In addition to functioning in an agile manner during this ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, it will be crucial for the global workforce to adapt new skills to meet changing business needs in this new normal. Gianni Giacomelli, Chief Innovation Officer at Genpact joins us in this TecHRseries interview to discuss the biggest challenges businesses are facing with their digital transformation initiatives while also talking about evolving workplace trends.
Tell us a little about yourself Gianni…given your incredible career journey so far, we’d love to hear about the biggest moments that have stuck with you so far (in terms of highlights / learnings, and more!)
My career spans more than 24 years across innovation strategy, marketing, and transformation consulting with global and emerging leaders in professional services and software. A few notable insights that I have gleaned along the way include:
- Always build solutions by designing around humans, not just around machines.
- Machines don’t dislike things so much that they fight you back, but humans can indeed fight you back if they don’t like what you built for them, which can kill any attempt at transformation and innovation.
- Harnessing the intelligence of the collective is always a multiple of the power leveraging one’s intelligence. Try to be a galaxy, not a star.
- Fall in love with the problem before falling in love with the solution. But then build solutions that can scale.
- Avoid like the plague things that require double the effort to become twice as big.
The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is a trying time for every business leader, one of the effects of the pandemic has been a shift in focus towards better digital transformation, for companies still struggling to achieve this, what are some of the things you’d share with them?
Major global events dramatically shift our cultural narrative. They create an initial, seismic, devastating impact that is inevitably followed by recovery and includes major changes to the way we work and live. Those changes typically happen much faster than most would have thought possible, quickly become ingrained in the social fabric, and often create a stronger, more resilient path forward.
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For example, technology developed during World War II warped physical distance and changed society by advancing transportation and logistics. Making supply chains global and helping the auto industry become a mass-market spurred the emergence of suburbs and superstores.
That time has come again. The COVID-19 pandemic will inevitably follow the same trajectory of shock and recovery. When the pandemic first struck, organizations had to challenge many of their fundamental assumptions simply to stay in business. Organizations had to first adapt by finding new ways to lead, create, and sustain advantage, connect across ecosystems, and embrace a changing approach to work. Only then can organizations start to rise as they look to reset, rather than simply attempt to restart. Those who truly rise to the challenge will capitalize and thrive in the long-term.
Core to all three phases to achieving a new normal is digital transformation – the harnessing of technology to dramatically rethink business processes, operations, and talent strategies to transform the way we work and live.
Throughout this race to a new normal, we see five clear, undeniable trends that will dramatically and rapidly reshape organizations, across industries and geographies:
- A significant shift from offline to online interactions, in every industry
- Virtualization of all technology, services, and solution delivery
- Accelerated use of cloud-based services and solutions
- Exponential growth in real-time predictive analytics
- Human-centered design must be at the core of all business processes
As organizations address these trends, they need to answer questions such as: What new world of work will emerge? What operating models and ultimately, business models will be required to win? What will society look like? What new organizational design methods will be needed – as traditional command-and-control hierarchies and workflows won’t cut it?
My view is that we will see the emergence of augmented collective intelligence, where increasingly large networks of people will combine their ability to collectively sense, remember, create, decide and learn, at hyperscale, supported by increasingly intelligent machines.
Intelligent networks, made of large numbers of people and AI-powered machines, could be a new organizational design ready for widespread adoption. They can help many leaders, from CEOs to middle managers, from centers of excellence to movement organizers, harness the full collective cognitive power of their organizations – enabling it to generate and implement stronger ideas and adapt more swiftly and effectively to fast-changing conditions.
Could you share some tips on how business leaders and teams can equally balance business continuity efforts while also trying to build essential skills in their workforce to help them deal with this pace of change and the demands of a digital world and newer digital skills?
In business, we strive to predict what the future holds so we can adjust our business models, processes, and teams accordingly. Yet few could have foreseen or planned for the impact of the novel Coronavirus. In the short time since its discovery, COVID-19 has impacted our lives, communities, and work.
While one can find various forms of disruption almost everywhere, there are common themes. Businesses will need to explore new ways of working, refine their supply chains, adapt to unprecedented demand, and – all the while – protect cash flow as the situation develops.
From years of experience working with organizations to navigate business disruption, Genpact has outlined five ways, powered by digital technology, to manage the impact of COVID-19 and build resilience for the future.
- Digital ways of working: For employees to stay home, you must provide tools – such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams – so they can do their jobs remotely and effectively and connect with other team me
- Business continuity: Businesses want to continue running as normally as possible, especially if some or all employees are working from home. Even before COVID-19, Genpact crafted an ISO 22301-certified business continuity system to help clients protect their work locations and critical infrastructure during periods of uncertainty.
- Cash optimization: Since COVID-19 emerged and spread so quickly, its impact was largely unexpected. Though experts continue to speculate on how long the virus and its effects will last – including talk of a possible recession – businesses are looking for ways to protect their cash.
- Order management: While businesses are struggling, customers are struggling too. A business may be dealing with an increase in customer calls and interactions, especially if customers are trying to understand the impacts of COVID-19 on their orders or returns.
- Supply chain management: Supply chain is one of the areas most affected by COVID-19. It will be critical to stabilize the supply chain for business continuity and to support global communities.
Common across all five of these steps towards building resilience is the need for constant skilling. With the quickening pace of change, professionals need to continually improve their skills to distinguish themselves and provide maximum value in a hyper-competitive job market. Skills that were once seen as nice to have are now critical to succeeding as part of the adaptive workforce required in the digital economy.
Genpact is pleased to be doing its part to help foster professional resilience globally. Adapt and Rise is a new role-based online learning platform that leverages Genpact’s expertise honed from delivering real-world change for hundreds of clients. By making key insights available to the public at no cost, Genpact aims to accelerate the professional learning process for everyone, enabling resilience and accelerated adoption of the most critical skills and competencies required to succeed in the digital age.
How did the idea for Genpact’s Genome platform come about and how is it helping the workforce at this crucial time?
Recognizing that the digital revolution will elevate the value of current jobs, while also creating new roles, we aimed to prepare for the future, whether for digital transformation or reframing how Genpact thinks about finding and fostering talent.
For the last two years, I have been working at the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence to design organizational methods that go beyond our traditional command and control in hierarchical methods. Building on that work, Genpact created Genome, an internal learning platform focused on harnessing the collective intelligence of more than 95,000 employees. Genome also leverages existing experts within the organization to curate knowledge for others, thereby encouraging the flow of information and easier learning at a time when it’s imperative to keep pace with the rapid changes in technology. With Genome, we created an adaptive workforce that acquires new skills and evolves quickly as industries and technologies change.
Genome is quite helpful at this point in time because of the reasons encapsulated in this chart.
Genome has been a tremendous success. More than 92,000 Genpact employees, approximately 95% of our employee base, have used the platform. Cumulatively they consumed more than four million learner hours between January 2019 and March 2020.
Why according to you should companies democratize learning during this time when recession and economic challenges are top of mind and learning / skilling not so much?
The depth of the recession and the amount of pain that companies will need to sustain directly correlate with the ability to redeploy people towards parts of the business that have more potential. A workforce that doesn’t evolve is not agile and will continue to be somewhat of a ballast. Ultimately, a company’s ability to reinvent itself hinges on its rank and file employees’ skills, not just top management. In other words, innovation directly correlates with the vitality of the workforce.
A few general thoughts / tips for businesses worldwide dealing with the current world pandemic?
The world faces a unique, complex challenge that’s disrupting our lives, businesses, and confidence. Those businesses that can find their legs within these rough seas will emerge stronger. As businesses adopt new ways of working, forecasting demand and performance, and helping customers in their hour of need, they can unlock a new source of resilience. Lastly, I encourage business leaders to engage the hearts as well of the minds of their people and use this time as a window of opportunity to build the future as we would have had a tough time doing this level of change management prior to the pandemic.
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Gianni Giacomelli serves as Chief Innovation Officer at Genpact. In this role, Gianni drives and sponsors Genpact’s strategic initiatives aimed at sustaining clients’ transformation as digitally enabled companies. These initiatives include design-driven digital transformation initiatives and methods that take into account the human and organizational side of technological change.