Monday, 13 January 2020

Talent Re-imagination in the Digital Era

IndiBlogger Badge

In the November 2019 meeting of NHRD Bangalore, Mr Shreekant Arimanithaya, Global talent leader EY Global Delivery Systems spoke on the subject of "Talent Re-imagination in the Global Era". The speaker has over 26 years of experience in companies such as Britannia, Toyota, Phillips and GE. His present company, Ernst & Young collaborate across borders and provides innovative and strategic in-house services from one of the EY delivery centers in Argentina, China, India, the Philippines and Poland.  It helps clients embrace change as an opportunity.

 The speaker started out by saying that 'Re-imagination' is not an incremental change but an exponential one, turning the business model upside down. It would involve extensive use of digital technology. It would mean leveraging intangible assets such as culture, attitude, creativity. Re-imagination would mean obtaining learning lessons from outside one's own domain as also agility lessons from other domains,other companies and functions. It would require agile change management- being able to adapt, stand up on falling down.

The exercise would involve reshaping yesterday's workforce for tomorrow's talent requirements. The existing employees are to be made 'future ready' and  then use them to recruit appropriate future employees. Harmonious working is to be achieved in a situation wherein five generations of employees are working together. 62% of companies are using flexible work force. There is a need for globally mobile employees. Curiosity, creativity, empathy and taking initiative is the need of the hour as robots are being increasingly used for routine jobs. To be able to work flexibly has become a workforce expectation. 

While 'Re-imagining talent' there is a need to focus on employee well being. The new generation tend to change jobs every three years as they get bored easily. Therefore, preparedness is crucial by paying attention to new operating models, leadership capabilities, skill sets, workforce agility, culture and new working environment. Creating long term value is important. Here is where questions like "Why we should exist?" is important.  Shreekant quoted Simon Sinek, Author & motivational speaker "Today, leaders and employees want a clarity on purpose". He also recommended that the audience watch the video of  sinek available on you tube.  I have included the video " Finding Purpose and Inspiration" here for the benefit of  readers.

Building trust, being distinct from others through client centricity, attracting exceptional talent and extensive use of data and technology with values as the foundation is the need of the hour. The employee is to be encouraged to build and personalize his/her career- You can be yourself, your voice will be heard and you can make a difference. EY supports clients in the journey for making this happen.  Curiosity is the key for building a better working world and keeping employees effective, efficient and fit for the future. Collecting listening data , mood tracking, culture survey etc. are to be done in an agile fashion to ensure social listening and a healthy culture. 

Insights into the rate of engagement, reasons for separation, emerging trends, opportunities, and potential problems can be gained by an automated HR dashboard.  With the support and insights gained from use of technology, you are in a position to give the message to employees that "You can leave us but we can't leave you and will continue to engage with you." Hybrid data management platforms like Boomerang commerce enables organizations to collect data of any type, source and structure to make data simple and accessible across multiple vendors, deployments and workloads. The information thus obtained is descriptive, predictive and prescriptive and enables decision making like those made by a medical doctor. 

There would be a role for counselors to build life time relationships. In the circle of attracting, joining, working and succeeding, a lot of personalization is to be done within generalization. for which algorithms(Set of steps to accomplish a task) have to be developed.The speaker discussed many more data platforms that would be relevant and important in the digital era. As for example interns are given tasks even as they are studying in college that skill them appropriately for the needs of the company . Subsequently,their credibility score is tracked and employment is offered if  they meet the requirements. 

Shreekant, while signing off, underscored the importance of culture in the organization which comprises of the values and behaviour of the employees. It is not about playing the game out of fear with an intention of 'not losing' but playing on purpose and 'playing to win'. In the former case the focus would be on controlling, being critical and pleasing.  However, for achieving the latter, purpose driven transformative leaders are necessary. 

Sunday, 29 December 2019

New Year Gift- Promotion of the book "Corporate Poems- Straight & Simple"

I extend my warm advance New Year Greetings to all my readers! May the new year 2020 bring you and your family all happiness, prosperity, peace and harmony!

You can download for free, my E book "Corporate Poems- Straight and Simple" on Amazon as a new year gift from 1.30 PM of 1st January 2020 till 1.30 PM of 4th January 2020 Indian Standard Time. (1st Jan to 3rd Jan PST). Happy reading!  Do write a review / convey your feedback.

Link for Downloading book on Amazon : 

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Linkedin Local Bengaluru December Meet- A Bird's Eye view

IndiBlogger Badge

I attended the Linkedin Local Bengaluru Meet organized on 1st December 2019 at 91 Springboard Koramangala. After the initial briefing by host Mr Febin Rajan, intern, McAfee, on the background and aim of organizing the event, Mr Jerrin Thomas of Nupie Management Consultancy services, a data analytics company, spoke on the subject " Unlocking business value through data analytics" highlighting the impact of the latest developments in AI technology on the industry & society and how it can be leveraged. He traced the development over the years from the analogue to the digital, print based industrial society to digital form, industrial goods to information goods etc.

Jerrin said that the need for data is ever growing. so much so, the discipline of infonomics (Economics of information- Studying the production & consumption of information and transfer of money to produce, sell or obtain it)  is emerging rapidly. In the present circumstances, there is a need to address issues  caused by the move away from personal touch to digital connect, from high touch to Hi tech and from heart to mind.

The other changes include digital currency not regulated by banks, augmented reality (Users are provided with additional computer generated information  enhancing their perception of reality) that enables customers to see the size, colour etc of the product, say a table and suitably modify them to suit individual personal requirements and Humanoids with human capabilities that include  simulated thinking and remembering . The Humanoid, Sophia  manufactured by Hanson Robotics, looks and acts like humans with the aid of artificial intelligence, visual data processing and facial recognition. Critical thinking and creativity will be the key skills in 2020. There is a need to invest and experiment in new technologies, build awareness, train and develop skills & mindsets, dedicate resources and manage time. 

The next speaker for the evening was Ms Shikha Nag, Director Indian academy of public speaking/ image consultant shared her thoughts on the subject "Brand You". She started out by stating that whether we are aware of it or not, we do tend to judge a book by its cover and human beings by the image they project. Persons with the same skill sets and competence fare differently in their growth journey which is influenced by "Perception". Shikha got the participants to do an exercise in which they were required to note down three words that they believe/ wish defined them. Later she asked them to come up with action points to accomplish the three things identified. As for example one of the words I had written down was "Dependable". The action point I came up for this was "Sticking strictly to commitments". 

 The speaker said that the "Brand You" was all about marketing yourself and your career as a brand. In this connection, language of clothes ranging from power dressing to casual dress, plays  an important part. With regard to 'public speaking' she said that the word includes interacting with people in the audience. While speaking, focus only on 3 or 4 points you want the audience to remember and reinforce them later in the talk. Branding also includes personal hygiene and grooming (face, nails etc). Pay attention to etiquette  and being comfortable around people. Treat others the way they would like to be treated. An interesting statement considering the fact that we often go by the conventional line "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Each person may have distinct unique needs and this is addressed when you treat them the way they would like to be treated. One should be  genuine & authentic and also consistent in behaviour. The personal brand should match in all places whether online or offline. 

We then had the talk by Ms Shruthi Vijay Jaiswal, Head Talent Development, Thomson Reuters who spoke on "Does your Net- Work?" The first step in networking is to ask yourself"With whom would I like to network?" Networking is not just about building relationships but sustaining them. Extroverts are not necessarily better than introverts in networking. In this connection 'Deliberation' is the key. You have to be at it and not leave it to chance. In your network , there are people who can be called as in your "In groups' and those who are in the 'Out groups'. 

You are yet to trust or feel safe with those in the 'Out group'. Therefore, there is a tendency to listen to the people in the 'In group'. ' Sponsors' are people who  are high in the list of an In group and they speak for you, even in your absence and are aware of your value. It would be advantageous to work for attaining more number of sponsors in your network. The speaker explained this, with the help of a networking play field grid. She advised the participants to make a list of their network and see how many of them in the list can be moved to the sponsorship level. She concluded by stating that networks get built over a period of time and one has to be patient. The mantra is to give without any expectations and you will benefit in the long run. 

The next speaker was Mr Rameez Mohammad, Chief People Officer, Aquagenics R&D Pvt Ltd who referred to himself as a 'Gig worker' and a bits and pieces man. He engaged the audience in an experience sharing about functioning in the Gig Economy. Rameez said he chose to tread a different path after he was fed up with the very predictable and boring 9 to 5 job. He did not wish to get into the trap of FOMO (Fear of missing out- anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media). He had also begun feeling that he did not need the amount of money he was earning for the modest lifestyle he desired.

Having taken the plunge to become a gig worker, Rameez tried his hand at a variety of activities, ranging from football coaching to teaching, web designing and cycle repairing. The concept of Maktub detailed in Paul Coelho's book 'Alchemist' showed the way and gave the courage to the speaker to pursue his path (Maktub is a belief about destiny - everything is destined and written. How when and where has already been planned and we need not get anxious about it. With Just a little patience, it will come at the appropriate time, provided we put the efforts needed.

The characteristics of a gig economy are flexible working and project based working with the employee moving on after the project is done. A gig worker may have to confront an 'existential crisis' while steering his way in a  gig economy . These are moments when individuals question whether their lives have meaning, purpose, or value. It may be, but not necessarily, tied to depression or negative speculations on purpose in life (e.g., "if one day I will be forgotten, what is the point of all of my work?"). Rameez shared his learning and provided tips gained from his own experience:- 
  • Just do it : As you are moving into new territories, don't worry about not being the expert. figure something out, on the way.
  • Deal with Self doubts:  As doubt fuels doubt one has to go beyond it and go ahead.
  • Embrace the quirks: Accept the peculiar aspects of a person or situation and move on. What works for you will work for your client as well. 
  • Have no limitations: Be prepared to do anything and everything out there.
  • Altruism is a big driver: You tend to be happy when you are able to help someone else.
  • Set up rituals for teams: In order to speak the same language. 
  • Stop being transactional in relationships- No longer aim to get the maximum you can from others and give as little as possible 
  • Be willing to say "No"- Not everybody deserves your time. However be free with kindness and patience.
  • Be mindful in interactions: Do not hustle (push roughly/jostle). 
  • Get really good at what drives you
  • Be organized
  • Do your own thing without getting into the 'comparison trap'.
  • Set up a new normal for yourself. 
  • Build your crew 
  • Help and take help when needed
  • Have faith instead of doubts  
This was perhaps, for me  the most valuable presentation as  it was anecdotal and came from personal experience of the speaker. Further, to my mind, with so much of uncertainties predicted for the future, everyone would do well to be prepared for working in conditions thrown up by a gig economy.  

Mr Anish .K.Raju, Digital Marketer gave information mainly about optimally using the Linkedin platform. He exhorted the participants to be more active on LinkedIn without having a fear of being judged. If some people appear to be more effective and active, it is just that they started using the platform earlier than you. LinkedIn is to be seen not merely as a social media but a networking platform that can be used effectively to get ahead in your career or business. 

The speaker gave the following tips for effectiveness on LinkedIn:-    

- Define your purpose
- Optimize your Linkedin profile by uploading a professional looking picture, a catchy phrase with a good background image/banner. 
- Effective Summary: This should be more in a story telling mode to attract the attention of readers. Showcase your experience using effective writing tools. Pay attention to skills and endorsement as it reflects your credibility. Add your blog address and other accomplishments here.
- Create content that creates value
- Be consistent: Post regularly. It is never too late to start. 

Anish reiterated that content is the 'King' and quality of engagement is the 'Queen' that gets you the likes and comments on the platform. He signed off by reminding the audience to give their feedback on the meet using Hashtags Linkedin Local and Linkedin Local Bengaluru (The team has worked really hard).

The last speaker for the day was Mr Ranjit Keshav, MD, Insight Guru. He said that Linkedin sells human relations to one another and that artificial intelligence(AI) is the unspoken rule to build a great career. I was a tad distracted by the excessive body movements and high volume of the voice of the speaker that I could not catch most of what was said subsequently. But he ended with the statement  "Ambition and idealism cannot go together."  

My Two Piece of Advice/Suggestion  

It cannot be denied that the December Linkedin Local Meet Bengaluru was a big accomplishment . It provided opportunity for quite a bit of learning and not mere interaction like in a party atmosphere. Going forward, I thought that I should share some thoughts that came to mind for consideration of organizers.

  • Less is more: Although a lot of learning was shared by as many as six speakers, it would be better to have a balance between speaking and interacting. The interaction with participants had to be restricted to what was possible in one fifteen minute break. According to Rob Balsabas, Social media & Community Strategist, Vancouver, Canada" There's nothing that beats that face to face, handshaking, look them in the eye interaction" Having three (Max four) speakers and using the remaining time for discussion/ interaction could be a good idea. 
  • Discussions on what we heard: Some time could be spend on deliberating on the actual implementation of ideas in one's own company- the Hows and the challenges/pitfalls. In one of my blogs I had suggested that the HR professional bodies- NIPM/NHRD experiment with this so that the focus would be more on the action rather than theory. 
  • Starting presentation on a general subject to which all can relate: The specialized area of discussion could come later. Eg in this program the first one could have been on "Branding" or "Networking" rather than the one on "Data Analytics" ( This is of course purely a personal view)   
  • Concluding Program on time: The meet commenced on the dot which is commendable. However, the concluding moments went on and on with many leaving before the formal declaration. Participants would have planned their evening  based on the concluding time notified. Many of them also come from locations very far from the venue. Therefore, it is advisable to close the meet also on time so that no one misses any part of the meet. If necessary, the program can start half an hour to one hour earlier.  

Overall the December meet of the  Linkedin Local Bengaluru  was a very fruitful and enjoyable experience. It is hoped that the community will grow from strength to strength. No amount of thumbs up to the team that made it all possible would be too much!  The initiative, drive and efforts of the entire team ( Febin Rajan, Mansi saboo, Anugrah Raveendran, Nischit Muthamma, Rejo.C.Roy and many more) was there for all to see. The defining moment was a jam packed venue at the beginning of the program- a big achievement in a nation that tends to believe in Indian Stretched Time (IST)!  

Thursday, 5 December 2019

My New Book "corporate Poems- Straight and Simple" Published on Kindle

I am very happy to inform all my readers that my  book “: Corporate Poems- Straight and Simple" has been published on kindle and is now available on Kindle store/Amazon. It covers a wide spectrum of corporate work life / work in any organization..

The foreword for the book has been written by distinguished poet, writer, reviewer and Hon Literary advisor to the Cultural Center of Vijayawada and Amaravatti (CCVA), Ms Padmaja Iyengar - Paddy and recommendations by sensitive. Insightful and accomplished poet Ms Saranya Francis and former Military officer, writer &  passionate blogger,  Mr Durga Prasad Dash.

The book has been divided into five sections that are important in any organization namely

 1) Organizational Direction
2) Leadership
3) Employee Relations
4) Training and Development and
5) In the course of Day to Day work.

In the Foreword Ms Padmaja Iyengar writes " Rajeev’s long innings in managerial positions across hierarchy and organizations as also his inimitable lucid style is evident in all the poems."
 She adds "Every poem in the collection ‘Corporate Poems – Straight and Simple’ provides a management lesson to be learnt, imbibed and practised by managers in day to day work. The author, Rajeev Moothedath demystifies complicated management thoughts and deconstructs management philosophies into straight and simple poetry!"  

In her recommendation poet Saranya Francis says " Rajeev's corporate poems are a telling commentary of the corporate world's upheavals, idiosyncrasies and peculiarities. As an astute HR professional, he is uniquely placed to share observations on the personal side of the professional world. The poems in the collection are crisp, straightforward, deliberately worded and sometimes even tongue in cheek. Rajeev in his unique style has spoken to his readers through these poems"

Writer & Blogger Mr Durga Prasad Dash writes "Rajeev Moothedath’s ability to churn out poems out of dry subjects such as “HR analytics and the four abilities” is definitely commendable." 

Looking forward to the feedback from dear readers.

IndiBlogger Badge 

Here is a recitation of a poem titled "Till Yesterday We were Friends" from the book

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Breaking the Mold- A Paradigm in Industrial Relations

IndiBlogger Badge
The November month meeting of NHRD Hosur Chapter discussed a topic that has always been important for those working in HR, particularly for practitioners in the manufacturing sector.  From the time HR was known as 'Personnel Management', industrial relations (IR ) was held the key focus area of the function. Over the years, the focus on IR reduced on account of changes in the economic, social and political environment in the country. In HR conferences the focus and discussion  shifted to matters such as 'Talent Management', 'Leadership Development', 'Strategic HR management' and ' HR as a business partner'.

I drove down from Bangalore to Hosur to listen to the speaker of the day Mr Pramod Mahatme, Vice president Employee relations, Wipro Consumer Care and Lighting. Pramod accepts invitations to speak only on the core area of Industrial relations. He said that of late, the invitations to speak have increased.Thus,while on the one hand some would believe that the focus and interest in IR has declined, on the other hand, it appears that sooner than later the IR focus will come back in a big way. Often times, it is seen that those working in IR tend to frequently change jobs. This could be because of things becoming too ‘hot’ and difficult to handle after a few years in the same company. The speaker, however has worked in only three companies since he passed out of Symbiosis Pune which includes long stints of 14-16 years in two companies viz Hindustan Lever and Wipro where he is presently working.  

IR practitioners have been generally reluctant to share their insights and the “How’ of handling tough labour situations. Therefore, it was a pleasure listening to the speaker whose thoughts were a shift from the traditional paradigm that has guided the theory and practice of IR. As for example, he says that employees form unions not because they have gained the courage to revolt but because they see and feel themselves as ‘weak’. The paradigm we hold is significant as it shapes the way we act and respond to situations. “Breaking the mold” in IR is the need of the hour.
There has been a gradual up-gradation over the years from labour relations to talent management. It is all to do with the demand and supply which also determines whether the management would resort to individual bargaining or collective bargaining. When the demand for people is more than the supply, they are held as 'talent'  and individual bargaining is done with them wherein the aim is to attract and retain talent at the most competitive price with a willingness to offer benefits of highest common factor. On the other hand if the supply is more than the demand for a particular skill, the people are deemed 'labour' and the organization engages in collective bargaining with their union. The aim is to achieve productivity, quality, reliability and flexibility at the best possible bargain. Lowest common denominator is attempted in collective bargaining.

Employees are attracted to unions when job security is threatened and when individual bargaining strength is reduced. It is weakness that drives unity. When the employee has a high salary and a lower market value, he tends to gravitate towards the union to offset his weakness. When a corporation has a number of units and less dependent on an individual factory, it results in weak local unions and they tend to strengthen themselves through a central federation. In the new economic scenario where organizations resort to global sourcing, the federation at national level becomes weak leading to emergence of international federation. 

Managements become strong when they are engaged in the manufacture of multiple products with multiple  factories for each product. While the strength of the management lies in its ability to sustain disruptions, for the union, the strength comes from its ability to inflict pressure through coercion. In an ideal IR scenario there would be a strong management and a strong union. This climate is possible when the management is able to say "No" to the union to unjustified demands and not succumb . In this connection, the strength of the union can be determined by its ability to say "Yes" when an offer is reasonable and acceptable. It is only a strong union  that can say "Yes" and convince its cadre. The weak  ones would be unsure and would want to frequently consult the rank and file meaning they are unable to take decisions as leaders. I have seen this happen in the first company I worked for; after  the death of a charismatic leader, the successors were weak and were scared and unable to take decisions
A strong union alone can agree to implement reforms in terms of improving standards, cost reduction, flexibility and stability. Whether a union leader makes an impact or not would depend on charisma, the trust that he enjoys, muscle power and ability to say "Yes". When we have weak unions on a strong wicket the result would be 'Ad-hoc decisions'. Strong union on a strong wicket results in ' 'Tough settlements'. Strong union on a weak wicket leads to 'Settlement with reforms' and weak union on a weak wicket leads to dependency on 'Court awards'. It is not the chemistry that the leaders of the management and union share that determines IR but the relative forces of interdependence that drive the relationship.   

Strike is a genuine tool in the collective bargaining process and should not be viewed as a 'misconduct'. At the same time, collective indiscipline should be dealt with firmly and not diluted as 'individual indiscipline'. Collective behaviour is not just the summation of individual behaviour. The rigid provisions in Industrial Disputes Act have come in the way of effective working of the industry. These include not being able to make changes in conditions of service/ work content without notice/consent under S9a (speaker related an instance in Hindustan Lever when changing the bottle of shampoo met with resistance), separation of employees permitted only on the grounds of misconduct, lay off/retrenchment/closure only with permission of appropriate Government and right to strike being available without notice (Non public utility services).  Although everyone agrees in principle that these are a deterrent to industrial effectiveness, no Government has been able to change these provisions due to the electoral politics. 

The speaker then went on to discuss the subject of dealing with militancy of trade unions. He said that the trade unions can be broadly divided into the following based on the nature and expertise of its leaders 

1) The trade union generalist : whose expertise is on negotiation skills
2) Labour lawyer: who starts out guiding unions but ends up taking over the leadership
3) Extortionists :  who use muscle power and militancy to get their way  

The best is the generalist; the worst the lawyers and the easiest to handle are the militant 'gundas'. To the question as to why he holds the militants as the easiest to handle, Pramod clarified that the 'Gunda' type leaders do not know the law most of the time and they are also reluctant to go to the court. He shared his own experience of how he refused discussions with a union whose member had resorted to violent methods . Later, the onus was literally on the union to get the management to resume talks with them. Militancy for whatever reasons that was seen in the 70s and 80s is not pardonable. It is liberalization that paved the way for reversing such trends. The speaker then made an interesting and provocative comment "It is the management which is the cause of militancy when it uses undue influence and coercion for collective settlements. This takes the form of misusing the standing orders and suspending workmen pending inquiry. In turn, unions resort to violence. 

The traditional aversion and antipathy to the union has to change. We have seen instances of strikes happening particularly in the auto sector on account of managements resisting the formation of union. There is even a willingness to accept all demands of employees in order to avoid union formation. An attitude of sympathy and acceptance will go a long way in having good industrial relations. After all, as discussed earlier employees look to unionize when they feel inadequate to engage in individual bargaining. With changes in the demand-supply ratio, it may not be long before the job security of IT employees comes under focus and more people in services opting for collective bargaining. 

It is to be noted that although we have many labour laws, they are not 'labour friendly' and  can at best be described as 'union friendly'. The restrictions on the separation of employees discussed earlier in this post, inhibits the employment of more people. Unions are happy that with restrictions on closure etc they continue to have people on their member list even if the industry itself has become sick and inefficient. The speaker reiterated in the end that IR would be magnanimous and operating from a position of strength when unions are accepted and encouraged as a natural phenomenon of the  IR process. He signed off by remarking "Fear of attrition will bring more attrition. Fear of strike will bring more strike." 

The biggest take away from the session, to my mind was that it underscores the importance of operating from a position of strength rather than fear - The strength of the management is in the ability to  say 'No' and that of the union is the ability to say 'Yes'. 

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Shaping Innovation Culture with Design Thinking

IndiBlogger Badge

The speaker for the October month meet of  NHRD Bangalore was Dr Pavan Soni, innovation evangelist and a passionate teacher. His company Inflexion point offers  programs on design thinking, strategic acumen, and consulting skills. The organization has a clientele that includes Reliance, Tatas, ITC, Flipkart, and Novartis, among others. With a distinguished academic & professional background and a doctorate in the domain of innovation management from IIM Bangalore, we had for the evening, one best suited to speak on the topic.

Pavan started out by stating that innovation is the life blood and need of the hour.Mr Jack Welch was  held the CEO of the century and yet the obituary of GE the company he headed , is now being talked about (presently the company has a total debt of around $115 billion). Any company can go bankrupt without innovation. Hence, the significance and importance of innovation. In fact Toyota  starts the day contemplating  the obituary of the company and discussing how death can be effectively postponed. Such exercises have become necessary in view of hard realities such as recalling 20 million cars by the company. Similarly, it should be a concern for Apple that significant new innovations have not happened since the death of its Chairman Steve Jobs in 2011. 

The speaker said that the HR fraternity needs to ask the question "How innovative are we now ?". The intention of the talk, he said was to nudge the audience to embrace an innovation culture with design thinking and imbibe a culture of learning, unlearning and relearning. Design thinking is not about design. It is about thinking- Can you think clearly? Pavan shared his experience of giving a talk at ISRO Bangalore as a part of their Distinguished Lecture Series. He initially thought  "what could I be telling people who were already engaging with rocket science?". However, he found that all senior executives including the Director were present and stayed till the end of the two hour session. It was not so much about learning from the talk but the signal that was being given to everyone in the organization that innovation is paramount. 

The speaker, on learning that  Scientists in ISRO remain at work for over 18 hours, asked the HR executive with whom he was interacting as to how this was possible/ happening?. After all, ISRO was a Government organization like DRDO and many others. What sets it apart? He received the reply that at ISRO, science means "No hierarchy."  One cannot afford to have hierarchy in  such an organization. An error pointed out or suggestion given by anyone at any level in the organization is required to be seriously taken note of, given the precision and nature of the organization's activities.

Design thinking is all the more relevant in the evolving human- machine equation. The machine is taking over more and more the activities that were earlier performed by human beings. So much so, even beautiful pictures are being created/drawn by machines. Therefore, in order to not be redundant,  human beings have to draw on their unique qualities that cannot be replicated by machines.  Creativity is your ability to create novelty and utility (usefulness) and innovation is commercializing an idea (Getting money out of it). The focus needs to be on the subject rather than the object.

As for example if you are looking at a product 'pen', you ask the question "Why do you need this pen? Is it for writing or as as adornment worn to enhance prestige? The answer would decide how you would create and market it. It is more about solving the problem with the customer rather than for the customer. Innovation starts with the customer's problem and having empathy with it. It is about the time spend on artificial intelligence and emotional intelligence. In design thinking AI and EI coexist. ( Readers may like to check out another blog that I had posted in 2017 on Design thinking- . Science when perfected becomes art. Art when perfected becomes magic.

The following seven steps would be useful for applying design thinking to develop an innovation culture.

1) Establish clearly the 'Why' and 'What' of innovating- What is the purpose of the innovation? In the VUCA (Volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world, there is a need to learn to think slowly and not succumb to knee jerk reactions. Counter intuitive (something that goes against what you believe would be logical, or something that goes against common sense) people practices may have to be developed for promoting an innovation culture. 

2) Hone Variation: Encouraging your people to think differently and being comfortable with people who are not similar to you. Packing your life with multiple affiliations enriches your life and ensures that you are less like a machine. 

3) Offer Broad Guidelines:  Have a few broad, yet clear guidelines, recruit good people and then leave them alone so that they can contribute effectively without interference.

4) Provide liberal resources to experiment. 

5) Tolerate and celebrate failed attempts 

6) Offer asymmetric incentives: An asymmetric incentive (strong rewards for success with weak penalties for failure) structure encourages employees to take on risky projects which is a prerequisite for innovation. 

7) Provide an air cover: This pertains to extending psychological safety to the employees in your zone of influence, to be themselves.  

Empathy is critical in all roles for shaping an innovation culture. In this connection (1) Be a good listener engaged in speaking and listening at a ratio of 1:5 - This also helps to build trust. (2) Park your judgement and postpone it in order to avoid self fulfilling prophecy.(3) Be thick skinned so as to be not discouraged easily by setbacks or negativity.  

The discussion on 31st October at the Chancery Pavilion Hotel Bangalore was an informative, lively and rewarding experience. I conveyed as much to the speaker when I met and shook hands with him after the session. 

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Beyond Bias- Bringing Inclusion in Diversity

IndiBlogger Badge
The September Month meeting of NHRD on the subject "Beyond Bias" had two speakers/experts  interacting with the audience viz. Ms Nirmala Menon, Founder CEO Interweave consulting and Ms Anuranjita Kumar MD (HR) RBS. Nirmala has been providing Diversity & Inclusion solutions to corporates through her company for over 12 years. Anuranjita has been in the banking industry in CHRO/MD roles and has been with her present organization for a little over two years. Her recent book "Colour Matters?: The Truth That No One Wants to See" discusses this very subject of bias.

Both speakers have rich experience in devising and  implementing  policies in D & I. I have listened to Nimala at a professional meeting  some time back and had written about it in my blog. (Interested readers can find it here: )  However, I did not find the proceedings of the evening repetitive. On the contrary, it was very insightful and interesting as both the  speakers were kind enough to share their own personal experiences with 'bias' right from childhood through adult life.

Today inclusion and diversity is a buzz word. Employers would like to be seen as progressive and taking initiative in this regard. However, the fact remains that while we preach inclusion, "people are hardwired for exclusion". Albert Einstein had famously remarked that "It is easier to break an atom than a prejudice." Thus it is seen that many companies hire for diversity but manage for similarity! As far as gender diversity is concerned, the hiring of women has gone up to around 35% because targets have now been set up.Yet these are not necessarily in live roles as there are a lot of leakage from staff roles. Today, there are quite a few women CEOs in Indian banks but there is no pipeline. There is a need for more diversity at the top.

Although targets setting and tracking may give the impression of increasing numbers in terms of  diversity, this can also prove to be a problem as we tend to lose sight of the key aspect of creating a good environment for diversity. As for example having an inclusive environment for LGBT community is a challenge. Anuranjitha shared her experience of how a proposal for hiring people from this community met with resistance right from the board level. It was feared that the company would get into trouble with political parties. Even when this was pushed through nevertheless, it was found that the environment  was not conducive, with employees  not yet ready for the changes in the policy.

It is therefore necessary to prepare and create a suitable culture- Find out the pulse of the people; as to whether they are comfortable and address them. Nirmala stated that she is not a fan of best practices being blindly replicated. As each organization has its own culture, it is necessary to tweak the practices to the specific needs and situation in the organization. Thus, a lot needs to be done before inclusion happens in real terms. Here, leading by example by the senior management matters a lot. A story was shared of an officer who was invited to a  senior level meeting for the first time, He went with apprehensions in his mind as he would be the junior most in terms of rank of those attending. However, while he was walking to a seat in the outer circle, he was called by a business unit head to come and sit beside him at the table. This enhanced the officer's confidence and he was able to participate freely and contribute meaningfully to the discussion. 

We got insights into how bias can take the form of exclusion and how it  adversely affects the  confidence levels of people, from the personal experiences shared by the speakers. Nirmala said  that right from childhood she felt left out, being the only child in the family and extended family who had a darker tan of skin. When she wanted to participate in a dance recital at school, the teacher rejected her saying that she was dark and not suitable. The speaker said that when colleagues feel that they are being excluded on account of any reason be it colour, sex, caste or region, it is important to acknowledge their experience instead of dismissing it as a non issue- " I treat everyone the same irrespective of their sex. It is just your imagination."

Anuranjita related an incident that happened when she was working in England. One of her colleagues a white woman in another team, annoyed with some matter concerning her team member came to her office and started abusing her. When she objected, the women raised her voice even more which could be heard by everyone on the floor. The speaker felt violated and felt that this treatment was being meted out because she is of Asian descent. She immediately spoke to their common boss and asked what would the white woman had done if the same thing happened to her? The boss said that she would have gone to court. Anuranjita told him to take appropriate action in the matter failing which she would have to act.

One of the questions asked during the discussion was "How do you measure good employee experience in terms of inclusion. Nirmala said that 'inclusion' is always difficult to measure. Yet being accepted & valued, leads to better production and innovation as is borne out by studies. Anuranjita also agreed that this factor is not easy to measure. However, she suggested that NPS (Net promoter score) could give a cue as to the satisfaction levels. She felt that getting a score of 1 to 2 points on NPS would be very nice. ( NPS stands for Net Promoter Score which is a metric used in customer experience programs. NPS above 0 is considered “good”, +50 is “Excellent,” and above 70 is considered “world class.” Based on global NPS standards, any score above 0 would be considered “good"). 

Nirmala suggested that a lot of the bias could boil down to the economics. A rich woman or a person of colour/ race/caste/differently abled from an affluent background is likely to be treated well. Anuranjita said she could not agree fully with the statement, given her own experience. She was travelling business class on official tour. she asked the white flight attendants for a glass of hot water  but was not attended to for more than half an hour. However, when a white passenger, asked for a blanket, it was given to her in minutes. 

I would like to end this post with a question I asked and the interesting/ insightful answer I got."You had mentioned at the outset that "people are hardwired for exclusion", so what do we do to get out of this trap which is a natural instinct? Nirmala  replied "Engage more with people you wouldn't engage with." What she was saying in a way, was that it is easy to dislike or hate someone you hardly know. Once you engage more and more with people of other sex, nationalities, regions, races or economic backgrounds you would begin to notice not just the minuses but their pluses as well and would also develop an empathy for living life in their shoes.The bias would then slowly and surely fade away. This insight was for me, the icing on the cake of a wonderful evening of engaging conversation!