Thursday, 1 February 2018

HR Professionals Day 2018- Discussion Theme "Work place Wellness"

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The National Institute of Personnel Management (NIPM), Karnataka Chapter, took the initiative 19 summers ago to bring all the persons working in or associated with human resources to come together on one day in a year for meeting, exchanging notes and generally chilling out.The day chosen was the eve of the Republic day. As the D day is permanantly declared/fixed  all concerned can pencil in the event (January 25th) in their calendar in advance. On this day, apart from members of NIPM, the members of various  HR professional bodies in Bangalore, be it National HRD network (NHRD), Indian society for training and development (ISTD) or the Karnataka association of professional social workers (KAPSW) meet under the same roof.

After the initial couple of years, it was felt that to make the event even more rewarding, it should commence with a talk by eminent speakers for about 45 minutes on a predetermined theme followed by discussions. The informal interaction/ fellowship and dinner would happen subsequently. I remember how much I enjoyed such an evening years ago when the subject discussed was " Humour in HR". We had three distinguished speakers for the evening, one each represnting the public sector, private sector and the Government department. Interesting, the speaker who had the audience in splits,laughing their hearts out  was a  DIG of Police (Retd) who shared many anecdotes from his long and interesting career. 

 The theme identified for discussion on 25th January 2018 was very important and topical, namely " Work place wellness". Today, more than at any other time in the history of mankind, employees are grappling with problems of work place tension and work life balance. The distinguished speakers for the evening, Dr B.M. Gangadhar, Director Nimhans, Bangalore and Dr Naveen Vishvesvariah, Founder Yogakshema, Bangalore gave interesting insights on the subject.

Dr Naveen in his talk opined that the awareness about the concept "Wellness at the work place" was still very poor. A survey in this connection was taken a decade back and no effort has been made since then to increase the awareness levels.He said that there are four important factors that influence and impact wellness. These are stress, pain, lifestyle and nutrition. In order to maintain wellness levels, all the four need to be addressed.

Our ancestors had an easier task of achieving work life balance. Not only did they have less work pressure, they had good support systems in the form of joint family system etc. to restore the balance.Today, in view of western influence in our day to day life, the left brain output (Doing)  is highlighted and  rewarded at work rather than the right brain (Being). It is only by exercising the right brain that we can restore the much needed balance. In India, traditionally, even while focusing on work,we celebrated  many festivals that provided ample opportunities to exercise the right brain.

Yoga has a lot to offer for combating stress levels at work. Dr Naveen however pointed out that yoga does not merely refer to the physical postures or asanas as many have come to associate the term with.It has more to do with slowing down the mind. He said that stress is directly connected to speed. The spill over effect of speed beyond the threshold level, results in stress and disease. It is this lowered threshold level that elicits responses such as "You were not so irritable earlier. These days even small things irritate you." from your colleagues and family.

Pain comes from spasm which in turn is the result of sustained contraction of muscles of one place in the body. If you do not take remedial steps by stretching, it leads to pain. The antidote to spasm is stretching.Therefore, in an office environment, one needs to take a thirty second break after every twenty minutes to take care of the eye and practise stretching of the body after ninety minutes of sitting in one place. Dr Naveen rounded off his talk with the following tips:-

1) The body needs leisure. Therefore structure your leisure time with clarity on what you would be doing to relax (rest/hobbies/ sports). He emphasised that whiling away your time mindlessly is not leisure!

2) Have a fixed routine for activities: Exercising, eating, drinking tea, sleeping. At night try to eat before 8 PM and sleep before 11PM.

3) Avoid substance abuse such as tobacco, drugs or alchohol.

4) Be selfish about what you eat- eat healthy.

As the speakers of the evening were from contrasting disciplines, one from the background of yoga and the other from mental health and nuero sciences, I expected that when Dr Gangadhar, Director Nimhans stands up to share his thoughts, the style and focus would be different. One tends to associate psychiatry and mental health with drugs related treatment.  However, interestingly  Dr Gangadhar started his speech with a Sanskrit quotation "Amantram aksharam nasthi" His intent was to draw attention to the fact that it is the happiness of workmen at the work place, both in mind and spirit that is the key to "Work place wellness". Therefore a lot depends on how you treat an employee at the work place.

Coming back to the Sanskrit sloka, it says that "There is no letter in the alphabet that is never used in any verse. No herb exists that is not part of some medicine. Similarly there is no human being who is completely useless. It is for the manager to use the skills of each person appropriately". Dr Gangadhar stated that even today the word "mental" has a stigma attached to it and it needs to be removed.

Just as in the case of physical illness, people should be able to freely share their psychological concerns at the work place. The mere acknowledment or recognition of a psychological  issue of an employee by the boss, would go a long way in enabling him/her to speak about it comfortably. In this regard, supervisors and managers should be trained to acquire the skill of listening comfortably without being embarrassed or judgemental.

The only problem is that a supervisor while playing this role of being detached (without adequate training) may end up being distant from the employee. Therefore, progressive companies have started appointing professionaly trained  counsellors to meet the increasing demands of the work place. Others would do well to follow their example. Dr Gangadhar concluded his talk by pointing out that some work places have two and half times more mental health issues that others. Hence it is important to address this challenge by focusing more on the preventive steps such as ensuring that employees are always treated well so that they are pleasant and happy at work.

As we moved to the informal part of the evening program viz fellowship and dinner, we had the satisfaction of having listened to the various dimensions of a very important subject that needs to be given a lot more attention by organizations  since "work place wellness" is increasingly coming under threat with each passing day....

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Stimulating Dialogue with a Multifaceted Personality

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It was exactly a year ago, in the first week of January 2017 that I did an interview (“Inspiring life story - Humble beginnings to great success.”) with an achiever from humble beginnings. He had not only risen to make a better life for himself but made significant contribution to society. ( Link: Seeing the enthusiasm of readers then, I had felt that more such success stories of people around us need to be highlighted through interviews.  This post is an attempt towards this end.

In this post, I am interviewing Mr.S.Sundar Rajan, Director SRS Management Services Pvt Ltd Chennai. He is a chartered accountant with over three decades of experience in the field of accounts, auditing, process implementation and due diligence.

It is interesting to note that I first met Mr. Sundar not in his professional capacity but at a poetic meet. The organizers had allotted time during the last leg of our get together to do some shopping. Everyone was enthusiastically buying banana chips, tapioca chips and other local special varieties of chips of Kerala to take back home. I noticed that Sundar was buying a lot more than the others.

So I asked “why so much?” to which he replied that it was for his office family consisting of around 20 members. I was impressed by his response and told myself in the mind “Here is a guy who knows how to motivate his people!” Personal touch is so very important and effective, particularly in small organizations for inspiring your employees to give their best. Later, I requested Sundar for an interview to which he readily agreed. He turned out to be a multifaceted or if you prefer a multi-talented personality.

Rajeev Moothedath (RM):   Greetings Sundar! It is a great pleasure to interact with you. Could you share some details about your childhood? 

Sundar Rajan (SR): Hello Rajeev, it is a pleasure talking to you as well. I was born in Chennai and have lived here all my life. I am blessed with loving parents who have always been a source of strength. They guided me and my siblings to adopt good values in life 

I am the youngest in our family of three brothers and a sister. We are a close-knit family. I did my schooling in a convent, Don Bosco Matriculation School, which has given me a strong foundation. The fond memories of those days are being adjudged the outstanding student in school and winning a gold medal instituted by the Lions Club.

RM:  Chennai was Madras during your childhood days. What are the important changes you have witnessed in the city? 

SR:    When we were growing up, Madras was still known to be a very conservative city. I did my graduation in science with Mathematics as major in A.M.Jain College. Those days, there was generally a closed outlook. Today, there has been a sea change. Chennai has become more cosmopolitan. There has been a steady flow of immigrants from other parts of India. The residents of Chennai have also been open and accepting of the changes. I now have exposure to more variety of people and a better understanding of people one comes across in the journey of life.

RM:   I understand that you were into athletics and the game of cricket during college days. Tell us more of this period.

SR:  Well, we were a bunch of guys who simply loved cricket! I was fortunate to represent not only my school and college but also a club in the cricket league organized by the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association.  I attended two cricket coaching camps conducted by the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association.

The camps were a lot of fun not only because we enjoyed playing and learning but also because it gave opportunities for chatting up and building friendships with fellow cricketers from other districts. We had excellent coaches in Mr. Mustaq Ali, former India test cricketer and Mr. Kamath from Mumbai.

Our bond is so strong that even today we continue to keep in touch through the alumni association and  play a cricket match together every year.  For 47 years, our association has also been organizing an annual All India cricket tournament of 30 0vers a side, As an athlete, I won many prizes in track events in school and college meets.

RM: Sunder, tell us about your first job experience. What was the reason you decided to quit working and start your own partnership firm? 

SR: After clearing my Intermediate in Chartered Accountancy, I applied for Industrial Training in Ashok Leyland Ltd and was accepted. On completion of my Chartered Accountancy, I was formally recruited in the same company and posted to the Internal Audit Dept.

My job involved touring across India and  it was a very good experience professionally. It also enabled me to polish my people handling skills. An auditor is generally looked upon as a person whose major mission is faultfinding.   However, without compromising on my role, I built up a good relationship with my auditees, encouraging them to avoid making likely mistakes. This approach has continued and has blossomed over the years.

Perhaps my adventurous streak prompted me to team up with my schoolmate and start a chartered accountancy firm after three years of working for Ashok Leyland. When we started;, we had no clients but only the belief in ourselves with an ambition and determination to succeed.

RM: What were the challenges you faced in floating a start-up ?

SR: The twin challenges we initially faced were getting clients and having a monthly cash flow for office and domestic requirements. We gave lot of importance and focused on servicing and meeting our client’s requirements. Gradually, happy with our work, they referred us to their contacts and our practice began to grow.

Another challenge we faced at a particular stage was flattening of the revenue, as we recruited more employees since the company was growing. However, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we put in extra efforts for increasing our customer base and the number of customers.

 RM:  I have noticed that you are a team person; always motivating and encouraging others to do new things and in a better manner. When and how do you think this trait developed as a part of your personality?   

SR: I should say that my family background and sports have played a significant role in this regard. Cricket as we all know is a team game. At school, the students were divided into houses and we took pride in performing well as a team in any activity and to win as a team. In athletics too, our relay teams focused on teamwork.  

In the work area also, as a Director of the company, I felt the need for building a good team for the long-term growth of the organization. This, I surmised   can be achieved by identifying the strengths in each individual, training and tuning the employees to the current requirements/demands of the work. This involves building the confidence of the employee for handling the challenges, motivating and appreciating him/her in public when a job is well done.

When there is a slip up, I talk to the staff in private and counsel them so that the mistakes do not recur.

RM: Tell us about your interest in poetry. How a chartered accountant (a profession where the practitioners are serious and matter of fact) became a poet and a published author? 

SR:  It was during my final year in college. One day, I stumbled upon the “Poet” in me and told myself to give it a “try” which culminated in my first poem. This success encouraged my interest in Poe(t)ry and before I knew it, I  became an amateur poet.

 Much later, with the advent of social media, I started sharing my poems with friends and relatives who expressed a lot of interest and encouragement. The positive feedback and support motivated me to write more and today I can proudly claim to be a published poet. My maiden book "Beyond the Realms" was released in 2016.

RM: I know that you are a nature lover who has developed a beautiful garden around your home. Can you tell us more about this passion? 

SR: I have been a nature lover right from my school days. It is a blessing that I have green fingers too. The occasion to put this talent to use came when we moved our residence from the bustling city to the outskirts. I developed a good garden in the space available, with a wide variety of plants.
The government of Tamil Nadu also encourages citizens to grow organic kitchen gardens on the terrace. I made use of the facilities provided to fulfil my passion for gardening. In this connection, I also have the support of many well-wishers.

RM: Finally Sundar, it is heartening to note that in spite of having so many things on your plate, you find time for social service. Could you tell us more about these activities? 

SR:I have started a tree planting exercise in my neighbourhood with the support of willing residents. I am spreading the message of “Achieving   a green neighbourhood”- by every resident adopting a tree and taking care of it. The response has been by and large, positive.
I act as a catalyst in such ventures. I have adopted a village, Nemili near Mahaballipuram, where every six months we organize medical camps for general health, eye check-up and cancer screening. We have a team of dedicated doctors in each speciality for this exercise.  The medical camps are extended to other rural areas also whenever there is an opportunity.

 I feel great satisfaction to be able to give back something to the society that has contributed a lot to making me, who I am today. I see many avenues opening up before me. I find that boundaries are merely what people perceive as limits. Therefore, I have coined the byline-“Boundless Boundaries Beckon” and seek to live by it.

RM:   Thank you so much Sundar. It is not often that one gets to interview a multifaceted personality like you. I am sure that the readers would be inspired by your story. May the Almighty continue to give you good health and strength to contribute even more in all the areas of your interest in the days to come.

SR: Thank you. It was a pleasure talking to you Rajeev.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Organizational culture as a Competitive Advantage

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Discussing about culture and its impact in the organization is always an exciting proposition. Therefore I looked forward to the evening meeting of NIPM on the subject that happened on 22nd November 2017. The speaker was Mr Harish. H.V; partner, India Leadership team, Grant Thornton India. He started his talk by drawing attention to the famous quote of Peter Drucker- " Organizational culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

In simple terms,"Culture is how things happen in an organization." Looking at the way things happen, people form an opinion or come to a  judgement about the culture of the organization. All activities and areas  of your company right from reception to batrooms to employee behaviour, staff retention efforts etc, reflect the company culture.

Culture is not what top management or senior executives declare as the culture of the organization but what people believe as true in the organization and they respond through their behaviour accordingly. In this connection,the speaker gave a very interesting insight on the recent fiasco involving Indigo Airlines, when a customer was manhandled by the staff.

Mr Harish pointed out that for the company, punctuality has always been top priority. Gradually a culture had developed of achieving and maintaining this goal of punctuality 'at all costs' including at the cost of customer needs. Thus, even if the company screams from the roof tops that "Customer is our king and his/her needs come first", the employees can pick up the nonverbal signals  that highlight the fact that punctuality is  the most  important. Therefore things happen based on what people perceive as important and on  those things that are rewarded in real terms in the organization.
The worst possible culture is when people have received the message "Just do what you are told" and they tend to act accordingly. Mr Harish cited the famous ' social experiment' involving five monkeys and a ladder. A group of scientists placed five monkeys in a cage, and in the middle was placed a ladder with bananas on top.

Every time a monkey went up the ladder, the scientists soaked the rest of the monkeys with cold water. After a while, every time a monkey would start up the ladder, the others would pull it down and beat it up. After a time, no monkey would dare try climbing the ladder, no matter how great the temptation. 
 In this connection, I am  reminded of the quote of Grace Hopper, American computer scientist who said "The most damaging phrase in the language is: "It’s always been done that way."

When you are looking to change strategy, it is necessary that culture also changes to imbibe the new approach. Here training has got a very imporatant role to play for preparing the employees. The reward and recognition policies need to be aligned to the culture. Story telling is a powerful tool for aligning culture. Readers may be interested in my earlier posts on story telling, the links to which are given below:

  The speaker discussed the case of DRL (Dr. Reddy's Laboratories)  a multinational company employing over 20,000 employees. .As the company grew, over the years, the bureaucratic procedures had slowed down the day to day working. There was a desire to be nimble footed and innovative. In this connection the slogan " Good health can't wait" was highlighted and all stake holders were requested to give their suggestions. Projects were selected to highlight agility, innovation, customer centricity and more user friendly packaging. Employees were encouraged to contemplate on " What I am I going to do for this?" As a result a young scientist broke the rules and got a project done in 15 days.

The learning from the above case study is that we need to (1) Frame the issue (2) Align everyone to the common goal (3) Demonstrate quick results (4) Create a safe environment (5) Embrace symbols like catchy slogans, logos etc to keep the goal always in the minds of the people.

Another case discussed,was that of online shoe and clothing shop based in Las Vegas, Nevada. The founder,Nick Swinmurn had the idea of online shopping for shoes when he could not find the shoes he wanted at his local store. The on line selling offers customers more variety to choose from, facilitates home delivery and gives them the option to return product if not satisfied. Zappos has strived to be the best customer based company focusing on customer satisfaction. It has the company's phone number on top of every webpage and encourages customers to call and give feedback.

Zappos has designed and implemented what they call "Zappos culture book." The Zappos culture book is a collage of unedited submissions from employees within the Zappos Family of companies sharing what the Zappos culture means to them.  A new version is created each year and it reflects the true feelings, thoughts and opinions of the employees. Whether one is the CEO, or just started yesterday, everyone has a place in the Culture Book.Employees are encouraged to write whatever comes to them, without revisiting what they submitted in years past. Like a yearbook, the Zappos Culture Book is a snapshot of the past year through everyone's eyes. According to one employee Liz.G "The Zappos Culture is more than what goes on in the office. It is the relationships we form and the friendships we make. You can’t find that anywhere else. I never have."

The focus on  cuture is maintained in the company, through a three months training wherein the core values are reinforced. The hiring and firing is done based on the values.The speaker also spoke about delivering "now" through service; enforcing and driving change. Another point that was underscored by the speaker was "Never outsource your key competency."

To my mind, the proceedings of the evening provide a lot of food for thought and introspection. As the impact of culture is being increasingly acknowledged and appreciated, corporates would do well to focus on it for best results. After all the father of modern management had pointed out its relevance long ago and in his characteristic style, indicated that culture eats strategy- for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Monday, 11 December 2017

Learning in a Nutshell

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Learning points/take aways from the book Soul inc by Moid Siddiqui, Management Guru and author 
  • In order to create your destiny you need to develop a business character
  • Every living organization, unlike a dead organization, will witness the daybreak, sooner or later
  • All that we are is the result of all that we have thought.Pure thoughts lead to pure life- the ultimate source of happiness
  • As a corporate, look within-Internal clarity provides the external solution
  • You can't fake a corporate soul;either you have it or you better create one.
  • Corporates need to change its priorities and reward different strengths
  • Business has become the most powerful institution on the planet. The dominant institution in any society needs to take responsibility for the whole
  • Flesh trading and body shopping (done by corporates) are both equally sinful
  • There is a need to shift from individual perspective to universal perspective - Serve a purpose and work long for it, as against quick results and quick gains
A shift is necessary
  • What can I get Vs How can I give
  • Success and money Vs people are significant
  • Pleasing bosses Vs working to soothe the soul 
  • Fear in managing business Vs Managing business with love
  • Leader is being first Vs Leader is being last
  • Surrender means deafeat Vs Victory is letting go/ surrender
  • Short term gains Vs Long term legacy 
  • Managing by joining body and mind Vs Managing by joining mind, heart and soul
  • Managing externally hardware Vs Managing internally heartware . 
It is necessary to develop our emotional and spiritual sides for pursit of physical performance, to be meaningful. 

Practice authentic living: Identify your personal core values and beliefs and commit to working and living according to them. Let your personal goals and career goals allign to the values and belief. 

Identify the gap between who you are now and the person you know you could be.Write a list of words that describe the qualities of the person you know you can be. Now spend time reflecting on the extent to which your present self is close to the desired person.

Then choose one word from the list that you want to begin working on.( Eg. You want to become more open). Use personal goal setting techniques and resolve to work on this everyday. Set small goals and work on one trait at a time. Gradually this change and growth will become second nature.  

"If I hold a possibility or a future of the way I want the world to be; then I bring that into the room with me, everytime I show up. I don't have to work on it. It works on me..."

Monday, 27 November 2017

Conversations CEOs Should have with HRs

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At the NHRD monthly meeting in September 2017, discussing the 'interesting' or if you prefer 'important' subject of conversations between CEOs and HR , was a distinguished panel consisting of Mr J.Suresh MD & CEO at Aravind lifestyle brands, Ms Lalitha Indrakanti,MD and center leader Cargill business srvices and Mr K.Srinivas, CEO, BTI payments. At the outset, the panelists gave a brief picture about the nature of their business and its challenges.

Mr Suresh said that his company Aravind lifestyle brands, offers 25 plus fashion brands through 1500 retail stores. Around 10,000 are employed in the stores and 800 in the offices. Indirectly 15,000 workmen are employed in the factories of third parties, from whom the company sources the material. He said his company is following the ABCD strategy wherein A stands for analytics being used effectively to scan the data  of 1 million customers every month, B for buy now with a target of under 40 days cycle time, C for compliance and D for digital optimisation. The HR challenge is the recruitment, retention, training and performance management of the large workforce.

Ms Lalitha said her focus was on creating a culture for the 153 year old company (Cargill business srvices), and in this connection HR has to play a strategic and very important role of a partner and enabler.The other challenges include developing multiple skill sets as against specific skill sets as skills these days, tend to get obselete in a short time. HR has a key role here in giving a different connotation to performance management. " How do you predict business outcomes? and how do you enable employees to  meet these outcomes? are the answers expected from HR.

Mr Srinivas introduced his company BTI payments, as a start up which has made available white labelled ATMs to the interior rural areas of the country. The objective of starting the company was to make ATMs accessable to the rural population and also encourage them to use technology for their monetary transactions. He said that they were clear right from the beginning, that the company would operate as one in a  service industry and not as another bank. The basic business that of "Buying cash and selling cash" was badly hit by the demonetisation. It resulted in money, the very life blood of the business becoming in short supply.With so many Indian citizens standing in queue, making available cash to an ATM transaction company,was the least priority for the banks.Therefore the company which before demonetisation was hovering around the break even stage  slipped back considerably.

Being a young company and a start up, the challenges faced by BTI payments include attracting the right kind of people with relevant competencies and defining a vision for the company. Presently, a two member HR team handles the matters pertaining to the 200 odd employees working for the company. Mr Srinivas informed that "as a part of handling the crisis caused by demonetisation, we went around and transparently shared with employees the current reality." The leadership team took salary break for two months while the other employees took a one month break." Every single person came forward to take the cut." Today, after six months the company is limping back to the break even stage.

The panelists then shared their present priorities.Suresh said that reskilling of people to meet the fast happening changes is his priority.For Lalitha,setting up the new department for developing organizational culture was the priority.In this connection, it was important to learn how to educate the people before implementing. Srinivas said that his priority of recruiting the right people was being adddressed by a strategy of recruiting people already known to the top executives during their tenure in previous organizations when the candidates demonstarated qualities of competence and personal loyalty to the organization.

Taking a question from the audience as to how does one manage disruptions, Suresh said that "Today disruption is the norm",with competition coming from 'anywhere', not necessarily from one's own industry.In these circumstances HR needs to be proactive and business savvy. The focus should be on developing an eco system ( complex network or interconnected system) for the company and not engage merely on  job description based recruitments.It would mean getting the talent to work and also pondering on the question "How to get other people in the eco system also to deliver effectively". Lalitha said that a focus area was to get people working in multiple functions and different maturity/ experience levels "to think as one."

Another question posed was " What are the top 3 things HR should stop doing?

1 Stop owning Everything:  As for example attrition is seen as an HR issue, while many other factors contribute to it.What HR should instead do is to be an enabler and show the mirror as to what is happening with the support of matrix.
2  Stop just taking orders: HR should instead give its own insights and understanding of the business situation and scenario to the management
3 Stop doing performance management in its current form- The current methodology has become old fashioned with the system not serving its objectives. It needs to be replaced with a more relevant and dynamic way of motivating employees.

What advice would the panelists like to give the youngsters or students of HR?
  • Acquire diveristy in whatever you do.Experience multiple dimensions whether in terms of geographies, functions, area of work. This will stand you in good stead in a rapidly changing environment.
  • Adaptability teaches a lot more than sameness and being in the same area.It makes you a better professional and a better human being.   
The discussions for the evening came to a close with the panelists underscoring the fact that boundaries are going to blur. People of all functions would be required to have an HR perspective and the HR professional would also need to become a business person.The ideal situation would be when an HR perspective and approach is automatic in the organization. "Think of a day" said one of the panelists "when HR as a separare function, would be felt irrelevant by organizations."

Although the above proposition may sound scary to an HR professional, in the long run with so many changes happening, he /she could be working freelance.,The real test of the HR professional's  success would be in equipping an organization to be self reliant. Having accomplished the mission, they could be moving to the next organization and to the next challenge.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Global Trend in Workforce Planning

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In this post I am sharing the gist of the discussions that transpired during the professional evening meeting organized by NIPM, Karnataka Chapter. The speaker was Ms Debolina Dutta, Director (HR), VF corporation, Bangalore. VF Corporation is an American worldwide apparel and footwear company founded in 1899 and headquartered in Greensboro, North Carolina.

At the outset the speaker underscored the fact that quite a few leading companies worldwide, are acknowledging the changes in the expectations of the work force.They are accordingly making changes in their approach to recruitment and engaging of people. Research suggests that a poor recruitment experience could turn candidates away from that brand, for life.According to the report of an employer branding agency ph.Attraction, one in four British jobseekers have either entirely stopped purchasing (12%) or purchased less (11.5%) from a brand because of a negative candidate experience.

 The speaker cited  instances of  individual companies which learnt the hard way that future employees need to be handled with a lot of sensitivity. Let us take the case of  Virgin media. More than 1,30,000 candidates applied to work at Virgin Media in 2014, 18% of whom were existing customers of the company.  However, as a direct result of poor candidate experience more than 7,500 candidates cancelled their subscriptions and switched to a competitor, resulting in millions of pounds (£4.4m ) in lost revenueThe brand has since brought its recruitment function in-house, which allows it to take a lot more control and engage with individuals on a one-to-one level. The company has also invested in technology with a candidate portal that maps the recruitment experience; the focus being on what candidates want rather than Virgin media leading the experience. The process also features inspirational voice messages from brand ambassador Usain Bolt.

Ms Debolina said that IBM responded to the attrition nightmare by developing a predictive analytics model which helps in identifying those likely to leave and this helped to reduce attrition by addressing issues. Further, the Bell curve model of performance assessment has become outdated and is being given up by many organizations. GE has now come up with a regular updates model (feedback to employees on how they are doing) resulting in a five times increase in productivity. Similarly Adobe introduced instantaneous feedback system that contributed to a 2% reduction in attrition. Cisco has moved away from ratings and annual reviews and are looking at team oriented incentives.

It is clear from the above that employers are no longer perceiving employees as mere numbers but are looking to provide a humane experience to candidates right from the stage of interview and during their tenure in the organization.The speaker said that in the IT industry, as HR is not sure of how many will join, there is a tendency to issue offer letters to more than the required number of employees. But then what if all the 5 Java programmars who were issued offer letters ( as against the 4 required) join?

Companies are looking to engage them through gamification portals etc even before they even join the organization so as to ensure better predictability of the candidates joining. Readers may like to see an earlier blog of mine covering the L&D Leadership League organized by People Matters, wherein the VP (HR) of TCS explained how gamification is used to engage young engineers.

In accordance with the latest trends ( the millennials presence is very high in social media), HR would do well to utilize the services edge networks which scan the net for inputs from the social media, Linked in find out the best fit employees and recommend those deemed 100% fit for a position. Edge networks  are focused on the development of workforce planning solutions with the use of artificial intelligence and data science technology solutions. The speaker said that in her company this tool  was used for internal bench management.

Another trend is to get career counselling done for employees by a doggie/bot on their desk tops so that they would be able to open up freely without being intimidated by human seniors, some of whom may also be reluctant to give undiluted honest feedback. Websites like Wade & Wendy help in this connection, providing instructive conversation with a chat bot.

Further, technology today has made available the tool of machine learning. Machine learning explores the study and construction of algorithms, which can make data driven predictions or decisions by building a model from sample inputs.This enables companies to zero in on the optimum workforce.In future, there could be a situation of 73% of the workforce being flexible, part time freelancers. Dell, which presently has a 25% flexible workforce is planning to increase it to 50%.

The global trends indicate that talent will be procured by companies from anywhere in the world.The focus would increase on engaging and mentoring the employees after they have joined. Johnson & Johnson has a web enabled mentoring platform.There is bound to be increased collaboration between man and machine. Amazon has started using around 30000 robots at their distribution centres. The good news is that understanding the trends in advance can enable organizations to be prepared. It is for each company to look at its own unique context and become ready to face what the future may throw up. The bad news is that the trends predicted are not going to affect the IT industry alone but all organizations, across the board....  

Monday, 11 September 2017

Global HR practices and Future Trends

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In this post I am sharing the gist of the talk given by Mr Selwyn Thomas, Head -Corporate HR Crowe Horwath,  Melbourne, Victoria, Australia  during the evening meeting organized by NHRD Hosur chapter on 13th June 2017.. The speaker's wide exposure to strategic HR in India and subsequent stints abroad  marks him out as the ideal person to speak on the subject.After serving in India and rising to senior levels of counry head/Head HR of large multinationals, he  moved to Australia and has worked extensively over the past 17 years in the  Asia-Pacific region based out of Melbourne and Auckland. He also has project working experience in the UK and France.

  • We live in an era of economic paradox. On the one hand there are more products / increase in productivity and creation of more jobs while on the other hand the job market has become riskier and the job environment more demanding or if you prefer dangerous in terms of expectations,targets and pressure.
  • The employee bonding with the company has reduced considerably
  • In Australia, a third of the work force consist of contingent workmen( employed through contractors). As in the case of raw materials you are now looking at " Just in time employees".
  • 60% of the people in Australia work part time and 40% are in permanent employment. While the younger people tend to work full time, the older people across the board( at all levels in the organization) work less.
  • As people come and go often, the organization structure tends to be flexible and job security has become less important and also not much gains in compensation is observed.
  • In short, "the labour market is confusing" with more mobility and job changing as against earlier periods when jobs were changed less frequently.
  • These trends would mean, everyone including HR needs to constantly update and be able to meet changing requirements.
  • There has been a shift in the balance of power in favour of employers since 1980s. The Government presently are reluctant to intervene and are not engaging in policing as in earlier times. 
  • The time has come for change; technology enabled change. Therefore the future of HR as in the case of other disciplines lies  in embracing technology. 
  • HR needs to use infographics and landscape mode to reach out to large number of employees. (Infographics simplify information in a visually engaging and attractive manner. Here, basic principles of design is used to support the information presented, making it more easily accessible to a larger or target audience) 
  • Technology can be profitably utilized by HR for work force management, training and building strategy. HR analytics could play an important role in this regard. ( Readers may like to read my post on HR analytics and its possibilities for HR- )
  • While technology has its advantages, it could mean, the death of transactional HR ie  the repititive, predictive activities, that HRDians have been engaged since a long time.
  • Traditional roles such as wage negotiation  are getting reduced with Government releasing industrywise payment guidelines.
  • With the systems having become smarter, companies expect line managers to do this part of traditional HR role, devoting atleast 10% of their time for HR work. 
  • The strategic HR, however will continue to have relevance. To use the words of the speaker " Only the corporate HR guys will survive". HRDians need to use the opportunity to make vital contributions,  strategically and earn respect for the function. 
  • It appears that it is "Rest in peace" for the performance appraisal systems. In view of organizations having become very dynamic, it has become difficult to set 'fixed period' objectives for teams. Dynamic performance management is expected to replace performance appraisal. You are bound to be assessed on the go; assessed from the moment you join without a honeymoon period.
  • Assessments would be more matter of fact with only 'yes' or ' No' answers: Why has the team failed? Do they have some other issues not addressed?- yes/No
  • The social media enabled recruitment is expected to grow.In a study it was revealed that 80% of those surveyed used Linked in, followed by facebook and twitter.
  • We are likely to see Cafe offices wherein employees will operate from a neighbourhood cafe using tools such as video conferencing. Speaker gave the instance of employee dialing and connecting with colleagues from a mobile van in Singapore.
  • Flexible working hours would be more the norm than exception and laws would permit multiple employment.
  • The speaker predicted that 33% employers would permit their employees to work from home and 52% of the employers are likely to lose talent for not allowing such flexibility.
  • E learning which is gaining currency could become even more popular in view of its convenience to learn at your own pace at the time convenient to you. certificates can be acquired on completion of the course.
  • As against the traditional induction and orientation of employees, the 'onboarding' (like the highly structured and ritualized process of boarding an airplane) exercise in future would start even before the employee has joined the company with the Emails seeking details of the employee including his preferences etc, This continues after his joining giving the employee a personalized experience.
  • Similarly the salary packaging would also be personalized to specific individual needs of employees, permitting him/her to create the basket within the broad structure.
  • There could be a rethink on ways of employee communication given the fact that most employees, particularly the young are very active on social media.
  • The futuristic offices are expected to be very different from how we have known it - No telephones or desks,only pods to sit on.With no dedicated chairs or place for individuals, the office would have open spaces to interact- " Focus zone. Collaboration Zone, creative zone, technology Zone" and so on. The speaker said that the KPMG Melbourne office has been created on these lines.

After the presentation, we got the opportunity to interact with Mr Selwyn and seek clarification and elaboration on the matters discussed. It was indeed a very engaging and rewarding evening for the audience who not only got information on what is happening in other countries but also insights on future trends from an expert who has had exposure to varied working environments.