We got into a conversation with Mr Vivek Tripathi, CHRO at BIBA Apparels Pvt Ltd for a special interview in this edition, and he shared with us some notable insights about nurturing great leaders and women in leadership roles. He also tells us why he feels trust and transparency are the keys to successful employee enablement.
ATT: Having worked as an HR leader in the industry for many years, how has this journey been so far? What were some of the challenges and important decisions that helped you evolve into a leader and get where you are today?
Vivek: It has been a fun journey with great learning. I was lucky to work with some amazing leaders and mentors. I started my career with Crompton Greaves in Mumbai and then joined Daewoo Motors. I worked in Product Software companies, like Cadence Design Systems and Adobe Systems. Hiring, developing and retaining top engineering talent and creating an innovative work culture was a challenge and a very satisfying experience.
I wanted to gain experience in Business Development and project delivery and did a very useful stint in Human Resources Consulting. Later, my stint with Lava International gave me the opportunity to scale up an Indian startup with high ambitions. Lava established a Pan India Distribution, a Software Development Centre, a Hardware Design Centre and a manufacturing plant in India. At BIBA Apparels, we are engaged in growing a well-established Indian Retail brand.
Executive Coaching or creating a Coaching Culture develops leaders who are aligned to the core values of the organization. Coaching helps in bringing the critical issues center stage, ensures empathy and accountability and helps the leaders in finding their own solutions.
I have always followed my heart and have contributed to building organizations with strong values and core competencies.
ATT: Leadership gap has become among the biggest challenges of our time. In your opinion, what are some of the major causes that contribute to a breakdown in the organization’s leadership pipeline? How can executive coaching strengthen this pipeline?
Vivek: During the initial period of expansion, an organization may need to hire from outside. It must know what leadership attributes to look for. These attributes have to do with the rhythm of the industry and the core values of the company. Not hiring the right leaders, or not ensuring that the new leaders get enough support to succeed can lead to a break down in the leadership pipeline. Ultimately, the organization needs to develop leaders intentionally from within. This is done by identifying and then developing leaders by giving them the right exposure, experiences and coaching. Executive Coaching or creating a Coaching Culture develops leaders who are aligned to the core values of the organization.
Coaching helps in bringing the critical issues center stage, ensures empathy and accountability and helps the leaders in finding their own solutions. While External coaches can be very helpful, leaders can also wear their coaching hat and develop their next level. All great ‘Leadership Factories’ almost without exception have a coaching culture. At Adobe, Senior Technical Leaders used to take promising engineers under their tutelage. This experience, exposure and coaching were invaluable in developing a pipeline of strong technical leaders.
The key component of enablement is trust in the employee and transparency in the expectation setting process. Enablement is crucial, because unless the employee feels that he has been set up for success, and his contributions matter – both to him and the organization – he would not give his best.
ATT: Furthermore, how improving the diversity at the partner level can help in advancing women in the leadership pipeline?
Vivek: Organizations need to understand that diverse teams are more effective and more successful in the end. That is the starting point of any diversity initiative. Having Women leaders in the Executive team creates role models, and definitely helps in advancing women in the leadership pipeline. However, we can take several other steps.
Hiring women leaders from college at entry levels, giving coaching support to middle-level women leaders, to help them navigate their careers, ensuring a safe workplace for women, creating women’s forums, and intentionally creating a culture where women feel part of the mainstream are all helpful. At BIBA we have encouraged women to join store teams in large numbers. We have women leaders as Heads of Marketing, Merchandising and Design and they inspire many women employees.
ATT: How has Covid-19 set the stage for reskilling in the corporate world? How is BIBA Apparels approaching the upskilling challenge and reimagining virtual learning and offering online coaching to make employees future-ready?
Vivek: Covid 19 will have a long-lasting effect on skilling. Working from Home (WFH) has meant better ability to use technology, collaboration and communication by all employees. Managers need to learn new skills to engage with there teams and facilitate meetings virtually. In addition to this, some shifts are due to changes in consumer behavior, safety concerns and changes in the business models.
Front line staff have to learn new skills to serve customers as they are reluctant to come to the stores. Many have started outward bound calls to connect with their customers. The focus on e-commerce would mean many employees would need to learn digital marketing and data interpretation skills to take up roles in e-commerce.
In the future we expect new technology like VR to be used extensively in E Retail.
ATT: HR is evolving and gradually becoming a business partner with the top management in the growth of the organization. Can you explain how organizations benefit from HR and management collaboration and by aligning HR Systems with business strategy?
Vivek: In a world where disruptive change is becoming the norm, organizations have realized that a People Strategy aligned with the Business is the only way to turn a challenge into an opportunity. It is People – customers, employees, partners – who need to understand the disruption and take the right decisions to deal with it. The COVID-19 disruption was the best example, where the HR Leaders partnered with the CEO and other leaders to (i) Communicate with their people on the implications of the disruption, new ways of working and the required changes in the business model.
ATT: The need for meaningful employee engagement has become more pronounced but leaders often forget that engagement hinges on enablement. What is employee enablement and why has it become more important than employee engagement?
Vivek: Employee enablement is ensuring that every employee understands the purpose of his/ her role and the expectations, and also has the authority and tools to perform his job. The employee must also feel that the job leads to learning for him. The key component of enablement is trust in the employee and transparency in the expectation setting process. Enablement is crucial, because unless the employee feels that he has been set up for success, and his contributions matter – both to him and the organization – he would not give his best.
ATT: HR leaders have been at the center of their organization’s rapid response to this crisis. According to you, how can HR make use of capability building in keeping the workforce engaged, productive and resilient? What is one highly effective capability building initiative that you have found successfully engages employees?
Vivek: HR has to understand the new areas in which capability has to be built, and mechanisms to be used to deliver it to the employees. Clearly, companies need to enhance capabilities in a host of Digital technologies – Digital Marketing, Data Analysis, and also Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence ( AI) and Machine Learning. In addition, there are new ways of working which have to be safe and sustainable.
One very successful Capability Building initiative was the launch of a Mobile-based e-learning tool a year back that delivers Multimedia content for our Front Line Store staff. This has been very popular with all our staff who look forward to learning about
- Product Features
- Customer Handling skills
- Store Workways
- Safety protocols and other content.
They are also expected to take quizzes to check their learning and get rewards! This initiative has impacted both engagement as well as productivity metrics and has helped us build a detailed skills inventory of our front line workforce.