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2021 Best Practices
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TD Magazine

Engineered for Success

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Larsen & Toubro Technology Services Limited: 2021 BEST Award Winner, #1

Standing: Nidhi Dhurwe, Associate Manager, Organization Development & Effectiveness; Keval Savla, Sr. Manager, OD & Effectiveness; Sheetal Sapkal, Associate Manager, OD & Effectiveness; Symona Fernandes, Manager, OD & Effectiveness Seated: M. Lakshmanan, CHRO; Sonal Vaidya, Global Head, OD & Effectiveness

The ability to maximize opportunities and develop strong leaders has this company positioned ahead of the pack.

When an 11-year-old engineering and research and development services firm achieves status as a global powerhouse and India's top provider in its field, you may expect hearty celebrations to ensue within the C-suite—especially when its customer projects include several "world's firsts," including the first autonomous welding robot and "the smartest office campus in the world."

But that's not how things roll at Larsen & Toubro Technology Services (LTTS), a subsidiary of the $21 billion Indian engineering conglomerate, Larsen & Toubro Limited. There's no resting on laurels in today's fast-changing business climate.

With its 62 innovation and R&D design centers globally, LTTS specializes in disruptive technologies such as 5G, electric vehicles, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, cloudification, industry 4.0, and autonomous transport. All are hotly competitive markets.

The company's competitive edge includes multivertical industry expertise and the ability to deliver differentiated engineering across industry segments. Success is driven by smart transitions, cognitive learning, and speed of innovation.

Those achievements make Sonal Vaidya an extremely valuable executive. She is the global head of organization development and effectiveness, who leads the talent development function. And as with other LTTS leaders, much is expected of her.

Leadership is king

To maintain the company's strong leadership position and prepare for an uncertain future, the management team determined that LTTS needed a robust leadership pipeline across every level of the company.

So valued is the concept that Vaidya's department is divided into two separate units: organization effectiveness and organization development. The first is the company's L&D department, which focuses on enhancing role-based workforce competencies.

The second is chartered exclusively around leadership development. That unit also reports to Vaidya, but CEO Amit Chadha owns and provides strategic direction for the Leader's League framework.

The three-year-old Leader's League initiative aims to develop a robust and future-ready pool of leaders across the organization, leveraged through continuous development and progression. It is anchored to three pillars: the need for sustainable, profitable, and inclusive growth; technology requirements for digitization in engineering; and the need to maintain market leadership within a changing technology and business landscape.

From every project leader to C-suite leaders, all must complete the leadership development journey before taking a leadership role. About 8.5 percent of the workforce—project leaders and above—have gone through the structured leadership journey. Vaidya reports that 15 percent of Leader's League participants have taken higher positions, while 42 percent have achieved job enrichment as well as job enlargement in terms of business portfolio, geographies, accounts, and horizontal progression. Key leadership posts from this pool include the chief sales officer and business unit head and three delivery unit heads.

One marquee initiative under Leader's League is Accelerating Leadership Potential. It grooms top account delivery managers to take a more entrepreneurial role to drive profitable growth.

Another offering, the CEO Club, seeks to identify and create a new class of high-potential leaders across the company to drive transformational change and sustainable growth. It provides a fast-track career progression by placing selected leaders at the helm of strategic initiatives.

The program uses a self-nomination approach so that any employee globally who aspires to be a CEO can apply. Applicants can also submit a promising business idea and, if selected, personally incubate that idea under the CEO's direct mentorship. The company has received more than 1,500 applications to date. It uses a stringent four-stage process to evaluate proposals and select candidates.

"To me, the beauty of this program is that the youngest person in the club has only three years of experience, while the oldest has 21 years," says Vaidya. "The youngest member, who today is in a critical global role, calls the CEO Club "a life-changing experience."

Coping with COVID-19

Last year's requirement that employees work remotely as a result of the pandemic created a stir at LTTS. While many employers could easily adopt work-from-home protocols, that's not so for certain companies in the R&D and engineering space. Engineers and clients work closely together on projects, sharing ideas and expertise. They follow specific engagement procedures.


"There are different skills that project managers must possess to handle projects and customers remotely," Vaidya explains. That means the company had to rewrite customer engagement models to meet those demands. And project managers needed new competencies to manage and motivate people and maintain business as usual while delivering remotely.

Vaidya's department immediately contacted several project management institutions for advice on delivering projects remotely to address pandemic needs. But not one had even considered the issue. So instead, her team began urgent triage of its learning portfolios to reset priorities for digital-only and virtual formats.

It also interviewed LTTS colleagues for perspectives on how to retain productivity and avoid disruptions while working remotely. Building from those insights, the team developed learning content that it divided into three constructs, each with separate competencies: managing remote projects, managing customers in unprecedented times, and leading remote teams.

The talent development team also created a second cross-functional learning response team to deliver the new content so employees could quickly adapt to the new environment. Internal business leaders became certified as trainers for training delivery, and Vaidya's team deployed a robust assessment framework for certification via virtual.

Vaidya says the certification was an immediate success, with more than 400 project managers certified under the WFX (Work From Anywhere) Certification Framework to manage hybrid projects.

And what about that "smartest office campus in the world?" It's in Israel, the result of an LTTS partnership with Intel. The state-of-the-art building is run on LTTS's smart campus Internet of Things framework to facilitate the next level of personalized user and digital experience, occupant safety, air quality monitoring, and predictive diagnostics using the Internet of Things.

The smart office saves energy and water while leveraging machine learning and addressing areas such as preferred working environment for the employees and their talent development requirements.

View the entire list of 2021 BEST Award winners.

About the Author

Paul Harris is a freelance writer in Alexandria, Virginia.

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