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Mar 31, 2017

Note: This is part two of a two part series on what’s required for companies to be successful in the digital age. Part one is here.

The rules for running successful enterprises are being rewritten in this digital age. Old theories and established practices are regularly overturned by ambitious startups.

Yesterday, we presented the first five of 10 tips that will help companies succeed in the 21st century. Here are the final five.

Tip #6: Make succession planning impartial and transparent

The nature and practice of management is changing. Faced with the presence of a multi-generational and diverse workforce that increasingly threatened with marginalization by AI technology, established leadership theories and management practices are being tested. This is an era where profitability is no longer a guarantee of sustainability and longtime companies are looking over their shoulder in fear of being overtaken by ambitious startups.

Additionally, an increasingly significant requirement for tomorrow’s leaders is the demand they play a role in the wider global community, and the sensitivity they must exercise to avoid a misstep that might jeopardize the organization’s future in this connected world.

Talent pipelines and succession processes have to be inclusive and devoid of any controversies to dissuade potential successors from seeking their career advancement elsewhere. The future of progressive organizations in the digital age, more than ever, hinges upon corporate leaders assuming the mantle of enlightened statesmanship.

Tip #7: Cultivate HICOs rather than HIPOs

The HIPO (high potential employees) approach, which encourages the development and fast-tracking of these workers has been frequently attributed to eroding the morale of diligent employees .Additionally, the “privileged care” associated with maintaining a healthy number of HIPOs is profoundly taxing on the organizational culture, rewarding “conformist” behaviors while hindering dissentient behavior, which can be critical to boosting innovation.

It is more prudent to cultivate HICOs (high commitment employees) who are inherently engaged and very hard to poach by opportunistic competitors. This leads to a more inclusive and risk-mitigated application of a truly effective talent management system.

Tip #8: Make mentorship a requirement for senior management

The significance of having a good mentor cannot be overstated for blossoming talent, as it lays the solid groundwork needed for keeping potential successors focused and galvanized toward maximizing their value for the organization while carving a career for themselves.

However, few organizations invest in such relationships; too many simply provide counseling services through the HR function. This is a loss of a golden opportunity to create strong bonds among the various hierarchical levels which inevitably manifests in various undesirable ways, e.g., communication gaps, failure of psychological contracts, high attrition rates, poor employer brand, lower morale, unsatisfactory working conditions, stagnated career progression, underutilization of talent, etc.

Therefore, it is imperative that senior management should be mobilized for the mentor-mentee network and the level of success in such initiatives gauged as an essential element of their performance appraisal. This will strengthen the overall talent management system in multiple ways, e.g., robust talent pipelines; less need for rigorous training and development, boost to employee engagement, voluntary ambassadors for attracting additional talent, minimal defections to ravenous competitors, increased level of readiness to embrace leadership challenges, etc.

Tip #9: Convert “aspirational” engagement into “inspirational” engagement

Organizations may tend to start requiring employee engagement rather than, expecting it as a natural offshoot of a positive culture based upon shared values. This has the downside of enticing those motivated by the incentives and associated rewards and recognition. This “monetization” of employee engagement often eclipses the voluntary initiatives of the truly engaged employees who are driven by an intrinsic desire to do good work.

Therefore, an inspirational based approach is generally a more enduring option than an aspirational one for assuring a sustainable employee engagement.

Tip #10: Befriend failures for learning and embrace successes with caution

Organizations that have the humility and astuteness to learn well from their missteps are the ones with the foresight for maximizing the probability of success. A few years back, the old software licensing business model was stagnating at Microsoft as Apple and Amazon made significant strides in cloud computing and mobile devices. Microsoft was able to self-reflect upon the changes that were needed to become relevant again and took the necessary steps, including, bringing in a new CEO with an extensive background in cloud computing. Now, it is again at the vanguard of current and emerging technologies, including, strategic investments in AI-enabled products and services.

The prudent practice of a timely, meticulous and honest introspective organizational review, backed by robust corrective and preventive actions is a critical survival imperative in a digital world that does not pay heed to tradition, sheds conventional thinking, pledges loyalty to technological innovation and punishes complacency with extinction.

Food for thought

The aforementioned tips have been provided to encourage innovative thinking and astute application of two critical competencies required for organizations and professionals to stay relevant:

  1. Being comfortable with being uncomfortable (Refers to effectively embracing foreseeable changes/unanticipated scenarios/disruptive chaos.)
  2. Being uncomfortable with being comfortable (Refers to effectively overcoming intoxicating complacency from dominant market positions/stakeholder contentment/goal attainment.)

Take a moment to step back from the daily grind and check your comfort level. Are you ready?

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