Creating Winning Organizations

By Archana Jerath October 25, 2017

With ever changing and complex dynamics emerging at most workplaces, the HR community has been seriously debating the formula for how to create winning organizations. A simple and straightforward answer is to motivate employees in such a manner that they are intrinsically driven to lead their organizations on a successful path .

However, creating a winning organization is not easy toachieve.. A winning organization can be directly correlated to organizational culture, which is largely drive by employee mind-sets. Unless there is a paradigm shift in this mindset, organizations will struggle to achieve innovations, breakthroughs and disruption, all three of which are crucial to becoming a front-runner in the industry.

Since culture and talent management fall under the purview of HR, the onus of creating winning organizations also largely falls on HR’s shoulders. To understand the challenges that HR may face in doing so and how it can overcome them, SHRM organized a session on ”Creating Winning Organizations” at the 2017 SHRM India Annual Conference and Exposition in New Delhi. The list of speakers included Jonathan Alles, MD and CEO of Hatton National Bank PLC; Vijay Sharma,
Co-founder & CEO of Belong; and Virendra Agarwal, CEO of RAMCO Systems.

Here’s how these CEOs defined winning organizations from their perspective.

Winning is Impossible Without a Young Leadership Team

The session commenced with Jonathan Alles, who introduced the audience to Hatton National Bank, a premier private sector bank in Sri Lanka with more than 125 years of legacy. He brought forth challenges that he faced when he joined the management board at the time when the then CEO was about to retire. He explained how he aligned the organizational goals to what the employees could relate to because it was crucial to win their trust first. At the same time, the bank's leadership team worked hard to walk the talk and set an example so that the company's vision and values could percolate in the culture. This was backed by an entrepreneurial spirit, leading edge technology and empowerment to people. Their efforts yielded results when the bank's performance surpassed expectations and profit per employee doubled.

Now, HNB has formulated Vision 2020 to achieve competitive, sustainable and profitable growth based on three pillars – client experience, digital experience and employee experience. In order to meet these goals, the organization has identified catalysts at senior management level, acumen at the middle management level and aspiration at junior management. It has also charted career progression and succession planning path for employees to buy their win. 

Jonathan concluded the session by saying that a winning organization moves forward despite challenges, stay focused on the goals and makes employees see value not just in 'pay' but in their contribution to impact to all stakeholders.

The success story of HNB proves that when fire and passion within the young leadership team are ignited, they will pass on the torch of 'desire to win' to their followers, thereby inculcating 'we can do it' spirit in the entire organization.

Organizations Have to Keep on Winning, They Shouldn't Stop Even After Winning

The only thing that is constant in today's world is change. When it comes to surviving, sustaining and thriving, winning once or twice does not matter at all, it is the continuous effort to stay on the top of the game through ongoing innovation and disruption that makes a winning organization.

Talking about staying ahead of the curve, Vijay Sharma, CEO and Co-Founder Belong, highlighted how it is crucial for organizations to celebrate their wins and prepare for the next, especially in the age when technology is moving at the speed of a jet. As the co-founder of a young technology start-up focused on recruitment solutions, Sharma believes that winning organizations should be able to inspire all stakeholders, build trust with shareholders and continuously innovate themselves over time.

Vijay drove home his points with the examples of big companies such as ADOBE, Alphabet, Manchester United Football and Amazon which have managed to sustain the business challenges by either re-inventing themselves and creating a winning mindset of people or by making disruptive market moves. For instance, Sharma attributes Amazon's success to its intelligent acquisitions in the past two decades. Amazon started its acquisition journey with an internet bookstore and since then, has acquired unrelated, diverse and competition businesses in retail and technology space across all products imaginable.

Since people spend 60-70% of their lifetime working and work is the only place where they can make huge impact outside family, this is where they belong. So, the responsibility of giving them a sense of belonging lies on the organizations. In fact, that's the very idea behind the name of Vijay's start-up Belong!

According to Vijay, the foundation of winning organization is based on:

  • A Sense of purpose and mission
  • Data, technology, speed and process – the four pillars of business
  • Recruitment of better talent than you (Here, 'you' means the owner/founder of business)

Organizations Can Emerge Victorious Only if They Have the Best Team on Board

People are at the core of organization's culture. People who are engaged are self-motivated, collaborate with each other and work as a unified team to enable their organization reach greater heights. Doug Conant, the former CEO of Campbell Soup puts it correctly, "To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace. "

Virendra Agarwal believes that an organization's roadmap to success is incomplete without the engagement of its best people. He recollected the time when he came on board RAMCO Systems amidst a cash flow crisis, low employee morale and poor brand visibility.

When he looked deeper into the issues, he realized that hiring smart people could solve most of these problems. He hired an external agency to separate the wheat from the chaff. Based on their inputs, he identified three types of employees – those who can change the business, those who can run the business and those who can pull down the business. The last category of people was identified as not adding any value to business and the organisation took the tough decision of handing them the pink slip.

For Agarwal it is the talent that can bring innovation and path breaking solutions, creating opportunities for organization to win. In order to reach where the organization wants to be, it needs only the best people. So, RAMCO Systems now follows a Silicon Valley culture where organizations value what employees contribute and not the hierarchy. People who exhibit creativity and responsiveness to agile situations are hired.

Virendra also strongly emphasized that HR's core job is not managing routine tasks such as recruitment, payroll and administration. Rather it should focus on strengthening the employer brand and manage employee expectations so that employees look forward to coming to work. They should get a feeling of 'Thank God, It's Monday' instead of the Monday Blues; and be self-motivated to give their 200%.

During the process of restructuring RAMCO Systems, Virendra also assigned lean and single KPIs to employees so that they focus on only one goal instead of various sub-goals. He also gave his HR team a KPI – their performance would be assessed on their Glassdoor score. It also took a radical step of paying unfairly (read: higher) to people who made breakthrough innovations.

Since 'nothing is fixed' in the business world, and business models and technology keep on changing, organizations have to be nimble in their responses. Virendra revealed how his company acts fast by promoting self-performing teams who have shared values and transparent processes, but dissolve as soon as the goals are accomplished. He also talked about breaking barriers – how he makes his own coffee, there is no-cabin policy and everyone share their opinions instead of holding back. He even touched upon the importance of wellness programmes for employees in the organizations.

The concluding session made one thing clear – winning the battle for talent is equivalent to winning the world.

Key Takeaways from the session

  • People are at the core of winning organizations. Without their passion, engagement and innovations, the dream of winning can't convert into reality.
  • Culture of winning is driven from the top.
  • Young leadership teams act as the torchbearers of culture of winning.
  • Winning is a continuous process, it does not end with a single win. It's akin to a do or die situation.
  • People who innovate and disrupt create opportunities to win.

When all elements of culture and talent management are in place, winning becomes a second nature to organizations. 


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