Sunday, 12 August 2018

Interaction with the authors of the book- "HR Here and Now:The Making of the Quintessential People "

In the monthly meeting of May 2018, NHRD Bangalore chapter arranged an interaction with the authors of the book "HR Here and Now", Mr Ganesh Chella, Mr Harish Devarajan and Mr V.J Rao who are all veterans in the field of HR. They have worked for many years in the industry and then moved to consultancy and coaching. The proceedings commenced with each of them outlining the reasons why they wrote the book which was followed by more information about its contents. Two readers Mr Varadan and Prof Vasanthi Srinivasan of IIMB also shared their impressions about the book.

Ganesh Chella who has previously written two books ("Creating a helping organization" and "Are you ready for the corner office" as coauthor) said that over the years the image of HR has been anything but positive. HR has not been able to project its contribution to the organization effectively. The book seeks to correct the image. V.J.Rao and Harish agreed and stated that love for the HR profession, was the common thread that motivated them to write the book- To do something for the profession; highlight the good examples in terms of perspectives, practices, purposes and handling challenge.

HR, today, has a big challenge of dealing with employees at a time when relationship boundaries whether in terms of contractual, legal or social are changing. Today there is an increase in the number of temporary employees. As against an earlier ratio of 80:20 in favour of permanant employees, the trend seems to be exactly reversing. How to create a consistent talent pipeline when most of your employees are temporary is a major challenge. The positioning of the function is important. The extent to which the function is central to the organization's business is the key to the extent of its importance in the organization.

HRDians need to retrospect and review their role and contribution to the organization. In the earlier times they plunged into IR situations and sought to solve them. They wanted to be "seen doing/ experience doing". At the same time, the pursuit of a  single minded objective of industrial peace and employee harmony, attracted criticism of HR  being too soft (like 'halwai')  to unions and employees. HRDians have modified their approach and activities to cater to the changed expectations.

However, the obsession today with strategic HR, (thinking, conceptualising and being strategic), appears to have thwarted  the very essence of the HR role. HR folks are now thinking business, seeking to be a business leader, to get a seat at the table. But "no one is feeling for the employee which was its core function."  Another matter of concern is the relationship HR has with the CEO. The general feeling that "Anyone can do HR, has to go." This can be achieved if HR takes initiative to educate the CEO about doing HR activities the right way. There are several success stories of HR professionals who have played this role effectively which needs to be to shared widely. This book is an effort in this direction.

Innovative and impactful HR practices  

The team observed practices on the field at the factories and work places and found some very good work done in Wipro, Cafe cofee day, Amazon,Tech instruments, Taco and other companies in areas of recruitment,employee practices, retention etc. The stories, insights and perspectives have been included in the book. It is interesting to note that although doing good work, many managers were reluctant to to be named or have their work highlighted.

A research exercise was  initiated for the purpose of the book interviewing CEOs and CHROs.The team also spoke to union leaders.The exercise was appreciated by everyone who cooperated whole heartedly. Unlike earlier times, the union leaders conveyed high acceptance of cost effectiveness and other efficiency measures. Infact one union had given in writing that "There are no demands from our side."  As 'CL" or temporary employment is a fact of life today and cannot be wished away, it is important to look at equitable salaries and other ways of strengtening their cause.

Employee referral has become an important source of recruitment in many companies.Properly planned and administered, the scheme can ensure that appropriate candidates personally known to the employees are recruited. You can also determine "Who are the people who are likely to give appropriate, right fit references. Royal Enfield has designed a scheme to ensure that a 24 year old engineer is recruited at the shortest possible time- 7 days to identify and 15 days to be on the job.

Another matter that was discussed during the evening was the importance of HR professionals building themselves in terms of (1) Foundations of functional expertise (2) Becoming a specialist/partner (defining people problems and defining the business) and being (3) HR Expert/ Strategic HR leader. It was opined that HRDians are the worst when it comes to mobility across the organization and geographical regions. Here, mobility needs to be understood in the correct perspective (organizational/strategic interest) and  it is not about moving people every two years for mobility's sake.

I would like to conclude this post by sharing the feedback given by two persons in the audience who have read the book. Mr Varadan was very appreciative of the book which according to him gave "moments of joy" while reading. He particularly liked the closing reflections of each chapter, with the focus on the doing, feeling and thinking paradigm. He appreciated the case study of Brakes India, Sholingur and other "lovely Indian case studies" that gave insights on the sprectum of relationships. He also liked the idea of including liberal arts in executive education and involvement of families in Learning and Development.

Prof Vasanthi Srinivasan of IIMB, said that she liked the reflective practices.(reflecting on one's actions so as to engage in a process of continuous learning) and the compensation practices discussed in the book, particularly the differentials. She felt that OD (organizational development) was important as people no longer speak "the language of OD any more". While appreciating the bouquet of case studies, Prof Vasanthi opined that "not enough role models of HR professionals" has been discussed in the book and that including more role models would have added to its appeal and value. 

Overall, the discussions of the evening painted a brief, yet clear picture of the book "HR-Here and Now" which appears to be a  holistic, comprehensive assessment of where we are as professionals in all gamuts of HR, the best practices currently practised in Indian companies and the journey forward.The book is backed by solid research findings and case studies. 

Link for the purchase of the book:

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Thought Leadership Session- Make in India: Building secure, intelligent and connected products

Manipal Pro learn organized a thought leadership session on 2nd July 2018 on the subject "Make in India: Building secure,intelligent and connected products" at Salarpuria Symphony, electronic city, Bangalore. The speaker was Mr David Fradin, the world renowned product management Guru.

David has close to five decades of experience in the industry. He has been associated with some of the leading companies across the world, including Apple and HP. He has handled more than 75 products and services (representing over $250M in revenue) over a span of 47 years. He uses his expertise in the subject to train managers all over the globe. He is the author of the book “ Building Insanely Great Products”. The gist of his talk is given below:-
  • Values and vision is very important for a company.During the time from 1985 when Steve Jobs had exited the company till his return, Apple had given up on its values which adversely affected the image of the company. 
  • Next in the order of importance is strategy in terms of production, marketing, mature process life cycle, information gathering and sharing, customer engagement and competency of employees.  
  • Some aspects to pay attention to are (1) Reduce failure (2) Don't ship the strategy (As I did not understand what this meant, looked to internet for help. It said "the strategy  should reflect your customers’ needs, not your organization’s internal structure and poltics) (3) Follow a framework with a process (4) Use information to make decisions (5) Understand your customers (6) Have the necessary competencies (7) Give them the required tools.
  • As 35 to 95% of start ups in India have failed, it is most essential to focus on the basics and on getting the foundation right. The marketing strategies would be effective only if the foundation is sound. One key question to ask yourself  is with reference to customers "Who did you have in mind when you designed this product?" As for example, the computer should be designed for the convenience of the average employee working in an office and not for programmers alone. 
  • You would do well to know your customer's customers and their needs more than your competitors do. 
  • The implementation phase should start only after the foundation work is completed effectively. If you are in services, you have to develop the competency to do these things.
  • Start from "what your customers want to do from technology".Evaluate your risks against eco social environment and then move to other aspects.
  • Deliberate on the question "What does the product do for a particular problem? The inputs and insights from this exercise would be useful later when market research is done. It helps in arriving at a specific date and a deadline for commencing the start up.
  • In the customer journey, relevant information is to be provided at each stage. It is not about making available an avalanche (too much) of information but a properly integrated package that is important. 
  • Metrics are very good for an established market but not necessarily that good for a start up or small business. As the metrics you pick up will determine your outcome, it is necessary to be careful about the metrics you pick. 
  • Make sure that the roles and responsibilities are clear to everyone. It is this clarity as to who is the contributer, approver,decision maker etc.that contributes to a culture of success. 
  • As most customers cannot tell you what they want, observe, interview,use survey and analytics to understand more about them.What customers do? How do they do it?When do they do it? Why do they do it? Where do they do it? How satisfied are they with the current solution? The answers will enable you to give better and more effective solutions to the customers.
  • The unmet needs of customers will reveal the window of opportunities.
  • It is necessary to design a customer centric organizational structure with the product management function directly reporting to CEO as in the case of other functions such as marketing and production. 
  • Be careful about how you define your business. don't define it too narrow or you may end up like Kodak with no business left.
  • Elevator pitch on your product should come only at the end after you have done all the foundation work correctly.
  • Out of the 40 million ideas that may come up, look out for the unmet needs.     
In an intial presentation from Manipal Prolearn, it was informed that  Mr. David Fradin, has joined their Academy as an Advisor and Professor of Practice,Product Management Programs. Manipal Prolearn, a part of Manipal Global Education Services, offers a variety of professional certification courses across Technology, Digital Marketing, Data Sciences, Project Management, and Finance domains. They help working professionals and students enhance their skills and fast-track careers. Some of the new programs offered by the academy include (1) Crafting quality code (2) Product thinking practices (3) Cloud security and (4) Orienting women to technical careers. Mr David Fradin will be sharing his expertise in the courses pertaining to product management.

The thought leadership session was indeed a rewarding experience for all of us participants who could avail of the unique opportunity extended by the organizors.. Those interested to explore the subject further could ofcourse enrol for the courses offered and directly interact with the product management Guru.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

A Seminar-"Managing Millennial Employees" and a Student Chapter Inauguration

In the year 2014, when I was living in Chennai and working for Hyundai Motor India Limited, the Madras School of Social Work had invited me to be a member of a panel discussion on "Business agility" organized by its Human resource management students. Sharing my experience in a blog, I had written that the the event was unique as all the panel members were present right from the time of the key note address and had participated in the discussion in a holistic manner, each one complimenting and adding to the points outlined by the other members.

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Similar was the satisfaction I experienced while attending an event on 5th May 2018  to deliver the inaugural address of a seminar on the subject "Managing Millennial Employees". The event was organized by the MLA Academy of Higher Learning Bangalore, in association with NIPM Karnataka Chapter.The occasion was the starting of a student chapter of the National insitute of Personnel management at the academy premises. One difference though was that, at  the Chennai program, the key note speaker left after his address.

Being a blogger, I decided to stay back after my talk to capture the gist of the panel discussion for my readers.The members of the panel discussion were Mr Ashoka.T. Chairman of NIPM Karnataka chapter, Mr Girinarayan, past Chairman and Prof Patanjali of Symbiosis.

In the inaugural address I touched upon the significance of the topic of the seminar, given the fact that the millennials (also called Gen Y) are expected to be 52% of the workforce by 2019.Attracting, inspiring and engaging them has become very important. In this connection certain characteristics and motivations that drive this generation of employees was discussed. Millennials have grown up in a world of technology and are 'native speakers' of the digital language unlike the earlier generation who can at best be called 'digital immigrants'. It is most essential to extensively use Linkedin,  facebook, Whats'app, and other social media to connect with them.

Employers will need to acknowledge and address the major expectations of the Gen Y generation which is distinct and different from earlier generations. As for example they expect to advance in their career much faster, say within 18 months of joining, have lower tolerance level of hierarchy and  micro managing, expect challenges and more opportuniies to learn at work (experiences to enhance employability rather than merely get promoted). In the absence of growth opportunities, conducive work environment and sense of purpose in the organization, the millennials tend to get bored and move on to greener pastures after short stints. 

I concluded my talk with a suggestion that the millennials also would do well to  understand the mind of the older generation who would be constituting 48% of work force- What values are important to them and what are their .expecatations from the younger generation. After all, it takes two to tango; as in a family, it is important for all members in the organization to appreciate mutual needs and coexist in harmony. This approach ensures that everyone work in synergy for achieving the organizational goals.

In the panel discussion after the tea break, Mr Girinarayan Sr HR leader & OD consultant took on the role of the anchor faciliating the discussion. He put some intresting questions to Mr Ashok who is heading HR in  Schneider Electric  and Prof Patanjali ( whom he refered to as Pats for short), formerly a senior HR executive at Siemens.

Giri: Pats, you have the experience of working in the corporate and also in a college. What are the changes you see in the millennials in a company and in a college?

Pats: Well, each generation believes that the previous generation is less smart than them.Interestingly, even in an MBA course where there is hardly any age difference, the first years feel they are better than their seniors.

Giri: Schneider has been growing inorganically through acquistions and mergers including the recent acquistion of the electric and automation (E&A) business of L&T. How do you ensure that the millennials from various company culture and background work amicably?

Ashok: Yes, culture is a very important factor. As each corporate has a different culture it is a challenge at the time of mergers and acquistions. Schneider has a robust policy in which every three years employees are rotated across regions, countries and functions.So a person can be moved from HR to production or viceversa. Unlike American companiies, Scneider a French Mulinational, gives a reasonable time to the employees to integrate and become full blooded Schneiderians.

As far as freshers are concerned, the company recruits 200 to 300 fresh engineers in a year. They can be described as pampered in the sense their needs are well catered to right from the time of joining. The three month  induction and orientation training  is designed by the trainees themselves. They prefer less of class room training and more of outbound training. The evenings have a party atmosphere with the trainees rolling out skits, mimes etc.

Here I would like too share an instance of  a problem faced by us while dealing with a millennial who joined from an IIT and was not getting along with his boss. The boss's complaint was that after the employee comes into work at 7AM  he tends to doze off. He was upset about the impact this behaviour would have on other employees.When asked about it, the youngster told the manager "to go to hell". " First of all he has not provided me resources viz a laptop and the required software. If he has a problem, post me to another department", he told HR.

 I feel it is important for us to understand from where the millennials are coming., As for example in this case, the guy feels " I am an IITian who has aleady worked hard and earned my place.".  It may be a good idea to post someone with an year or two of experience as a boss instead of an older person in such situations.Youngsters prefer flexi time for working and want to be left alone till the job is completed.

Giri: We all know that the Y generation is under a lot more parental and peer pressure ( influenced by how well others are doing) than the earlier generations. How are you managing the high expectations of millennials?

Ashok: This is a real tough task. I had an NITian who came after 8 months of joining to say she was quitting for further studies in XLRI, Jamshedpur. It is a big blow for HR when people leave. Even 1% of new recruits leaving affects my KPI. In this case, even an alternative suggestion of going on  a sabattical instead of quitting was not accepted by the employee who said "I don't know where I will be in two years.She was only too willing to pay back the bond compensation and leave. 

Pats: I have also experienced similar situations in my career. I think the best way out of the problem is being transparent. When you are transparent about your expectations, the candidate would also be willing to be transparent. The company can also use data derived from data analytics to read the mind of millennials- " What are the millennials likely to do in the next two years?" Then take action to address the requirements.

Ashok:  We have been flexible in dealing with the younger generation of employees. To a great extent our approach to the use of internet at work has changed over the years. In 2008, there were restrictions on the use of the internet by employees. Today we have our own internal social network site where employees can post their individual achievements and personal status. What this means is that an employee working in India can showcase his/her achievements globally to counterparts in over 100 countries which enhances their feeling of self worth and self esteem. 

The concept of appraisal and feedback has also changed from periodic to a daily feedback on how one is doing.

At this point Giri added " I think recruitment today is not necessarily linked to vacancy. An outstanding candidate has a place in a company irrespective of vacancy. 

Giri: What do you think? Today are employees loyal to companies or to their profession? What is the most important element to get the millennials to stay in a job? 

Pats: As I mentioned earlier, Trūst is a very important factor. In a process oriented company, it takes a long time before employees are trusted by the employer. To that extent employee loyalty is to one's career and professional competency enhancement. If employees are not trusted, they will move on. Organizations have to work towards creating implicit trust.

Ashok:  The very idea of loyalty and long service has changed. In our company, even 3 years of service is considered as significant and the employee starts earning points for staying with the company. A special program called "Career connect" has been designed for career development  of bright youngsters. HR talks to them every year about their journey and arranges for  'special training' if any  required by them. Outstanding individual contribution in any discipline, whether technical or non technical is recognized under a scheme called "Edison expert" to provide them  a faster growth in the company.  

Giri:  What is the extent of the threat from the metal colar (Machines) ? How do you help employees handle the insecurity associated with it? 

Ashok: Today, sharing work with robots and machines is a reality that cannot be wished away. Yet, the fact remains that robots cannot replace humaneness which can come only from the human beings. It is important to learn to work in an environment sharing space with machines. Instead of feeling threatened, focus should be on reskilling and mental preparedness where HR has an important role to play. Aligning to the changes is the key!

Questions from the Audience  

These were taken and answered jointly by the three members of the panel.

Question:  In view of the fact that millennials come from different backgrounds, some from villages and semi urban areas as well, can we generalize and say that all of them have the same kind of expectations such as faster growth etc.?  

Answer: This is an interesting question. Yes, initially there may be differences in expectations but as the millennials interact with each other, sooner than later they all tend to have similar expectations. 

Question: When we first join an organization we only have subject knowledge. What traits and skills are required for us to get acclamatized to the organization? 

Answer: Starting out, you need to depend on your basic skills of analytical thinking, problem solving skills, subject matter skills and to an extent on the soft skills such as communication. 

It is to be noted that the syllabus of the colleges are very old and outdated in many respects. Companies like Wipro have designed programs in association with colleges identified by them for including  in the curriculum, skill sets required by the company. Exposure to business acumen, ABC analysis, and functioning of other disciplines/ departments in the company is important.

 In future, candidates who do not fit the bill may not even make it to the final interview. A  Russian based start up company Stafory has created an artificial intelligence powered robot by name Vera to hire humans. They already have a clientele of over 300 companies  that include Pepsico and L'Oreal. 

Question: How do we adapt to the baby boomer (older) generation at work? 

Answer: Keep in mind the fact that your parents also belong to the baby boomer generation. What are you doing to get along with your parents? Perhaps for a start become good listeners. Listen to find out what is important to the boss and make efforts to cater to them.

Look at your strenghts and pitch it against what is important for your career. Many millennials do not know what their strenghts are. Here, you can take the help of your baby boomer parents.

The panel also gave some general advice to the millennial students- "Never assume that your expertise today will suffice for tomorrow. Always be prepared to learn,unlearn and relearn! 

With that, half a day of rewarding deliberations came to an end. I enjoyed myself thoroughly; all the more as the members of the discussion panel were friends I already knew, and we had the satisfaction of having shared some thought provoking ideas for the students to chew on .

The students of the MLA academy also pledged to be very active in the NIPM professional activities, both at the newly formed chapter level and the main body. As I took leave, I thanked our gracious hosts, the principal Dr P.V.Padmaja and Prof Sandhya. Ramakrishna,. event coordinator for a sumptuous lunch and a feast of a learning & sharing occasion that we would long cherish.  

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Wisdom from Azim Premji, Chairman Wipro Industries Limited

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This post is based on notes I have taken some time back on the thoughts of Mr Azim Hashim  Premji who is an Indian business tycoon, investor, philanthropist, and chairman of Wipro Limited.
  • We must always begin with our strengths.
  • One rupee earned is of far more value than five rupees found on the floor.Nothing gives us as much satisfaction as earning our rewards.
  • No one bats a 100 everytime. You win some, you lose some. Don't let winning go to the head;accept failure also as natural.
  • Humility is very important.We have so much to be grateful for.Acknowledge what you have received from parents, teachers and seniors.
  • We must always strive for excellence.Look at those better than us; emulate them and keep learning.This process should involve not only our mind but also our heart and soul.
  • Never give up in the face of adversity. If we persevere long enough, we will be able to put any problem in its perspective and solve it.
  • While you must be open to change, do not compromise on your values. 
  • We must have faith in our own ideas even if everyone tells us that we are wrong.
  • Ultimately, we must learn to respond instead of reacting. When we respond,we evaluate with a calm mind and do what is most appropriate. We are in control of our actions. When we react, we are still doing, what the other person wants us to do.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

A Discussion on the Book- Catalyst: The ultimate strategies on how to win at work and life

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Venue:  The Chancery Pavilion Bangalore
Date  :   26th April 2018
Occasion: NHRD monthly meeting- Discussion on  some of the strategies outlined in the book " Catalyst" followed by book signing.

Instead of a format involving long speeches, NHRD Bangalore Chapter went in for a conversational method to introduce the author and the gist of the book to the audience. The conversation was between the author Mr chandramouli Venkatesan, presently CEO, Pidilite industries and Mr Anand Kripalu, MD & CEO Diageo. Both of them have rich experience with other companies and have worked together in Cadbury. It was agreed that Chandramouli would introduce a concept that he has included in the book and Anand would share his experience of actual  application of it on the ground.

'Catalyst' in chemistry is "a substance that causes or accelerates a chemical reaction without itself being affected." Here, for our purpose, it may  simply be  refered to a thing/situation/ initiative or environment that precipitates an event/ change for success in an organization.   I have written this blog in the same conversational style adopted for the evening. It may please be noted that the words used are not an exact verbatim of what was spoken but contains the main gist of the conversation. For our convenience we will refer to Chandramouli Venkatesan as CV and Anand Kripalu as AK.

CV:  I would like to start this discussion by underscoring the basic ethos of this book "Catalyst", which  is to help people  succeed. Although most of my career was in marketing, I have served for three years in HR as well.  I therefore have an affinity for HR and can relate to the role.  As all of you are HR leaders, I would request you to wear your HR hat also, whole through this discussion and approach the content with the thought " How can I help the people in my company succeed?"

 A person will get what he deserves. Therefore focus on equipping yourself for deserving more and you will end up getting more. Merely wishing for more without taking action to deserve more will not lead to success.

AK:  When I look at my life and career, I see that  events simply followed one  another and before I realized it, time was almost up and I had reached the final stages of my career. There was no time spent on asking questions like "Why I became who I am?" or on pusuing the answers to such questions. 'Catalyst'  provides insights in this direction.If I had Mouli's book to guide me from the early years of my career, I believe I would have done even better. I would have been able to look at various aspects of work and life as 'the glass being half full rather than half empty'.
  • Growing Yourself
CV : 'Growing yourself'  happens when the time you spend at a job is converted into experience. The time that is spend on a job does not mean that the employee has profitably gained exactly the same  amount of experience. If two people have worked for two years in the company, one of them may have gained an actual experience of five years while in respect of the other, it may be only six months.

When an interviewer is selecting a candidate, he is not doing so based on what the person has done in the previous company but on what the person will do in the new company based on what he has done earlier.

AK : This aspect of a gap between time and experience was very clearly visible to us during the take over of UB group by Diageo.Many executives who had been working in UB for years and had grown from the level of managers to senior positions including to that of VP, believed themselves to be competent and successful. However when their competence /experience was tabulated against the Diageo evaluation, a good number  were found to be much lower than the assessment standards.
  • Personal Productivity  
CV :  Personal productivity is to be assessed on the impact of the activity- What an employee has done and what could have been done better. An executive needs to grow and raise his productivity to the levels of the higher positions aspired for.

AK:  When I joined Cadbury, the company was doing too many things- focusing on too many activities and innovations.Too many brands were being handled without prioritising them.As a result the business impact from any one brand was negligible. I took a decision to kill five brands. Such decisions are painful as a lot of efforts have gone into building them.Yet it had to be done in the larger interests of the company,which resulted in better focus on the remaining portfolio leading to increased growth.

Management time and attention is very limited and hence it needs to be focused. Be exceptionally deliberate where you spend your time. I found personally that "doing less is more" as we shift focus to doing better, less number of things. I devised a calendar at the beginning of the month that highlights the top 10 things to focus on during the month.Anything other than the the top 10 were passed on to others to address. As a result delegation also improved in the organization.
  • Career Management   
CV:  We have been told since ages the story of the "Hare and the tortoise" with a moral at the end which states " Slow and steady wins the race". Today, everyone wants to be the tortoise and win fast. While I also do not advocate being slow like a tortoise, it is necessary to manage one's career sensibily.  

If we were to divide one's career into two halves, a first half and second half parts, what is most important is succeding in the second half. The success in the second half will depend on the amount of foundation work you have put, in the first half. 

AK: During our time, the batch mentality was a big issue. Some of the guys in our batch who went ahead in the first 15 years ( first half of career) were susequently nowhere in the horizon. In my own case, I was saddled with the 'nonsexy' jobs, read 'outside the comfort zone' jobs, which I disliked at that time and thought that they were leading me to a dead end.

 Looking back however, it was these assigments that gave me the best learning and helped me in the second half of my career. They provided the momentum to develop skills such as 'ability to deal with cultural differences' that bore fruit in the second half. As in the case of a one day or 20:20 cricket match, there is no point in merely succeeding in the first half of an innings. Winning in the last four overs is what really matters! 
  • Quality of Bosses and Mentors in your Career   
CV:   During the first 20 years of a person's career, the quality of the bosses and mentors he/ she has had matters a lot. If people do well in the second half of their career, a lot of the credit should go to the leaders in the first part of their career. Therefore it is important to increase the probability of getting good bosses.

What is it that one can do to get quality bosses/mentors? One way is to be a good subordinate so that the quality bosses would love to have you in their team. Another way is to look out for companies that have a higher percentage of good bosses and work in one of them.

AK: Yes, good bosses play the role of investing in you and nurturing you so that you blossom in to an effective employee. when I first joined Ponds, I was one of the 35 mangers in the company. With its merger with Unilever, it was like getting lost/merged in an ocean and there was this need for guidance and a mentor. 

Here, I met a very tough boss who set the bar very high. At that point of time I really hated working for him. But it was from him that I picked up traits of rigour, analysis and proposal making that stood me in good stead whole through my career. Although very tough, at the end of the year, he took care of his subordinates and watched over their growth.

There are other good bosses as well who have supported me in tough times. 

  • Being a Good Boss 
CV: A 'good' boss is not necessarily equivalent to a 'nice' boss although a good boss can also be nice.The main job of a good boss is algorithm building or changing the algorithm of people in line with the requirements of the organization.       

( Note: The actual words used by CV is 'algorithm building'. In our context it could be interpreted to mean enhancing step by step ability of team members to solve the problems in one's area of work and the problems of the organization).

  • Quitting and Joining Decisions 
CV :  Quitting or joining an organization is to be seen as separate decisions with one not influencing the other. Don't quit because you got an opportunity in another organization. Quit only if you have reasons to quit which should be because there are no more learning opportunities or you find that there is no longer a cultural fit with the organization. 

AK:  I quit Cadbury within a period of three years after a hostile take over by Kraft.  The reason was a slip in the culture of the organization. It felt like we were losing the ethos of our company and all it stood for, consequent to the take over..

CV:  Before quitting. it would be worthwhile to ask yourself these questions:-

" What is good and bad with my current company?" and
" What is good or bad with the company I propose to join?"

Most of the times people do not look at all the four quandrants before coming to a decision.

  • Work and Life  
CV: The impact of work on life is less than the impact of life on work. The focus should be on having a good life so that work is also favourably impacted. As for example, Albert Einstein has acknowledged that his success as a scientist is because of the fact that he is a good violinist.As the musicians playing in an orchestra, employees should be great team players in order to be successful

In this connection, the impact of playing team games in the corporate scenario could be observed and studied. Ensure that the traffic is flowing from life to work and not viceversa. The hobbies that we have and the value systems that we bring to work are all relevant.

AK: Talking about values, I would like to add that leadership is about followership. People look up to the real leaders who are fair, vulnerable and humble. We should remember that the leaders are always on stage and keenly observed. Leaders should have the humility to say " I need help, I don't know the answer." However, it is difficult for most people to say so. Not only should we be fair, it is essential to ensure that our actions are seemingly fair as well.

CV: Humilty and similar positive qualities should become a part of the personality of the leader. "How do we nurture the person we are?" is an important question to ask ourselves. Growing your values, although a challenging task, is the single most vital catalyst for change and success.

 HR generally has two roles to play: working for (1) what is good for the business and (2) what is right for the employee. As one's career success is dependant on the former, there is a tendency for  HR professionals to become unidimensional and focus only on the first, even while the heart keeps reminding that the latter role is equally important. One should have the courage to say " I will do what is right." Always remember that we are engaged in a noble profession.

Some points that came up during the Q&A 

  • In the era of start ups, when very limited time is available to succeed, we should utilise the concept of converting time to experience (Growing yourself) effectively and ensure that learning and improvement happens everyday.
  • VUCA  (Volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world is not to be dealt with by jumping from one organization to another but by staying in the organization and facing the situation.
  • A very important leadership role that is lacking these days is advising your juniors on " How to manage their careers". In the absence of guidance and information from the right source, they look to their friends and peers and ape them for dealing with career management issues.
  • Effective leadership communication, training and teaching should happen during peace times and not when there is a crisis. 
The communication to employees should include the growth opportunities available for them in the company.This was highlighted by the author as he wound up the discussion for the evening. Chandramouli related an incident in his company where employees left for better opportunities. Actually, the company had developed a detailed  plan ( in a stage of giving the final touches) for these employees but had not communicated it to them in time, before they took the decision to leave. It is important to communicate the plan as soon as it is developed. In the instant case communication of the development plan could have been done to 90% of the employees in respect of whom the plans had been finalized.

As one who was witness to a very interesting and enlightening discussion, I can safely conclude that "Catalyst" is a valuable book that prescribes effective winning strategies for work and life. 

Link to amazon for those wishing to buy book online:

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Breaking Barriers to Gender Diversity

The NHRD evening discussion on 29th March 2018, was on the subject of "Breaking barriers" with the aim of  not only having better representation of women in the work place but also ensuring more women are in leadership and decision making roles in the organization. The speaker, Dr Saundarya Rajesh, Founder President of Avtar career creators and FLEXI Careers India, worked for an MNC for many years, took a break to fulfill family responsibilities related to motherhood and then returned to float Avtar, an organization that addresses the economic and social vulnerabilities of Indian women.

The objectives of the organization include (1) Helping women contribute to India's GDP (2) facilitating white collar jobs (3) Creating career intentional girls studying in 8th to 12th class (4) Mentoring programs for skill development (5) Career coaching and intentionality training. Thus the audience could not have hoped for a more accomplished and suitable speaker to discuss the topic, given her ground level exposure to both the corporate and social sectors.

Generally when the subject of gender diversity and inclusion of women is discussed, there is a tendency to paint a dismal picture of the plight of the 'weaker sex' in a male dominated society. Dr Saundarya, however declared right at the beginning of her talk that she would like to focus on the ' Good news'. This meant focusing on the progress made so far in the journey; on the glass half full rather than on the glass half empty.

Saundarya advised the audience not to be swayed by perceptions. While it is true that a lot more needs to be done for improving gender diversity, this is true not just for our country but the entire world. In fact, in some matters, the Indian working woman is better off when compared to her counterparts in other countries. As for example, a pregnant woman in India gets maternity leave of 26 weeks while it is only 12 to 14 weeks in Switzerland. The pay gap between male and female employees in India is mainly due to aggregated breaks taken by the women . In UK there is a pay gap of 57% in favour of males.

While the rights of Indian working women are protected under the  Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, there is no such law in the US. In such situations, they have to approach courts under  Civil Rights Act 1964 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, colour, religion, sex or national origin. In India, of the number of  working women, 34% are managers. As against this, in Japan although 46% of workforce comprise of women, only 9% of them are managers.
One of the major challenges for maintaining gender diversity in an organization comes from the fact that many women take a break during motherhood but find it difficult to return to work even if they wish to.They find that the opportunities are not available to them and even when they get work, it is at a lower salary than what they were drawing at the time of the break. The primary  initiative of Avtar  has been to spearhead the movement for more women getting back to work after a break. Saundarya convinced corporates that women who had taken breaks were more likely to stay on the career track longer and were also a source for  highly skilled personnel.The journey of engaging “Returning” women professionals began in July 2006. She said that the scenario presently is very promising with around 100 companies coming forward to develop policies for taking women back for work after a break.

Towards sustaining the movement, Avtar has programs for coaching and counselling organizations to develop a Gender Inclusion plan. An online platform has been created for the guidance of women wishing to get back to work after a break. Saundarya has  developed a simple profiling method which helps women to assess their own employability and readiness level for re-entering the workplace. She devised an easily implementable Career-Enabler system to prevent women from aborting their careers.

Further, Avtar launched awards for the "Best companies to work in India for working mothers".  Accenture, Deloitte, IBM, Earnest & Young, Proctor & Gamble, TCS, Schneider Electric etc figured in the list of top 10 companies. The speaker acknowledged the contribution and support of HR professionals in this regard. She said that more barriers pertaining to working women can be broken with the support of HR. Avtar has also instituted " Male ally legacy award" to recognize individual contribution of male leaders who have mentored women professionals into leadership.The winners of this award include Mr Kannan of  Pepsico, Mr Krishnamurthy of Pega India, Mr S.V. Nathan of Deloitte and Mr Dasgupta of Johnson & Johnson among others.

The leaders championing the cause of diversity and inclusion exhibit the following behavioural characteristics:

(1) Bridging: They develop kinship with various talent segments
(2) Bonding: They serve as role models for their mentees inspiring them to become champions themselves

An important barrier faced by working women is bias. Saundarya  termed the 12 types of biases "the dirty dozen" and said these cause a  reduction in the womens' work force participation ratio. Therefore, it is most essential to act towards removing bias.She said that there is a marked change in the attitude and confidence of the working woman of today when you contrast it with the women of a decade or two ago. She shared an experience to prove this point. In an earlier time, when she asked groups of women, which board game they would like to play, they chose snakes and ladders. They saw their lives as having more downs than ups- "One never knows where a snake is hiding and in which form or person it will come to pull you down or dash your aspirations."

On the other hand,the millennial girls of today are very clear of their capability and where they want to go. They do not have a victim mindset. They understand that they are working for a business and are aware of the contribution they are making, There is an intentional career mapping and the career break is taken in full awareness with an intention to return back to work.

Saundarya finally shared her own story as a working woman who took a break in early 1990s. She said that after a point, playing the role of  a mother and home maker, she began to feel restless with a desire to contribute productively. She did various things till she finally founded Avtar. Since then, she has not looked back having had the satisfaction of providing solutions and  touching  positively lives of 2,50000 women in the Avtar network.In the words of the speaker "I was the change I was looking for".

Avtar is not only engaged in finding solutions to problems of adult women but have taken up an ambitious project under the name and style of "Project Putri"  in Tamil Nadu for skilling 10,000 girls studying in class VIII to class XII, from underprivileged families. The Avtar Human Capital Trust has  a tie up with over 100 schools with the focus being on "making young girls career intentional" so that they are strong enough to combat social problems that particularly girls from weak economic backgrounds face. The project aims to transform women as economic entities contributing to nation's development. It is based on the motto "Passion results in transformation" 

The topic for the evening viz " Breaking barriers" was holistically discussed from all angles whether in terms of diversity in a corporate working environment or preparing young confident women who can make up the shortage in requirements of trained women employees.The talk was followed by a lot of interaction with an engaged audience.

I conclude this post with an observation of the speaker, based on a study done at  Sodexo on the impact of diversity and inclusion - "In the unit in which gender diversity was enhanced  by increasing the number of women employees , there was consistent performance, more productivity and increase in profitability. However, for this to happen there must be a minimum of 47% women employees." Saundarya clarified that the balance is the key for effective performance .If the percentage of women is a lot higher than men or viceversa, the performance and results are adversely affected.

 Isn't that ( Study results ) a  great reason for corporates to partner with Avtar for an important cause and for mutual benefit?

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Insights From an HR Conclave - "HR Response to the Technology Invasion"

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Jain university organized an HR conclave titled " HR 3.0 The Technology invasion" on 24th February 2018  in collaboration with GWFM (Global workforce management forum) at its CMS business school premises  located at J P Nagar Bangalore. The conclave had a distinguished panel of speakers that included Dr Pramod Sadarjoshi, Sr Director,Oracle India,Mr Harjeet Khanduja,VP (HR) Reliance Jio, Rajeev Mendratta,Global head resource management,DXC technology, Umesh Pawar,CHRO Accenture,Satish Rajarathnam,Cognizant,Capt Partha Samai, Sr VP AGS Transaction technologies, among others. 

 As  I have covered aspects of  the impact  of artificial intelligence and  managing in a VUCA (Volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) world  in earlier blogs also, I am limiting this post to the key observations and insights.

  • Future belongs to those who know where they belong- i.e. in the future!
  • Your Email ID is your new residential address
  • Either you are driver of VUCA or a derivative of VUCA  (Volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) 
  • Disruptions are on your face.This needs to be accepted as the order of the day and the organization should adapt suitably. Some disruptions include Uber becoming the largest taxi company without owning a fleet of vehicles, AIRNB becoming a successful hospitality service company, making available lodging facilities to customers without owning any estate, Skype & We chat providing video chat and voice call services without telecommunications infrastructure etc. 
  • Talent acquisition is a challenge today-  to get the right guy, at the right time at the right cost.
  • Today's world is a world of 'instant gratification'. 
  • Employees desire to work for digital leaders 
  • Job seekers are more interested in gaining employability rather than mere employment
  • A Warren Buffet  quote during the discussion: - "Only when the tide goes down, you will know who is swimming naked."
  • Among the largest companies by market, top five are in the intellectual capital field.
  • 75% of work force by 2025 will be millennial. HR needs to prepare accordingly.
  •  Proactive decisions will increasingly be made which would be based on analytics with top priority being given to driving productivity and engaging employees
  • The onus of talent development will not be on HR alone but the line departments and on the individual employees as well. With the support of analytics it would be fast, good and cheap.
  • Use of analytics in recruitment, performance reviews etc addresses effectively unconscious bias that causes a  havoc.
  • Analytics makes traditional repetitive work easy, freeing HR to to focus on making sense of the data and gaining insights which only human beings can do.
  • HR should focus on preparing their organization for the changes necessitated in the VUCA world; ask questions such as "How will data be available and used in the organization."It is important to get the core right.
  • The focus should be on being obsolescence proof and achieving digital maturity. 
  • Today, dialectical thinking is most essential in view of rapid changes, unpredictability and the need to modify one's role to the changed situation. Dialectical thinking refers to the ability to view issues from multiple perspectives and to arrive at the most economical and reasonable reconciliation of seemingly contradictory information and postures. Thus we see change in the nature and content of roles. As for example, tellers in banks today, apart from the traditional role  cross sell products of the bank.
  • HR needs to ascertain the impact of all these changes and complexities on the energy of people and find suitable remedy.
  • Loneliness among employees, not meeting real friends but interacting only with those on social media is a matter that HR needs to address. 
  • CEO s these days speak of a 'Talent' problem. HR needs to ask itself "What is my strategy for elevating the skills of employees?" 
  •   In the new scenario human skills (such as critical thinking and analysis) will be one of the 10 top skills expected of an employee.
  • L&D will have an important role to play for building communities of practices with focus on  "How to learn from one another?". Technology would be an important tool for learning.
  • A major challenge, as revealed by VP Oracle, is that 20 to 25% of new hires exit in the first six months. Here focus needs to be given to the on boarding process and ensuring the cultural fit.Technology can be used to assess the in boarding experience of new recruits and take corrective steps.
  • The panel discussion on "HR analytics" pointed out that this has touched industries far and wide including health care, banks (wealth management advice) etc. and influences many decisions including  'purchasing decisions'. "We are not still there, but there are encouraging signs."
  • Data points can help in taking right decisions,creating plan and building pipeline. It also contributes to cyber security.
  • Analytics can be profitably used for recruitment, compensation, assessment and  work force management. Readers may like to read my short poem on this subject in a previous blog- 
Having discussed key points that emerged during the conclave, I would like to conclude this post  sharing what transpired in the first session of the second half after lunch  that was handled by Mr Harjeet Khanduja,VP (HR) Reliance Jio, This session which was laced with a lot of humour, gave a holistic prescription of what HR needs to do in the challenging scenario of an invasion of  artificial intelligence. 

The speaker while on the topic of the pressures faced by employees today and the challenge of HR in getting them to come to back to work everyday, said  "If you create value, people will queue up at your gate." In this connection, he gave the example of "Apple" which has achieved this as a company. HR should give the employees a reason to work together and motivate them- "You can do it!"- HR can help employees to realize their potential. The speaker shared the example from the epic Ramayan, when Jambavan reminded Hanuman of his special powers and motivated him to fly across the ocean to Lanka. 

Another important role of HR in the present scenario is creating a culture with the same vision and values. Culture is like the orchestra. Every note has to be right. It is also important to manage the emotions of the old employees who should not feel left out and outdated. Managing policies is another key step.Some of the policies may be outdated with the advent of changes in the form of social media and technology. These need to be redefined and modified to current requirements.

Appetizing the processes making them interesting and current is another requirement. HR needs to focus on upgrading the HR apps and examine  how their apps are going to use BOTS. Another important role of HR in the present scenario is managing governance. As technology comes with all the risks, managing productivity and managing contracts is vital. Another important focus area is managing attrition. The challenges include not only that people are leaving but the dearth of skilled manpower and people moving all over the world today.

Another interesting  situation is that HR will have to continue to recruit in view of requirements, even when there is a lack of skilled manpower.  In this connection, there is a need for searching  far and wide   and polishing the talent from the taluks and villages. Managing inclusion is another challenge in view of increasing number of women in the workforce and higher mobility of manpower between states and countries. This is bound to be a regular and vital  job of HR in the days to come. 

As I left the venue of the conclave, I was glad that I had accepted the invitation of Jain university which turned out to be a rewarding experience. I said as much to Ms Preethi Bhandary, Manager Placement and corporate relations while thanking her for the excellent hospitality extended by her and her team..