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.


  1. This post is quite relevant.
    While seeking admission, I have heard kids say that HR doesn't challenge their creativity, so the would go for marketing. The fact is that HR is that area with a lot of growth chances if executed int he right track

  2. Thank you Rakhi for sharing your thoughts!

  3. Indeed to carry the internal customers along to achieve the company's goals, it is imperative for the managements in particular the HRDs to be proactive than reactive, keep fires at bay than fire fighting! Very well reasoned article, Rajeev.

  4. Very well explained. So relevant.

    In my last corporate stint, in one of the world's largest banks, I was shocked to find such a weak HR department.

    After a 2 day induction, where nothing relevant was discussed, I directly entered the floor to find that there was only 1 HR Manager for 800 people who only came to our floor 1-2 hour's in a day, late in the day! Being a morning shift person, I never saw the person.

    There was no one explained the post-joining formalities - I had to figure that out on my own. All questions went unanswered - "I am Sourcing, you should contact Talent. I am Talent, you should contact Training, ... " Everybody seemed lost, and no one was willing to take the onus.

    In fact the only times when I met the HR Manager was the day I resigned and 3 months after that on my last day where I had the shortest exit interview in the world! :)

  5. Oh God! This is pathetic.I must say, the manufacuring sector cannot afford to be nonchalant to such an extent and they are not. I was discussing here for improvement but you are drawing attention to the basics.Thank you Subhodeep for sharing your experiences! It reveals the long way that requires to be traveled...