Sunday, 4 November 2018

"Me too to Not Me"

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The October month meeting of NHRD Bangalore Chapter was on the hot topic of "Me too" titled in a catchy fashion as what we can do to change "Me too to not me". In line with the practice of NHRD of late, of having two speakers for the monthly meet  (more if a panel discussion), Ms Kaadambari, Managing partner, UCOL a lawyer and Ms Mridula Chhetri, Founder CEO, InmovidoTechnologies Pvt Ltd, a social activist, shared their thoughts on the subject.

While having two speakers have been effective earlier with a strict control over time, it seemed to have not worked this time when a very sensitive, yet volatile subject was being discussed. The audience also had a lot to say and were not willing to wait till the end for the question- answer session to air their views.

The first speaker Ms Kaadambari started out with the observation "Me too movement is a double edged sword". While on the one hand, it brings out instances of sexual harassment, on the other it gives room for false accusations. She said that another flip side of the fall out  is that men become scared of recruiting women, meaning employment opportunities would diminish for women. She opined that media trial shames a person and causes irreparable damage to the reputation of the accused even before a fair trial. She related instances of two cases handled by her firm,wherein the accusations made against male clients were proved to be false.

According to the speaker, the subject of sexual harassment need to be approached not in terms of gender but as an offence that tends to be committed by those in power on another on whom they have power or control.  As presently more number of men are in powerful positions,it may appear as if men are harassing women. This position could change in future with more women occupying senior management positions. She said that there are also instances of harassment of men which are not reported as it is not held 'manly' for the victim to come out. There are many cases of young boys being sodomized, raped and sexually harassed in educational institutions and organizations that remain under wraps. 

Ms Kaadambari said that documentation is a very important requirement given the fact  that these days, there tend to be accusations, denials and counter accusations. Inconsistencies in the statement of the complainant, when asked to recount the incident multiple times will reveal whether or not a person is telling the truth. Details as to who were present, what were the things lying around etc. should not change with each narration. The speaker was in the process of going into details of relevant sections under IPC ( S16, S409)) and CRPC (S376) and IT Act (S66A), when she was stopped by the moderator for want of time. He requested the second speaker of the day Ms Mridula to share her thoughts.

Ms Mridula opined that the "Me too" movement is a very good thing that has happened which has given the courage to those affected to come out and that it will serve as a deterrent for sexual harassment instances in future. She spoke about the impact that sexual harassment incidents have on the corporates. Sexual harassment cases (1) affect work productivity. It could mean feelings of insecurity, disloyalty and disharmony. (2) There could be distortion of the public image of the company and the loss of reputation. It may become difficult for the company to" crawl out of the pit". (3) Such incidents could also have financial impact. Absenteeism and strained work relationships could be a fall out.

The speaker said that employers should take steps for educating employees on what constitutes sexual harassment under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Work place Act 2013 and also take swift action for redressal of complaints. Proactive steps would go a long way in  building a harmonious work environment.

At the end, there was hardly any time for taking questions from the audience as they had  made frequent interjections earlier for airing their viewpoints on the subject. However, there was one point excitedly raised by a participant, that was answered by the lawyer Ms Kaadambari at the end. The question was whether a consensual relationship between a boss and subordinate can subsequently be raised as sexual harassment. The answer was in the affirmative. The very relationship of one person being the boss takes away the concept of 'consent' and the onus would be on the boss to show that there was no harassment.

To my mind, this discussion did not give either of the speakers sufficient time to articulate all that they wanted to say. As for example, the lawyer could not speak about the implications under the Indian penal code, Criminal procedure code, IT Act etc while the social activist could barely tell her part of the story. The audience was also similarly placed, like a hungry person half fed. The promo to the program had announced "Find out what role organizations can play;find out what you can do to ensure employees feel valued and cared for". This objective cannot be said to have been achieved.
Perhaps, for a topic of this nature, that has the capacity to arouse a lot of emotions and reaction, it would be better to have only one speaker with more opportunity for clarification and discussion.     

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Quiet, Best Practices


Some time back, when I casually interacted with Mr Nagesh Adiga Manager HR Ace Manufacturing Systems, Bangalore I was pleasantly surprised to learn about some of the people friendly initiatives that the company has been practicing for years. I had pointed out to him that his company is following a remarkable path quietly,without much fanfare and yet many more would be inspired to emulate such practices if they are shared publicly.

Recently I had the occasion to visit the AMS factory located at Peenya industrial estate while accompanying MBA students whom I teach at the Wellingkar Instiute of Management and research. It was a wonderful opportunity to understand from close quarters, the functioning of a company that had impressed me earlier. We went around the neat and tidy shop floor and rounded off the visit with an interaction with Mr Nagesh, Manager (HR).

Mr P.Ramadas is the Managing Director of AMSL, who along with other founders Mr B.Machado, Mr A.V.Sathe and Mr S.G.Shirgurkar had started AMS in February 1994. The founders with a rich engineering experience behind and between them, adopted a customer centric approach that earned the company popularity, not only among big corporates but also among small and medium scale enterprises. The philosophy of the company also encompasses a people centric approach and adherence to ethical practices. AMSL which specializes in  CNC machining center manufacturing, has supplied over 8000 machines worldwide. The customers are from varied industries such as Automotive, General Engineering, Aerospace, Medical and Dental, Energy, Defence and Education. The company focus is on meeting the unique needs of customers.

During the interaction with the Manager (HR), one question that was asked by the students was "How is it that AMS has run for so many years without the presence of a union ?". The answer was that perhaps the employees did not feel the need for it when working for a company that gives equal importance to its employees and customers. The morning session each day, starts at the shop floor with r
ejuvenating exercises and reinforcing of ethical values. Safety & health pledges (includes personal safety tips outside factory) and guidelines are read out bilingually in Kannada and English. If it is a birthday of an employee, he is presented a birthday card  by MD and also wished personally by all the 400 employees present in the shift, shaking hands with him. There is a yoga center and a meditation room in the factory premises. Employees can take a break for meditation when they feel the need and compensate by working for an equivalent amount of time. 

The company perceives its employees as a family unit that includes his family members. Before an appointment, the parents of an employee are invited to visit the factory and see for themselves where their son/daughter would be working. The appointment letters are handed over to the parents. In case an employee is not coming 
to work, it is natural for the MD to telephone his wife and ask" Why is your husband taking so much leave?" An accident in the factory whether it happens to a regular or contract employee is given immediate attention with the person being hospitalized and provided adequate treatment. Another thing that stood out for me was that AMSL treated its suppliers also with care and concern. As for instance, as a matter of policy, company ensures that the suppliers receive timely payment within the committed date.

Mr Nagesh said that performance appraisal was not merely an annual or biannual affair but a continuous process. One to one feedback on how an employee is doing is given to him by the section head/HOD/ MD depending on the level at which he is working. Production data is captured week on week and serves as material for the discussions. He said that 'Punctuality' was a very important value for the company. Those achieving 100% punctuality and their spouses/mothers are honoured at a public event during the annual day celebrations. The attrition in the company is less than one percent (ranges from 0 .42 to 0 .73%) per annum. The corporate office and factory is housed in a ten-acre property amidst a lot of greenery,flowering trees and plants. There are more than 300 varieties/ species of plants in the premises. 

While taking leave, the manager (HR) reiterated the philosophy of the 
company- "Law of nature is above the law of the land". Nature does not exploit anyone. Similarly, AMS does not exploit any stakeholder be it an employee or a supplier. On the contrary, it seeks to enhance the welfare of all stakeholders including the society at large. 

Thursday, 4 October 2018

The Journey to Becoming #1 in the List of "Great Place to Work"

NHRD Bangalore Chapter, for  the monthly meet of September 2018, arranged an interaction with top executives of two organizations who were ranked first in the list of "Great place to work" in India for the years 2018 (SAP Labs India) and 2017 (Intuit India). Dr Shraddanjali Rao, VP (HR), SAP Labs Ltd shared her experience along the journey of reaching the pinnacle in the year 2018 while Mr Somnath Baishya, Head HR, Global development centres, Intuit, discussed insights gained from a 13 year journey that culminated in the top position in 2017 (Intuit India was ranked # 2 in 2018).

"Great Place to Work (Certified TM)’’ certification is the most definitive ‘Employer-of-Choice’ and Workplace quality recognition that an organization can  receive. Great Place to Work® Institute, partners more than 8000 organizations every year around the world to help create and sustain a High-Trust, High-Performance Culture™. In India, Great Place to Work® produces the annual lists of ‘India’s Best Companies to Work For’, a study in partnership with The Economic Times.  


Participating  organizations are assessed in two parts – employee survey and people practices assessment. The proprietary and globally-trusted framework, Trust Index© survey is used to survey the employees on 5 dimensions of a great workplace – Fairness, Respect, Credibility, Pride and Camaraderie. People practices implemented in the organization are assessed through a Culture Audit© process which covers 9 distinct practice areas of a great workplace culture.

The steps of the process include administering the Trust index survey, sharing company's policies and programs for evaluation, analyzing of results to determine whether thresholds of certification has been  met by organization, awarding of certificate, obtaining reports and insights for continuous improvement . The certification Program of the institute allows companies to be automatically considered for all its Best Workplaces list competitions for 12 months from the date of evaluation.  

Shraddanjali said that the one thing which provided unflinching light throughout the journey to becoming a "Great place to work" was the clear guiding vision of the company- "Be the most innovative lab". The key success factor was that everyone from the top to the last person in the company related to it. Pick and talk to any employee from any of the 20 labs located in 17 countries the company has presence, and you will find that he/she owns the vision. SAP Lab has its second largest R&D center located in India and employs 7500 employees. She said that the focus has been on people practices and people experience. " How do we become the most innovative lab?" is the question always on the mind of senior executives. 

It is not just about policy making but paying full attention to 'employee experience'.Whether it is a millennial, a working mother or one retiring in a few months, all feel the same warmth towards the organization- " Loyalty is a matter of impact", declared the speaker. The other aspects that are given priority are co-creation and customized employee experience. Efforts are made to understand the unique needs of various categories/layers of employees (women, new recruits/experienced etc.) and after individual discussions and consultation, the benefits package is signed off with them. Empowering your employees could be tough as you would be required to "Let go". Yet, empowered employees who have faith in you as an organization, will go all out to contribute their best. 

As innovation is a top priority in the company, the platform and time is provided for it in full measure. Top six ideas of the employees are supported with investment. Twenty five of the best innovations are awarded every quarter. In order to meet the the need of career development and career conversation of employees, adequate time is provided to them to discuss with trained business leaders of the company over Skype. 

Shraddanjali, then shared some of the initiatives that give a signal to the employee that "SAP cares for me and my family." These include addressing issues faced by the employee as a parent of sick little children, time off , employee assistance, insurance cover, wellness initiatives (facilities at work place for tennis, badminton, gym, yoga), choice & flexibility, long term incentives, celebrating professional & life events, healthy and inclusive work environment, 40% discount for buying company shares, celebrating annual day (Singer Shreya Ghosal was invited to perform for the employees). She said that while extending any benefit, the one question uppermost in her mind is "How to make it customized and better for the employee?" 

The speaker concluded her talk by stating that it is not only about extending a lot of benefits to employees.There is a need to create an awareness about them. The natural human tendency is " I remember a benefit only when it is relevant to me." Therefore, it is most essential to educate your employee about not only the benefit that is immediately relevant to him but the many things he gets in an entire employee life cycle. She said that she was satisfied and elated by the company's achievement, given the fact that 700 companies representing 20 major industries had participated. The response rate to the survey was as high as 87.13% .SAP Labs India has also been recognized in the list of the Best Workplaces – Culture of Innovation 2018. 

The other speaker of the evening, Somnath Baishya then took over and narrated the Intuit India story, moving towards the goal of  becoming a "Great place to work." He said that his company equated employees to air,  meaning you cannot survive without them. The company focuses on a community culture, ensuring that employees felt good working in the company. In this connection, he called attention to the quote of the poet and  social activist Maya Angelou who said " People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel." 

The speaker said that for Intuit India, it was a step by step rise to the top of the list of "Great place to work", moving from top 50 to top 10 and then top 5. The company learnt early that what was important was not reaching a position but sustaining it and  working for continuous improvement. Initially, company  had aimed for the top and had got the 8th position. "However, we realized that we had aimed too high, the process of which could not be sustained". The ranking fell to 25 and the focus of the company changed to that of sustaining and consistent improvement/ growth. It was all about building a culture of initially developing (1) engaged employees, followed by (2) nurturing them as  ambassadors and finally  (3) employees as  change agents.

Building the culture of the company by providing employee experience in line with the organizational values was an important goal. Employee advocacy became the voice of the brand. It involved giving up control to create empowerment and ownership. Somnath then shared some live stories of how this was achieved. As a company becomes bigger, there is a possibility of feeling lost in a crowd or having  a feeling of being a cog in the wheel. In order to avoid such a situation, the speaker said that the organization takes inspiration from start ups/small organizations and engage in bite size connects. As for example although the company occupies physical space on a number of floors in the building, meetings and celebrations are done at a floor level in order to have better interaction and connect between employees.  

Another initiative is personalized acknowledgement and celebration of achievements and milestones. For instance, if an employee has completed five years in the company,  colleagues and juniors share simple and candid information about him/her in an open forum.This exercise also serves as a motivation to new employees who know that they would be similarly appreciated for their contribution. 

Family get together is organized in a grand manner in the form of "Little Intuit day" wherein 400 little super heroes are invited to their dad/mom's work place and given a thoroughly enjoyable summer camp like experience comprising of games, fun and competitions.Another interesting development was the graduation of engaged employees to ambassador roles- from social sharing to social ambassadorship. It all started when one employee Shruti, on her own, posted on social media
 " I believe in innovation. I am Intuit"- ranked #1 in India's best companies to work for 2017". More and more employees have slipped into the ambassador role with gusto. From 100 ambassadors in 2016, the number rose to 134 in 2017. 

"Investing in the future" is another important initiative in Intuit wherein the company's NGNers (Next generation network) are encouraged to take the lead for driving the leadership program. The program which includes juniors shadowing seniors in leadership roles, provides opportunity for testing out their skills in leadership situations such as speaking before a large group. Innovation awards, product & tech contests, 24 hour Hackathon are other activities geared to make impact in this direction.

Somnath concluded by stating that the company's culture of building engaged employees  to ambassadors and change agents has meant that HR has a large population in the organization to support and drive their initiatives and is not dependent on a small HR team alone. He said that he perceives the #1 rank as a responsibility and an opportunity for continuous improvement.

The speakers then took questions from the audience. To a question on the challenge of aligning the culture to everyone in the organization who may come from various backgrounds, the answer was  "We keep it simple and honest. All activities are aligned to the values of the company."

In spite of having many reasons to work for the company, people may still leave. How does the company deal with attrition? SAP has an "entrepreneurship sabbatical scheme" wherein employees are provided  opportunity and support to indulge in their passion if bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. They can return to work with SAP after the sabbatical period. At Intuit, the CEO spends quality time with employees every month to understand their concerns, challenges and priorities.

How does the company integrate culture across the organization? Best practices are shared across locations. It is for this reason that an employee moving to a distant location on transfer, feels comfortable as the culture is the same. Reverse mentoring is another mode of integrating culture. Listening to the younger generation, particularly in their strong areas such as on social media helps in reducing gaps in the organization. Employees are encouraged to refer appropriate and suitable friends for vacancies. Persons who have already engaged with them during the hiring process are attached as buddies to new recruits to help them integrate smoothly into the organization.

To a question on employing differently enabled candidates, it was informed that SAP has a scheme for supporting candidates having autism. There are also visually and other differently enabled employees working in the company. Training people in rural areas has been an important CSR activity.   Intuit has experimented with three differently enabled interns and found the exercise quite promising.

With that, it was curtains for a very informative and rewarding experience for the members who made it to the September monthly meeting. It is not often that we get to listen to learning and wisdom from the experience of companies who between them  achieved the #1 ranking in two consecutive years. Many other companies, I am sure would be motivated to take the plunge and work  towards becoming a ' Great place to work" and figuring high up in the list.  

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Chasing Failure : Learning for Corporates from the Circus

The monthly meeting of NHRD Bangalore, planned for August 2018 promised to be novel and exciting. The notification read "Corporates have got a lot to learn from the circus"-come and understand about adapting and learning from failures.The very idea was intriguing. What can corporates learn from circus seemingly an entirely different field? The latter has its focus on entertaintment while the former is symbolized by serious executives discussing figures. Further, I was enthused by the fact that the speaker was Mr Stefan Haves, the world renowned creative director representing Cirque du Soleil, the pioneer organization that combined circus and theatre to great advantage.

Stefan started his talk by calling attention to the similarities in the challenges faced by a circus professional and  an HR person, both of whom work with human beings who are complicated, smart and unpredictable. They go through emotions of anger, isolation and depression. He said that as director, he has to ensure that his artists are in a state of happiness to perform irrespective of their existing temperment. Keeping the temperature of the room great for everybody, is an important objective for the artistic/creative director. He needs to constantly check the temperature of the room and take corrective action. "Comedy is possible only if everyone is having a good time.". Charlie Chaplain was so successful not because he was a creative genius but because he knew how to keep his team energetic.

The speaker said that his style was to collaborate with the artistes, seek their ideas and incorporate them suitably in the narrative. This is in sharp contrast to the approach of some directors in cinema like Mr Adoor Gopalakrishnan of India,who insist that even the slightest movement of the artiste should confirm to their bidding. Creativity and innovation is the life blood of  arts and the entertainment industry. Stefan said that at Distney the employees are encouraged to have 'blue sky' time when they can come up with ideas, seemingly wild and impractical  without the worries of financial constraints. (Blue sky thinking is business jargon for a sort of brainstorming or analysis that is uninhibited by the cruft and complexity of tedious and confusing reality- open to all creative ideas regardless of practical constraints).

Similar approach is adopted at Cirque du Soleil where employees are told " We want you to dream and not be bogged down by constraints of money". The internal talent is encouraged to experiment with clowns, set, costume, designing. Time is provided to relax and muse back and forth. Employees came up with innovative ideas such as a 30 foot shoe with 12 persons to tie the laces. All this empowers your people who feel "heard at a creative level." Stefan exhorted corporates to consider this form of empowerment of allowing people to dream freely in the company without any constraints so that they no longer feel like a cog in the wheel.

The speaker said that for his company what was most important was "How everybody felt as part of the team?"during the process  . It is not so much about being the 'most amazing circus' in terms of money generation. It is about giving employees a part of the process and the opportunity to share their view points with any level of the organization.

Chasing Failure: 

"I don't run away from, but actually embrace failure" declared Stefan. He explained that it is not about not ever failing, or falling down but being able to get up and continue  the journey. The first step here is not to be ashamed of failure.  When a person is ashamed, he tends to withdraw and does not want look at others in the eye. In life, you win some and lose some and this is a reality which is beyond your control. So occasional failure, is to be accepted as natural. Replacing shame with acceptance and taking action to move forward is "chasing failure". This involves  guts, looking at each other, and relying on your intuition to get out of the failure. "Failure is the pilot light that helps you to come out of a situation" (Pilot light is a small gas burner kept alight permanently to light a larger burner when needed, especially on a gas cooker or boiler). 

Stefan said that his organization Cirque du Soleil chases failure as a matter of policy/ philosophy. The owners get bored easily. When the company gets something right, instead of basking in the success, they want to to try something else. Many successful shows are retired to start new ones.Today, the organization has over 15 shows running world wide simultaneously. However, the initial journey was not easy. The original circus concept was reinvented (a circus with neither a ring nor animals) and making it attractive not only for kids but a wider audience. Each show is a synthesis of circus styles from around the world, with its own central theme and storyline. Shows employ continuous live music, with performers rather than stagehands changing the props. 

The company had no competition for 35 years.It experimented with many innovative ideas such as using  music of Beatles rock band and shadow play; Beatles did not appear live on the show .The show was a big success while another about Elvis Presly failed. The company, however continued with its policy of 'chasing failures'/ trying out new things.The post mortem of  the projects provided insights- "What did we learn from that? What can we do differently?" 

In the last part of his talk, Stefan shared his views on the changing times and his take on life in the digital world we presently live in. He described the present generation as a "Generation of lost skills". According to Stefan, the emotion/skill of empathy is sadly lacking in the digital world. People are able to see some one fail and walk away dispassionately without the feeling "Hey,that is me!" Empathy is most essential for a healthy community. 

If they have a problem with someone, the internet generation is unable to confront that person, even to ask-"Hey, what are you guys talking about me?" . They don't know how to handle pain or unpleasantness. They avoid unpleasantness and prefer to open a browser to distract themselves.The human element is being left behind.  This approach  has proved to be detrimental to one's  personal well being. As everything is done at a very fast pace, there is no time to warm up. Young people mask their real personality on line, projecting themselves as very aggressive,  not ever getting upset and denying failure. The real personality in day to day life on the other hand, could be very vulnerable and lacking in confidence. There is a need to bridge the gap between the two personalities.

According to the speaker "Being shy is being selfish". Although this may not be by intention or design , the shy person holds back and tends to be selfish with his/her humour, intelligence and in many other aspects. People need to just let go and be themselves without inhibitions. Today, there is a spiritual vaccum.Human beings after all, are not just robots playing around with plenty of data. Breathing seperates a human being from a robot. It is important to pause before an action and allow your intuition to guide you to the perfect way of doing, which may not be necessarily logical. Stefan concluded with the statement " There is a child in all of us - asleep in some of us but still alive! "  Awakening that child would make our life a lot more fun and worthwhile, both at work and in our personal lives.

It was clear at the end of the session that corporates indeed have a lot to learn from the circus whether it is with respect to empowerment of employees or keeping their energy levels high at all times or having an easy and spontaneous work environment without inhibitions. We had the good fortune of having  a performer as the speaker of the day which meant electrifying energy in the room right from the word "Go". The whole session was filled with spontaneous laughter and a lot of fun.

The good news is that Stefan is willing to help individual companies by extending customised solutions to their issues. He would provide this service in India through Mahindra SSG. Stefan shook hands with each one of us as we were going out and also handed over the business card of Mr Manish Advani, Head Marketing & Public Relations of Mahindra SSG (Special services Group). Those interested can contact Manish by Email- manish.advani@mahindrassg.com or over telephone- +91 2240903232 and +91 9820085094 (mobile). 
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Wednesday, 29 August 2018

NHRD National Conference 2018 on “Next Wave of Excellence”: An interview with three Millennials

I have been blogging since September 2012. At that point of time, I was heading L&D of Hyundai Motor India Ltd at Chennai. Initially my blogs were based on my experiences and insights gained from a career in HR, spanning over three decades. Subsequently I wrote a book “Straight from the Heart- Thoughts and experiences of an HR professional, the material for which came from the blogs I had written. ( http://aliveshadow.blogspot.com/2015/09/book-review-straight-from-heart-by.html  )

After my retirement, I have been doing corporate training programs through my Bangalore based company, Niche Learning Services Pvt Ltd (OPC) and also serving as external faculty for the wellingkar Institute of Management Development and Research, Bangalore. These days I write mostly about the learning in the evening discussions organized by the professional bodies of HR, NHRD and NIPM.

 Recently, on August 17 and 18th NHRD organized its 21st national conference on the subject “Next wave of Excellence “at the Hyderabad international convention centre. I could not attend the conference. However, I was delighted to learn that Wellingkar in line with its mission of providing opportunities for excellence, sponsored three of my students (the entire travel and stay of students at Hyderabad was met by the college) for the conference billed as“Asia’s biggest HR conference”. I encouraged them to take notes during the conference so that we can share the knowledge and insights to a wider audience.

All the three youngsters enthusiastically agreed and returned with their experiences, memories and learning from the conference. It is with immense pleasure that I interview Vishal Kumar, Sanchika Rastogi and Sakshi Negi, the future practitioners/ leaders of our HR  profession. So here goes….


Question:  This is the first time the three of you have attended a national level conference of this magnitude. How was your experience?  

Vishal:  I was thrilled to see the overall arrangements for the conference which was huge, but excellently managed. The conference was my best learning experience so far. It was a great exposure to the prevailing industry practices and gave us an idea as to what to expect as HR professionals in the future.

Sanchika: Attending the conference was a big exposure for us. It had four main tracks/ themes namely People, Leadership, Technology and Future of Work. Further there were 20 more master/mega/meta/ sessions with more than 100 International and Indian Speakers, involving Panel Discussions, Research Presentations, Big Fight & Chat(s). It was particularly interesting to note that with the advent of technology everything is changing, including the HR processes.

Sakshi:  :  I liked the way the whole conference was structured covering a variety of topics. It was a surprise to learn that a Government department such as the Telangana police is working so effectively like a corporate,using management concepts and that they have achieved great heights in the area of digitization. However, what excited me the most was the understanding of practical application of concepts that I had only read in the textbooks.

Question: It is clear that wide-ranging subjects were discussed during the conference. Could you tell us about one topic that you particularly liked and felt was an important learning?

Vishal: I liked most of the sessions, but one session of particular interest was the change in the industrial relations scenario highlighted in the panel discussion on Employee and employer response to new age IR’’. The participants in the discussion were Mr. N Mallikahrjun, Head HR, API & OSD Operations,Mylan and Dr. Suresh Kumar-Head HR, Aurobindo Pharma Ltd.. Fast evolving business climate in terms of performance, productivity and profits will dictate the norms of new age industrial relations.

Today, the IR managers need to create a progressive work environment integrating the workforce, unlike earlier times when the only concern of an IR manager was to maintain industrial peace. The millennials, who are entering the workforce in increasing numbers, are interested in resolving their grievances at a personal level rather than relying on unions or third party interventions.

The panelists underscored the point that in the new age, the employer and employee must come together to beat the competition. Their coming together should serve as the competitive advantage for the organization. 


Sanchika: I found the session on compensation and reward very interesting and enlightening. The session titled “New Models for rewards” had an eminent panel of Ms Sucharitha Palepu- M.D, I.C.F, Mr Viivek Verma- Chief strategy officer, Srinavasa Farms, and Mr Shubhayu Sengupta – HR, HG Solutions as the moderator, The initial discussion was on the Mercer and Hay study 2018 which covered 700 organizations across various industries and  geographies/states.
The study revealed that 70% of the employees working in an organization are outsourced contract workers. Thus, it is very important to connect with and address issues of  contract workers who perform bulk of the work.The quality of their work is directly connected to customer satisfaction. 

In respect of rewards, it was found that  50% of the workers are concerned about health and wellness benefits. The organizations planning to revisit their total rewards strategy in the next 6 to 18 months is as high as 59%. Another 12% plan to do so for specific job families. 24% of the Indian workforce wants their rewards plan to be customized. In this connection, 53% of companies are watching the personalization trends closely with only 20% not interested in  personalization..

During the discussion, the relevance of fixed pay came up and it was opined that the time has come to focus on performance based or outcome based pay. As a part of the total reward strategy,  apart from outcome based pay, the other models of reward discussed are stock option program (should  be fair and transparent) and a change in the work culture facilitating work from home/ Login from anywhere in the world (which has become the new trend). However, the panelists said that not all companies are comfortable with “Work from Home” and in fact, IBM is reversing its policy in this regard.

Today, the focus is on aligning the interests of the company and the individual interests of employees. There is a shift from the slogan of “Customer is the king” to “Employee is the king”, with employees being seen as the first customers of the organization.


Sakshi: In line with the theme of the 21st National conference 2018 viz “New Wave of excellence”, we had a session on leadership titled “New wave of Leadership excellence handled by Mr Yogi Sriram, SrVP & corp HR, and member of Exe.Committee, L&T Ltd. The speaker said the previous waves associated with leadership such as personality, behavioural, transactional, contingency and transformational would all be inadequate to deal with the DVUCA (Disrupt, Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world and to manage a multigenerational workforce

Therefore, there is a need for a new wave, which can be called the invisible wave wherein the leaders are invisible. Both, the leader and the follower work towards a common purpose and this common purpose inspires and motivates them to give their best. For applying the invisible wave of leadership, a leader has to avoid undesirable behaviour such as narcissism, complacency and greed. 

As an example of this type of leadership, Mr Yogi cited the recent Thailand cave rescue mission in which twelve boys and their football coach trapped in a cave were rescued. All the players in the mission drama, had a common objective viz of rescuing everyone safely from the cave. They were all invisible leaders in their own way playing their individual roles effectively. 


Party /players                                                                                  Contribution
Rescuers                                                                                    Vision, Agility and Adaptability
Trapped Boys                                                                           Followership and Resilience
Coach                                                                                          Inspirational Servant Leadership
Government,/ community & family                                Empathy and Compassion, Leveraged Networks   


The Qualities that define the new wave leaders include Trust, Empathy, Humility, Resilience, Rooted Cosmopolitanism and a Nurtured sense of Shared Leadership. The speaker said that additionally, an element of eccentricity is necessary for effective practice of invisible leadership. He gave the example of  Sergio Marchionne, Former CEO Fiat Chrysler who is known to exhibit characteristics of  straight talking, being driven by challenge and having an experimental approach to business.

To summarize, under the new wave of invisible leadership, leaders need to get rid of undesirable behaviour, work towards a common purpose/ goal and be eccentric like Mr.Marchionne. 

Question: Is there anything you would like to say as concluding remarks?


Sanchika: Being a part of this conference enabled me to enhance my knowledge. It provided answers to questions such as “How analytics can be used effectively in various areas of HR and not only in recruitment, what is liquid workforce (one that is able to rapidly adapt and change based on the environment that they are in) and how digitization is changing the way people perceive HR as a function. The workplace is changing. More and more tasks are becoming automated, performed by computers or machines, and this means humans need to adapt.

Sakshi: Although most sessions of the conference were very useful and insightful, I felt a few like the one on digitization lacked depth. For instance having heard of the Block chain technology, I was looking forward to learning more about how it is used effectively in recruitment and other areas in HR. However, “the How” of it was never explained.  Even in the Q &A session, it was disappointing to see couple of panelists dodging questions and talking in circles.

Vishal: It was clear to me from the deliberations in the conference, that there is a gap between the theory that we learn and the practical aspects in the industry. It is necessary to make changes in the syllabus and curriculum of students. It should include the current and future expectations of the industry from HR professionals.

However, I am fortunate and happy that my college, Welingkar Institute of Management, gives a lot of importance to this aspect and organizes sessions/ lectures by a number of prominent specialists from the industry. The college also arranges for industrial exposure through visits and internship program.

Rajeev Moothedath: Thank you Vishal, Sanchika and sakshi for sharing your experiences and learning from the conference. It was a pleasure interacting with you!

Vishal, Sanchika & Sakshi: Thanks a lot sir for the opportunity. It is the first ever interview in our life and we thoroughly enjoyed the interaction. We had a great time! 

Monday, 20 August 2018

Diversity and Business

As I drove to the venue of the evening discussion organized by NIPM Karnataka chapter I was hoping that the talk would not be too similar to the one I had attended and written about on "Gender diversity" some time back. (https://hrdian .blogspot.com/2018/04/breaking-barriers-to-gender-diversity.html ). My apprehensions were misplaced as the day's discussions by Ms Anjali Pais was on the  more comprehensive aspects of 'Diversity' of which gender is one among many that impact business.

Anjali is the Founder and Managing Principal, of Aquilar Strategic Services. She has experience both in corporate and consulting roles in HR for a period of over 16 years.She was the area HR Head, for India, Srilanka and bangladesh of a Danish MNC before founding her company. The speaker started out by saying that psychology has been her passion and that it considerably influenced her approach to work and living. She said that diversity is not possible until we accept it in spirit. There is a need to accept, appreciate and embrace the concept of diversity.

Before going into the specifics of diversity as a key factor affecting business, the speaker discussed broadly the subject of diversity, pointing out that diversity is the very essence of life. As for example in nature, the natural environment of wild animals, rocks, forest and in general, those things that has not been substantially altered by human intervention provides the diversity and balance. We can afford to  disturb  this balance of the ecosystem only at at our own peril. Anjali  also called attention to the fact that man is a sentient being (capable of experiencing things through its senses) and it is important to nourish this basic nature of feeling pain, hunger, pleasure, the environment etc. which enables him to be more inclusive and accepting of other beings around him. 

In terms of human beings, diversity would mean understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing individual differences. This diversity can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.When an organization embraces diversity, it can broaden its skill base, become more competitive and innovative. Divergent opinions could mean more energy and an accepting environment. 

A McKinsey study on diversity revealed that companies with more diverse work forces performed better financially. In their latest report, Diversity Matters, Mc Kinsey examined proprietary data sets for 366 public companies across a range of industries in Canada, Latin America, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It also reported that diverse boards of companies achieved 53% higher return on investment and 14% more Ebitda. 

Anjali said that as per the Credit Suisse findings, boards with women on the board, compared to  men only boards, generated higher ROE ( Return on equity), lower debt to equity ratios. higer price/book value and and higher average net income growth. A study with mock juries found that panels  with diverse members (Black and white members) uncovered more angles and deliberated broader to come to a decision than white only panels. Companies with diversity had better stock piling and had 58% more accurate pricing decisions. New and varied view points facilitate better decision making and results.

A study conducted by Northwestern and BYU by giving the task of solving a murder mystery, found that the groups with diverse sets of  participants were more successful than those with uniform members. Research papers written by diverse groups receive more citations and had higher impact than papers written by the people from the same ethnic group. 

The speaker then discussed the situation in India and the extent to which bridging the diversity gap in the work place has been implemented in Indian companies. In this connection she drew attention to the Boston consulting group (BCG) study. According to its report titled "From Intention to Impact", the "Indian companies recognize the need for a more diverse work force and have initiated programs to drive inclusion. While there have been some success stories (Axis bank, Dr Reddys laboratories, Hindustan, Unilever), progress remains slow overall. Companies have launched a number of diversity initiatives and feel 'they are doing the right things' yet, they have not made substantial progress."    

The study reveals that although women are equally ambitious as men, they account for only 17% of the senior management positions; only 3% of CEOs in India are women.  60% of women respondents agree that the company is doing a lot to improve gender diversity but only 29% of women have actually benefited. As against 80% men, only 56% of women feel that the entire management team is committed to gender diversity.

Women perceive advancement as the biggest obstacle to gender diversity. Women who participated in the study feel that bias in promotions and evaluation are key obstacles to advancement- " Men are handpicked for future roles." Poor implementation is the primary reason that 50% of initiatives have not been effective.  It is to be noted that the Indian context discussed was limited to gender diversity. Perhaps more studies are necessary to understand inclusion levels of the differently enabled, regional, social and other diversities in India. 

The speaker rounded off her talk with the observation that "our assumptions influence our decisions". Often, it is assumptions based on limited data and personal perceptions that come in the way of openness to a diverse cuture in the organization. She related her own experience when she had demonstrated  preparedness to take the risk and a willingness to work in various functions such as operations, sales and HR. Initially, many based on traditional beliefs, felt that being a non engineer she would not be able to sell and contribute to supply chain sales. They believed that only engineers can speak tech specs. However, Anjali proved them wrong and became an achiever touching quite a few milestones.  

As a parting gift, the speaker played a video highlighting the fact that there are many type of intelligences ( Musical-rhythmic and harmonic. Visual-spatial, Verbal-linguistic,  Logical-mathematical, Bodily-kinesthetic, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Naturalistic) and for best results we need to concentrate on enhancing all of these intelligences. Currently, the focus is only on one type of intelligence viz Logical-mathematical. Alienation from one another is the result of this trend. As people see the world in different ways, it is imperative to have a diverse culture which provides the opportunity to empower  all forms of intelligence/ perspectives resulting in a more holistic decision making and wholesome results. 

Finally I would like to end this post with a quote of Verna Meyers, American author and cultural innovator, that the speaker shared. To my mind, this quote is very significant and important as it underscores the fact that diversity and inclusion cannot and should not be seen in isolation  -  "Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance."  Not much will be gained if we recruit people with diverse backgrounds but do not include or involve them in the key decision making and running of the organization....


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:  https://www.amazon.in/HR-Here-Now-Quintessential-Champion/dp/935280693X