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Thought Leadership
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September 12, 2019
Growing an Enterprise Beyond the Pressures of Performance
Srikanth Karra
Chief Human Resource Officer

Growing an Enterprise Beyond the Pressures of Performance

Organizations must grow to thrive in an ever-changing technology and business landscape. As Jeff Bezos is credited with saying, “We can't be in survival mode; we have to be in growth mode.” To accelerate growth, companies need a workforce that is hungry to do more, driven by quality, committed to the larger vision, hardworking and continuously learning. Every employee must consciously adopt a customer-first approach and arrive at the realization that technology is the business, not just an enabler.

Such a workforce needs more than yearly appraisals and team events. It needs to feel liberated and positive — where day-to-day work is not a chore, challenges are welcomed, managers are approachable, out-of-the-box thinking is encouraged and every voice is valued. A growth culture needs a workforce that is energized inside-out to take ownership of the enterprise’s future trajectory. I believe that it will enable what I call a “Talent Next” approach within organizations, where learnability is a core skill for all employees as they embrace a digital mindset.

I have witnessed the HR function evolve into an essential, technology-driven talent management system. I believe that the following five pillars form the foundation of an energetic workforce that stays focused on its most important stakeholders: clients.

Leaders Who Are Both Captains and Coaches

Top performers need more than a paycheck. They need the inspiration to push boundaries and an ecosystem that they can trust. They look towards leaders for such inspiration. When the leader holds a team accountable by setting high standards, navigating the team to new goalposts and earning respect among peers and seniors, team members follow them and easily go beyond the call of duty.

Leaders must educate and guide team members on how to add value to projects. Most importantly, they must instill within them the nimbleness to adapt to changing business and market ecosystems. A business leader known for such a leadership style was Bill Gates. Even after Microsoft gained success, he continued to work tirelessly to lead the company’s product development teams. Bill understood the sentiments of the market and customer, thereby navigating the company towards continuous success. Thus, in addition to leading by example, great leaders also must have the capability to map employee skills with the growth of an organization.

While business strategies, deal victories, customer delight and innovative thinking all play an important role in the performance of teams, it is not enough to drive high performance. Teams need empathy, an emotional connection and a greater cause to push themselves harder. Leaders who can go beyond performance and demonstrate ethical behavior stand a greater chance of building a highly energized and dedicated team. Blurring hierarchies to create an open and fun environment can also be highly refreshing for teams.

Take, for example, Amazon. In 2018, it was ranked as the No. 1 company people in the U.S. wanted to work for by LinkedIn. But in 2015, a New York Times article claimed that the company’s employees were unfairly pressured to push themselves harder. That’s when CEO Jeff Bezos immediately wrote a memo to his employees encouraging them to escalate such management practices to HR or write to him directly. His email included the following line: “Our tolerance for any such lack of empathy needs to be zero."

Red Flags When Learning Goes Missing

As technology and businesses evolve, enterprises must constantly “put the T back in IT” by reskilling teams and enhancing productivity. Teams must have the ability to grow and adapt to new circumstances and challenges. This not only catalyzes growth for an enterprise and drives a Talent Next approach within organizations, but also inspires employees to do more. However, it is often observed that leaders do not become enablers of the “new normal” and fail to emphasize the importance of continuous learning.

Such a gap has caused the downfall of many legendary retail stores, such as JCPenney and Sears. These seasoned retailers famously failed to learn about changing customer requirements and to embrace personalization in a digital world. They continued to focus on bettering operations in brick-and-mortar stores while customers were being drawn away by new-age e-commerce stores that leverage new and emerging technologies. In this way, when learnability is not ingrained into a team’s DNA, it creates a slump in growth. Leaders need to be wary of such warnings and continuously monitor and stay abreast of new trends.

Continuous Measurement

For a company to grow, its workforce must grow in tandem. Discussions around training, job satisfaction, career aspirations and SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analyses must take place when these are required and should not only coincide with appraisals. Such an approach helps employees to feel valued within an organization and encourages them to aim higher. It also builds the learning quotient within organizations.

Stepping Up Performance with Technology

Apps and collaborative tools are the new aids that HR professionals use to offer feedback in a style that suits today’s young workforce. Millennials and Gen Z are more open to real-time feedback, regular notifications on performance and word clouds that offer insights into the sentiments of individuals. Enterprises must, therefore, do away with printed forms and periodic appraisal cycles and get into a real-time mode for feedback communication. Leveraging cloud-based solutions that offer data analysis and artificial intelligence-based insights is crucial to gain the bigger picture of an employee’s growth and contribution within an organization.

Time and again, research have revealed that performance-based cultures must energize employees to take ownership of their jobs. Today, we need to create growth-based cultures that energize employees to unlearn and learn, listen, adapt, lead, think out of the box and enjoy the work. For this to happen, leaders need to ingrain learnability into the workforce and offer a larger goal that goes beyond measurable performance. This will usher in a Talent Next approach that enables tomorrow’s organizations to stay ahead.

This point of view article originally published on Forbes, the No. 1 business news source in the world, is among the most trusted resources for senior business executives, providing them with the real-time reporting, uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and community they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning. Forbes reaches an audience of 931,0558 for their print edition, and 3,600,000 for their online edition.

Click here for the article.