This summary is based on a conversation in Delhi, India with Sudhakar Moorthy, chief learning officer of Lanco, and Dinesh Bhasin, Lanco’s deputy head of learning and development.
Founded in the early 1990s in Hyderabad, India, Lanco Infratech Limited (Lanco) has been driving growth across the energy verticals of power, solar, natural resources and engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC). From 2000 to 2010, Lanco grew from $30 million in annual revenues to $1.8 billion in annual revenues.
Today, Lanco is among the top three private sector power developers in India with 4,410 megawatt under operation, 4,968 megawatt under construction, and 7,103 megawatt of projects under development. Its gross revenue in 2011 was $2.25 billion. A people-driven organization, Lanco has a pan-India presence and international operations in 12 countries with a human resource base of more than 8,000 people. A member of the World Economic Forum and the UN Global Compact, Lanco is recognized for its Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives led by the Lanco Foundation.
Q: As learning leaders of the organization, what are your primary challenges?
Moorthy: Because we are growing at a very fast clip (15,000 employees in the next two to three years), we are currently experiencing challenges in the development of our second-level leadership (beyond the executive director level) within the organization and the development of a consistent corporate culture.
Q: What makes this challenging?
Bhasin: We have a lot of qualified talent with technical and functional expertise; however, at the manager level and above, we do not have the right type of talent with cross-functional and global experience.
Q: How are you addressing this challenge?
Bhasin: We have developed an array of initiatives to help tackle this challenge, including the development of leadership programs, a comprehensive leadership competency framework, and a learning academy to house the learning and development function at Lanco.
The Leadership Development Programs for high-potential leaders includes a classroom-based learning experience to help future leaders better understand the organizational, political, and environmental landscape so that they can learn how to operate more effectively as a team. This experience also includes an action learning project that is sponsored directly by our CEO and executive team, giving high-potential leaders direct interface with senior leadership to help tackle some of the current challenges of the business.
A second foundational pillar is the design and development of our competency framework, called LEO (leadership, entrepreneurship, and ownership). We have learned that one of the keys to our success has been our ability to instill this idea that we are all owners of the business. This is something that we want to make sure that every Lanco employee understands and lives by in the workplace.
At a high level, Lanco employees grouped across four employee levels--team member, junior management, middle management, and senior management--are evaluated across six capability areas (technical-functional, management, behavioral, leadership development, business capability, and cultural alignment) and three core dimensions or types (individual, tasks, and business needs). Each of our business leaders and managers are evaluated against the LEO competency framework.
The third and final foundational pillar is the Lanco Learning Academy. The structure of the academy has been organized using an applied research-based approach with independent units created for the design and delivery of programs under leadership development, technical capability, business capability, and culture alignment. The four main objectives of the academy are to institutionalize the Lanco way, foster innovation, build LEO, and enhance the brand.
Q: What is the future of the Lanco Learning Academy?
Moorthy: In the next two to three years we hope to have a significant amount of the talent in the organization trained through the academy. We also hope the organization’s executives see the academy as THE place to develop and train our employees.
We see this academy as the ultimate embodiment of our culture and the mechanism to help transmit our values to our employees. If it is successful, we also will take it to market to train employees in other organizations in India because we are seeing this same challenge throughout the country.
Q: What makes it unique relative to other corporate learning functions you have seen in India?
Bhasin: We believe that the academy is unique because it is much more than providing traditional courses and curricula to employees. It is about training each employee to reach his potential and helping provide experiences that can be readily applied to his job. This is a big difference relative to other organizations that provide training and skill development here in India.
Q: How do you compare the Indian learning market to the West?
Moorthy: Based on what I have seen and heard, it seems that the West is more rational and orderly when it comes to the development of skills and competencies. In India, there is a need for a more emotional connection and a broader focus on developing people holistically--something that we believe is not what typical U.S. learning organizations concentrate on. This leaves the onus of the academy to provide a more holistic development of the employee. We believe this is the right thing for the organization to do to ensure that employees are developed to reach their full potential.
Q: What kind of advice do you have for learning leaders who are looking to either work in India or work with Indian learning organizations?
Moorthy: The learning function in India is still emerging, and a lot of the traditional talent functions (for example, organization development, performance management, and competency management) are included under the umbrella of learning. Western learning leaders need to understand this nuance when working with learning organizations in India. They should not approach these functions in silos.
Learning leaders in India do not traditionally come from the training or HR function and are more inclined to have line or business experience. Therefore, they have a more direct connection to the business needs of the organization than the HR leaders or learning leaders from the West. There are lots to be shared and learned between learning leaders of the West and those from India in both business acumen and the learning business. I hope there is a greater cross-pollination of knowledge in the future.