Business Economy

Leading teams during the pandemic

| Updated on: Dec 04, 2021
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‘Reset’ provides a good overview of the people and culture challenges that US organisations face

The pandemic brought to the forefront the focus on people and culture in organisations, and the HR function took centre stage. Moreover, the last year saw increased focus on racial discrimination in the US, especially with the Black Lives Matter movement. These seismic events led to a lot of reflection on the big changes needed in the people agenda of organisations. RESET is a book born out of this context with a message on how to lead in such times of upheaval.

Johnny C Taylor, Jr., the President and CEO of SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management), brings his varied experience as a seasoned HR professional, coupled with SHRMs research insights, to give us a peek into the secrets of success for the future. He also leverages the strength of his identity as an African- American and a single parent, and we get to see the current American corporate world through his eyes. A theme that resonates right through the book is on culture, primarily on building an inclusive culture that promotes diversity.

There is a strong American flavour through the book, as the author discusses various issues - from the US regulations and policy to the current ‘state-of-affairs’ on diversity in corporations. The book starts with the 3Rs that distinguish a successful CHRO from the not so successful ones. There are some interesting thoughts on building a culture of curiosity and on engagement.

However, he devotes a significant part of the book to diversity and the culture of inclusion, both of which are deeply inter-related.A general conclusion is that corporate America has not done enough to get more diversity in its workforce and leadership. The book concludes that the key reason for that is culture and gives some general ideas on how to do that, along with examples from corporate America.

Taylor sums it up nicely in the concluding chapter on the metrics that matter. He outlines four key metrics that in a way measure culture- the net promoter scores (whether an employee would recommend the company as a place of work to others), the empathy score (through a set of questions on inclusion), the ‘curiosity score’ as he calls it (measured by the investment in new products or research) and the employer brand score (a mix of the advocacy score and Glassdoor ratings)

However, the book leaves one with the feeling that it doesn’t get into details that could be of help to leaders and practitioners. For instance, he outlines an instance of Tyson Foods using organization network analysis and leveraging technology to read through all the mails of employees to identify talent and engagement. Now, if you want to understand how they track engagement through this system and the ethical issues behind this, and how the company managed it, we are left with no answers.

Similarly, he gives an example of Starbucks where the bonus of the leadership team is linked to the achievement of some diversity targets, which is generally regarded as a good practice. He takes a stand that targets don’t help in increasing diversity but doesn’t come up with an alternate suggestion on how to make a difference in large organisations. Just the passion or desire of the CEO to increase diversity may perhaps not be enough.

I also expected some more original research from SHRM to back some of the suggestions and ideas in the book, which would have been useful. For instance, when he states that targets don’t work, it would have been good to see some data or research to substantiate it.

This is a good book to understand the current American context with the issues of race, diversity and culture, narrated with candour by someone who has seen things shape through all these years, but yet feels that there is a lot to be done to reach the ideal state. It toggles between being a personal reflection of an African American leader who wants to see more change in this area, and a respected HR professional’s counsel to other leaders. All told, the book gives us an overview of the people and culture challenges that organisations face in the US- even if much of it may not be relevant to the Indian context, it helps in broader appreciation of those people issues.

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(Krish Shankar is Group Head, Human Resources Infosys)

Published on December 04, 2021

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