Future Readiness and the Need for a Global Asian Leader

By Archana Jerath August 6, 2018
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The world has witnessed an unprecedented boom in the Asian economy in the recent years. This boom is characterised by sustained growth in GDP, increased purchasing power in the Asian markets and an eastward movement of global organizations to keep their momentum high. Asia is expected to be world's largest economy in terms of GDP contribution by the year 2030.

All the above factors directly impact HR in Asia. It has become critical for global companies to create a talent pool of leaders who understand Asian economics and can take on the increasing responsibilities that come with Asia becoming an economic world leader.  Developing a new generation of Asian leaders will lead to a better understanding of Asia among corporate executives the world over, while increasing diversity in the corporate suite.

A recent report, titled 'The Global Asian Leader: From Local Star to Global CXO' by the Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL), has provided a refreshing perspective on the areas Asian leaders should turn their attention to. Dr. Thomas Goh, Managing Director & Chief Client Officer at CCL, has uncovered four major aspects of Asian leadership that he says companies need to focus on to be future ready in Asia and India. Those four are:

1. The Difference Between Western and Asian Organizations - The Role of Leadership and HR

To understand where change is required, Asian organizations need to know how they are different from the Western diaspora that has a much larger representation of business leaders. According to Goh, Indian and Asian businesses are largely family owned. They are less process-oriented and are based largely on mutual trust and personal relationships. Western businesses focus on processes, whether when choosing vendors or negotiating with clients. It does not mean that Asian companies do not follow processes; however relationships take precedence and are considered to be acceptable. Hence, the emotional quotient plays a major role in the daily grind of work. It is important for people working together to click and connect to each other, says Goh. As much as Indian or Asian businesses are based on logic, the people aspect is critical for functioning effectively.

2. The Need for HR Leaders to Evolve for the Future

It is important for HR to embrace change. HR functions in Asia have largely focused on compliance. The traditional role of HR has been to monitor, administer and support the workforce. With strict rules of behaviour at work, HR had been ensuring that those rules are adhered to.

However, companies in India have evolved to focus evolutionary stage in India where company are focusing on building their human capital. They want to leverage the skills and experience of their workers by providing them the opportunity to learn, as well as display their skills and expertise. HR leaders are taking care of the employee experience, employer branding, and more. Traditionally, these were marketing areas. But now, HR is evolving to oversee internal as well as external brand development.

For example, whenever HR posts a job opening, it starts with the company's profile and a description of how it could add value to the employee's life. Thus, HR becomes the brand ambassador for the company. During an interview, HR tries to create a positive impression on the interviewee. New employees are oriented through professionally curated corporate videos to enhance employee engagement, which is measured through formal feedback processes.

The end objective of these measures is to have the employee enjoy his work place so that he can go the extra mile for the organization. This is a substantial move away from the compliance-based role of HR in the past. And this evolution is critical to its sustenance.

HR also needs to adapt to the drastic changes in technology in recent years. The advent of blockchain, chatbots and more are impacting every business function.  Being in sync with the latest technological developments is critical for HR to stay relevant in coming years. HR professionals need to develop a learning agility and the ability to understand new trends and learn them quickly. Finally, they need to apply it to their area of work.

3. Filling the Skill Gaps for Future Readiness in India

For Asian countries like India, the task is to prepare itself quickly and ahead of time for raid change. India has risen as a newly industrialised region in recent years. This means that if Indian companies want to move to the next stage of growth, they must focus on their human capital. They need to ensure the following steps:

a. Develop a Competitive Work Force to Stay Relevant

The challenge in front of the Asian leaders would be to step up and be globally competitive at par with their western counterparts. Currently, the Indian government is working in a big way towards the skill development of its talent pool, which in turn will help them to be competitive.

b. Grow Faster than its Consumption Level

At a technical level, India has to ensure a fast and efficient production of goods and services. It needs to manufacture and produce faster than the markets can consume in order to ride the growth wave. High production will lead to a fast-moving economy.

c. Adhere to Global Norms

Indian organizations should be cognizant of the fact that they are competing at a global level. There is significant opportunity for them to compete, but they need to develop a more open mindset. Global businesses require people and organizations to cross both geographical and personal boundaries. It requires opening up to any changes in work culture and requires a considerable amount of time interacting with people from different cultures and values. It might mean respecting the personal boundaries of Western business associates who do not work on one-to-one relationships, but depend primarily on processes. Indian executives have to remember that to lead globally; they need to shed their image of focusing solely on cost-saving options. They have to present themselves as a competitive and high-quality provider of goods or services.

4. HR Needs to Talk the Talk

The movement of non-HR people into HR roles and vice versa has grown, while more HR personnel are earning business degrees. In some cases, HR heads are getting promoted to top business roles. All this proves the importance of human capital in today's business environment. Employees today can transcend between different areas of business more easily than they could in the past.

Therefore, irrespective of employees' field of expertise, they need to understand the industry they operate in. All the employees of an organization have to align to the common objective for the business machinery to work in tandem.

There have been instances of the role of HR being donned by people from the business side, such as sales and marketing, because business leaders have a business sense, and the same is needed today across all functions of an organization. At a CXO level, each department head can come together to chalk future strategy in cohesion. As all the processes and operations are aligned to the same objective, the time to market reduces and the efficiency of the organization increases. This helps a company augment its competitiveness.

Summing up, it is imperative for Asian leaders to be future-ready to optimise the boom that the region is witnessing. They need to listen more and respond faster to industry dynamics. Staying ahead of the trends without losing the quality of the offerings is better than catching up with trends for better success. As newer roles emerge, people skills will be crucial and qualities such as strategic thinking and foresight will define a future leader. The ability to spot the trends ahead of time and do forward planning will set a leader apart.

While machines are replacing many tactical jobs for humans, the ability to generate insights is purely human and that is what is needed in today's world. CCL's research proposes some key recommendations for organizations and incumbent leaders in these organizations, to further the cause of significantly enhancing the global resource pool of Asian leaders. In the highly disruptive world today, the research points to interventions that will pave the way for future readiness of Asia with the right set of work force to lead the way. You may access the report here.

***The Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL) is a Leadership Development firm that runs several programs in the field of leadership development across 160 countries.

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