Leadership of the future - what does it look like?

Understanding the future of leadership, digital learning and development, and the shift in responsibility.

For People@Work’s third interview, we welcome Mattias Krogh-Møller, Head of a Learning and Development unit in Product Supply at Novo Nordisk, a global healthcare company with more than 90 years of innovation and leadership in diabetes care. Mattias has been a part of this successful pharmaceutical company since 2003 and holds a Masters degree in Business Administration and Organizational Communication from Copenhagen Business School.

As someone who has over 15 years of experience in the areas of organizational and leadership development, project management, change management, competence management and strategy management, Mattias is the perfect candidate for an interview concerning the future of people at work. What evolvements has Mattias observed and been a part of at Novo Nordisk in regards to learning and development over the past several years?

Q1: Tell us about the importance of performance development in your company - how do you stimulate it?

A: Understanding the future of leadership - today.

“You can’t just look for regular leadership skills anymore, you need to look specifically for leaders who can reflect and lead into this new world and this new way of enabling success.”

As the Head of L&D in the product supply department, we have the responsibility of the more formal development programs, begins Mattias, so that would be the professionals, project managers, operators, leaders, talents across - basically almost all employee groups - that’s my area. He continues by saying that Novo Nordisk have been changing the way they work with learning and development over the past 5-10 years. The shift has gone from having a few very specific programs for specific groups to an overall philosophy.

“We have a very good recipe for how to design the company and how to work with leadership”, says Mattias. He provides the example of Novo Nordisk’s formal leadership programs. This so-called “leadership challenge” allows for someone like Mattias to be able to see that a person will not only be a good leader today, but also in the years to come. “You need to always look forward when you talk about success and leadership...that’s [a] starting point which is necessary to have built within formal structures”, he adds, “but this is also the difficult part, to really understand the future of leadership - today”. And this change needs to be driven from above, essentially through example.  At Novo Nordisk, we continually talk about being courageous as leaders as we think  it’s crucial for employees to see this behavior coming from a senior manager in order to drive the necessary changes”.

Q2: A big trend and concern for the future of HR is tech. Could you talk about how you’re digitally implementing learning and development in Novo Nordisk?

A: Offering development experiences that are up to date.

“I think it’s extremely important that we use the tools that have become available  [today] and mirror how we learn in all other aspects of our life.”                                        

We need to start digitizing whatever we can when it comes to learning and development, starts Mattias, however, it is also important that we don’t do it to every little thing. He provides some context to this comment: about five years ago, Mattias was taking part in driving the development of some large e-learnings at Novo Nordisk. This was made mandatory for everyone and received well throughout the organization. “I would just never do the same today,” says Mattias.

Spending hours and hours on an e-learning class just doesn’t reflect the way we work, think and learn today, he continues. Everything is much faster – in most cases people want something that’s 20-30 seconds, max 2 minutes. And that’s what we’ve done. We have taken our leadership development training, which was previously 12 days of face-to-face training and we’ve recently launched the leadership development in one large platform, where an individual can pick and choose training topics one at a time -  small videos, one-pagers, short e-learnings, etc. - as they need. “Just like we do when we Google anything at home when we have bought or are about to buy a new gadget or car or whatever, we check up on it, see how it works, he explains, that’s the behavior I think we need to mirror in our organizations when we work with development - it’s key.”

And regarding the fear of losing “the human touch” of HR with this rise in tech, this virtualization of training doesn’t take you away from people, he explains. You can train online together with your peers and with the facilitator or trainer. Within this new learning and development program at Novo Nordisk, an employee would meet every second week with their class in an online facilitated face-to-face meeting and then virtually continue with their job development in between. “So we have transformed multiple days of face-to-face training to virtual training...I think that’s an example in itself. It’s still coaching and feedback, which are pretty personal leadership competences you can integrate.”

Referring back to the beginning of his answer to this question, Mattias wants to be clear that he still believes that there are areas where you need to train and meet face-to-face. For example, having a heavy or difficult conversation with an employee concerning negative, but also positive, feedback. “In this aspect, we will continue with face-to-face training, says Mattias,“for instance when we train various conversation situations, we often set up with small groups in a room and have people swap positions and actually see how people react in face and body language, what works, what doesn’t work and so on. I think there’s a lot of that you still need to train face-to-face. And not least, you need to build the networks with your peers.”

Q3: In terms of structure, how do you see the organization of the future?

A: Part of the responsibility for individual development is shifting away from the HR department and more to the individual and the leader.

“What has been the nature of HR for the last 15-20 years has been to build many formal processes and structures and systems, [like] the year to year employee satisfaction surveys and formal performance management setups…., I think we need to disrupt that and reduce that way of working with HR. That way doesn’t reflect today’s organization, it doesn’t reflect today’s employees.”

“HR should be going towards focusing more on each leader and each team, and continuously working with and supporting them because it differs so much from area to area and person to person. You can’t just use one “picture”, so to speak”, he adds. The shift in the paradigm that stands out to me is that it’s really moving away from HR telling the leaders how they should lead, what they should learn and when and how they should learn it, and putting all that responsibility back on the leader.   

Mattias’ current Top 2 Recommendations

  1. Read HR Disrupted: It's Time for Something by Lucy Adams.
  2. Check out Nick C. Jones, Global Director of PwC’s Public Sector Research Centre.

‍Mattias is the Head of a Learning and Development unit at Novo Nordisk and has a Masters degree in Business Administration & Communications.


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