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.