Gurugram, Haryana, India
WeAce, a leading global digital coaching and upskilling platform and a vanguard in cultivating Coaching and Development for Leadership Excellence and fostering inclusive cultures across South Asia, Middle east, Africa and the UK, held the 4th edition of its annual leadership conclave, SPARK, focused on Inclusive Leadership on November 21st, 2023, at Gurgaon. The Summit was presented by Flipkart and was held in partnership with SMFG India Credit Company Ltd, Fiserv, IBM, DBS and 360 One Wealth and Asset Management Ltd.
This summit soared beyond convention, sparking illuminating conversations, forging powerful connections, and reshaping the narrative on new-age leadership. Deep research work was shared by leading organisations to set industry benchmarks especially on leadership development practices that can make workplaces more inclusive. A cornerstone of the summit was the exploration of strategies to break down barriers hindering true inclusion. A number of key emerging trends were identified at the summit including:
Democratisation of coaching as a development tool across levels. Research suggests that 78% of employees prefer live one on one development support through managers, mentors, or coaches. Learning programs are 60% more effective when supplemented with personalised coaching and mentoring across a period of time that embeds learning.
Leadership and Management Skills: Research indicated that managers are key enablers or derailers of employees. Ninety-five percent of the cohorts spoken to relate to the organisations through managers that they deal with on a regular basis. However average age and experience of managers has decreased by 35% over the last decade. Average experience levels of mangers is now 5 years as compared to 8 years a decade earlier, necessitating the investment in building managerial skills for first time managers and the next level managers so as to ensure better talent infusion and retention for the workforce.
Wellness: Given the challenges of the new emerging AI world, financial stress has been on the rise amid rising inflation and recession fears, and this leads to an increase in mental stress. Most organizations are now driving awareness of mental wellbeing to ensure a healthy and productive workforce as mental wellness continues to be a concern for employers. One of the key trends in employee wellness programs is personalization and customization. This entails offering a variety of options and choices that cater to the diverse needs, interests, goals, and preferences of employees.
DEI: Gender remains a top focus while other aspects of Diversity and Inclusion are gaining more relevance. One key focus point is to create awareness and enable gender–sensitisation, educate to embed inclusive leadership at all levels and create men as allies to support women colleagues for growth. 82% of the CEOs who were surveyed confirmed that they are in the process of reviewing their policies, processes and infrastructure. Researchers found a significant generational divide when it came to attitudes toward DEI initiatives. While 72% of workers ages 18 to 34 said they would consider turning down a job offer or leaving a company if they did not think that their manager (or potential manager) supported DEI initiatives, that attitude changes with each older age group: just 63% of those ages 35 to 44, 60% of those ages 45 to 54, 52% of those ages 55 to 64, and 45% of those over the age of 65 said the same. (Hess, 2022)
Another emerging trend that was observed was a rise in the usage of AI-based tools in HR processes, with multiple aspects of people processes now being adopted by various organisations. Learning, upskilling, and coaching are getting digitised for a better experience for employees. Organizations will continue to invest in AI-driven HR innovations in 2024 to upskill the workforce using AI tools to accelerate the reach and impact of these processes. 76% of HR leaders believe that if their organization does not adopt and implement AI solutions, such as generative AI, in the next 12 to 24 months, they will be lagging behind in organizational success compared to those that do. Additionally, 85% of employers using automation or AI say it saves time or improves efficiency and in five years, 25% of companies will use automation or AI in recruitment and hiring. To add to this, 92% of HR leaders plan on using AI to acquire and retain talent.
WeAce showcased its cutting-edge tech platform for coaching, illustrating how digitization is revolutionizing leadership development. The summit spotlighted innovative coaching techniques and learning methodologies that harness technology to nurture a workforce poised for the challenges of tomorrow. The organisation demonstrated the global impact of their work with 150+ organisations in 10 countries across Asia, the Middle East and UK.
“In the AI era- human connection will be of utmost importance. As technology keeps evolving, the human touch and the savvy and insight that it brings will be indispensable in creating value and driving impact while leveraging new-age innovations. We believe that one on one coaching will continue to play an impactful role in the development of emerging leaders,” said Anuranjita Kumar, Founder and CEO, WeAce.
The key highlight of the summit included awards for future forward-focused organisations that have enabled innovative and impactful practices in the areas of innovation, wellness, leadership development and Diversity Equity and Inclusion excellence.
DEI Excellence for culture building, was awarded to Flipkart for its coverage of a diverse workforce and for its policy of inclusion. Airtel was also awarded for a well-thought-through implementation of initiatives to hire, retain, and strengthen the culture of inclusion. PWC India was recognized for their inclusive performance management process, which is focused on promoting gender equity.
DEI excellence award was also presented to Schneider Electric for their focused women leaders’ development program and their efforts to create awareness across young women to take up careers in STEM. Nestle was recognized and conferred the excellence trophy for their efforts to create a diverse workforce and increase women’s representation in their Gujarat factory, which has 60% women workers, and for building state-of-the-art infrastructure to support the diverse workforce. IBM emerged as a leader in DEI Excellence for creating a gender-balanced workforce, with a commitment to accessible infrastructure with reasonable accommodations for people with diverse abilities and their commendable efforts in creating a safe space for people with diverse gender identities.
SMFG India Credit was awarded the Leadership in Gender Equity award for their long-term commitment and holistic approach in advancing opportunities for women, both within the organization, and in the local communities they serve. Their Diversity Equity and Inclusion strategy focuses on enabling policies and initiatives for attraction, development, and retention of diverse talent. As a part of their CSR program, they have focused initiatives like Sakhi, under which they have imparted financial literacy training to over 80,000 women. Under the Jeevika initiative, they have empowered around 5,000 women through skills enhancement, thereby charting a course towards their social and financial inclusion. DBS was recognized for their focus on diversity through conscious acquisition, customised development and continuous engagement with a focus on equity and inclusion for their employees. Airtel emerged as a clear winner of the Leadership in Gender Equity award for their intense initiative in rolling out the “Step In” programme which includes Remote Work for women in some areas and encouraging Return to Work, specifically focusing on removing barriers to entry for women to excel in their careers with Airtel. Their action on Inclusion in action – wherein they trained 1000+ mid-managers across all circles, was appreciated by the industry.
Excellence in Developing Women Leaders was awarded to Akamai for their initiatives to support and promote the advancement of women at the lead levels to transition into leadership positions with a 3-month-long development journey. 360 One was also recognised for its initiatives for women’s career development including HERSELF: A Wealth Management Learning Initiative, which was aimed to enhance financial awareness among women.
Benchmark Practices for Employee Wellbeing award was presented to Citco India for their work on driving wellness within the organisation which includes implementation of an annual health and well-being calendar, to run high-impact initiatives covering physical, mental and financial wellness for its workforce. Flipkart was presented the Benchmark Practices in Employee Well-being award for their efforts in providing crucial support to the needs of their last mile workforce through insurance support, health checkups, tele-consultations and elaborate recognition events across geographical zones.
Digital People Practices of the Year award was presented to Cognizant Technology Solutions India Pvt. Ltd for their exceptional efforts in using digital technologies to revolutionize human resources, learning and workforce management including their Artificial Intelligence-based learning insights platform. DCM Shriram Group was also recognised for their focus on adopting new technologies to accelerate HR Services and processes, that have helped solve employee queries and reduced the turnaround time significantly.
The award-winning entries were chosen out of 160+ nominations and were evaluated by the eminent jury of experts including Ms. Sumita Ambasta, Co-founder & Executive Director of Flowering Tree Inc., Mr. Ravi Dhariwal, Co-Founder of Sagacito Technologies, Mr. Bhaskar Pramanik, Senior Advisor at Rothschild & Co. and Mr. Alessandro Guiliani, Managing Director of SDA Bocconi Asia Center.
Eric Lee James, Director at Flipkart (Head of Inclusion & Diversity and Learning & Development) shared, “The awards received by Flipkart are a testimony to our long running efforts in creating an inclusive culture and maximizing the well-being of our employees. We will continue to pivot on the same and build an inclusive workplace that enables employees to truly maximize.“
Gaurav Terdal, CHRO, SMFG India Credit Co. Ltd. expressed his views, stating, “Diversity is one of the core values at SMFG India Credit, and within the ambit of our Diversity Equity Inclusion Charter ‘Untagged’, we ardently dedicate ourselves towards establishing a conducive ecosystem to enable our diverse workforce to thrive. We are doing this by nurturing a strong foundation in terms of inclusive policies, infrastructure, culture, development, recognition and well-being initiatives as key levers of equity. We also believe in nurturing diversity in the local communities we operate in, by creating avenues that propel the progress of women. We have done this via CSR initiatives like Sakhi for imparting financial literacy, and Jeevika for upskilling them, leading to livelihood enhancement and empowerment for them.”
Acknowledging the transformative power of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Pallavi Rai, Client Partner, Hybrid Cloud Services, IBM consulting ISA, said, “AI is here to stay and organizations will quickly adapt this to leverage its benefits, though like any other new technology, it comes with its own set of challenges. AI is a tool, and it is up to us on how we decide to deploy it. AI will see exponential growth and it will reshape how decisions are made and will be made in the world.” Ms Rai acknowledged the potential challenges and biases associated with AI, particularly when it comes to data and algorithms and went on to mention that it is beneficial to understand the biases and build strategies to counter them rather than resist the adoption of new technology and innovation.
The summit culminated with the networking of like-minded industry experts and business leaders and was a great success, with participating organizations sharing knowledge about the benchmarks for best practices and coming across with clear insights on the path ahead for leadership strategies focusing on innovation, inclusivity, and impact.