CONSULTANT ARTICLES - Rajesh Pundir, Managing Partner

The Asian Age - How leaders can reduce ‘The Workplace Gender Gap’ | 29th Aug., 2019
Gender gap needs to be dealt with at two levels, one at the organisation level and the other at the functional level.

About three decades back, as a management trainee, my batch mates and Iwere going through the induction program, which had planned visits across all the departments in the organization. Much to our surprise, it was virtually an all men set up, with no trace of a woman employee till we visited the PACKING department, where we saw an all women team working efficiently and elegantly.

On questioning, we were enlightened of the fact that women are much better than men in managing jobs of repetitive nature. Hence, instead of allocating men operators, traditionally women have been preferred for the department. However, in the recent past, special efforts were being initiated by global firms followed by the Indian firms, to bridge the gender gap.

Our head of research said that, “When executive access undertook a research to study the statistical characteristics of CEO profiles, one of the key observations was the strikingly negligible diversity representation at MD/CEO level, in many industries. The gender gap was starker as one went up higher in the organisation hierarchy”. She further added that, “Things are changing now with leaders increasingly being conscious of the need to reduce the gender gap and the mandate to fulfill a certain diversity percentage.

Gender mix is healthier in sectors like insurance, tourism, financial services, Pharmaceutical, Education and IT/ITES sectors and functionally in HR, Marketing, Legal and Communication roles and to some extent finance and accounts.

Gender gap needs to be dealt with at two levels, one at the organisation level and the other at the functional level:

Identify space for women talent: Someone would have gauged the suitability of women (at the worker level) for the packing job because the finger movements, eye hand co-ordination and working in groups are some of the skills where women score significantly over men. Leaders have to creatively dissect the various roles on their organization /function and align suitably without hampering the performance of the department/s. Six sigma, lean implementation, quality assurance, warehouse management are some of the roles on a shop floor, which require deliberation, convincing and diplomatic approach, and are physically less demanding. Other areas like customer service, purchase management, and design can also definitely be looked at.

Devise women friendly strategies: Our research findings say that diversity hiring, at the management trainee level and charting out a comprehensive development plan for them have reaped fruits for many MNC organisations. It is not only important to hire a female employee but equally important to retain her and provide her the best environment to perform.

Heightened Gender Diversity focus: Leaders can work towards appointing diversity champions, who will dedicatedly drive diversity friendly policies and recruitment practices. Flexi-options, child care facilities, security measures, stringent sexual harassment laws etc. are some popular plans adopted by many organizations today

Encourage “Ghar Vapasi”: It has been observed that a high percentage of females do not return to their jobs post maternity& other circumstances. Despite the willingness, and the urge, circumstances force them to stay back. Leaders can definitely bring back women on sabbatical &create policies to allow flexibility to women to execute their job partially or fully from home. This will help, first in RETAINING the female colleagues and secondly in helping the ones who have taken a break in their careers to return to their ‘HOME TURF”.

Develop the RIGHT attitude: Over the years, women have also been open to explore opportunities in hitherto all men arenas, but this is still an exception rather than a norm. With time, things will change and this gap will be bridged naturally. However, what will always remain of significance is the way a leader develops his own and also his team’s attitude and thoughts towards being more respectful to our women colleagues.

Full Coverage:How leaders can reduce ‘The Workplace Gender Gap’

Top 5 leadership qualities startups look for in their employees | 2nd July, 2019
Startups cannot grow if they have substandard employees. Working in a startup will boost your learning on the job more than anything, but what is it that startups look for? Here are the top leadership qualities startups need.

The startup culture is by now well settled in the Indian economy. They have moved to a higher level of maturity of their growth trajectory; I mean people are generally aware of the path and the logic a typical startup will follow as it tries to root itself in the business paradigm. Not so long ago, startups were an entity with a lot of curiosity, right from who the proprietor is, age (more specifically, how young s/he is), experience, and above all -- the key investors in the business.

Over the years, things have calmed down, and there are enough examples of success and failures for the newcomers to make their decisions. However, one aspect which I feel is yet to be resolved, and the founders over the years have mulled enough on, is to identify the right character for their leadership team.

While a lot depends on the space a startup is established, there are some essentials that the founder(s) look for when hiring the leadership team.

Here are the top 5 leadership qualities that startups look for in their employees:

1. You should love to take challenges head on

A startup is definitely not a cushy job. There are umpteen challenges to deal with -- in terms of people quantity and quality, financial resources, and yes, establishing the brand or concept or product itself.

It is for this reason that the founders look for toughness and tenacity in their core team.

And yes, they would look for a demonstrated past and NOT just someone who talks of the solution but has never come across a similar situation.

2. Experience of scaling up

Startups don't have the liberty of time. Market and investor pressures press hard for rapid growth. It's a different ball game compared to a steady state 6-10-12% growth characterized in an established business.

Startups need to grow by over 100% year on year. It is thus important to have leaders who have been associated with organisations which have the culture of achieving beyond the market growth.

The founders would typically look 'fire in the belly'. It is the way the person sets a target for himself and his team and that is what makes the difference.

3. The 3 Ps: Personality, Pedigree and Positivity

Startups need to transform themselves fast. The leaders should possess a definite aura around them. The aura or the charisma will come from the education background, the geography he or she has worked in (USA/ UK/Europe -- especially if the primary investors belong here), and the organisations the person has been associated within the recent past.

This helps in having a critical face of the organisation to the many stakeholders like the current and prospective clients, investors and shareholders. It is imperative that the startup creates a definite trust in all its stakeholders and having the 3Ps in perspective goes a long way.

4. Sectorial expertise

Not all but quite a few business segments go for this skill. While many a time, the owner or founder will have the primary knowledge of the sector, the CXOs -- especially the CEO and the COO -- is expected to have worked in a similar space.

In a typical startup, the offering is a new concept but the logic can be bought over from other business segments.

5. Flexibility to work in unpredictable conditions

This one is rare, but for me, it is very important for a founder. Establishing a startup is nothing less than sailing across deep waters. One comes across many unpredictable events and scenarios, decisions need to reverse, new ideas become old before they are experimented with, schedules go haywire, people move in and out at a drop of a hat, external environment in terms of governing laws, investor irritabilities etc -- all to be taken into stride and move ahead.

There is little time to look back and think.

Someone used to a stereotypical system and processes will not make the cut.

The startup environment is a different ball game and not everyone's cup of tea. The founders understand this well and are very choosy when selecting a candidate, not only for the leadership role but across the organisation.

Over the years, as the startups have matured, their ability to select the right person has vastly improved and has resulted in much better business performance.

Full Coverage:Top 5 leadership qualities startups look for in their employees

Why mentoring programs are necessary to retain your top talent? | 28th Sep., 2018
Leadership has specific traits. A lot has been written, evaluated and spoken about what true leadership is. Leaders are expected to provide vision, objective, motivation, solution to meet the business objectives. Leaders are expected to deliver under any costs, they have but they are also human, and they too err. They also experience moments of indecisiveness, their confidence too gets shaken, they also get overwhelmed by the situation. They need guidance. Effectively mentoring takes care of these pitfalls that executive leaders can overcome.

Full Coverage:Why mentoring programs are necessary to retain your top talent?