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Human capital can’t be overlooked

November 12, 2012

Vinod Kumar   

Former Managing Director and Group CEO Tata Communications

In any business, human capital is an asset that can’t be overlooked. The deployment of financial capital is something that drives headlines, but it’s the selection, nurturing and empowerment of human capital that drives and holds together everything we do.

I had the pleasure of speaking at this year’s Human Capital Summit in Singapore, where we discussed global leadership and what it means in modern business. Human capital management has been an area that has, and still is, close to my heart and one that has been a key focus throughout my career. Everyone talks about employees being important assets, but in my view very few leaders match their words with action when it comes to spending time on the required human capital.  This is due to the fact that this is an activity that requires deep listening and patience, as well as having the ability to blend new daring thinking with wisdom and experience. Most leaders like to lead the way – this is important in certain areas, but when it comes to spotting and shaping talent, one has to create fertile fields and see how and what your emerging plant is made of, as well as how they nurture their saplings.

When I was 34 years old, I became the CEO of WorldCom Japan and I remember that my staff, the organisation, and customers wondered what a young leader could do. I relished the challenge and created a fairly successful business that was the first foreign Telco with facilities-based operations in Japan. The experience in Japan taught me two critical things: consensus building can be done rapidly if you blend Western and Eastern techniques; and that regardless of cultures, geographies, genders and ages, human beings are fundamentally motivated (and upset) by the same things.

The same things that challenged leaders in one country will challenge them anywhere in the world. It is a matter of focusing on lighting the proverbial fire in the belly and getting the team to deliver their best. To this day, how we motivate each other and communicate within the business is one of the most fascinating aspects of my job. Our business has been built with so many different personalities and people from around the world and our human capital is our biggest strength. But it also challenges us to make the most of it.

As a telecoms company in the global communications business, it’s our goal to have the most connected and cohesive workforce in the industry and one that truly lives the brand. This is a priority because talent is mobile. Talent can be everywhere and we want to ensure we use a global workforce from both emerging and developed markets, which can communicate and motivate each other effectively. I take great pride that we harness this globalised workforce with the right technology such as two-way business video, cloud-based environments and internal social media tools to collaborate easily across geographies and timezones.

We also want to enable this in the businesses we work with. It is our belief that the quicker people embrace this global talent pool, the greater success their business will have. Investing in human capital globally means investing in the future of an organisation’s agility and global outlook. These are two things we can’t afford to overlook.