Covid-19 poses a challenge for leaders worldwide. The leadership challenge is made more complex by the uncertainty embedded in the situation. At Ericsson, “leaders” are not taken for granted. It’s a rigorous process to don that mantle. The evolution of a leader is time-consuming and once they enter that zone, it is but natural for them to think, react and interact differently. And such traits of a leader are heightened in times of crisis. In terms of thinking differently, our leaders have time and again demonstrated the ability to grasp the complexity of issues and take decisions on their feet. They react differently to situations by being driven, resilient and taking calculated risks. And, of course, by exhibiting inclusivity and confidence, they carry with them a high interactivity quotient. Our managerial prowess therefore is second to none, and visibly effective in the ongoing pandemic.
Mounting a response depends on how you recognise a crisis. To this end, our leaders have improvised greatly once they’ve recognised the gravity of the pandemic. They’ve reacted with not just temporary moves, such as instituting seamless work-from-home policies, but also made adjustments to ongoing business policies like adopting new tools to aid collaboration. Simply put, while our leaders have future-proofed themselves, they have ensured the workforce is safe and productive throughout the pandemic.
As a corollary, we have witnessed accelerated adoption of smart work. Many organisations started to prioritise employee health and hygiene, be it physical or mental. The need for a purpose-driven culture, and digital readiness emerged as the go-to operating model. Organisations that adapted to the new ways of working, reimagined and relooked at these changes as opportunities, and took charge.
To lead the organisation in a changed world order, we realise that our future leaders should not only be solution-oriented, flexible and adaptable but also have a growth mindset to rise to meet the challenges along with ensuring their people are kept at the centre of all decisions being taken.
It is no exaggeration that India is in the middle of a digital revolution—fuelled by fast-paced smartphone adoption, resilient mobile networks and changing user behaviour. All this has changed the way we live, socialise, consume media, pay bills, book a cab, and work. Enterprises have responded to this disruption by changing existing business models and finding innovative ways of delivering quality products/services for customer satisfaction. In order to continue growing, enterprises need an agile workforce that is equipped with a new set of skills and knowledge to create productive and innovative teams. Therefore, it is crucial for today’s business schools that are honing the next generation of industry leaders to ensure the educational curriculum reflects the needs of the rapidly changing ecosystem. This will ensure they are able to respond to future disruptions appropriately.
With the adoption of 5G in different markets, it is important for us to hire the right talent to support business critical roles. We operate in an incredibly fast-paced and ever-evolving technology landscape where high-level problem-solving skills with sound understanding of new technologies like 5G, AI/ML is crucial
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It is essential for future leaders to recognise the importance of technology and data in all aspects of our lives. Technology is embedded in everything we do, and it is expected that the future will see the structure of organisations change mirroring this trend. While organisations are investing heavily in the employee learning and development journey, they are also turning to B-schools to help them meet the leadership gap and develop a strong talent pipeline.
Regardless of the sector, all graduates joining the workforce must have some kind of proficiency of handling data and understanding of technology. Additionally, they must also be equipped with a digital mindset to lead the organisation. Those who develop the courage and habit to independently self-learn will obviously have an edge over their peers. Thinking critically, collaborating successfully and communicating effectively will be the drivers for organisations. And additionally, leading teams with empathy, transparency and integrity will be the non-negotiables.
The pandemic outbreak has underscored the significance of connectivity and high speeds, 5G, across every sphere of our life. Given the data proliferation that the networks are witnessing, the importance of technologies like Artificial Intelligence and machine learning for managing customer experiences is only set to grow. With the adoption of 5G in different markets around the globe and India standing on the brink, it is important for us to hire the right talent to support business-critical roles to help consolidate our leadership position. Growth of any new technology relies on the availability of a skilled workforce and so is the case with 5G which is a new-generation technology. Its deployment and success will depend on the workforce that is available. We operate in an incredibly fast-paced and ever-evolving technology landscape where high-level problem-solving skills with sound understanding of new technologies like 5G, AI/ML is crucial.
According to the India Skills Report 2022, digital adoption will enable new opportunities in the coming years. This has already increased the demand for new skillsets. While automation and smart machines are said to replace over 20 million jobs by 2030, it is estimated that more than 133 million new jobs will be created as early as 2022. Organisations will have to meet these demands by both hiring new talent as well as focusing on reskilling and upskilling the existing workforce.
At Ericsson, we have created a wide range of re-skilling and up-skilling programmes to build a strong talent pipeline. These initiatives aim to prepare our workforce across various skills like leadership, wellness, soft skills as well as technical skills on topics like Open RAN, cybersecurity, AI/ML, business storytelling, design thinking along with topics like compliance, sustainability, and much more. Recently, we also launched a couple of initiatives to prepare the workforce for the future and to support execution of the organisational strategy. These include the newly launched “Digital Academy”, which is a platform that aims to empower employees to build their digital skills to drive technologies like AI/automation through digitalisation and data science competence-building. Ericsson’s “5G academy” is a platform dedicated to creating pathways for employees to upskill and stay ahead of the curve on 5G RAN, 5G Core and Cloud RAN. Our “RISE UP” platform is a virtual leadership platform that has a targeted development approach to building employee power skills and learning business strategy, storytelling, negotiation and ethics. “Time To Learn TV” is another initiative that focuses on collective learning, covering various topics related to Ericsson’s strategic focus skills. These engaging and high-energy pre-recorded TV shows provide microlearning opportunity and help develop our learning culture, inspire and promote learning as well as support our business.
The digital-ready future leader is one who can think critically, learn quickly and is an ethical and effective collaborator with a strong hold on data and technology. In order to develop such leaders, it is vital to set up a learning ecosystem that encourages a growth mindset, and employees to become the CEOs of their career. At Ericsson, it is our belief that diverse and inclusive teams drive performance and innovation, creating greater business value.
Today’s business schools not only need to focus on management skills but also prepare students to be ready to unlearn and learn new skills. The true essence of leadership lies in its overall effectiveness rather than a focused approach on achieving just business goals. According to India International Skill Centre (IISC) Network, India is a young nation with about 65 per cent of the population aged below 35 years. This brings an opportunity for the country to create highly skilled leaders of tomorrow not only for the nation but for the world. And to achieve this, our business schools have to make sure they are nurturing future leaders who will stay relevant in a dynamic environment.