collaboration and employee churn.
HR leaders must first develop an interest to understand how to effectively ‘design’ gamification. If you ask a PUBG gamer – why do you like this game so much? What do you think they would answer? They are likely to call out elements like a challenge, competition, connect with others, adrenaline rush, emotions, the satisfaction of winning, want of showcasing skills, opportunity to constantly practise, learn from mistakes, get feedback from others and just keep getting better at it all the time? HR leaders must include all these ‘game elements’ and leverage how it motivates human core emotions to impact a meaningful change in the following attributes of culture at work:
• The essence of belonging:
gamification can be designed to ensure that all employees recognize that they are a part of something big, that their
individual contribution really matters to the business and that they truly belong.
• Creativity & feedback:
By working on complex problems in a gamified way, HR can help employees thrive on creativity by measures of designing simulations and role-plays, one can observe how the best performers deliver and can get instant feedback and coaching for improvement on their own capabilities.
Motivation & accomplishment:
A team/group format design was performing different series of activities earns you points and the top-ranked team is the winner – all this flourish healthy internal competition fuelled by motivation and an emotional feeling of
accomplishment, thus invariably promoting a culture of positive engagement.
• Peer influence & recognition:
To be recognized and appreciated as a core human expectation by virtue of gamification plays a great role in how employees feel and evaluate their own self-worth at work.
• Teamwork & collaboration:
The design of gamification naturally allows for an execution where success is achieved only by the virtue of these two important elements.