By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

Achieving harmony in work-life balance sounds utopian as a concept, especially with the stark impact
that COVID-19 has had on workforce dynamics. Reports are now indicating that a majority of the
women are being forced to drop out of the workforce at an escalating rate. However, in the face of
unprecedented challenges and the way the pandemic has transformed our society, leaders like
Shalini Ramakrishnan – Director, Product Marketing at Numly, is endeavoring to bring about a change
with guidelines and solutions that boost resilience and productivity.

1. In your present role, what are the unique qualities or characteristics that you have brought to
your career and workplace?
My innate ability to work across divisions and verticals is the most unique quality that I bring
to my role. I have had the opportunity of using this ability to experiment across divisions –
Sales, Operations, Product Training, and Customer demos without having to be streamlined
into a single role.

2. Every woman has different commitments and schedules in and out of the office. How do you
strike a balance between work and home?
We all know that achieving harmony at work and home is always a challenge, what with the
system redefining the ‘new normal’. The way I have learned to juggle both responsibilities is
by defining strict timelines and dividing up tasks to make work-life integration successful,
especially with my presence required across three time zones. This has helped me shift my
mindset in a way that I can prioritize my well-being and define boundaries for a more
productive and improved ecosystem – at both work and home.

3. How do you see COVID-19’s impact, both immediate and long term, on changing the nature
of how we work?
COVID-19 was almost a bolt out of the blue for organizations across the globe, and the
disproportional impact that it has had in the way organizations and individuals work cannot be
discounted. The immediate impact was transitioning to a remote working model that isolated
employees and left behind a silo mindset with minimal engagement and communication.
Overall, I see a fall in employee morale with organizations struggling to restore trust and
positivity. With the hybrid working model here to stay, they are now scrambling to re-invent
the work culture in the face of these existential challenges. Sustainable solutions are,
therefore, critical in the long-term – with increased engagement between peers and
managers, corporate flexibility to ensure the same levels of productivity, and the need for
reskilling and upskilling for innovation and strategic leverage.

4. What are the biggest challenges that you see with women in the workplace? Notwithstanding,
are there any benefits or opportunities of how the pandemic is transforming how we work and
live?
The challenges that women have had to face have been vastly disproportional and more
impactful on women. Women are striving to strike harmony with multiple responsibilities of
work, family, and home. Also, the biggest predicament for women is to be able to keep a
sense of normalcy in the current circumstances and how they can be best managed.
Organizations have started to recognize the struggle that women have been facing due to the
shift in work dynamic and incorporating initiatives that enable women employees and leaders
to drive a successful career for themselves. Work-life balance in the post-pandemic world is
an art that women in specific have to grow to master, with the transition from remote working
to the hybrid working model. The only benefit that I foresee is a sense of flexibility and a
smarter and more productive way of working.

5. In these trying times, how has Numly been a pillar in your work-life? How do you stay
motivated?
With the undue burden of mental load that has taken a toll on the well-being of women at
large, I would consider my team at Numly as one of the most dynamic and adaptive teams
that I have worked with thus far. Numly has been a pillar and extremely supportive of my
career choices, regardless of my gender. The freedom to define my timelines or decisions to
drive initiatives across numerous verticals was a shift that was graciously accepted by the
management and is motivation in itself.

6. What are some of the stereotypes and biases that you have experienced as a female leader?
How did you champion gender equality?
There have been some stereotypical situations that I have faced as a female leader, which is
questioning my ability to work effectively and deliver productive results. In the initial stages of
my career, these typical gender-biased remarks were prevalent and I chose to push them
under the carpet. However, the nagging question remained in my mind and I started to
introspect about how these preconceived notions could be dealt with. And I worked around
championing gender equality through empathy and behavioral changes.

7. Tell us about the Women Leadership Development and D,E&I programs in Numly. Has it
been implemented, and if yes, how has it worked?
Numly has successfully implemented comprehensive programs with a collective vision – the
Women Leadership Development and D,E&I programs. Amongst the gamut of programs that
are being implemented across organizations, these programs are designed on the core
foundation that developmental changes are essentially driven by behavioral and cultural
changes within an organization. The D,E&I program identifies skill gaps, addresses changes
in behavioral and critical skills, and recognizes and empowers women leaders to work and
evolve without bias. As opposed to the conventional external coaching formats employed
across organizations, Numly believes that peer-peer coaching not only elevates the
engagement within your organization, but is an experience that is bound to resonate with
employees in terms of connecting, engaging, and networking through an exchange of skills –
and most importantly, by breaking hierarchical barriers. We also have a host of ‘Getting
started’ programs where organizations can get started and onboard their employees with
ample learning material that is bound to transform their learning journey into a peer coaching
experience.

8. What advice would you give to women who want to be a mentor/coach?
The best advice that I would give to anybody who wants to be a coach is to understand that
every individual has struggles, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities. And the ability to take
cognizance of the fact that you have to first be a coach before you can become a leader is
imperative. I believe that the coach-learner dynamic is a mutually beneficial learning journey –
where both reap benefits that contribute to their growth. If there is a skill that is unique to you,
the onus of imparting that knowledge to another individual as a mentor or coach lies with you.
Embrace any opportunity to be a coach as it not only minimizes the distance between you
and the mentee but also helps foster mutual trust.

By Madhukar Govindaraju , Founder & CEO

The events in 2020 shook the business world to a stage where leaders must adapt if they, their business, and their teams want to survive and flourish. As we welcome 2021, it will be a valuable idea for business leaders to hold a vision for their organization’s future. We have entered the Fourth Industrial Revolution, yet most leadership development has remained dormant over the past few decades. 

However, to remain relevant for the upcoming years, leaders have to incorporate transformations in every area of training and executive education. Once only talking points, let us see five key trends that hold substantial promise as they become a reality in 2021.

Prioritizing Employee Experience

The advent of COVID-19 boosted the trend of business leaders playing an extended role in the employees’ financial, physical, and mental well-being. Support consisted of improved sick leaves, financial aids, flexible working hours, and childcare provisions. Today, business leaders are mindful of the power of building employee experiences that reflect their business’s customer experience. 

Read: Employee Experience and Talent Performance Management – Two Critical Pillars of HR 3.0

There are several reasons why employee experience matters to the company more than ever now.

  • Firstly, with the work from home set up, employees work up to three hours more per day and juggle the organization and family’s rising demands. While businesses are witnessing increased productivity working from home, the gains come with a cost to employees’ mental health. 
  • Secondly, the toll that pandemic has taken on employees makes yet another reason for employers to prioritize employee experience. 
  • Thirdly, with increasing digitization and automation in the workplace, employees are looking for more ways to develop emotional connections during social distancing and isolation. 

Approaches like employee journey mapping are now often utilized to fathom employee experience. As employees choose to permanently work from home, business leaders need to plan and monitor how the employee experience is intertwined with their organizational culture. Culture is rapidly becoming the new infrastructure for organizations. 

Read: The Why and How of Coaching for your Newly-Remote Team

Designing Organizations for Resilience

In the former years, organizational redesigns were mainly focused on restructuring roles, supply chains, and workflows to build up efficiency. However, the pandemic has proved that, although this method maximized efficiencies, it was brittle, as the systems lacked the flexibility to respond to disruptions and changes. Resilient businesses are always better placed to react during significant disruptions. 

To build a more responsive business, business leaders must design roles and structures around outcomes to amplify agility, flexibility, and formalize how processes can flex. Also, consider offering employees distinct, adaptive, and flexible roles to attain cross-functional knowledge and training. Business leaders need to be involved in role designing and forming flexible workflows to make sure that employees of all backgrounds and their requirements are considered when the business is undergoing workflow redesigns.

Read: How to Invest in Your Company’s Most Important Asset – People

A Move Towards Well-being Leadership 

It takes a massive shift in perspective from seeing well-being as something on the side-line to rather being at the heart of a business’s mission and essential to keeping up the productivity. Today, business leaders worldwide are beginning to shift their views on the role of well-being in the organization. 

Well-being leadership is taken as an approach to business and society that emphasizes maximizing outcomes through eight distinct aspects: economic, material, physical, psychological, social, cultural, environmental, and spiritual. This leadership approach states that financial success is no adequate measure of the quality of life and that all the factors mentioned above are interconnected to offer a sustained economic output. Business leaders must understand that: 

  • Both, purpose and profit, are critical to facilitate sustainable business outcomes
  • Well-being at work, in their business, and broader society are all interconnected
  • They must build a culture of well-being by surrounding themselves with people who have similar realizations

Becoming an Agile Leader

2020 has been a long and challenging year. for everyone. In such disrupting and continually evolving times, agile leadership is the need of the hour in our fast-paced business landscape. In times of ambiguity, business agility offers stability – a lucrative way to manage change and respond productively. 

Organizations with agile leadership have demonstrated advantages like increased revenue, rapid turnaround times, and supreme quality offerings. However, there always has been confusion and misinformation when it comes to comprehending agile leadership. Organizations often link agility with a framework like Scrum instead of a mindset. They often fail to understand how critical it is to learn the agile mindset and periodically practice that mindset and lead by example. As agile leaders, business leaders must delegate outcomes, encourage individuals, and offer them the space to do an exceptional job. 

Agile values and principles inspire business leaders to collaborate and encourage others to grow and share in decision-making. Agile leaders tend to perceive failures as opportunities to learn and nurture trust and psychological safety in their organizations.

Read: From “Remote Boss” To “Virtual Leader” – How to Make the Transition

Managing Remote Workforce

With the advent of COVID-19, several organizations provided permanent work from home opportunities to their employees. As businesses shift to more remote work operations, business leaders will be required to alter employee experience strategies and employees will be required to collaborate digitally. Business leaders will need to consider how to shift performance goal-setting and employee evaluations for a remote context. Leaders will need to establish clear business objectives, run great virtual meetings, communicate clearly, and make the most of team members’ individual and collective strengths.

Read: How Has the Role of Leadership Changed with COVID-19?

Leadership development fosters the human capital of a business. As we step into 2021, it is a thrilling time for a complete transformation of our departments. Which of these leadership trends are you going to put into practice to become an agile leader?

To transform your Work-from-Home (WFH) teams with AI, take a look at NumlyEngage(™). Get a live demo today!