How Reliance, HPE, Newgen & Zivame trained their managers to become better virtual leaders

Some companies have specifically launched programmes to train their managers into virtual leaders

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Before COVID came into our lives, organisations, especially in India, were not very open to the work-from-home concept. Now, however, they have realised that productivity is not affected by allowing employees to work remotely. Companies are now willingly adopting a hybrid model of work.

Such changes in the corporate mindset have created new opportunities for businesses. Of course, all this entailed a lot of unlearning and re-learning. The leadership style itself has undergone noticeable changes. Yes, in the pre-pandemic days, the leaders were used to having their teams work in front of their eyes. Now, they have to not only lead remotely, but lead teams working in thehybrid mode. Quite a challenge!

Companies have been working on transitioning to the hybrid model of work, and training their managers to deal with the new way of working has topped the agenda for a lot of firms.

HPE India

Sailesh Menezes, CHRO, HPE India, admits that since the tech major has completely changed its working model— by going hybrid, and treating the workplace as a space to collaborate and indulge in team-building exercises — the leadership style of the managers has had to change accordingly.

As per Menezes, no major adjustments are needed. All that is required is a bit of tweaking in the way leaders operate. “The expectations from a leader at HPE remain the same, but the leadership style needs to be changed,” states Menezes.

The Company has four elements of leadership — evolve, empower, engage and execute.

“The expectations from a leader at HPE remain the same, but the leadership style needs to be changed”

Sailesh Menezes, CHRO, HPE India

No formal training is required for managers to lead remote workers, feels Menezes. They only require certain tips, for which HPE has launched the ‘leadership connect’. This global initiative witnesses leaders from all over the world connecting with each other, sharing their experiences, and learning from peers. One thing that HPE focussed on and cashed in on was assessing people based on the outcomes, instead of judging them basis day-to-day activities.

Newgen Software

Vivek Tripathi, VP-HR, Newgen Software shares how the Company has exclusively worked in this area by starting a programme called, ‘virtual managers’. Under this programme, all first-time managers and senior managers are being trained on ways to lead remote teams. The programme focuses on the following three areas:

Informal chats – While working remotely, it is difficult for managers to have informal conversations. However, managers were advised to make this possible in a virtual world so that people could talk to each other freely. Also, the new entrants into the Company needed ways and occasions to get to know their teams and colleagues better.

Coaching mindset — Tripathi shares that while working remotely they found that being authoritative as a leader rarely went down well with the employees. Therefore, leaders were trained to be more of mentors and guides to their teams, in order to be effective leaders.

Tools and technology — It was important to train managers to use the tools, software and platforms required to connect with teams remotely. This way, they were able to leverage technology better and also engage more with their people.

As of now, almost 75 per cent of the workforce at Newgen has been trained under this programme. “It is a nine and half hour programme, which can be spread over three days,” reveals Tripathi.

Reliance Group

A senior resource at Reliance shares with HRKatha that the Group has initiated a programme for managers to train them in virtual leadership. In addition to all the other regular soft skills, one thing that was majorly emphasised on was to check upon their people’s safety. ‘Khayal Rakhna’ is a movement started at Reliance, wherein leaders were guided to be considerate about their team members. In fact, Reliance had an e-learning module wherein managers had to undergo a course to learn tips on managing virtual teams.

“Newgen started a virtual managers programme to train managers on managing remote teams”

Vivek Tripathi, VP-HR, Newgen Software

Zivame

The online retail store, Zivame, started its managerial training programme very recently, wherein managers were taught how to lead people virtually. A Company spokesperson shares that during the work-from-home period, Zivame realised that its leaders needed to work on certain aspects, including informal talk, weekly process check and empathy. To ensure the first, ‘informal talk’, the leaders were encouraged and taught to indulge in the same virtually.

To incorporate a ‘process check’, weekly meetings were initiated to check the progress of work. The third factor that required attention was ‘empathy’. Since people are not just dealing with work but also with health issues at home, Zivame began to realise that a higher level of understanding and consideration was required while trying to ensure that projects are delivered on time. These changes happened at the top first and soon the ripple effect passed down the hierarchy, from top to bottom.

Clearly, the pandemic has made companies change the way they work, and their leaders are going with the flow and adapting to these transformations.

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