In an exclusive conversation with SightsIn Plus, we have Alok Mehta, Executive Director – Human Resources at Hexagon, Swedish IT product organization which is a global leader in digital solutions that create Autonomous Connected Ecosystems (ACE).
Alok has over 25 years of professional experience across Indian & Multinational Companies, in local, regional & global leadership roles. Prior to current role of Executive Director – Human Resources at Hexagon, he successfully ran his own consulting firm in the field of Organization Development & Leadership Coaching. He is a fellow of Sumedhas Academy for Human Context and Co-Dean of Process Work at Sumedhas.
Alok is Post Graduate in Personnel Management & Industrial Relations from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) class of 1993. Previously Alok held other leadership roles as below-
- INTAS Pharma: EVP & Global Head of Human Resources
- Metro Cash & Carry: Director & Member of the Board
- AstraZeneca Pharma: Vice President – Human Resources
- Deutsche Bank Group: Director Human Resources.
- Motorola India Electronics Ltd: Head Human Resources
Q- Thanks for giving us your precious time. You have joined Hexagon recently, what are the initiatives you are focusing on?
First and foremost, appreciating the DNA and making meaning of what I see, experience and sense. Besides this, broadly focusing on:
1. Capability building
- First Time Managers
- Tenured Managers
- Leadership Pipeline.
- Building successful and worthy succession!
2. Operational Excellence
- Seamless and quality employee experiences
3. Employee and Family Wellbeing
4. Facilitate creation of an organizational space that
- nurtures new talent
- encourages innovation and risk taking
- challenges stereotypes
- Building a long term view for self (employee) and organization.
Q- How does new leadership help to manage better productivity and employee engagement in the workplace?
Employees/Team members, not just today, but maybe for eons, expect respect, trustworthiness, authenticity and simplicity. Besides this, team members expect to learn from & with the leaders.
I have always experienced that an ambience of trust, openness, fairness WITH challenging roles and a long term task significance, gets the best from team members. Giving space for experimentation, fostering growth with new experiences and believing in potential of each team member, creates huge amount of energy at the work place.
Q- How do you see role of leadership is transforming organizational culture? And how does cultural transformation impact on performance?
Transformation is an often abused word. If a leader does not transform; what is she/he doing? Maintenance? You will be wiping out your place in the market place if you are in a maintenance mode. Let’s get this straight; ‘Culture is contextual’ and if I need to stay relevant in my context, I need to be ín my time’; individually and as a leader in an organization responsible for a function or organization at large.
Any change could initially disturb the equilibrium, till it settles down into the new rhythm. The disturbed equilibrium is where the magic can happen that spurs productivity and comprehensive performance.
Q- In your opinion, what are the attributes and key characteristics of transformational leaders?
A transformational leader inspires change driven by a strong purpose, and is able to create a culture of trust and innovation within the organization. A true transformational leader, allows herself/himself to be part of this process, and doesn’t act upon the context.
Aother attributes that come to mind and deployed by me is what I can share.
- Be available to guide your team, and not doing their job for them!
- As leaders, we should be mindful of what type of dependencies we are creating.
- Few thought provoking questions to answer could be:
- ‘Am I the centre, or is my function central’?
- What will people talk about me after I am gone?
- Ability to speak your mind, as, you are unique.
- Setting the pace, and not inheriting pace.
- Respecting your autonomy.
Q- Looking at your successful career, what have been your key Milestones?
When I look back at my journey as an HR professional, a few come to my mind though I would rather talk about milestones as ‘teaching posts’ i.e. where I learnt!
- My first overseas assignment as a 23 year youngster, to set up HR policies & practices for 4-5 countries. Taught me about risk taking (my boss took a big one!)
- My first stint as Plant Personnel Manager: taught me that learning happens at odd ‘times’ (2am, for example!), and when you have people twice your age reporting to you, you learn humility at the deepest level.
- Signing a Long Term Settlement with workers union; the process taught me, ‘master the game, but don’t violate the rules’.
- Working in the field with my medical reps, making those 11-12 doctor calls, taught me dignity of hard work and labour.
- Ensuring that salary to my employee reaches on the last working day, as most of us have EMI’s to pay. (something that some privileged promoters could not empathise with!)
Q- What is your advice for new generation HR leaders?
I don’t like preaching and giving advice. I can only share what I have learnt thru experience, and hope it is of some value:
- Don’t be who you are not! Design your own style; do not ‘cut copy paste’ ! This will take time, but the flip side is that you are its owner!!
- Soak in before you start responding/reacting. It’s important and sensible to absorb the context.
- Have deep dialogues with as many people, as early as possible.
- Don’t think you ‘know it all’. You never will!
Thank You Alok!