November 17, 2020
Recrafting leadership at Jindal Stainless
Continuous learning is critical to us at Jindal Stainless. Training sessions need to pass through a three-layer test: they need to be simple, engaging and effective (SEE).
I must confess that till about two years ago, we met at best with moderate success. The biggest gap, we found, was the design of the training itself, specially leadership training. A lot of it was proving to be ineffective and expensive. At times, it could even be detrimental to a participant who emerged from these learning programs believing that she or he now wore a halo: ‘Leader’.
I was reminded of that popular quote: The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.
I realised that JSL needed a complete overhaul of leadership training. Our training calendar was replete with technical subjects, be it products, services, safety, or even team management. They reinforced lessons taught in school and colleges, which was important, but we needed to bring in learning that manuals couldn’t teach. Learning from mistakes, made by self and others. Learning from experience, own and vicarious. I wanted learning to become a life-long attitude; based on objective and alert self-awareness. I knew it would take time, and an environment of non-judgemental support. I decided to work with a consultant and coach who was, like me, ready to challenge convention and habit, ready to start on a blank canvas. Over the next six weeks, Amit Kumar and I spent hours at the whiteboard asking ourselves foundational questions, recrafting our philosophy and methodology.
What did we mean by leadership in the first place?
What did we need each participant to be able to do after the leadership training program?
How would we measure, and with what degree of accuracy, the effectiveness?
How do we ensure that each session passed our SEE criteria?
Did we need to start training our trainers?
Leadership to me is not an abstract and glamourous title but the deliberate practice of a set of lucidly defined competencies.
I needed to create a substantial cohort of masterful managers – or leaders if you prefer that word – who would be proficient in these areas: recruitment, staffing, communication, performance management, conflict management, learning and growth, project management, process management, productivity and quality. I needed these managers to hire and nurture high-performing teams, deliver quality efficiently, and create a respectful and result-oriented culture.
That is how Masterful Management, which is now Jindal Stainless’ flagship leadership training program, started taking shape. I am delighted to share that the program won the Business World HR Excellence Award for Learning & Development in 2020.
It took us a year and a half to get there.
The very first milestone in our journey was enhancing our Learning & Development team. We hired new talent, some of them fresh graduates. We then set about selecting trainers and running a bootcamp for them, drawing on established concepts and frameworks: Andragogy, Bloom’s Taxonomy, the Kirkpatrick Model, ADDIE, Gagne’s Nine Levels of Learning, among others. Amit and the team spent considerable time writing the learning outcomes – a task not as easy as it might seem – before they developed the content.
We trained the trainers in the cornerstones of learning design: writing concrete learning outcomes, creating great content, and designing constructive assessment. We also needed them to use our SEE criteria for every module and create a rubric for measuring change using both impressionistic and empirical data.
Meanwhile, I took a radical decision: Masterful Management would be a learning and certification program. To be considered for the role of General Manager, a candidate must go through the certification, which included assessments by the supervisor, the trainer and the candidate himself or herself.
We have so far trained 76 mid-senior professionals, and identified top 20 as Learning Champions, people whose learning retention and application stand out from the rest. The results are exciting.
- The 70:20:10 learning approach adopted through the course — 70% of learning from the job, 20% of learning from peers, and 10% of structured learning – led to a retention rate of 66%.
- While 84% of participants observed a change in themselves as a result of the program, nearly 67% of the reporting managers of our participants validated this positive change. Behavioural competency was finally getting the attention and endorsement it deserved.
- A better-than-expected result of program was the improvement it brought about in the disposable time available with participants. By urging people to identify and kill unnecessary time-wasters, the training helped release an average of 1.6 hours per day per participant, which is 20% of one’s day at work! Participants chose to use this time for self-development, team-development, and learning a new strategic competency. For me, it was most satisfying to notice this change. Where people were able to take off their blinders every now and then, and look far and wide into the unknown, a habit most needed to create magic. The long-desired take off had happened.
- Individual initiatives taken up by participants translated into cost savings of ~ Rs 25 crore. While this may not seem huge, this gave everyone the assurance, that trying is doing. Other improvements, such as enhancement in product and service quality, increase in product yield, betterment of current benchmarks, all of them prove to participants that limits to performance are imaginary and self-imposed. And once we free our minds of those limits, one could achieve more.
Be More, which was the tagline of the Masterful Management training program, was getting manifest in the way participants were seeing themselves. That was our success.I can now confidently vouch for Masterful Management, a labour of love – the love of learning.