Friday, July 25, 2014

Machoism



Recently I conducted a Team Building off-site workshop. Over 100 participants at an average age of 26 years attended this meet. One of the activities we normally carry out in such workshops is to make several sub-teams and then ask them to create an identity for each such team by devising a team name, create a slogan that binds the team together etc. This part of the activity is meant to establish initial bonding with the team members. The next activity that follows is aimed at tapping and triggering creative energy within teams. In this activity, the teams are asked to prepare a short skit that portrays the team values, beliefs and justifies the name and the slogan chosen by the team.
This time round, we had made four sub-teams. Interestingly, two out of the four teams came up with skits that had moderate to high amount of aggression, binging on covert to overt elements of violence.
Take a look at this.
One team presented a skit on the lines of one historical event in the life of a Maratha King (Shivaji), who took the life of a Delhi appointed Mughal emissary Afzalkhan, who had come to meet Shivaji with an intention of killing him by deceit. The team used the plot of this story to portray their slogan that talked about victory.
The second team portrayed a battle scene between two neighboring countries (India and Pakistan). Here they depicted how the more aggressive and agile soldiers were able to pump bullets in enemy camp and not give them any room for a possible retaliation. Here, the theme was beating the competition and emerge victorious.
The remaining two teams also had themes around winning but they chose very different storylines. One formed a human pyramid – a kind of sport popular in western India called Dahi Handi, to signify moving higher and higher level of success. And the other one exhibited company products and their role in making customers win at the marketplace. They accomplished this act by creating human forms and actions to signify uniqueness and specialty of the company products.
So, what is the point I am trying to make here?
In excess of 50 % of young folk participating in this event had to resort to extreme forms of depiction of violence to signify victory. It is also pertinent to note that they thought their victory had to be somebody else’s defeat.
And then I am reminded of what we read day in day out about how children are brought up these days, especially the male children. Remember, this particular team was also 95 % men!
Go to any toy shop and what are on offer are guns, bombs and all war and arson inducing toys!
I am not sure whether the youthfulness of this group made them go for more violence centric imagery or by now it has become our societal DNA, where machoism is considered as a necessary pre-condition for achieving worldly successes. And if it indeed is, then we are talking about a much deeper problem and I think it’s high time we corrected it as a society.




Sunday, June 29, 2014

Journey Matters

I am a great believer of setting goals and providing a well-defined execution plan in support of the same. In fact, often times, I do help my clients in setting their business goals and also propagate the importance of doing so across their employee communities. I believe that well-formed goals give us a sense of purpose and direction and also release productive energy in initiating actions aimed at achieving those goals. 

However, there are equal numbers of times I have wondered whether the tightly defined goals by themselves energize our actions or is there something else (actually additional) that goes with it. Although I have tried to find an answer myself, I can’t claim that I have fully got one—but today I am certainly closer to it after going through multiple reflections.

I want to narrate a live experience that I went through a few years ago.

In one of the pre - monsoon months, many years ago, we went somewhere on the outskirts of Mumbai-- removed from all the hustle bustle of the metro. It was a Yoga camp for a five day period. As is the case with any other camp, there were several individual and group activities aimed at accelerating self-awareness and interpersonal awareness. Thankfully, there were no sermons at all and every experience created there was left at an experience level itself. This meant that the participants were left to draw their own learning lessons out of what they were going through.

One Morning, our teacher asked us to wear walking shoes and pack some basic gear to protect against the Sun. It was around 7.30 a.m., when we left the camp site, with our teacher leading the group. The group consisted of all sorts of folks-- from young bachelors to fairly aged couples. We were allowed to walk at a very comfortable pace and in no particular order. We did that for about 10 minutes, at which point, our teacher asked us to stop walking and gather together to form a circle. 

We did not know what the exercise was, where we were headed etc.--and probably that was the idea! 

We formed the circle as instructed and the teacher stood right at the center of it. She asked us to take a look around and generally make note of what was in sight-close, mid and far. The place where we were standing was a part of a fairly vast plane, except, in one direction there was a hill which was fairly high. 

After we did what was told to us, the next instruction followed. 

Now we were asked to make a straight line by standing in pairs. Those who had joined the camp as couples were paired together and the singles were paired with other singles.

Now that the line was neatly formed, the teacher told us that momentarily we shall start walking. 

Hearing that, we were about to start walking, when the teacher got several blindfolds out of her bag and started putting them on some people. We soon realized that there was a method that was being followed in choosing such people. The apparent weaker link in each couple was being blindfolded! So each couple now had one blind folded person. We were then told to hold the hands of our partners and simply start walking behind the teacher, who was heading towards the hill. She strictly instructed us that no talking between the partners was permitted. 

The real journey then commenced. Weather was still pretty pleasant and we were not hindered by the strong sun. Those who could see were not yet figuring out where this journey was actually going to land, as we kept inching towards the hill.

We continued at a comfortable rhythm and kept walking for almost 90 minutes. 

At the end of 90 minutes, we had reached the top of the hill! 

Those who were blindfolded still did not have a clue as to where they had reached.

At that stage, the teacher asked them to take the folds away and slowly open their eyes. And when they actually did, the decibel levels on the hilltop dramatically shot-up! And what did it convey? It was mixed bag of jubilation, pure happiness and a tremendous sense of astonishment (almost bordering on disbelief!), that they could climb such a height without any stress and that too blindfolded.
No exaggeration, I had a 70 year heavily arthritic patient standing next to me, who had just taken his blinds off and this is what he had to say, “Wow!!! What a breathtaking panoramic view! I would not have agreed to climb up this hill, which was almost looking insurmountable from the ground. Even if the offer came with heavy incentives! I still don’t believe I made it and now I am wondering will I be able to make my way back to the camp.” And that is where the teacher interjected. She said to him, “What you thought impossible is already behind you.What remains is a cake-walk!” And that was enough for him. He made it back to the camp site without tears! 

I have been fortunate to witness many such incredibly enjoyable (and successful too!) journeys taken by people. And this is where my multiple reflections tell me that goals are important and they provide a definite sense of direction. But sometimes they can actually clip the wings of your unfettered and untapped potential. Sometimes they can even deter you from taking uncharted paths. And certainly they don’t give you an opportunity to bask in happiness of reaching a pleasant surprise at the end of the journey!

Therefore my take: As in case of everything else in life, there is no silver bullet to happiness. One has to choose what works for himself/herself. To me, what becomes material is the quality of the journey. 

What you really enjoy is the journey and where you reach is the goal.

But that’s my experience.

See what works for you.





Sunday, December 15, 2013

Uniforms


Just last evening, my daughter returned from her school re-union celebrations. Apart from many changes she said she noticed in the school, the most prominent was that the school had introduced uniforms for students.

That set me thinking. Uniforms, probably originally came into being through the military route. Obviously, the purpose behind the same must have been a combination of providing a unique identity to the troupes and standardizing the war attire that was geared (pun intended!) for convenience. However, another factor—perhaps more important, could have been to inculcate ‘pride’ amongst soldiers, by symbolizing uniform as an expression of profound loyalty.

I don’t even know if my imagination above will stand any historical scrutiny. But, it at least sounds plausible to me. 

Uniforms, over a period of time, seeped into many other spheres of the society. And they took different names and forms as they evolved.

A formal party invite invariably specifies a dress-code—a black tie and an evening gown, or in a typical north Indian wedding, male folk wearing a particular type of turban to signify their close relationship with either the bride or the groom family. To me, even these are the examples of uniforms. Of course, here the purpose of wearing them is a little different.

School uniforms are another genre of uniforms. I remember, as a child, I used to get absolutely bored with wearing the same clothes to school every day, which led me to question its importance. What my aunt explained to me then, left a significant impact on me — to the extent that I virtually stopped questioning the validity of uniforms. She said, “Schools have students drawn from many economic classes of the society (which was actually the case, when we went to school) and uniforms are designed to break these class barriers and bring all students to one ‘uniform’ level. Absence of the same, will lead to affluent students flaunting their riches — creating an unwelcome inequality among students.”

My respect for uniforms has its roots in the rationale provided by my aunt, especially because she did it at a time when my rebellious thoughts on any subject could be countered by only a logical (I decided if it was logical or otherwise!) explanation. Today, when I look back, it wasn’t logic alone. If the emotion behind her explanation had not reached me, no amount of plain logic would have convinced me. I must add that I was from a (relatively) higher economic class throughout my school years and proudly wore my school uniform.  Here I want to make a confession: Although I wore the mandated colors, the fabric quality I eventually started wearing was significantly of the higher order. In fact I met a school friend after a good three and a half decades, who remembered how the quality of fabric I wore stood out. I feel bad about it today, especially when I had readily bought into my aunt’s logic and yet went ahead and carried my,( so called) class, shamelessly. Just so that I’m not too harsh on myself, I probably wasn’t even conscious of the fact that I was flouting my aunt’s guidance.

My next encounter with uniforms started much later, when I became a part of the corporate community. I came across many organizations where everyone from a Managing Director to a lay workman wore same / similar uniforms. And again, I, in my hearts, started to admire them for their efforts in creating class - free workplace cultures. Even here I later realized that my naivety prevailed. 

So, my foregone conclusion today— ‘Uniforms don’t change inherent and deeply embedded inequalities — because they are entrenched in our minds and expressed in behaviors at all times.’

Monday, December 9, 2013

Icons



 It is better that I start with some disclaimers:
  • I’m not against systematic and merit-based wealth creation by the individuals - of course when done in a legal - and more importantly the right way.
  • Although, I have great respect for individuals of clean character, operating in the social and political arena, I’m not necessarily enamored merely by their characters alone. Because, I believe that without an institutionalized mass movement, efforts of such individuals often return limited and short-term results.
My discussion today is mainly centered around the Indian realities. Yet, I see a similar pattern covering much other geography.

To begin with, let me put forth my working definition of an Icon - mainly to set a context to the discussion.

To my mind, an Icon is a person / personality, who enjoys an important place in the hearts, thoughts and lives of a large number of people, because, Icons represent and possess their ideas about ideal characteristics that must be present in a person of that profession / calling / field.

Just to ensure complete clarity, I’m going to take two examples:

Sachin Tendulkar, is undoubtedly the most prominent Icon in India. People admire him for his towering cricketing achievements - and more so, when they are seen in the light of his humility. But is that all? Of course, there are many other things for which he is revered - his proudly wearing of the Indian tri-colour on his helmet, his ways of respecting the elders and so on.

Amitabh Bachchan is admired for his acting prowess for sure. There are many more reasons for his gaining the iconic position. His successful fight with adversity, his versatility and command over any medium through which he interacts with the audience, the family values he showcases et al.

One can go on and on to call out iconic names from David Beckam to Bill Gates, from Amir Khan to M S Dhoni.

And this is where I am amazed to notice an unavoidable co-incidence - which is, every (read "almost all") Icon of present day happens to be living in the absolutely top economic echelon. It virtually leads to an implication that people do not confer ‘Iconship’(if that were a word!) unless  their Icons demonstrate success in the form of economic prosperity.

No matter, how harsh or even absurd and far-fetched the above observation of mine may sound, it is a stark reality today. You no longer find extra-ordinary doctors who aren’t phenomenally wealthy. You don’t have the successful politicians who are not stashed with seriously large sums of money. You don’t have big sports personalities (from popular sports), who are not highly rich. And examples are available aplenty from many other spheres as well.

The discussion so far, by any means, is not meant to draw a conclusion that every person who has made it big in his / her own profession is necessarily extra-ordinarily rich. My only simplistic observation is that folks hailed as popular Icons have at least one thing in common - their extra-ordinary financial status!

And this is where I want to add a twist / new dimension to the description of an Icon.

An Icon is a person / personality who enjoys an important place in the hearts, thoughts and lives of a large number of people, because s/he represents and possesses their ideas about ideal characteristics that must be present in a person of that profession / calling / field. And most importantly, people often times either dream of becoming such Icons themselves or look at such Icons as their dream achievers.

That’s why parents would invariably say to their aspiring cricketer children to idolize Sachin. And that’s why a young politician would like to buy a white SUV at the first available opportunity upon entering the political arena. And that’s why most of the aspiring actors want to advance their careers through a Bollywood route than through the stage and they would more likely choose TV serials as ladders than working on acting / staging plays!

I am merely highlighting a truth! Not passing an explicit value judgment. Although, my readers, by now, would surely have sensed my latent concern. Hopefully, many more will share it as well! All in the interest of a purposeful, long-lasting and healthy advancement of human societies!   
           

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Employee Satisfaction leads to Customer Satisfaction: Myth or Reality?

‘Commonsense is most uncommon’—this universally applicable clich√© has often times led to my being excessively conscious in readily accepting anything that appears (to my mind) to be commonsensical! This tendency has stayed with me for quite some time now, sometimes to my advantage and sometimes to the contrary as well.

I remember as a young professional – especially with the academic grounding in HR, I thought it was obvious that when people felt great about their work, their work place—physical and emotional environment et al, they would naturally deliver better customer service, which would result in high customer satisfaction. And then I met one Management Guru (though self-proclaimed, but undoubtedly a highly successful corporate honcho) , who told me – with authority, conviction and the rich experience that he had behind him, that when employees were happy and enjoyed their work and work environment, it invariably led to adverse impact on customer service. In fact, one of his favourite idioms was—‘behind every happy and comfortable employee stands an unhappy customer!’

It didn’t quite make sense to me then and certainly does not now. Those were my early professional days with the conventional brick and mortar manufacturing sector. At that time, while we had a very well established quantitative discipline around the core areas of manufacturing, the so called ‘softer’ i.e. ‘difficult to measure’ areas were often left to people’s imaginative/creative interpretations/analyses. And to add to the complexity, if you had a stronger personality like the one referred above, what ‘he’ believed in remained a final word on the subject—at least within the community of his influence.

But thankfully, the world has moved ahead. Numerous studies and empirically irrefutable data are now available on a global platform that clearly establish that employee satisfaction (E-sat) definitely leads to customer satisfaction (C-sat). The space and the scope of this blog do not permit me to go through these research findings here. In fact, normally such established facts should not be even worthy of yet one more article on the subject and still I was driven to come up with my observations. The reasons for the same are equally compelling.

On one hand, we have a plethora of research that says employee satisfaction has a direct bearing on customer satisfaction. And on the other hand, (especially in the recent past) when I tried to explore the existence of such correlation at unit/ enterprise levels (with some of the business heads of organizations of eminence and repute), I got fairly mixed responses. Some heads told me that they did not find any sustained correlation between E-sat and C-sat – sometimes both came out to be high on the scale and some other times, higher E-sat did not equate with high C-sat etc…

The overall sense that I got from these business leaders was that their respective organizations had independent and standalone mechanisms that measured and monitored E-sat and C-sat and not in conjunction with each other. On detailed inquiry I also realized that these business leaders were not terribly worried about the fact that they didn’t necessarily notice any direct correlation between E-sat and C-sat in their businesses. I was also told that all these organizations worked with a lot of focus on continually improving their E-sat and C-sat scores (independently) by initiating actions based on what they hear from the employees and the customers through the ongoing survey mechanisms.

Now this raises the important question: If studies after studies have settled that the equation of higher E-sat=higher C-sat holds good universally, then how can some business leaders live with converse reality in their businesses?

My possible answers are:

1. These businesses do not realize that E-sat has a strong bearing on C-sat.

2. These businesses do not have a holistic program that monitors these two metrics on a common platform. It is often seen that HR manages the E-sat process without any real reference to the C-sat and Marketing (or some such market-focused function) manages the C-sat process without any reference the E-sat. Both employ comprehensive survey mechanisms and take resultant actions independently.

3. These businesses don’t measure these two metrics in the same period, thereby leaving no room to improvise one (i.e. E-sat) for making an impact on the other (i.e. C-sat).

4. These businesses believe that the two metrics must be tracked separately, because they survey two distinct constituencies.

Whatever may be the real answer/s, I feel that in the least E-sat should be taken as one of the major ‘leading indicators’ for C-sat. And I must explain: If the emerging trend in E-sat indicates that the employee satisfaction is dwindling then it should provide as ‘an early warning indicator’ of the prospective decrease in C-sat. I’m patently aware that the E-sat alone can’t determine C-sat—because if that were to be the case, organizations wouldn’t have two metrics in the first place! However, given a strong correlation between the two, organizations should at least put appropriate mechanisms in place to leverage this knowledge rather than pretending their standalone existence.

It’s going to be a lot of work in identifying common drivers of both E-sat and C-sat, but I believe the effort will be well worth it. Can we start deriving such common drivers from some of the relatively novel and well researched concepts such as Net Promoter Scores (NPS) etc.? If my readers have a question on NPS, there is plenty of material available in the public domain—else, I can cover it sometime later in the ensuing blogs.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Making HR Count

Below is an excerpt of my recent talk before the HR professionals from Hi-Tech sector.
There are always enough people in the organizations who know more about HR than the HR fraternity! CEOs, in any case, know about everything better than anyone else in the organization—(and I’m not saying that there aren’t any exceptions!) That is their birthright! And other Business Unit heads are no different! Assuming that most of us have all the basic (and common?) knowledge about HR, my objective here is to share something little off-beat that will be interesting and something that is generally not found in books and business presentations.

Assume for a minute that you are being asked to make a sound like a cat – what will you do?

What comes to your mind immediately is – meow meow – sound of a cat. Think again. What comes to your mind?

Did you think of roaring like a tiger? No. Not even when we know that tigers are big cats.

This is because our mind is conditioned to think in a particular manner. Why do we feel that there are too many organizational hurdles in making HR count—conditioning again. We need to break that. Here are some powerful ways of making HR count.

So, what makes one count? What sets one apart? Some people catch our attention more than the others. Why?

Let us leave HR aside for a moment and think about our own organizations. Who or what kind of people catch more attention? What are their characteristics? Confidence, rank, expression or mere appearance? Or all of that??

If we think about that majestic creature - Tiger, what sets him apart?

• Presence/ aura/ charishma

• Energy/ vigour/ livelineness/ get-up-and-go

• Impact/ dramatic effect/ bang

• Attitude/ manner/ stance

• Power perception—power is at its best when not in use. This is because people always are left guessing at how strong it will be and the advantage is always with the perceived power holder. What does this power do? Power to change lives, perspectives, organizations.

• Influence/ weight/ sway

• Possibility of benefitting from the association - In case of a tiger, it just a visual treat. But in case of humans, there is a real possibility of tangible benefits like knowledge gain, emotional support, intellectual satisfaction and so on.

• Results - of course they are very important. What if the tiger actually runs away at the bark of a dog? This is an ultimate test. Assuming that everyone contributes adequately to the results (sustained results), what should set HR apart are the aspects that go beyond the routine results, and therefore, a promise to deliver bigger and better results becomes critical!

I am making a reference to the tiger here with a purpose. Corporate world is in a way a complete animal kingdom and let us now explore this wonderland to see where HR fits in.

Tigers want things on their terms. They are generally the bosses, but when they are not the bosses they can be mice in front of their own bosses! So, no one is permanently one animal. They behave like different animals in different situations. Where are the HR professionals in this entire melee?

To my mind, to make HR count, the HR tigers should remain tigers even in the company of stronger tigers!!!

I am sure that you have seen many HR professionals who are tigers in their dens or let us say their domains. There are many such people like the compensation experts, the behavioural experts, the recruitment experts. But what happens to them when they are in the company of the CXOs? As I mentioned at the beginning, every CXO has ‘in depth’ insights in every part of HR function. As a result, HR gets busy satisfying and accommodating each one’s point of view, thereby diluting one’s expert position. It then invariably becomes a mouse opposite a tiger kind of a situation! The HR tigers can do well in standing firm to the ground on convictions that are earned through toil, study & professional passion!

It is for the CEO to discard the compensation study by saying that it is at best a neatly woven piece of imperfect science that can very easily be replaced by his/her rich leadership insights and intuitions—which is another way of saying ‘bin those crap reports’. And it is for the HR professionals to stand up and argue why they are not only necessary for deploying a fair compensation structure, but even more importantly, the direct business result such initiatives can influence - like talent attraction and retention. Everyone in the organization, once a while, needs a reminder that nothing is a bigger competitive differentiator than talent. HR can keep ‘roaring’ this fundamental fact most effectively. Therefore, HR must roar with confidence.

There are also Eagles who fly high and yet don’t lose an eye off the ground. But there are eagles that fly high and lose touch with the ground, the so called corporate strategists!

When confronted with such species, HR should choose to take on role of eagles that fly high but without compromising their ability to be close to the ground. Sounds like a tall order? But who said the corporate world is fair and easy to live in? When the corporate strategists sermon HR to refresh talent immediately i.e. fire and hire--both in large numbers, then HR should be able to argue their case with strength by emphasizing the downsides such as sudden erosion in organizational experience and knowledge, posing risks to business continuity, or the adverse cultural impacts of such drastic actions and so on. The main point here is – do not act like obedient small time birds in front of the eagles, but take up roles of eagle themselves.

Butterflies spread colour and happiness and are a treat to watch, but they are very delicate and fragile. They can’t really be befriended; they will perish with your touch. They are the new product developers, who break very frequently in the face of real life questions. They are so much in love with their creativity that they almost become fragile vis-√†-vis any criticism. And there are such stereotypes present in the HR fraternity as well. They are the folks who normally conduct (or roll-out!!!) sexy training interventions. They also hobnob in other soft areas like fun events, festive celebrations et al. Great presenters, their slides are a visual treat, their delivery is eye-catching, their programs are attractive but if you ask them how they influence the business results, they will fly away like the butterflies. We don’t need such butterflies in HR! What we need are the folks who tailor interventions that best suit the people and the business priorities at once. Family day may be a great concept in India, but not in an organization whose average employee age is 26! They will require a different stimulus altogether.

There are Honey bees as well, whose only mission in life is to collect lots of honey and offer it to the queen bee. It is beyond a doubt that the organizations do require a platoon of honey bees. But they also need queen bees that command extra-ordinary performance from ordinary folks.

And then there are plenty of Giraffes – their presence denotes a situation where people are meddling into the affairs of others. Don’t we all have them in our organizations? We always come across many people who have strong opinion on how other departments should function. With a long neck they can hardly see what lies below and near their feet, but can easily see what lies outside their areas. We in HR have a clear advantage of being giraffes with a difference. We run a function that has an intrinsic advantage of knowing what is happening in all business groups. Our information and knowledge bridges are people. But if we confine ourselves into our own citadels we are forgoing the best opportunity to contribute to the overall business. Why can’t the HR person be a candidate for the business operations role? Why can’t HR be invited into a brand-building task force? Why can’t we contribute to the process of defining where the new centers should be located? And why can’t we be part of the takeover decisions? Why should HR come into picture only at the implementation stage? Therefore, we must actively leave our fortresses of comfort first.

Faced with a sudden growth challenge, the Bull, with its narrow focus, springs into an immediate action. He contacts placement agencies, starts working on the employment adverts, pulls the team of recruiters together and briefs them on the task—basically, simply calls for frenzy! Thoughts such as inviting creative solutions, collaborative decision making, drawing teams into detailed planning process etc. do not even touch the bulls. Overall scale-up of activities, heightened noise levels, palpable intolerance to any thorough approach defines the situation. Misses and near-misses are ignored and the pace is kept intact. More than the progress itself, a perception of progress transmitted through urgent actions, insulates bulls from any immediate criticism. But they certainly hit their own milestones of failure, owing to lack of adequate planning. They then get assigned to another high energy project, leaving the rest to the DOGS to faithfully clear the mess. Of course, in a different organization, the bull may get weeded out as well. That really depends on which animals are more favoured in a given organization. Do we need such bulls in HR?

Therefore, a time has come for us to change our mindsets…

• Impact and not Programs

HR should be known by the impacts it makes and not the programs it runs. This has traditionally been a tricky area—the intangible. But no longer! Everything that HR does ‘is’ (and if not ‘should be’) expressible in the language of tangible business results. The problem arises when HR runs good programs but not necessarily the business enabling interventions.

HR does employee satisfaction surveys or engagement surveys. Why? Because it is now established beyond any doubt that E-sat and C-sat have a strong positive correlation. The point is, how many HR professionals monitor such co-relation in their organizations? And do they take corrective actions when they find any disconnects?

HR does compensation surveys to keep employees at market competitive salaries. Why? Because if that is not done, employees will leave. So what if the attrition raises? Opportunity cost, replacement cost are downsides from cost perspective. What about tenure and higher quality of service correlation? And at what stage tenure starts returning unfavourable results? Are your HR programs tuned to your organizational reality? Do you know your business metrics well? Or are you engrossed in implementing either most commonsensical or just attractive looking programs that draw attention but not necessarily the business results.

• Relationship and not Position

Gone are the days when HR was seen as an all powerful function because of the position it held, the data it owned, the decisions it made (hire/fire etc.). Organizations are much decentralized now. Managerial self -help tools and processes have taken much of the traditional ‘power’ away from HR.

• Information sharing and not holding it up

• BMP and not PMP i.e. Business Management Process and not merely Performance Management process

• Capability Building and not Training and Development

Training and Development is no longer a discretionary HR initiative. In fact, Learning and Development—please note, it is not Training and Development, is an integral part of the holistic HR offerings aimed at Organizational capability Building process—it is not a bunch of stand-alone and ‘nice to have’ training programs.

Next Practices Vs. Best Practices

• Leadership Vs. Followership

Leaders create followers; followers create leaders.

This whole idea revolves around the paradoxical thought that those who are the best leaders usually are the best followers. Truthfully, we all follow someone or something and it is our ability to follow guides us to lead.

If we only channelize all our energies creating leaders , aren’t we forgetting to shape a large majority that is expected to follow the leaders in a particular manner?

• Integrating company business objectives into CSR programs

The realization that companies can and should play an important role in the communities that they operate within—and for the larger organizations they need to work across the nation and around the world has become extremely critical. The sole purpose of the business used to be to increase value for shareholders. However, modern day businesses are expected to have concurrent priorities and not all of them are in exclusive realms of enhancing shareholder value.

And quite independent of the above point, business leaders are beginning to realize that an effective corporate social responsibility goal can be much more than a feel-good public relations (PR) release for prospective customers, employees, shareholders, and other stakeholders; it can have a significant and positive impact on the core business metrics.

• Exiting Vs. Existing

While the industry focuses on “why employees are exiting”, it is equally (or indeed much more!) important to shift insightful inquiry to understand “why employees are staying back in the organization” and identifying the organization’s strengths and building on them.

• Profit Vs. Sustainability

The dilemma faced by the organizations today is balancing profits vs. social/environmental sustainability. But is it really necessary to view it in such a trade-off type of a paradigm?

Aligning business performance and sustainability is actually quite possible, and many leading organizations are waking up to a reality that it is possible to maximize profits AND also simultaneously shape positive social and environmental impact. In fact organizations are pursuing a sustainability agenda to advance their business goals and improve their profitability. Sustainability is seen as (a) a driver of innovation and tool for market leadership, and (b) improving the top-line/ bottom-line.

• Appraisers Vs. Appraisees

Every organization has 100% of its employees as appraisees and ~30-35% who are appraisers as well. And yet, we spend enormous amounts of resources training only the appraisers! Shouldn’t we also prioritize enrolling a large majority of appraises into the organizational thinking around performance management? Or should we continue to leave that task exclusively to the appraisers and then blame them for doing a shoddy job? Enterprise-wide initiatives covering appraisees are sadly lacking and badly needed!

• War for talent — Poaching Vs. Building

When the time comes to fill your vacant positions, will you promote from within or hire outside talent? Is your talent management strategy to coach or poach? The organizations should be able to grow their talent from within by hiring their people at an early age and developing them over the course of their careers. Poaching may solve your immediate problem but remember, that adds to the overall strain on the wider business landscape and most importantly, if you try to poach, sure enough you will be an equal target for poaching.

• Upstream involvement in campus

Attracting talent sometimes means marketing the corporation to the people who might one day take a job there. Organizations should take steps to increase its name recognition, improve its brand attraction and fill its talent pipeline by inviting students for internship programs and training them. This is not a new idea, but a lot needs to happen in engaging prospective employee community upstream.

• Managing the rejected candidates well

Improving the rejected candidate experience can reap benefits by retaining the interest of unsuccessful job seekers for future vacancies and building a talent pool of candidates who want to work for your organization. In any case, not making a rejected candidate your brand ambassador is clearly an example of a lost opportunity. A point that also needs attention is ‘whether organizations can have a systematic program that can train borderline rejected candidates to quickly scale-up.’ Any experiment in this area will yield productive results for the organization and also help them optimize their otherwise wasted effort.

• Mastering all HR functions…going beyond specialization

Have you heard of a Generalist Engineer or a Finance Generalist or indeed a generalist in function other than HR? If not, then surely we must accept that this is a self-inflicted problem within the HR community. No, we are not the generalists. We are as much the specialists in our field of HRM as any other professional is in his/her area. And mastery is anyway beyond any specialization and applicable to every discipline and not just HR alone. We of course need to understand the importance and relevance of mastery—works of Pink, Senge and Gratton give plenty of insights on the subject that any HR person should know about for effectively managing their function.

And this is how we must do it…

• We must do HR with an Attitude.

We are no longer the note takers, or mere facilitators in senior management discussions, or the team building resources! HR professionals should actively participate in creating company strategy.

• We must make our cause so credible that impossible becomes possible.

A nice, calm and respectable lady went into the pharmacy, walked right up to the pharmacist, looked straight into his eyes, and said, "I would like to buy some cyanide."

The pharmacist asked, "Why in the world do you need cyanide?"

The lady replied, "I need it to poison my husband."

The pharmacist's eyes got big and he exclaimed, "Lord have Mercy! I can't give you cyanide to kill your husband!

That's against the law! I'll lose my license! They'll throw both of us in jail! All kinds of bad things will happen. Absolutely not my dear! You CANNOT have any cyanide …!"

The lady reached into her purse and pulled out a picture of her husband in bed with the pharmacist's wife. The pharmacist looked at the picture and replied, “Well now, that's different. You didn't tell me you had a Prescription."!!!

• In the rigmarole of daily life we may sometimes forget micro-level details, but never lose control over the broad context that defines our professional being.

An elderly couple had dinner at another couple's house, and after eating, the wives left the table and went into the kitchen.

The two gentlemen were talking, and one said, 'Last night we went out to a new restaurant and it was really great. I would recommend it very highly.'

The other man said, 'What is the name of the restaurant?'

The first man thought and thought and finally said, 'What is the name of that flower you give to someone you love?

You know.... The one that's red and has thorns.'

'Do you mean a rose?'

'Yes, that's the one,' replied the man. He then turned towards the kitchen and yelled, 'Rose, what's the name of that restaurant we went to last night?'

• As subject matter experts in HR, we will have to define problems for people and also solve them. Leaders, Managers - almost everyone often miserably fail to articulate the problem accurately. And if we simply respond as badly as the original articulation of the problem we will land up in a situation like this:

P = The problem logged by the pilot
S = The solution logged by the engineers

P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.

P: Something loose in cockpit.
S: Something tightened in cockpit.

P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.

P: Suspected crack in windshield.
S: Suspect you're right.

P: Aircraft handles funny.
S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right, and be serious.

P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed.

And finally, we must know that the first country-wide tiger census conducted in 1995 - Project Tiger, launched in 1973-74…and it is the Tigers who are counted continuously and not the mice!!

The power to influence nuclear peace doesn’t come from your inability to build the nuclear muscle...in fact the reality is exactly reverse! If Nelson Mandela is an idol of the South African blacks, he is the God of the South African whites, because he had all the power to destroy them but he chose to bring them into the national mainstream by using his power constructively.
There many such lessons that we can draw from the happening around us, but a time has come for us to change first! PERIOD!!!