BANGALORE: Training and mentoring are no longer terms restricted to entry-level employees. CEOs and top-level management too are being trained and assigned personal coaches and mentors to help them cope with the pressures of their challenging positions.
“With immense talent crunch in the market today, people are being poached from across verticals. People jump from diverse backgrounds, like petrochemicals to retail. So a certain amount of training becomes essential for the person being hired to have an overview of not just the company, but the entire sector,” says J K Agrawal, head of BTI Consultants, the executive hiring arm of Kelly Services.
Internationally, companies have always placed emphasis on top-level training, but in India this is a recent phenomenon.
“CEO/CXO level training and coaching will become huge in the coming years. People are welcoming such initiatives since it gives them an objective view of their performance and helps them grow,” says Ranjan Acharya, senior VP, corporate HRD, Wipro. “After all, it gets pretty lonely at the top.”
Training at this level, however, is different from entry level programmes, where the period can extend to even three months. A new leader doesn’t have the luxury of time.
“The initial training is conducted over a few days in the head office with other top management executives, which is usually abroad, particularly in case of an MNC. The emphasis here is more to acquaint the new candidate to the culture of the company,” says Priya Chetty-Rajagopal, VP, Stanton Chase International.
After this stage, firms tailor their mentoring programme to the candidate’s specific needs. Rajagopal gives the example of a pharma firm that assigned a mentor to their sales and marketing head based in Singapore when he took over India operations. “Company’s mandate to the mentor was to broaden his horizons from sales and marketing to an overall outlook,” she says.
Sometimes, the next level of training is not restricted to the head alone, but also includes his immediate team. “A CEO, after all, doesn’t work in isolation. It’s more holistic to include the immediate team, which could vary from two to twelve people, since the results then percolate across functions and to everyone in the organisation,” says G Vishwanath, director, Organisations and Alternatives Consulting.
Some of the key areas of training are soft skills, public speaking, people and image management. Soft skills and people management are the most crucial areas since firms invariably land themselves with heads who’re technically sound and have perfect resumes, but find it difficult to juggle various personality types in a team. This leads to poor productivity.
“People at the top often need to be reminded to think out of the box and to listen to all team members. Constant exposure to best practices internationally is another value-addition,” says Acharya.
While training is usually done by management gurus like C K Prahalad, mentoring is undertaken by people from overseas or select IIM faculty as there are very few mentors for this level.
Companies are becoming more proactive in this area. Wipro, for instance, has a strong leadership training and executive coaching programmes in place. Some companies are also asking top-level employees to enrol for programmes at institutes like IIM which would enable them to take on leadership roles, but such instances are still rare.