Saturday, 26 December 2015

Addressing Real Needs of Customers

In My book "Straight from the Heart-Thoughts and Experiences of an HR professional" and also in my
blogs in general, I have been calling attention to the fact that our internal customers do not perceive HR as meeting their "Real needs". In stead of  facilitating and making their jobs more comfortable, line managers  see HR personnel as those who  wake up now and then to implement another bright idea or the latest fad  that will reinforce the relevance of their existence.

In this connection even the routine activities pursued and followed up by HR, as for example the performance appraisal process,  is seen by the line as a  pain in the neck. Its completion is achieved within  the deadline through arm twisting  and  threats of denying  annual raise  in salary in case of  failure to do so. No effort is made during downtime to explain to the internal customers the significance of the process and how atleast in the long run, it would enable line managers to have competent people in their team.

Many years ago in 1996, I joined a central PSU as HOD of training department. Couple of months in to the role, I suggested to the GM at corporate office, my reporting officer, that we organize a Line-HR workshop which could throw up the real needs and issues of the production departments.Addressing these needs would earn respect for HR.It would also be an opportunity to clarify and correct any misconceptions or  unrealstic expectations that they may have from HR.As for example, many line managers, even today do not want to know and understand at a personal level about employees working in their department.The moment an IR or HR issue comes up, the tendency is to refer it to the HR department and wash one's hand off. It is similar to referring to the maintenance department, the moment a maintainance issue crops up.

Yet, the fact remains that involvement of the production staff before and during a machine breakdown by providing inputs to the maintenance engineer makes a big difference.Information as to when the problem was first noticed, the symptoms observed  about the problem etc goes a long way in helping the maintenance engineer to set right the problem faster and more efficiently. Similarly, many HR/IR related issues can be known sufficiently in advance, and nipped in the bud if the production  managers and supervisory staff are actively involved.Infact, to my mind, in view of the  line managers and supervisory staff being the first contact of employees, it is most essential that they are  equipped with the minimum human relation skills.Engineering colleges would do well to include this as one of the subjects in the curriculum.

Coming back to my offer to organize the HR-Line Workshop, the GM was aghast that I even  thought it fit  to make such a suggestion- "What is the problem now? Are there any issues between HR and line? Are you trying to create problems between the two functions?." Thus my proposal got a silent burial even before it was born. I exhort youngsters of  today to take up such an   initiative and those in leadership positions to support them  as this  could show HR in a proactive light instead of being seen as  'reactive' most of the time to the 'Real needs' of customers.

I would like to end with the submission that HR needs to continually engage and dialogue with its internal customers to find out their real needs on the ground and offer home grown creative solutions to them.Nothing much will happen if new ideas are introduced because someone somewhere has done it or because it sounds good to claim to the world that the latest fad has been implemented in one's company.It is high time that HR seeks inputs from production / line departments as to how an issue can be addressed, instead of insisting on playing the role of the expert, providing readymade solutions every time.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

A Comprehensive Review of My Book in RML

On this auspicious day (it's 25th Dec in India) , I share with readers a comprehensive review of my book "Straight From the Heart" by Ms Padmaja Iyengar, former senior executive banker, poet and the Rate my site. The Link is given below:-

This is the link for purchase of the book from

For those ordering on Amazon .com (outside India) it is

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Industrial Relations Summit-2015- Make in India Challenges for sustained Industrial Relations.

I attended the IR  summit organized jointly by NIPM Karnataka Chapter and the Karnataka Employers'Association from the evening of 19th November to the evening of 20th November 2015.On the first day there was an inaugural address by Justice Ram Mohan Reddy,High court of Karnataka and a  panel discussion in which Mr P.Dwarakanath, CMD of BEML Ltd, Mr Chamola Director HR, HAL and Mr A.S. Girish, Head (HR), Appolo Tyres and National Vice President NIPM participated.The discussion was moderated by Mr S.Raghunath,Professor IIMB.

At the outset, Justice Reddy acknowledged that a congeniality between the workmen and management is a must to keep things going and to have an atmosphere of growth which is most essential in today's scenario.He also drew attention to the fact that  industrial relations today cannot ignore the non- unionised workmen who contribute considerably to the success of organizations.According to the speaker today more than at any point of time "Money works and it is an important aspect of maintaining harmonious IR."

Justice Reddy traced the history of unionism and how political parties had seen unionised workmen as ready made vote bank.However the influence of political parties in this connection has come down considerably. Whether, we like it or not, the ease of doing business has become a need and a reality that is required to be addressed.The speaker said that Indians need to introspect on the culture that has set in over the years and need to take corrective steps.As for example even driving licenses are issued in the country based on bribes putting at risk so many lives of  the general  public.

Similarly, we should insist on employing competent persons who are perfect matches for the requirements of the  jobs. Today substandard manpower is coming out from the colleges whether it is engineers, ITI trained persons or other professionals. The speaker pointed out that the quality of the faculty in teaching institutions are compromised and  persons who have passed out this year are employed as teachers in the next academic year. "What can be expected of their prowess in teaching?" he asked. 

HR has to play an important role in challenging this mediocrity. IR problems would not arise on a later date if the right kind of people are  employed as a correct fit for the jobs. HRDians have a big role in changing the mindset in the industry towards getting the right people and keeping them motivated. Justice Reddy said that the share of GDP(Gross Domestic Product)  of the manufacturing sector was only 16% in India  as against 1/3 rd in China.The partnership of workmen is to be obtained for the cause of raising the contribution of industry to the GDP.

Justice Reddy opined that seemingly India has a lot of opportunities in the coming days given the fact that 20% of the young people of the world,  in the age group 18-22 will be from our country.Yet, in order to leverage the advantages adequate attention should be given to strengthening the education system and the core values.Today only 10-15% of the graduates are employable and even this small  number of candidates have raised their competency levels by their own efforts with hardly any  contribution from the colleges.He said that countries which see India as a serious threat are resorting to destablisation tactics  to blunt the advantages she has  in terms of a young poulation.As for example, he revealed that 65% of the youngsters in Punjab are drug addicts.The figures are 35% in Bangalore for those between the age of 7 and 16 years.

Another imporant aspect touched upon by the speaker was about the land acquired for industrial purposes and the way we treat the farmers who have given their land.The approach in Karnataka seems to be"I have taken the land from the farmer and paid compensation.I am not bothered about what happens to him afterwards" The farmer has known only one source of livelihood for ages and he needs to be supported to acclamatize him  to the new reality.In Raipur, Chattisgarh state,while taking land for developmental activities, the farmer is taken into confidence and a continuing  relationship is maintained.Employment is given to one member of the family.Care is taken to see that the farmer's houses are not broken and facilities such as electricity connection, cement concreting of roads are provided  by the industry to the farmer who has given land .

Jusice Reddy concluded his address with a few suggestions or prescriptions for ensuring a vibrant and harmonious industrial relations- (1) There should be better and regular communication with the workmen that will serve as a means of education and building trust.It also serves to create motivation and commitment to the company(2)  Investment to be made in enhancing the skills of workmen and also on retraining them (3) The contract labour laws need to be reviewed to make it more objective & rational, removing aspects that only trouble managements (4) Laws to be made more flexible for incorporating the needs of fluctuations in production needs, (5) Guidelines to be developed for payment of bonus based on productivity and teamworking results (6) Modify the trade unions act to correct the problems of multiplicity and politicisation of unions (7) Modify the laws to make them more transparent and removing the 'inspection Raj'.

In the panel discussion"Make in India challenges- IR Perspective", Mr P.Dwarkanath CMD,BEML Ltd stated that in the challenging scenario, BEML has been focusing on developing pride in the employees about their work and the company. By paying attention to 3 aspects namely (a) Training (b) 'Can do philosohpy'(c)Pride in work- "My work is the best work" employees derive satisfaction from work instead of having feelings of conflict.
He said that "Design in India" is as important as "Make in India". Towards this objective, BEML is collaborating with IITs and other institutions of repute.A recent feather in the cap of BEML is the home grown design for 200 tonne dump trucks.

Mr Chamola, Directer(HR) of HAL Ltd declared that the credibility of the management built over the years decides the outcome of IR. He said that while  collective bargaining is is a natural aspect of IR and will continue to be important, the right of the management to run the organization cannot and should not be compromised.
Mr Chamola said that HAL which already has around 32000 employees and 10000 officers is not looking at adding more work force.Infact recruitment would be bare minimum in niche areas with encouragement to effective outsourcing.In this connection HAL is focusing on strengthening the supply chain by motivating the vendors to be partners who are willing to take risks, put in money and share in the prosperity/ realities of the business.

Mr A.S.Girish,Head(HR) Appolo Tyres in his trade mark  humourous style reiterated the importance of IR which he said will be playing a prominant role not only in manufacturing but in all sectors of the economy.He said that the IR climate has to change from one of mistrust where both sides are talking to each other, holding bombs behind their backs to one of trust and openness with an intention on both sides to genuinely solve issues.
Mr Girish said that if IR fails in a unit, that unit will be shut down while the business itself will prosper, moving to a more favourable state or climate.

The second day started with the theme "IR to be part of the business strategy at board level" with a panel of speakers consisting of Mr Pratik kumar, CEO Wipro Infrastructure and Mr Kamal Bali MD, Volvo India and the moderator being Mr Pramod Mahatme, ER Wipro enterprises.Both the speakers touched upon the present economic scenario and gave considerable information comparing the GDP figures of India with other countries including details visavis various sectors and said that corrective steps need to be taken with regard to the labour laws making it in tune with the 'ease of doing business'.Since the theme for discussion was on "IR being a part of the business strategy at board level, i expected inputs on whether IR is presently considered important in the overall business strategy of the company.If yes, to what extent anf if not, what  IR/HR  people need to do differently  to get it included as a part of business strategy.

The second session on the second day-  "IR Experience in manufacturing sector and service sector" was for me the most rewarding session in the summit.The speakers were Dr Chandrashekar, President & Global Head (HR).Dr Reddy's Laboratories, Mr H.N.Srinivas,Advisor-Tata Group and Dr Manjunath,Director Jayadeva institute Bangalore.The moderator of the session was Mr Nagendra, Dean BMS Management School, Bangalore.

Dr Chanrashekar began his talk by underscoring the importance of hiring.Recruiting the right people with care lays the foundation for good HR work.Justice Reddy had also drawn attention to this important aspect of people management.I have myself felt that corporates tend to take the process of recruitment lightly and do not give it the respect and importance  it demands. My thoughts on this was expressed in my poem "Interview", the link to which is given below.

Another valid and important point articulated by Dr Chandrashekar was on the need to not separate or break people issues in to compartments such as HR hires, IR deals with the workmen, L&D focuses on training etc,A holistic approach is necessary to leverage the best from the HR function..

He spoke about the need for HRDians to invest  time and effort  to develop a solid team for the organization. The policy of merely poaching talents from competitors by paying more, backfires in the long run as the available talent is limited. Instead HR needs to build teams from the scratch recruiting people with care- catching them young. preparing them for the corporate environment and inculcating appropriate values.This exercise is what can be called "Sustainable employability" and investment on these lines will receive reciprocation from the employees who will see the company as genuinely interested in their welfare and growth.

Dr Chandrashekhar wound up his talk with the following gems:-
1) Managers should become more consultative, collaborative and engaging and  shed the fuedal mindset..Managers sabotage their own work by cutting the thread of reciprocal relationships.
2) Integrity displayed on the small activities is more important than clever strategies.

Mr H.N.Srinivas started his talk by giving an insight in to the  Tatas approach to  employee relations.As early as in 1890,Tata steel had a social audit done to understand the living conditions,traditions and aspirations of the local people who were mainly from the tribal population.In 1902, Sir M.Visvesvaraya drew up the strategic plan for the Tatas.All the stakeholder's needs were addressed in the plan.In 1920,.the Tatas Steel Workers'union was formed. Subhash Chandra bose  served as its president in 1922 The top priority of the management and union was concern for people, nation and the organiz ation in that order.The company had a collaborative relationship with the union. TQM and other initiatives were introduced  with support from the union.The Malcolm Baldridge excellence framework  was adopted by Tatas.

Moving on to the hotel business, Mr Srinivas  gave information on the "Taj Model' and the challenges of a service industry.78% of the employees in sevice industries are in touch with customers 24 x 7 aiming for customer delight.This has been made a sustainable management practice for the 24,000 Taj hotel employees.78% of the interaction with customers happen outside the purview of supervision.It is an industry in which 'word of mouth' is ten times more powerful than advertising.Out of 100 dissatisfied customers 95 do not complain to the  hotel but tell others.In such a scenario, it is very important that the internal communication is robust and employees know clearly what is expected of them with reference to the goals of the organization.The policy is to hire people for values and train them for skills.There is no compromise on values.

The challenge in respect of Tata Steel is relating to 78,000 employees in multiple locations for achieving the mission of  "lowest cost producer of quality steel in the world" in the next 3 years.what do you do differently to achieve this goal? The policy has been to reward 'customer excellence' and to reward 'goal achieving work' eg goal of ' lowest cost'.The speaker said that when he had visited Tata steel ( not working for Tata Group then)  as an external  ISO quality assessor along with a team, ordinary workmen very low in the hierarchy could explain how their work impacted the company goal of 'lowest cost producer'.A workman  said that the change in the way he is picking the ore has resulted in increase in productivity.He showed a chart exhibited at the department  which indicated figures of how much was saved in the last 3 days.The team interviewed union representatives to know how much they knew about the goal and to what extent they supported it.They said "Irani saheb (CEO) has made everything clear. He  meets us every week and we in turn tell employees of current situation and encourage them  to work hard for the goal."

Dr Manjunath, Director,  Jayadeva institute of  Cardiology shared the challenges of running a quality insttitution in the Government sector. The organization  is a government owned autonomous institute that has a strength of 640 beds, 5 cathlabs, 7 operation theatres, noninvasive laboratories and 24 hour ICU facilities.. On an average,80 angiograms/angioplasty and 15 open heart operations are done in a day at the hospital. The vision of the institute is "Quality care at affordable cost." It has NABH( National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers) accredition and by a patient centric approach has  achieved  a high level of satisfaction index.The focus has  been on quality,charity, subsidy and humanitarian approach.

Being a Government funded institution, decision making can be very slow & painful since no one wants to try anything new or take risks. Dr Manjunath, however stuck his neck out to introduce differential payment for  all classes of the employees, from doctors to to support staff  based on their  performance & involvement.  .This improved the motivational and energy levels in the organization.Dr Manjunath exhorted the audience to "take decisions if you are empowered" and gave instances of how he practises what he preaches.

Today, jayadeva institute has a single window OPD evaluation block for attending to ECG, X ray and other tests without delay.It has 40 full time cardiologists with no attrition in the last 8 years.As against 8 seats in All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, the Jayadeva institute has 21 seats for the DM (Doctor of Medicine) Cardiology course.While the Government funding is for a sum of Rs 60 crores, the institute has been able to generate 40 crores on its own through donations etc.

President Obama applauded the Jayadeva institute after he received  an E mail from a  US based non resident Indian informing  that the institute had treated him effectively( treatment  included ECG & other tests)  and with care by a  team of two cardiologists and support stafff. He was shocked when he was  charged only Rs 92 (US$2). .Dr Manujunath concluded his success story with the remark "We need to be system driven and not individual driven for sustained growth."

The last session of the summit was on "Labour reforms and the way forward" with the speakers being Dr Krishnamurthy IR consultant Mumbai and Mr B.C. Prabhakar, Lawyer & president Karnataka employers'association.The session was moderated by Mr Deenadayalan,Consultant.The first speaker spoke more about the approach to IR than on the subject of labour reforms.He suggested  that it is not laws  that will ultimately matter but relationships.He said that since conflict is natural and normal, people need to be taught how to handle conflict.

Mr B.C. Prabhakar in his talk underscored the importance of reforming the labour laws to facilitate 'ease of doing business.'.In this connection he said that the denial of right to close down an unviable business should be done away with.Similarly most of the provisions of  the outdated laws that date back to to the 1940s have to be done away with.However, he  expressed his apprehensions as  to whether this will actually happen, as the proposals of the government of the day are for fusion of a few statutes into one which retains the basic features of the original statutes.

At the valedictory session the Guest of honour was Mr Radhakrishnan Nair,Dean Sathya Sai institute.He is a product of XLRI who worked for Federal bank, Tata Group and other corporates before settling for an educationalist role.Mr Nair's valedictory address was in a way a fitting finale as it was  from a man who has seen it all and has reached a state of introspection.He wanted the HR practitioners to do the same .Mr Nair pointed out that somewhere we have failed to rise to the nobility of our vocation..HR, teaching and other such vocations, according to him  are more than just a profession.It calls for dedication.It gave me some satisfaction that I had discussed similar  issues in my book "Straight from the Heart- Thoughts and Experiences of an HR professional "published by cyberwit (

The speaker traveled down the memory lane to the times when he was a student at XLRI when his professor Neelima advised the students 'to become union leaders' She wanted that the role of educating workmen, looking after their interests and guiding them on the right path be played by educated people.Mr Nair said that it took a long time for him to understand what she really meant (create education in the masses).The speaker  opined that today, there is a disconnect between the employees of the company.Life styles have gone up and there is a huge gap between the first employee(CEO) and the last employee.Taking a cue from the theme of the IR Summit, Mr Nair exhorted the HR professionals to utilize this opportunity to educate people on what is good for our country.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

A Summit to Cherish- The Jyothi Summit 2015

On 5th October 2015 when I visited the Jyothi Nivas College, a premier Womens’college in Bangalore for a guest lecture on “The Law of Attraction”, Dr Rose Kavitha, Dean of the MBA department told me about the summit. The college organizes a summit annually on different focus areas. This year it was to be on the theme “Quantum Leap in IT-2020 - Beyond digital shift”.

Later the Director, Dr.Sr Lalitha Thomas and the Dean invited me to attend the prestigious summit. Although I said “Yes”I was apprehensive that not being an IT professional, most of the proceedings would go above my head. Dr Kavitha , however assured me that the discussion would be general in nature with focus on the trends in IT and the practical challenges for the future. It turned out that attending this summit on October 10th was one of my most rewarding experiences.

During the welcome address, the Director Dr.Sr Lalitha Thomas underscored the importance of the subject and the additional significance of it being organized in the Golden jubilee year (50 Years) of the college. After the customary lighting of lamp the key note address of Dr Joseph shields, Managing Partner, Leadership Matters inc on the topic “Trends driving the future of information technology” set the tone for a robust discussion on the present and future trends in IT and the challenges ahead.

Dr Shields started his talk with some advice for the students telling them to always acknowledge and remember with gratitude all the people who invested in them and their wellbeing, be it parents, teachers or a distant relative. He said that one of the key shift in the general trend is that on account of technology, there are higher expectations from customers in terms of look, feel and usability of the product which need to be consistently met.

He gave the example of Tesla, the fastest car in the world. This high end luxury car provides customers an opportunity to design their own car, play around with colour combinations and the interiors of the car. Similarly, in the accommodation space, AIRBNB, Oyo Rooms & Zo rooms have revolutionised the   manner of booking accommodation wherein the customer can see in detail the interiors of the rooms and decide on the suitability. Similarly, technology has removed the long wait to meet a doctor which can be ‘just in time’ with prior appointment.                

Dr Shields stated that one of the most revolutionary changes that has happened is cloud computing in which “My data is stored somewhere else and not on my PC”. Data is becoming the world’s new natural resource with 500 million GBs of data being generated daily, 1 trillion connected objects and devices and 85% of new software being built for the cloud.

In the changed scenario while the traditional players  in IT had a 4% increase in growth, the new players like Amazon and Google grew by 28%.The key today has become big data analytics; in its absence the data is just wild data. It is expected that there would be a 57% increase in the data analytics market by 2019 and the maximum share in this connection would be Asia Pacific market with 39.1 %( next highest Europe by 14.4%).

The analytics would be done in different languages and for different demographics. Data analytics can contribute to both predictive and prescriptive analysis. Based on the data it becomes possible to predict when a person is likely to get a heart attack or when a disease is likely to show up. Weather forecasts can be predicted with better accuracy with analytics. Similarly in the area of finance; ROI, return on stock, when the next market crash is likely etc. can be predicted and enable discussions on the required reforms.

Based on the data analytics, the consumer pattern of customers can be analysed; as for example whether he tends to use more of late night calls or is a compulsive chatter’ Once the pattern is known suitable schemes can be prescribed or suggested to the customer that best meets his unique needs. Flipkart is taking advantage of this technology to find out what products consumers have searched on the net and then send quotes for the same. Google and other companies are bound to adopt this strategy in the near future. App town markets with ‘pay for use’ concept is on the rise.

The speaker pointed out that another area in which considerable changes have happened is with respect to the use of devices and the use of smart wearable devices. It is expected that between 2014 and 2019 there would be 40% CAGR (Compound annual growth rate) and the wearable smart devices would increase from 31% to 59% in 2019. The popularity and convenience of the IPad has been leveraged by the Andhra Pradesh Government in the form of Akash tablets.

Another impact of technology, according to Dr Shields is the reduction in distance between people with the availability of video streaming, audio streaming & mobile videos with 80% of data being available in cloud. Netflix has provided a fresh new experience of movies. There has been considerable growth in the global machine to machine growth and mobile to mobile connections with LPWA (Low power wide area network) evolving in a big way. With these advancement, smarter cities like Masdar in UAE (Abhudhabi) have evolved. Water recycling has been possible and provision for automatic switch off of street lights on the arrival of sun light. With technology, you can operate the washing machine from your office.

Dr Shields said that today, we have the IBM Watson, a computer that speaks back to you when you talk to it. It plays an important role in health care. It not only reduces big data to useful manageable levels but also helps in other areas such as oncology treatment and clinical trial matching. He concluded his excellent key note address laced with humour, with the observation that one needs to take up IT only if passionate and not merely as a profession. 

“Do you love technology? “Is the key question. If not, there are other ways to make money. Possession of knowledge does not necessarily mean progression. He cited the example of AT&T, the American telecommunication multinational which was one of the first to acquire knowledge of mobile technology but have allowed other more enterprising players to leave it behind. The speaker therefore advised the students to look beyond the obvious and focus on the application of technology and its possibilities in new areas.

The next session was a panel discussion on the subject “Leveraging the digital transformation to enhance work place productivity”. The session was moderated by Mr Patrick Pitchappa, VP technology Division, Goldman Sachs and the members were Mr K.B.Unni, VP, Business model Redesign, Wipro Technologies, Mr Samson Selwyn, Practice Lead-Volvo IT and Mr Beniston Joel, Program Manager-CISCO

Kick starting the session the moderator Mr Pitchappa underscored the fact that work place has changed forever with the advent of technology. He said the truck drivers in the west who drive 18 wheelers, now have on their dashboard android touch screen. They  can go to Facebook, skype, check weather, do the diagnostics of the vehicle and be warned of state borders. The technological transformation has made insignificant the disability of a physically challenged person to contribute at work.

The first question posed to the panel was “What matters most in a digital economy?” The question was answered by Mr Samson who declared categorically that business result was what mattered the most- increased revenue and more satisfied customers. IT is in the process of moving from a supporting, enabling role to a results role. The results discussed here includes those from the customers ’point of view of which speed is a minimum expectation. Mr Samson stated that the difference between IT and business is going away.

I found this part of the discussion very interesting; normally, it is in HR forums that member’s breast beat and say “we are not sufficiently business oriented. We need to improve considerably in this regard.” The fact is all the functions, whether production, IT or HR had been focusing for a long time on their own area of specialisation, ignoring the basic purpose of the business. In fact in a country like India which started out with the Nehruvian Socialism, ‘profit‘ was believed, though not openly stated to be a dirty word and public sectors used to pride themselves  that their primary purpose was to provide employment. Time has come for all functions to look at the holistic picture and connect whatever they do with the business objectives of the organization.

Mr Samson who is working for Volvo gave practical examples of what it means to be business results oriented- The IT professional working in Volvo should concern himself with the following questions: - How many Volvo vehicles are being sold? How safe are they? How can IT support the said goals of the company? If presently a new application takes two weeks to roll out; can IT do it in just one day in future with the help of latest technology?

The next question viz what are the 4 big changes that has happened in the field of IT in the last decade? was taken by Mr Beniston who said that the (1) Growth of the internet (2) the changes in the quality and reach of devices (3) Changes in the way we share information and (4) Influence of Social media are the 4 big changes. He related stories of the earliest computers that were huge in size and difficult to carry. In sharp contrast are today’s lap top.Benistion said that in the future we may not have a specific work place with employees working from the lawn, cafeteria or any other place. IPad and high end devices may replace laptop and employees working across the globe.

The changes in the way information is shared can be traced to the times of the highly unreliable floppy disks to the requirement of burning CDs to the present USB devices with high storability. There has been a transition from legacy systems (that could be applied only in one area)  to a scenario where are all are automated and large scale network migrations are  possible.

The question “What are the big hurdles in implementing DT in work place was put to Mr K.B.Unni. He replied that India is not a country that is same in every way; there are multiple India within India with varying aspirations, exposure and understanding of technology. Therefore technology cannot answer fully all the needs of the people.

 However personal life is much more enabled today whether it is with regard to railway ticketing or ordering things on the net. The metric has shifted from looking at everything from the point of view of the cost to the ease and need of the user. He said that enterprises need to be even more customer centric and from B to B; the focus has to move towards B to B to C. (Business to business to consumer).

 To another question as to whether “Digital India would be a reality?” Mr Unni answered in the affirmative and he said the initiative of  leading banks in AP was encouraging. Trust and the gradual change in the mind-set of people would yield results.He answered in a similar vein the question as to "what extent technology would touch lives of an uneducated man on the street?". The common man will also start using technology when he starts seeing the advantages in terms of saved time, money and energy. The fisherman and the vegetable vendor has started using it and this will increase in the days to come

The question “What are the expectations from the new knowledge worker was answered by Mr Samson. He said that IT is becoming a business skill. He advised students to look at it as more than a technology and look at ways and places of its application. There is a need to develop skills of people to people interaction .The focus needs to shift from “Look at me world “or “What’s in it for me?” to the real purpose of unleashing the technology. He also advised the students  connect with the network of providers-“Scan the environment to know latest needs” The question to oneself should be “How do I innovate every day?”

The panel discussion was very impressive and there was a natural flow in the proceedings. In one of my earlier blogs on “Business Agility”, I had shared as to how a discussion organized by the Madras School of Social Work in 2014  in which I also happened to participate as member of the panel was very effective .( ) On that occasion, the success was more by chance than design as we the panel members were meeting for the first time on the morning of the program. I was told that the Jyothi summits leave nothing to chance and that the panel members had met previously to ensure that the discussion flowed purposefully and each member complimented what the other was speaking.

The last session in the forenoon before lunch was by the scientist, Dr Krishna Chandra Gouda of C-MMACS who spoke about the impact of technology in analysing data and improving predictions. There was a loud cheer from the audience normally reserved for rock stars when this speaker took the mike. I was told that he had on occasions previously addressed them. However, the secret to such applause became evident soon after he started speaking for every other line was loaded with humour.

Dr Gouda started off by stating that innovation should help the common man whether it is the farmer ( predictions on monsoon, hybrid seeds etc) or the consumer on medical matters. He said that handling big data is the key and shared with the audience research done by him and his organization on weather and other trends including that of the connection between pollution and population.

 Another aspect for leveraging the benefits of technology is networking so that connection is made with the person who has the need and his needs addressed. In this connection Dr Gouda explained the theory of “Six degrees of separation” which postulates that “everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of "a friend of a friend" statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps. By applying this concept we would be able to connect the person who has a need with the one who can give the solution.

Post lunch we had an inspiring presentation by Mr Resington, Industrial Automation Consultant under the caption “Meet the Trend setter”. The speaker explained about an App he has developed to warn Indian fishermen when crossing over to Srilankan territory. We frequently hear of our fisherman being intercepted and jailed in Srilanka for unauthorised crossing over the border.

 SOR (Save Our Race) App, enables Indian Fishermen to know the direction in which he is sailing, the speed and position where he is at a particular point of time.SOR has a graphical representation of India- SriLanka Boundary (As per UNO agreement signed on 1976) and the current distance (in Nautical Miles) between the user's boat and the Indo - Sri Lanka Maritime boundary.

SOR will give warning in the form of Coloured Text in Tamil ( Green if inside Indian territory, Yellow for a warning and Red if vessel goes  outside our territory) and also a Siren Sound, if and when the fishermen gets close to the India-SriLanka Maritime boundary.

SOR has a data logger through which the user can store 5000 Logs in every 5 minutes of Interval. In an emergency, if the user receives mobile signal, the fishermen can send a SOS (Save our Souls- an emergency message) to the pre-stored mobile phone in the shore. This message contains, Date, Time, Latitude, Longitude and the IMEI Code, which information will be very useful to rescue them as soon as possible. 

Mr Resington informed that except for the SOS message for which internet connection was required, all other features work in flight mode without internet. The App introduced from Dec 6, 2014 is free and available in play store. I joined the audience in passionately and  spontaneously  applauding this noble initiative. Coming from a coastal area in Tamilnadu, himself, Mr Resington  could understand the needs, trials and tribulations faced by the fishermen in this belt and come out with a solution.

Yes, here was a summit to cherish with its immense knowledge sharing, excellent ambience and quality of speakers. The icing on the cake was a Bharatanatyam and Peacock dance performance by the students of the College. As I thanked the organizers and bid farewell, I knew for sure that this was one experience that I would long cherish!

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Pleasant Surprise- Book Review in Lavendar Orchids

I just  received a mail from my publishers, giving a link to the book review of my book "Straight from the Heart" in the blog Lavendar Orchids written by Enakshi Johri.

I must say that this first came as pleasant surprise followed by a feeling of thrill to note that the reviewer liked my book and recommended it.

I am sharing the link here. Do read and share your thoughts.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Future of HR

NHRD Hosur chapter organized a program on the above subject at Hotel Claresta Sarovar Portico, Hosur on   10th September 2015. The speaker was the national president of the NHRD network Mr K.Ramkumar, ED of  ICICI bank. Right from the beginning of the talk, it was evident that the speaker would be engaging in some plainspeak without any sugar coating to please the audience.

Mr Ramkumar began by stating that the qualityof HR people will determine the future of HR. People working in HR  should know the technical details pertaining to their companies; otherwise they tend to be exposed in meetings for want of business and technical knowledge.Another declaration that he made was in respect of IR and labour legislations.He stated that the importance of IR is going to come back in a big way. Regulations and legislations are the basis for running a business and cannot be wished away. In this connection he complimented the NHRD Hosur chapter for running  an advanced certificate  course on "Labour laws and Compliance audit." Knowing labour laws is a must to run a business and HR practitioners should know the various sections in the legislations by heart.

Definition of a professional

Mr Ramkumar exhorted the HR executives to become true professionals.A professional has deep knowledge and ability in his/her field."Find out what motivates you and work towards becoming a professional." The speaker opined that in any case all this concern about the "Future of HR", was misplaced since people will need to be managed as long as commerce and business exist. Deep knowledge of economics is a must for an HR professional.

HR people need to realize that all the people engaged in an industry are business people and that includes HR who are not special and exclusive.The speaker scoffed at the concept of "HR partner". If others are business guys, you are also part of the business. How then do you become a 'business partner'? he asked. Always think of yourself as a professional,a business person.

The speaker then gave instances of how he had practised this in his own work life.At a very early stage in his career, while working in HR, the boss offered him the role of the production manager.Mr Ramkumar accepted the challenge of handling production on the condition that he be allowed to continue handling HR.The boss laughed and said "If  you want to play two roles for one salary, I have no objection, but you will be evaluated on your performance as a production manager."

Mr Ramkumar revealed that although butter flies were there in the stomache initially, he found that it could be done.The science that one had learnt in class IX was sufficiant to run the show and an indepth engineering knowledge was not required.According to the speaker "If you fear something, you will never learn."

The speaker also shared experiences of later life, when he went back to HR role and was posted to Kolkatta in 1993.He was required to deal with three unions reputed to be very tough. One and half months of his posting there, he wanted to organize a quality training program.He immediately met with resistance from the union .They wanted that Bengali be the medium of instruction and not English..The union leader who was only SSLC qualified, posed a very challenging question"You expect us to learn, will you also learn?".
Accepting the challenge, everyday Mr Ramkumar taught himself Bengali."If you get obsessed with grammar, you cannot learn a language". Watching movies in the language you want to learn is an effective way to pick up the language.

Mr Ramkumar winded up his talk reiterating the importance of becoming a true professional."Do people have respect in their eyes when they meet you?"  If yes, you are on the right track. All you have to do is to be a competent professional and the future of HR would be safe and sound. "Courage is the key. Do boldly  what it takes while engaged  in the the work that  you love, or leave it!".

During the interaction after the presentation, Mr Ramkumar underscored the point  that learning is possible for anyone at any age.He cited the example of his own mother who though widowed at a young age with educational qualification of of only class V, was today at  the age of 88, computer Savvy and was being referred to in her neighbourhood as "I Pad Mami"!

As I left the venue, I had the satisfaction of listening to an HR professional adorning the position of National president in a premium professional body speaking "Straight  from the Heart" to drive home his points without sugar coating or mincing words.The two thoughts that reverberated in my mind from the talk were "being a learner for life" and "being a thorough business professional while playing the HR role".

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Best Practices in Global Organizations

On 19th August 2015, I attended the evening meeting of the NIPM Karnataka Chapter. It was after a long time that I was participating in a professional meeting in Bangalore. This was the first program of NIPM on my return to Bangalore after a stint of 51/2 years in Hyundai Motor India, Chennai. At one time when I was working for BEML at Bangalore, I was a regular at the NIPM meetings and benefited immensely from the sheer diversity of the industries that the speakers represented and the variety of subjects discussed in these meetings.
I was happy that on my home coming session a very interesting topic “Best Practices in Global Organizations” was slated with the speaker, Ms. Shirin VP (HR), representing a coveted brand viz Ingersoll Rand India. The speaker made it clear at the beginning that as against the topic advertised in the communication, she would be focusing on what they did in Ingersoll Rand during their journey to becoming a dream company. She revealed that today the efforts had begun to show and that her organization had been awarded the #1 Dream Company for three years consecutively.
She also mentioned in lighter vein that the effort was akin to getting an elephant to dance. This analogy is significant and relevant when you look at the history and size of the grand old company. Started 143 years ago, Ingersoll Rand has a turnover of $13billion with 792 units and 66 manufacturing facilities. In India, it is based out of 21 locations with 3 manufacturing and 2 engineering & technical centers.
As charity begins at home, the challenge according to the speaker was to concentrate first and foremost on HR, addressing issues of high costs of HR services, duplication of work and fragmentation of HR services. It was decided to make a shift towards an ‘Agile HR’ and to match the business challenges of the company to the voice of the people. The first step in this direction was to ask the question “What does a dream company look like?” from both the employees’ point of view and also from the organization’s point of view.
The answer from the employees’ to the question included being able to make a difference, opportunity to learn etc. The organization view was that the employees should be brand ambassadors and be a part of the solution and not be merely engaged in identifying problems. There should be a connect between their work and the organization’s objectives. They should create long term value and there should be positive energy and buzz at the work place. A participative culture is encouraged and the oft repeated Mantra is “Your ideas will determine our future.”
Ms. Shirin explained how they moved away from the traditional reactive mode to a more comprehensive role of HR that sought to harmonize the function towards “One IR, one HR”. This involved providing the HR services faster, quicker and proactively on the one hand, while on the other hand another team of the HR function focused on becoming HR business partners, linking HR activities to business through OD, learning initiatives and building centers of expertise/excellence. In this connection, she revealed that the company adopted the HRBP (HR Business Partner) and COE (Center of Expertise) model.
HR business partners are HR professionals who work closely with an organisation’s senior leaders in order to develop an HR agenda that closely supports the overall aims of the organisation. The idea of HR business partners was popularised by academic and consultant David Ulrich, who sees HR business partners as part of a successful modern HR function, along with shared services and centres of expertise. HR business partnering seeks to align agendas toward a common goal that lead to a ‘breakdown of traditional silos’ and greater collaboration between departments. Under the HRBP- COE Model, the HR service centre stay closely in sync with the development, execution, and support of HR programs and processes.
In practical terms, implementing the model involved a lot of initiatives starting from imbibing the vision, purpose, and the core values by the employees across the board that in turn impacted the culture of the organization. The vision of Ingersoll Rand is “sustainable progress and enduring results” and the purpose of its existence is “Creating comfortable, sustainable and efficient environments. “The core values include integrity, respect, innovation, courage and team work. MS Shirin stated that at every possible opportunity, she would reiterate in simple terms the company culture as “the weighted average of all our behaviour.”
Employee engagement was and is a key focus area during the journey to becoming a dream company. Right from the time a new employee joins, he or she is given a big welcome. A ‘buddy’ takes him for lunch and other employees come and greet him/her. The new employee is then put through a 90 day structured orientation. Employee engagement surveys are conducted periodically to understand the feelings and expectations of employees. Compensation benchmarking is done every 2 years and the salary ranges harmonized. Here, what and how is explained both in respect of compensation and the appraisals. As for example employees may like to benchmark with the best IT companies; but are given detailed reasons as to why benchmark is to be done with a similar company and industry and how ‘fair pay’ is arrived at..
A home grown model of Ingersoll Rand, India is the Star model of developing the leadership pipeline from within the organization. This is in line with the slogan “Your ideas are our future.” The focus here is on developing people with pride in the organization, learning, leadership and relationship skills of collaboration. The best practices include fairness in recognition and rewards and practices targeting the total environment for a winning culture, great work place and people practices.
One such OD process that I particularly liked was the one organized for the engineers working in the engineering centres of the company with the objective of making them best in class in terms of facilities, people capabilities and having the most engaged employees. Under this initiative, periodically the employees of engineering centres are encouraged to wear the hat of an entrepreneur or owner of the business. The participants brainstorm in groups giving suggestions in the various areas for making the centres best in class. The ideas given are jotted down on flip charts and feedback is given to the participants subsequently as to what was done on their recommendations.
The other practices include “Coffee with the HR business partners” (30 days after a new employee has joined), HR connect once a week When dedicated time is allotted by HR exclusively for meeting employees, Knowledge sharing session on technical & various topics by external and internal speakers, HR road show handled by non HR personnel to whom employees can walk in and discuss the HR policies and give  their opinion on them, Family connect occasions when families visit the plant, stay interviews in which employees are encouraged to share what they most want in their jobs, celebrating the festivals of the 4 zones in the country by bringing food, wearing ethnic clothes, exhibiting talent etc. In other words, there is a fun element at work. Ms. Shirin informed that the initiatives have begun to bear fruit and that there was a 10 point improvement in the Employee engagement survey and 11 point improvement in the satisfaction of customers with the services of HR.
Finally the speaker stated that E HR was now the norm in the organization and information related to HR was easily accessible to employees. HR analytics tool is also increasingly being used by the employees in HR which has not only made it possible for them to be more effective but has also helped them to gain the respect of peers in other departments. He or she is able to make structured conversation with executives on the shop floor armed with all kinds of employee related information such as their tenure of service, how many have got promotion in the department, gender diversity figures, performance/potential rating, retention risk and so on.
I have attempted here to briefly cover an elaborate presentation by the speaker on the best practices that Ingersoll Rand adopted on its way to becoming a ‘Dream’ company. We may see shades of some of these in other companies; yet it is the total package and systematic approach to the journey that makes these initiatives worth understanding and emulating with suitable modifications in other companies. The information is all the more valuable as it gives sign posts and a direction to HR for gaining the respect of other functions and contributing effectively to the business goals of the company.  

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Straight From the Heart

Dear Readers I am happy to inform you that my maiden book “Straight from the heart-Thoughts and experiences of an HR professional” has been published by Cyberwit publications.
It consists of articles on HR and Learning & Development written under four sections:-

Section II   Leadership Thoughts
Section III  Experiments in L&D

In the Foreword Moid Siddiqui, Management Guru and celebrated author of over 25 management books writes  “In today’s world where ethical values are deteriorating with a fast pace, reading Rajeev’s book ‘Straight from the Heart’ is a necessity, not luxury.” I say that you can buy this book just for reading the powerful and erudite foreword of the management Guru; all else is a bonus.

I seek the support of my beloved readers for promoting the book- buy (costs less than what you would spend at the cinema), read and tell friends!

Friday, 26 June 2015

Coaching for Symbiotic Success in Organizations

The Madras management association, of late has been very active under the dynamic leadership of Capt. Vijayakumar. Evening programs are organized by the association almost every other day of the week, on varied topics of interest to members. However, I have not been able to attend most of these programs in view of the geographical distance of our Hyundai plant (Sriperumbudur) from the city.
 All the same, when I saw the topic slated for the 22nd of June 2015 I was excited; all the more when I observed that one of the facilitators would be Ms. Shyleshwari Rao, a competent facilitator who has done quite a few programs for us as external faculty. My mind was made up and I decided to attend this program. Mr. Kumar Sachidanandam of Cognizant technology solutions was the other facilitator. The former is a   professional certified coach of ICF (International coach federation) and the latter an associate certificate coach. They are directors and board members of the Chennai chapter of ICF. The session was chaired by Mr. Suresh Bethavandu, Head, corporate HR, solutions.
 At the outset the facilitator, Kumar sought to make a distinction between teaching, training, instructing, mentoring and coaching which is often used interchangeably. This was done in an interactive manner taking the inputs of the participants. Teaching is theory oriented while in training the focus is on doing. All other methods, according to the facilitator falls short in today's volatile economic scenario that involves overnight change of business models, undercutting by competitors or abrupt closing down of business due to unexpected reasons like it happened in the case of Nokia in Chennai.
 Coaching is a partnering process. It inspires the coachee to be futuristic, goal oriented and accountable. It clearly sets out an action plan for moving from position A to position B .Coaching is an individualized process. Each person has different needs. Hence the need for the coachee himself to identify the issue and also the solution. The coach probes in such a way that the coachee himself finds the solution from within. The process is time bound and is arrived at mutually. Other needs such as whether 'any other support' is required or whether he desires monitoring of his progress are all discussed and finalized.
 Next, the various elements of coaching were discussed. The process involves the following:
  • A coach and a coachee.
  • Confidentiality
  • One to one communication
  • Mutual trust
  • Timeliness- to be completed within an agreed period
  • Client's decision to go with the particular coach and his ownership of the process
  • Ethics statement – coach not to divulge information to any third person whether it is the boss or wife
 Tips on choosing a Coach
 1) Ensure the coach is ICF affiliated- Though this is not a must, such affiliation ensures desired competence. Certification by alternate competent coaching bodies is also acceptable.
2) Candidate has undergone specific training hours as a coach say minimum of 750 hours
3) Verify credentials and testimonials
4) Ensure that he has the right area of expertise that you are seeking- For a need in enhancing communication skills, coach with financial expertise won't do and vice versa!
The facilitators then gave the participants an exercise to do called "Wheel of Life" to get them to have a perception of how they are doing in various areas of life namely career, personal growth and learning, money, health, fun/leisure/recreation, significant other/Romance, physical environment(e.g. home) and friends and family.
 The ‘Wheel of Life’ model gives you a ‘bird’s eye view’ of your life and a snapshot of your level of satisfaction with areas like career, money, relationships, and health. Based on the reflection and insights you will now want to make a plan of action. Coach can help you identify as to what you need to be doing for a more wholesome life. Other models like 'Agile Coaching model' may also be used for this purpose.
 Ms Shyleshwari then invited a volunteer and did a practical demonstration of coaching. The process was to ask the coachee questions to probe into the real issue of the coachee in order to come out with an action plan as a solution. In the instant case the volunteer is working in IT industry. He expressed a feeling of being "drained and exhausted" and of "going nowhere"
Probing or clarifying questions to this were "What do you mean by drained and exhausted?"
“I am worried by the uncertainties..."
“What type of uncertainties?"
"The situation of losing your job."
"What could be the reason for losing the job?"
“Problem of being outdated. I need to have additional certifications."
Further conversation helped the coachee to come to the conclusion on his own that in a demanding environment, he needs to update himself and for that he came out with a time bound plan as to how he would go about it. He was asked whether he wanted any monitoring or support. He replied that he wanted the coach's help in monitoring his progress.
As the last lap of the program, we had a lively discussion wherein among other things the need and the advisability of going to an external coach was discussed. It was suggested by some in the audience that such help may not be necessary as the solution is actually elicited from the client himself. Others felt that close relatives or friends could play this role and thus save a lot of money paid to professional coaches. However, at the end it was clear that many of the qualities that is assured from a professional, as for example ‘confidentiality ‘cannot be expected from informal relationships. Further, it was pointed out by the facilitator that even reputed surgeons refrain from conducting surgery on their own close relatives. The reason is that emotion and subjectivity may come in the way of doing what needs to be done.  
Coaching is an area that is slowly gaining in importance. In the west, Marshall Goldsmith ( work detailed in the book” what got you here, won’t get you there”) and others have proved the efficacy of coaching. It may not be too long before it becomes a highly sought after skill in our country. Against this background, it was a treat and rewarding experience to understand the basics of coaching from the professionals.


Friday, 19 June 2015

L&D Leadership League 2015, Chennai

When I received the invitation from Pranav Gupta of  'People matters' to attend the 2015 L&D Leadership league  on 16th June 2015 at ITC Grand Chola Chennai , I was delighted for more than one reason. I had attended the Leadership league in 2014 and had found it an innovative, fun filled experience with a lot of learning. I had also participated in webinars organized by People Matters and found them  worthwhile exercises.The proceedings of the impressive 2014 league was chronicled  for the benefit of readers in this very forum, in the blog dated 7th December 2014.( I had posted  another blog  " Webinar on corporate story telling"on 16th October 2014 discussing the contents of the webinar organized by People 
Matters (

This year, for me there was an added incentive, an icing on the cake. The event  was happening on my birthday! To be on your birthday amongst people, you are most comfortable with,in the wonderful ambience of Grand Chola, discussing matters that you are most passionate about!What more could one ask for? The hospitality carpet was rolled out  right from the beginning when at the entrance of the conference hall , we were greeted by the young and dynamic team of People matters, Savitha, Pranav and Shashi.

The first session was on " Nurturing the league of extraordinary learners" by Mr  Jacob Jacob, Chief people officer,Appolo hospitals. The speaker drew attention to two important aspects of learning in the current scenario. The participants or learners, today are vastly different from traditional learners meaning class room learning alone cannot keep them engaged or ensure that learning happens. Merely promising training abroad or with top business schools  will not do. The participant is keen to know what's in it for him or her after the learning, whether it is faster growth up the ladder, horizontal movement to  areas of his choice or other concrete benefits. 

The other aspect is that basically there is a divide between Learning culture and Operational culture. The goals of the two may be perceived as opposed to each other.The onus is on us, the L&D professionals to take the initiative and make efforts  to get the buy in from the operation or line managers.Success can be assured only if the line believes in it; otherwise the learning initiatve is doomed to fail!

Jacob Jacob briefly touched upon the Kolb's Learning cycle to underscore the fact that adults learn differently from children, who are like empty vessels and will accept anything that is imparted, The adults, on the other hand, have an experiential learning cycle that involves four phases namely (1) concrete experience (feeling), (2) reflective observation (reflection), (3) abstract conceptualization(thinking) and (4) active experimentation (doing). Hence the training program needs to cater to all these aspects.It is in this context that a lot is being talked, about 'blended learning'. It  seeks to provide a mix of various learning experiences that may include apart from face to face learning, E learning, tests, quizes, role plays, learning as you work in  live situations, using the mobile and social media as tools of learning etc. It may mean just   short bursts of learning in a  two hour session instead of a whole day program and the program itself happening not in the L&D center but on the shopfloor.Learning also needs to be measured and rewarded if it is to be taken seriously.

The speaker gave instances of how measurement of the training is done in his organization, Appolo Hospitals. After training is imparted to the nurses, the medication errors before and after the training is measured. Similarly the "The voice of patient", the feedback mechanism is analysed to ascertain whether patients feel more positively about the services rendered by the nurses after the program.

The first session also focused on the importance of building a learning culture, integrated with the business model of the company.This would involve building a knowledge sharing culture, studying the linkage of learning to performance, looking  at ways the knowledge is captured and shared across the organization, encouraging  a culture of exchanging ideas and learning from each other, reverse mentoring through which seniors learn the latest trends from juniors, encouraging calculated risks and  expansive learning that assimilates cross functional competencies. 

The presentation was followed by a  lively discussion during which it was reiterated that innovation and flexibility would be the hallmark of new age training and that selling the concept of ' blended training' to other stakeholders is a challenge.

The second session " L&D 2020: Defining the modes of delivery" was facilitated by Ms Sabita. J, Associate Vice President, HR, Steria India. She split the entire population of the participants into five groups.The groups were given a hypothetical situation of a 100 employee strong company which has been alloted a  budget of 15 lacs for the year. The groups were required to discuss among themselves about innovative ideas already practised in their individual companies and then come out with a training plan for the fictitious company.

The training plan of each group was to be written on chart paper and presented before the the whole group.what followed was group dynamics that included discussions, arguements and consensus. There was some element of nonclarity among team members as to how to go about it, whether to focus more on the budgetting or on the content.Time alloted for discussion, assimilation and preparing the chart was also  very less.
Some of the focus areas that came out in the presentations were

I  Developing  a holistic picture and  view of the training  needs of the year

(a) Looking out for the critical customer outcomes for the year
(b) the financial goals for the year
(c) Systems and processes required for the above
(d)What skills will contribute to this  and how L&D can  provide this

II  More than the content of learning programs, the context is important and these need to be addressed such as 

(a)  the learning environment- If program is held inside the factory and participants are frequently disturbed over telephone,  a more secluded place could be the solution

(b) The participant's interest- If participant is not responding to the traditional tools of training, flexible methods may have to be resorted to including learning through podcasts, what's up, Elearning

(c) Support of Line managers-  If this is lacking, lot of time is to be devoted to obtain this before embarking on a major initiative.

III  Almost all the presentations  included a 'Future Leaders' Program to equip people with the required competencies for leadership roles.Similarly programs for fresh GETs to acclimatize them from campus to the corporate was recommended in the presentations.

IV  Strech  assigments involving cross functional roles

V  Human Lab for senior executives( 7 days ) with external experts' support- To understand   their leadership style visavis the organizational goals.Later they can  serve as mentors and coaches in the organization.

Although groups were formed in an ad hoc manner with instructions to select a leader who would  make the  presentation of the group view  before the full house , it was found that one team which had also received the same instructions had better focus and  excelled in team working. They had given themselves the name of 'Glow' ( no other group gave itself a name) and the presentation was made by all the members which included all age groups, each complimenting what the other had said.They had a clear structure for the whole presentation- the level of employee in the organization, type of training intervention, mode of delivery and the impact in terms of output, quality, cost and delivery. It was a treat to witness  excellence at such short notice!

The third session was  "Technology blended learning solution" and the speaker Mr Mohan Srinivasan, Head, Centre for behavioural excellence,Wipro Technologies.    In this interesting session the speaker took us through the  practical application of technology for L&D initiatives. At the outset, he outlined the changing challenges of recruitment for the IT sector. Initially software companies were recruiting employees only from the metros and A class cities. However, the high demand vis a vis the supply of manpower prompted them to recruit software engineers from smaller towns and cities. Although competent technically, these candidates have a problem of communicating in English confidently and without grammatical errors. On account of communication issues, only 25% of the 50 lac students who have  passed out are employable.

In order to address this problem, Wipro has included in its induction program for fresh engineers, a ‘Fluency Program’ for a period of 8 days devoted exclusively to improving the language fluency of young recruits from the smaller towns. What is special  about this initiative is that technology is used effectively to help the participants get feedback at every stage on how they are doing, correcting them on the pronunciation and enhancing their confidence levels.

Mohan revealed that for this initiative Wipro tied up with a Canadian partner who customized the tool for imparting a neutral accent that can be understood by anyone, anywhere in the world. The tool gives inputs on the place where stress needs to be given while pronouncing a word as also inputs on grammar, listening and retention.( Alerts are given in the form of colours Green if 43% or more of what the candidate spoke is comprehendible, Yellow if it is between 33% and 42%, Red if the comprehendible level is 22% or less).

There is  a faculty admin zone which facilitates interaction with faculty and for providing  reports on the progress of  the participants  over a period of time  and how they fare in comparison to the other participants.    Measurement is a very important component of the program and the  CEFR (Common European frame of reference) is used as the tool to assess the effectiveness of the program At the end, the speaker showed videos of the participants who underwent the program speaking before and after the program. The improvement in fluency and confidence levels were clearly visible in the videos.This session was indeed very informative and it throws up exciting possibilities of how we can use technology in the coming years for L&D initiatives.

The last session of the conclave was on “ Redefining the Learning Metrics” which was facilitated by Mr Anupam Sirbhaiya, country manager, Center for creative leadership.The speaker gave the participants a brief account of the history and the activities of his organization, Center for creative Leadership.CCL was  founded in the year 1970 when Leadership development was a novel  concept..  Today CCL has served the cause of leadership development for over 40 years with focus on solid research foundation and practical business application.

 Anupam underscored the point that today learning needs to be approached proactively and it is not " I am responsible for learning transfer”, versus  “ I am  evaluating a training program “ statements. Both are important. He said that the linkage between the preparation, engagement and application of learning should firmly be in place. The inputs of the participant and his supervisors in the department should be taken at the  preparation stage before rolling out the program. During the program various means are  to be looked at for guided practice and skill development. After the program, at work, opportunities to use and continue new learning is to be ensured.

The speaker then discussed the measurement model of Kirkpatrik for  measuring the impact of training at levels of (1) Reaction, (2) Learning(3) Behaviour and (4) Results. As done in the second session, the participants were divided into groups. They were required to  write the manner they would assess programs at the three levels (excluding the reaction level)  on three charts. Later the charts were shared in the big group. For the learning level most of the suggestions were about conducting test before a program and comparing score on the same test after the program.

During the discussions, it was pointed out that the appropriate metrics to be used would depend on the intent of the measurement ( All programs may not be measured at the results level. Major programs involving huge expenditure alone could be measured at this level).Another suggestion that came up from a group was that line managers can be kept in the loop in advance of what would be covered in the program and also take their inputs for finalizing the contents.Similarly after the program the participant's boss  is informed about the inputs given and the areas that he may observe and support for implementation of the learning.

The impact of the program could be measured against productivity & revenue generation. In fact during the course of the conclave one participant Mr Bhat of Sundaram Finance shared instances of measuring the impact of sales training by imparting the training to only one unit and comparing its performance with other units, not extended the training. The unit that was given training showed substantial increase in sales. 

Another way of measuring impact is to assess the monetary impact of action learning projects (ALP) taken up as part of the training. Anupam indicated that monetising as many aspects as possible is the key to effective  learning metrics.How many more people have you made ready for succession management?  What is the monetary impact of this vis a vis costs of external recruitment annd acclimatization of the new people?

As we thanked the organisers and left the venue  after a sumptuous lunch, there was this feeling inside of having had a worthwhile experience, a half day well spent!