Saturday, January 31, 2009

Looking Beyond ROI!

Organisations are increasingly investing in automating HR applications and employee self-service tools. These result in improved services and cost reduction. Organisations, now, recognise the benefits of business value for long-term.

HR departments have been focussing on saving costs on people and paper. With changing times, perspectives too have changed. Today, HR experts and practitioners believe that modern Human Resource Management systems (HRMS) have successfully reduced HR staff and improved their operational efficiency. Now, the focus is on better productivity and added business value.

Course of action

Automation of processes does not necessarily imply reduction in staff. It gives HR the scope to play a strategic role in business. HR now utilises tools that result in effective time management. To ensure a ‘positive business impact’ of investing in HR systems, its business plan should be based on

  • What it is expected to achieve?
  • Outcomes and efforts that would be recognised and rewarded by the organisation
  • What employees must achieve to deliver these outcomes?

Business outcomes decide the use of technology to redesign processes.

Greater value addition

In most organisations HR doesn’t share the HRMS data with other departments. This is in order to maintain its confidentiality and control. Sharing the data can add great value to the business. It saves time and money. Hence, organisations must invest in such systems.

HRMS is the strategic approach to ROI (return on investment) that balances investments with returns expected. It reduces the risks involved. Thus helping HR gain greater credibility.

Ref: TheManageMentor.

Turning problems into opportunities

Problem-free organisations are a rarity in this competitive world. Nevertheless, many organisations have been economically successful. What distinguishes such organisations and helps them stay ahead of competition is not a mystery. However, it definitely requires an understanding of the organisational mechanism.

The differentiator

Winning organisations too look for quicker and easier means to solve problems. However, what differentiates them from the unsuccessful ones is their ability to search for workable solutions. They delve deeper to find out the root cause of problems. Such detective work, which brings to light the fundamentals beneath the surface problems, is called deep organisational diagnosis. This diagnosis demands committing of time and effort. Winners are ready to give all the commitment required to convert their problems into opportunities.

Case I

A company had been experiencing poor sales performance and the reason attributed was waning motivation. The top management assumed that redesigning the incentive compensation plan could reenergise the sales staff. The company followed a “do-it-now” philosophy, and the plan was developed and implemented almost immediately.

Sales figures escalated but the underlying problems nevertheless remained undetected. Probe revealed that there was little meaningful communication among the various departments and this led to absence of genuine teamwork. The top management also identified cultural barriers to the flow of communication. Distrust aggravated the situation.

Deep organisational diagnosis had helped the company open doors for creative thinking and identifying opportunities. This gave the company a competitive edge.

Case II

The Chief Executive of a company was disillusioned with the performance of her department heads. Surprisingly, there was little effort from the heads themselves to resolve their problems. Interdepartmental rivalry loomed large and the department heads were highly disorganised. The CEO felt an urgent need for a management training programme. Hence, a training expert was appointed who designed a training schedule taking the CEO’s observations as the basis for diagnosis. The courses focused on problem solving, team building skills, time management and conflict resolution.

However, the situation never improved. Techniques presented through the training sessions were never implemented. The assumption was that the skills imparted didn’t solve managers’ perceived problems. The CEO who initiated the training programmes quit shortly thereafter.
Failure to improve organisational performance could be attributed to incorrect initial diagnosis. Training programmes can identify the need for imparting a skill only when the need for such skill arises. They can however not be used as tools to prevent problems.

The new CEO of the company followed the approach of deep organisational diagnosis. She probed deeper into the managers’ unproductive behaviour and reasons for interdepartmental conflict, also the reasons for not identifying problems much in advance. Probe revealed that the managers were themselves never properly managed by their coach, the former CEO. Their ineffective work habits were also ignored to a great extent. They did what they found fit for their organisation.

The new CEO identified two remedial measures for the company. A general management system to review the management practices. The second one being, managers must be managed. They need greater clarity of roles and the CEO expectations had to be matched with their potential. Thus, deep organisational diagnosis helped the company gain better insights into the action plan for success.

Road blocks

Deep organisational diagnosis is essential and many organisations realise its advantage. However, many organisations are invariably unable to get out of the mire of problems. This is because, they do not identify the following barriers to organisational success.

Edginess: This a common symptom exhibited by organisations showing initial enthusiasm to emerge winners. Quick action leads to faster results and individual rewards. Hence, the temptation to hurry up things is pervasive. However, this could be a barrier to identifying deep-rooted problems.

Simplicity: Simplicity is a virtue, but not in deep organisational diagnosis. Diagnosis must follow the uncharted terrain and not a straight-line approach to solving problems.

Panicking: The fear that deep diagnosis will trace the problems towards those in positions of higher organisational power is another hindrance to long-term success of an organisation.

Skill deficiency: Lack of appropriate skills despite the motivation to diagnose the root cause for surface problems could mar organisational success. Skill deficiency is considered to be resulting in organisational problems more than individual problems.

Broader perspective: Root causes are cross-boundary issues that require visualising the organisation as a macro-system functioning beyond a single specialisation.

Hyper competitive pressures: The accelerating pace of innovation and competition requires organisations to be always on the run. Only then can they survive and excel in their area of business.

The irony

All barriers to success along with hyper competitive pressures pose a paradox. The irony is that as the organisational issues are on the rise, the time available to understand those issues is decreasing. Ideally companies should differentiate between surface and underlying problems.

A Ten Step Escape strategy

Caught between the market forces and organisational complexities, organisations look for escape strategies. A ten-step strategy would help companies face organisational challenges.

Understand the irony: Managers must be made aware of the ironical trap they are caught in. The first step in breaking the paradox is to understand the paradox.

Evaluate ROI: Time invested in identifying the root causes, before plunging into an action effort, always pays-off well.

Tap the creative vent: Innovative ideas lead to better performance. The knowledge- and growth-creating potential of deep organisational diagnosis helps organisations follow the path to success.

Apportion time: Managers must be encouraged to apportion time to optimise their organisation’s potential, keeping in mind the importance of problem solving and planning.

Systems approach: Managers must be coached to view organisations in systems perspectives. They need to emphasise on a complex network of processes and relationships.

Development programmes: Managers recognise the need for well trained management and therefore place greater emphasis on management development programmes. Development programmes must include lectures on differences among symptoms, superficial causes and root causes.

Use diagnostic tools: Analytical methods to solve problems and identify the core issues must be used and effective action taken.

Creative bent: Kindling the creative fire in the managers can challenge them to tackle the diagnostic process.

Driving forces: Employees taking the initiative to deal with underlying issues need to be rewarded. Also they must be provided sufficient time to unravel tricky issues.

Embed the process: The value-generating power of deep organisational diagnosis is efficiently used when managements incorporate it into the fundamental thinking processes. This internalisation leads to continuous organisational improvements and transformation.


Deep organisational diagnosis is not a simple affair. Time and determination are the prime requisites to change the deep-seated habits of puzzling symptoms of underlying problems. However, investing in these valuables is worthwhile and nets enormous profits.

Ref: TheManageMentor.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Success Endangered- Organisational Behaviour

Employees in today's people driven organisations are provided with enormous opportunities to satisfy their entrepreneurial instincts than their predecessors. Though they have an opportunity to start companies, lead business units and run projects individually, not many are successful.

Waldroop and Butler have identified five behaviour patterns - The Impostor, The Meritocrat, The Hero, The Peacekeeper and The Procrastinator, which affect success.

The Impostor

People with the Impostor syndrome unconsciously feel that they are placed too high and do not belong there. They believe that they are pretending in their position and are afraid that someday people might find out. Every person has strengths and weaknesses. An individual's knowledge of different areas differs. Waldroop suggests, "Don't blame yourself. Buy yourself some time. Fake it - that's fine. Act as if you're going to win, do your homework, and the rest will take care of itself".

The Meritocrat

Meritocrats are persons with great ideas but fail at the implementation stage. Their frustrations in not being able to act upon their idea come in the way of success. Waldroop suggests that the person when presenting his ideas to a manager should present them as if they were not yet fully formed. Use phrases like - 'This is what I'd like to do, but I want your thoughts as well'. In that way they are more likely to avoid confrontations.

The Hero

These people are ambitious and work too hard to achieve their goals. They are compulsive in nature and do whatever it takes to get wherever they want to be. They are more commanders than leaders. Organisations run by these people are characterised by burned-out, exhausted and disgruntled employees. Such people can confront the situation by recognising the early signs of burnout.

The Peacekeeper

Peacekeepers are generally perceived to be calm and avoid conflicts. While organisations benefit from conflict that can create new ideas, peacekeepers are most uncomfortable with conflict as they lack experience in handling conflicts. Waldroop suggests that they should learn to handle conflicts.

The Procrastinator

Butler says, "Procrastination has a lot to do with shame". Procrastinators put off doing something because they feel that completing the task will lead to shame in some form. Their sense of shame arises from fear of challenges. Though they do not lack in skills their fear of shame unconsciously becomes a hurdle to success. According to Butler, the best way to deal with it is to stay with the feeling and experience it.These behaviour patterns not only obstruct the success at workplace but also hinder individual success. The best way to counter them is to identify and deal with them systematically.

Trust follows Communication

In the backdrop of corporate scandals regarding issues like greed, bankruptcy, dishonesty and ethical violations, employee trust in senior management is deteriorating. Plummeting trust signals impending disastrous corporate performance.

Addressing the issue
Trust is not necessarily a matter of what is legal or illegal. It is more a matter of how countless management decisions affect employees over a time.

HR’s role
HR’s efficiency is a key predictor of employee trust. Though the HR’s relationship is direct, it alone cannot build employee trust. Management ‘s backing is critical. HR focuses on two primary trust drivers: Communication and managing change.

HR at work

An efficient HR functioning is associated with high levels of trust and facilitates an organisational culture that infuses faith, loyalty, and confidence among employees.

Tips for HR:

Out in the open: Explain to employees the rationale for major decisions and the company’s performance.

Convey the advantage: Companies conveying the advantages, through issue of “total award statement” (that communicates an employee’s total value of compensation), enhances the degree of trust.

Employee inputs drive change: Employee attitude significantly influences the trust levels in an organisation. Eliciting employee input greatly improves an organisation’s work climate.

Sighting Business goals and roles: Employees of high trust organisations are provided a clear picture of organisation’s goals and their role towards achieving it.

Accountability: Organisations having high levels of trust not only reward high performers but also hold poor performers accountable.

An effective and efficient HR department ensures that employees have high levels of trust and ensure that the organisation maintains the credibility it possesses through communication, consistency, follow-through, respect and internal customer service.

Ref: TheManageMentor

Monday, January 26, 2009

Downsizing: 7 Steps to Help Employees Cope

The November 2008 U.S. job loss report was staggering. More than 500,000 jobs shed in one month, the worst one-month job loss since December 1974. That brings the 2008 job loss total to 1.9 million.And according to a New York Times report on the job loss situation, deeper cuts will probably happen in 2009.

The HR department isn't always involved in making the decision to downsize; however, HR is in the driver's seat when it comes to orchestrating a smooth transition for everyone who's affected. And although you may not make the layoff announcement, there are many things to consider as you prepare to deal with the anger, grief, and stress often associated with downsizing.

Emotionally prepare yourself. Recognize the fact that you may grieve along with the employees. Part of this step means getting ready for the psychological effect the layoff will have on everyone, including the "survivors." Employees who are left behind are often sad and anxious because they have lost friends and are concerned about their own job security. Some feel guilty that they are still with the organization when others are gone. In addition, they will be required to do more with less, a challenge that may initially seem impossible.

Prepare for the downsizing announcement. You may not actually make it, but you will be asked to explain to the employees what to expect. Always focus on layoffs with respect and dignity. Write down what you plan to say in describing your roll in assisting the employees who will lose their jobs. Then practice out loud until you feel confident. Expect anger and sadness in response to your message. The more prepared you are, the easier your job will be, and the more helpful you can be to the employees.

Consider how you can help. In-house outplacement services can assist those who must find other work. Find out what is available in your community to meet the needs of the unemployed. Be empathetic and willing to go the extra mile in helping your laid-off population. Keep in mind that your "survivors" are watching you and the way you handle those who are leaving.

Minimize the effect of downsizing. Do whatever it takes to win back the trust and commitment of your remaining employees. Show the "survivors" how to be change-resilient; it's essential to overcoming the obstacles. Define exactly what is changing and what isn't. It's not uncommon for your "survivors" to believe that everything is changing when, in reality, most everything is staying the same. You need the "survivors" on your side more than ever now that you are, in many cases, short-staffed.

Communicate early and often. Honesty should play a major role in everything you do and say. These are the people you depend on to keep you in business. Tell them what you know and what you can share. If you aren't allowed to tell them some of what you know, try to explain why.

Be accessible to those who are left. As busy as you are, if employees feel they can't get your attention, you are in trouble. Commit to returning e-mails and phone calls, and make sure employees know when that will happen. During the time of uncertainty, the more accessible you are, the easier it will be for everyone to adjust to the changes.

Be a cheerleader. HR has a major responsibility in redesigning, training, and employee engagement, especially after a major layoff. Employees are looking to HR for guidance in filling in the gaps and getting the right people in place to do so while managing the social pressures that are inevitable with layoffs. Remain positive, set goals, and help others who are struggling with what they are being asked to do.

About the Author: Carol Hacker is an HR consultant and seminar leader who ranks among the experts in the field of recruiting and retention issues. She's the author of 13 highly acclaimed business books. Carol can be reached at (770) 410-0517 or

How to Coach Your Boss

At the core of every toxic working environment is the toxic boss, manager or supervisor that breeds it. All roads go back to the manager. And if the manager isn't willing to change, then it's a safe bet that nothing will.

That's why to impact long lasting change, managers need to upgrade their style and approach to managing their people.The toxic boss is still alive and thriving. Sure, no breakthrough news here but what if you, as the recipient of this type of management style, could actually do something about it?

Knowing the type of boss you have, their limitations, their management style, their priorities, what drives them and how they communicate, helps you determine exactly where you stand, and what you can expect from them. After all, if you're looking for more individualized attention, support and training it may not be realistic to expect that from your current boss or even possible for that boss to provide you the support and training you need. And if that's the case, at least you now have the evidence to make a more educated and informed decision regarding whether or not to stay in your current position.

So, what can you do to turn around your boss's style of managing and how they communicate with you? Here's a twist. Start by coaching and supporting them using these three simple steps.

First: Coach Up. What can you to do support your boss? Most are used to their employees coming to them with problems and complaints. It's an interesting reaction you get when you approach them with, "Hi Mary. Listen I know how much we're all under the same pressure to produce and for you I can only imaging that it's even more intense. So, I just wanted to ask you what I might be able to do for you to possibly take some of that burden off, or if there's anything you see in my production or performance that I could be doing better which in turn we'd all win."

Next: Create the Opportunity to Discuss Expectations: The law of reciprocity applies. After you've determined how you can make his life a little easier, eventually, your manager can ask what he can do for you, which is your opportunity to ask if you can discuss the management style that you best respond to and how you want to be managed.

Finally: Set Your Boundaries: Bosses don’t know boundaries. Like it or not, through many managers eyes, their #1 responsibility is to run the company, not worry about your feelings. So stand up for yourself and establish your role, but always give 100%. While most of the time not premeditated, people, especially your boss will continually test you, over and over again, in the sense of what they can and cannot get away with when it comes to making requests and demands of you and how they can treat you. While a large percentage of people might initially be scared or intimidated to say something to their boss, in fear of some type of consequence or fallout, most of the time, managers are clueless about how they treat people and often don't even know they're doing it! Don't be surprised when you drop off this article on their desk, and they in turn, thank you for it. So, re-train all the people around you, including your boss, how they can respond to you in a healthier, non-toxic way.

(About the author: Keith Rosen is the Executive Sales Coach™ that top salespeople and managers call first to develop a team of champion performers and boost their sales. A best selling author, Keith has written several books including the award winning Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions. Inc. magazine and Fast Company named Keith one of the five most influential executive coaches. He's been featured in Entrepreneur, Inc., Fortune,,, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Keith is a frequent guest correspondent on News 12 and has appeared on Fox Business )

Hiring Practices During a Recession

During a Recession, hiring practices generally don’t change, but companies are much more careful in evaluating the need for additional staff — be it executive or otherwise. When possible, they tend to look more closely before adding outside hires. In many cases, companies consolidate responsibilities and do more with less staff. Early signals of this are when companies don’t replace positions left vacant by normal attrition. As business trends continue in the manner that they have during the last two quarters of this year, and into 2009, companies feel the pressure to reduce overhead expenses. This could be reduction in facilities (more virtual employees), reduction in workforce, accompanied by increased responsibilities and reduction in compensation packages. Of course, companies still seek the right executive talent to manage “the new order” going forward.

Companies Hiring Right now

Currently, we are seeing some hiring in the public sector, technology, alternative/green energy and life sciences/medical sectors. To a lesser extent, there are some midcap companies in the industrial sector that are continuing to grow as larger concerns exit markets, leaving a void for lower cost, higher value options. Indicators also point to a resurgence in finance & accounting roles across industries.

From Entry-Level to Executive

Right now, it’s tough for both executives and entry-level employees, but particularly challenging for executives to match employment opportunities that exist in better times. Generally speaking, the higher the price tag, the longer the job search. Revenue producers, at all levels, are highly coveted in this business environment. As for entry-level job seekers, there are still opportunities for the determined.


Flexibility to the needs of the prospective employer would be advised. What the prospective employee can contribute to the bottom line is the key to success in a job search during these times. The use of one’s business and personal network should be a vital strategy—get the word out. Be aware of current events in the industry or sector being sought—the volatility of business is at a high point. There is no excuse to be unaware with so many communication tools at one’s disposal.

Trends in the Current Employment Markets

Retention of current, valued employees has taken a greater importance. In many companies downsizing has already occurred. As business units operate with leaner teams, every member of the team takes on a more important role in the organization. The loss of top performers is highlighted even more in tough times, as productivity could experience a decline, along with adding the cost of replacement. Some might say that with crisis comes opportunity.

(About the Author: Juan Morales is managing director of the Miami office of Stanton Chase International. The 450-member organization conducts local, regional and international executive search campaigns for many top companies worldwide. Stanton Chase currently has 66 offices in 41 countries. There are 12 offices in North America. For more information, visit

Attracting Top Talent: Do You Have What It Takes?

Today's employees are attracted by a hiring package with both extrinsic (pay and benefits) and intrinsic (motivation, training opportunities, etc.) elements. But does your organization have the right mix?

There's really only one way to find out: Ask them. Hold focus groups or distribute questionnaires to your employees with the purpose of determining what they think of your present pay and benefits program and also the work environment. Which benefits do they rate the highest? Which are least important to them? What do they find most and least desirable about their jobs and the workplace?

Studies have been done by numerous compensation organizations and they have identified the following as the most important benefits:
  • RRSP or other matched employee retirement plans
  • Dental plan
  • Pension plan
  • Pay for performance compensation
  • Flexible working hours
  • Childcare
  • Tuition reimbursement

Ideally, say the experts, you should be offering each of these. But if you can't offer them all, determine which you should be offering based upon your employee focus groups and survey findings.

Likewise, examine employees' opinions about their jobs and the workplace. The ideal company offers:

  • Job security
  • Employee participation in decision-making
  • Work/family balance
  • Increased employability through training and development opportunities

Of the elements above, which are missing in your organization? If they aren't there, they should be. Whereas the elements in your benefits package most important to your workforce will vary with the nature of the group (e.g., younger employees will be interested in childcare or tuition reimbursement, or funds to finance a new home), all, regardless of their place in their careers, want job security, involvement in decision-making, training opportunities, and time to enjoy their families along with their jobs.

Once you have retooled your package to attract those employees your firm needs, your next step is to determine how to market your revised package. If you have a website, and you are looking for technical people, make sure that you advertise on it. Visit the websites of competitive firms to determine how they use their site to prospect for job candidates. Job search sites should be part of your marketing plans, of course. But you shouldn't limit yourself to them. Don't forget newspaper classifieds.

Classifieds aren't as effective as they once were, especially if you are recruiting from among those who are still employed. But you can increase their usefulness if you highlight in the ad what candidates would find most attractive about the job (e.g., good pay, great benefits, childcare, and employability). Actually, you should do this in all ads you run.

Here's another avenue for marketing your job openings: direct mail.

Send out mailings to those individuals who match the profile of recruits you want. Associations or magazines targeted to your industry or the necessary discipline can provide the mailing list and names of candidates with the general background you want.This provides a new avenue for the top talent you want.


One-in-Five Workers Plan to Change Jobs in 2009

Even with slower hiring predicted for 2009, 19 percent of workers say finding a new job is on their list and the same amount say they actually plan to leave their current job before the end of the year, according to's latest survey. The survey, titled "2009 Job Forecast," was conducted from November 12 through December 1, 2008, and included more than 8,800 workers. Additionally, six-in-ten workers say the economy and the tightening job market are not making them hold off on their plans to change jobs.

Workers cited a variety of reasons for wanting to leave their jobs in the new year, with the most workers, 49 percent, reporting that better pay and/or career advancement opportunities are the primary reasons they plan to leave their current positions. Fourteen percent are looking for an environment where they feel more appreciated and 10 percent want to work for a company that is making a difference. Seven percent of workers are electing to change careers entirely, while 3 percent say they are leaving their jobs because they want more flexibility or plan to go back to school.

Looking at key factors that influence job satisfaction and company loyalty, workers reported the following:

Pay – A quarter of workers are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their pay. Thirty-five percent of workers did not receive a raise in 2008. Of those that did receive one, 25 percent were given an increase of 2 percent or less. Sixty-three percent of workers did not receive a bonus.
Career Advancement – Twenty-six percent of workers are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the career advancement opportunities provided by their current employers. Eighty percent did not ask for or receive a promotion in 2008 and 20 percent felt they were overlooked.
Work/Life Balance – Eighteen percent of workers are dissatisfied with work/life balance and 54 percent report their workloads have increased over the last six months.
Training/Learning – Twenty-three percent of workers are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with training and learning opportunities provided by their current employers.

When applying for new positions, workers say the most important attributes they look for in employers are:

  • Company's stability and longevity in the market (32 percent)
  • Good career advancement opportunities (20 percent)
  • Good work culture (14 percent)
  • Ability to offer flexible schedules (12 percent)

"January is typically one of the busiest job search months of the year and this year should be no exception with increased unemployment combined with workers who are putting their New Year's resolutions into action," said Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources at "Although seven-in-ten workers say they are satisfied with their jobs, some are always on the lookout for a greener pastures. In fact, 82 percent of workers said while they are not actively looking for a new position, they would be open to one if they came across the right opportunity."

For those actively searching for new opportunities in the new year, Haefner recommends the following:

1) Be patient – More than one-in-five employers (20 percent) report it typically takes them two months or longer to fill their open positions. In addition, companies are receiving more resumes for each of their open positions, requiring more time to make sure they hire the best candidate for the job. Job seekers need to be aware of these time frames when performing their search.
2) Use the job posting – Job postings clearly spell out what employers are looking for. Update your resume using some of the same key words and phrases directly from the job posting. If the employer is using an automated system to scan resumes, your updated resume will surely stand out.
3) Get online now! – While nearly three-in-ten (28 percent) of employers say their recruitment budgets will decrease for 2009, 19 percent report they plan to spend more of their money looking for talent on online recruitment sites. Explore generalist sites, niche boards and local job boards, and post your resume on as many as you feel could benefit your search. Also, take advantage of the functions on each site to boost your exposure.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Be accurate or be sued!

Why HR managers should be legally correct while recruiting .....

Escalating employment related lawsuits have made workplace environment increasingly controversial. Not a day goes by without an allegation being made, a grievance filed or a suit filed in court.

According to an attorney Jasan Boulette, in a tight labour market most lawsuits filed relate to alleged racial, gender or age discrimination. Many employees quit and join other organisations due to discrimination or unethical behaviour in the workplace.

The hiring process

Organisations large or small, intending to operate globally can't afford a misstep in the hiring process. According to the geographical locations, HR at the corporate level must establish and enforce clear policies for hiring, firing and performance evaluation as well as for general work environment issues. Employee claims are very costly, not only in financial terms but also in time lost reviewing files, interviewing witnesses and attending court sessions. HR managers need to periodically update departmental and management practices to avoid the litigation traps.

International recruitment process curtails manager's employment decisions or any action based on an individual's race, colour, gender, religion or national origin. It is advisable for organisation's to perform an audit of HR practices and procedures to uncover potential problem areas and recommend corrective action. The audit should cover all areas including interviewing practices.

Interviewing practices

The interview process by itself can be a minefield of lawsuits! An organisation can be sued for asking improper interview questions, making discriminatory statements or binding contract statements. Risk management in the interview process can be minimise these problems

The inquiry

Managers and interviewers often fail to realise the point when their interview questions go of tangent. Hence, interviews must be well planned. Interviewers need to be carefully trained. Most organisations have two or more managers on the panel. This makes it easier to resolve issues of what transpired during the interview.

Interviewers can also rely on a structured list of questions to guide them in the process. These can even be practiced. Thereby they can avoid objectionable questions.

The interviewer needs to review the resumes of applicants well in advance. This review can be used to develop the interview questions. Interview questions should be drawn from the job description, position requirement and issues the organisation is currently facing.

"This job requires a lot of typing, how fast do you type?" "Do you prefer routine consistent work or tasks that are fast-paced and why?" Such open-ended questions allow candidates to talk about their skills, knowledge and abilities.


A prescribed interview format leaves less room for claims of discrimination. Interviewers can make notes and ask for clarification of answers but should avoid additional questions.
Some organisations adopt interview forms containing objective criteria that serve as a checklist. This not only ensures uniformity between interviewers but also serves as reference in case a rejected candidate files a suit. Interviewers must be aware of topics that need to be avoided. For instance, asking older applicants whether they can serve under younger heads can be misconstrued as age discrimination.

Contract trap

Statements like-"If you do a good job there is no reason why you can't work here for the rest of your career," can create notional contracts of permanent employment. On several occasions even courts have held that such promises constitute contracts and bind the employer.

Interviewers should avoid using terms like 'permanent', 'long-term', while describing the job. Also, statements that imply the employment will continue as long as the employee performs well should be avoided. If an employee is laid-off say, during an economic slump, he can sue the organisation for breach of contract.

Detrimental reliance

One key concept that managers need to be aware of is 'detrimental reliance'. While hiring, managers make a 'recruiting pitch' that doesn't hold after the candidate is hired. If the candidate makes a life decision based on the pitch (sells house and relocates) but upon arriving learns that what was promised is not being delivered -a lawsuit is in the making.

At times detrimental reliance is subtler. While hiring a candidate with competing offers, recruiters talk about the great long-term future, the opportunity for wealth building and rising to the top. The candidate assumes that such opportunities are in the offing, rejects others and accepts the offer only to realise that the hiring pitch took him in. Such an employee too could sue the organisation.

Interviewers should use generic yet encouraging statements. "There is plenty of room for those who do well with us." And "We pay competitive salaries." Such statements can't be construed as implied contracts.

The right track

For consistence in hiring, some organisations use customised or standard behavioural- based interview guidelines. They train their recruiters and other personnel involved in interviewing on legal and effective interview questions and interviewing techniques.


Organisations also conduct a job analysis audit for every position to establish behavioural and situational questions for the interviews. This audit helps organisations in identifying core competencies, behaviours and decision-making styles and technical skills required for the particular job. They can thus establish a benchmark and design the interview accordingly.

Asking a candidate about the typical customer interactions in his position reveals his customer service orientation. Questions about the standards he sets for doing a good job uncovers his work standards, while asking for situations when he used an innovative course of action can help bring out his potential to develop innovative solutions. Such legally defensible behavioural questions help in discovering core competencies.


An interviewer should avoid questions not related to work like candidate's leisure interests, community activities, child -care arrangements, credit standing, marital status or religious observances.

A healthy and productive workplace starts with the hiring process that in turn begins with the interviewing process. With proper interviewing and hiring procedures in place, HR can minimise the risk of lawsuits and become an employer of choice.

Ref: TheManageMentor

Training: A Measured Response

Global-market forces and innovation related to technology are beginning to force HR leaders to redefine their training and development agendas and the skill sets needed to succeed.

Millennials -- the youngest generation of four currently in the workforce -- were recently featured in a CBS 60 Minutes segment. The TV broadcast focused on how different these workers are from the departing baby boomer leaders. Many of the challenges created by this generational chasm fall on training-and- development departments to solve, as organizations scramble to address the pending leadership gap that demographic data suggest is inevitable.

To prepare for this future, training and learning efforts must accelerate the development of leaders who can innovate in the face of rapid change. What's more, e-learning needs to become a motivational strategy, not just a cost-reduction tactic.

The only way to prepare for the uncertain future is to manage expenditures targeted at human capital as investments -- not merely current-period expenses -- something that will require the measurement of the value being created by training and e-learning programs.

Global-market forces and innovation related to technology are reshaping the worlds of training and development. What's needed in the future is dramatically different from what worked in the past. Efficiency will continue to be required, but cost reduction alone will not be sufficient. The challenge will be to demonstrate the value training and e-learning creates while simultaneously managing human-capital risk related to that change.

Uncertain Times

One force that will define the future priorities for training and e-learning professionals is the demand by senior leaders for the entire organization to embrace innovation in the face of the unpredictable future. The uncertainty is represented by a March 2007 Standard and Poor's forecast indicating the price of oil in 2008 would be $65 a barrel. It actually reached $130 a barrel in May 2008, only 14 months later.

In the face of such uncertainty, the role of training and development will shift from responding to training demands from within the firm to becoming the operation that prepares leaders to innovate in the face of external forces. Calibration of how well the training organization is developing leaders and innovators is going to require new measurements.

The most predictable of the forces that will define the agendas of training and e-learning leaders are those rooted in demographics. These forces have two certain features. First, the supply of leaders will inevitably shrink. In the next decade, almost 40 percent of the workforce will retire, including many of businesses' most experienced senior leaders. The only uncertainty is the exact timing of their departure.

The challenge for training and development is to recommend the size and focus of the human capital investments organizations must make to replenish the skills, knowledge and experience certain to walk out the door. In this case, it will require an inventory of what skills and knowledge are leaving and a financial plan for implementing the training-and- development programs needed to replace the critical capabilities of the departing human assets.

A second implication of the demographic shifts was captured in the 60 Minutes segment. The accelerating rate of change makes the values and experiences of those on the two ends of the generational continuum dramatically different. It is as if the boomers and the millennials came from different planets, not merely different decades. Nowhere is the implication greater than in e-learning.

In the past, e-learning was managed as a cost-reducing alternative to expensive classroom delivery. Potential savings for the firm still exist. In the coming months and years, however, the shift to e-learning will increasingly be driven by the preferences of the learners, not by the financial priorities of the accountants.

If you'd like proof, visit the lecture halls of any major American university. Chances are you'll find young learners only reluctantly sitting in a classroom so familiar to the departing boomer leaders.

There's no question millennial prefer the technology world. They want to learn in the same medium they use to socialize and interact with their peers. They want content delivered to their mobile devices.

This shifts the priority of e-learning from the firm's focus on cost savings to the learner's need to be motivated. The absence of motivation radically dilutes the value of even the best content. Fulfilling the potential of training and development requires the engagement of the learner.

People as Assets

So, if these are the major factors that will define the priorities for C-suite executives, what steps do HR leaders need to take to respond to a future in which innovation and leadership are key to creating value?

First, they need to ensure their organizations act on the near-mantra expression, "Our people are our most important asset." This requires that people be managed like an asset.

The pivotal feature of an asset is that it has future value. Assets are not merely treated as an expense on the current income statement. Unfortunately, CFOs don't contribute much to the effort of managing human capital as an asset. GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) leaves accountants with no choice but to record training and e-learning expenditures as a current period expense, not as an investment.

Consequently, HR leaders are going to have to step up and play a pivotal role for their respective organizations, deploying the methods of investment decision-making when it comes to human capital.

To manage our human capital as assets, the future will require that HR leaders develop and deploy capital investment decision-making methods not currently a part of the professional capabilities of learning executives. By demonstrating the future value that can be created, HR will be able to justify the increased budgets required to reposition their organizations for the future.

What will it require for HR leaders to lead their own organizations in the future? Among other things, they need to be prepared to answer the following three critical questions:

1. What business outcomes should be measured to demonstrate the value created by a particular training or e-learning program?

2. How do we convince those leaders with the authority to approve or deny human capital investment budgets that the business impact measured is the result of our training/learning programs and not the result of other forces?

3. How do we organize the conclusions of our analyses so top management can understand their future implications?

Among the skills HR leaders need in order to deal with their list of priorities are those of communications, business acumen and statistical multi-variant analysis. The business acumen is necessary for the critical communication that needs to happen between themselves and their CFOs as a part of the human capital investment and budgeting processes.

Measuring the value that's created is necessary for arriving at executive decisions that impact the future and is essential in justifying budget and resource allocations -- strategic decisions that lead the organization in the face of accelerating change. The challenge for the profession is to champion the methods for measuring the value that's created and educate the training organization in how to make those methods an integral part of every training and e-learning initiative.

Multi-variant statistics is a required part of the value-creation analysis. Without explicitly dealing with the noise from all of the other changes going on around training and e-learning programs, HR leaders will never be able to convince their CFOs that the results are compelling and justify the increased human capital investment required. (Organizations such as Chrysler, ACS, Sun Microsystems and US Bank are already using statistical methods to measure training and e-learning value creation in research being done at Bellevue University's Human Capital Lab.)

In the end, the highest priority for training is to be able to document the compelling value-creation arguments. The challenge for all of us is to develop and deploy the skills needed to make the investment case to other C-suite executives.While we are justified in debating the particulars of the future changes, what is not debatable is that human capital will play an increasingly important role in the creation of value in the future.The HR profession sits at the eye of this storm. How well the profession responds to the challenges will play a key role in determining how well the organization performs as the uncertain future unfolds.

Ref: Michael E. Echols

[About the Author: Micheal E. Echols was educated as physicist and mathematical modeler with a Ph.D from the University of California at Berkeley. A former senior profit-and-loss executive at the General Electric Co., Echols is the author of three books on human capital investment and wrote dozens of articles and presentations on managing human capital. He is executive vice president and director of the Human Capital Lab at Bellevue University in Omaha, Neb.]

Organisational Behaviour - Acting on signs of misconduct

Scandals, scandals and more scandals everywhere! This has become a common phenomenon in the corporate world. The most famous of companies have not been left behind in this mess. As if being rated so is an honour in the industry!

The recent spate of corporate wrongdoings in the news reveals the misconduct of well-known organisations. Business publications, however, had reported such happenings even decades ago.
Well, yes! Decades ago. Ironically, nothing has been done to stop such unethical activities. Reasons are countless.

Bob Gandossy, a Global Practice Leader at Hewitt Associates and an expert in organisational behaviour and effectiveness, says, "As we have seen in the aftermath of such scandals, signs of trouble are typically present but simply missed by the people involved."

School of thought

The Buddhist school's thought on human suffering is truly applicable to organisations. In the corporate world, there is misconduct, there are causes for such misconduct and factors that prevent people from seeing and acting on those signs of misconduct. However, there are also steps to reduce the likelihood of misconduct.

Great companies need the foresight and forethought to curb the "evil" lurking in their organisations. Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a business advisor and professor at Harvard Business School avers, " We should look closely at the corporate wrongdoing for lessons about how to get the best out of people by preventing the worst. Corporate crime anchors one end of a continuum of performance problems."

Being blind to the applicability of such unlawful activities can be disastrous. The ability to detect corporate crime is directly proportional to organisational performance. For instance, crimes committed by the production manager, who overlooks substandard products being shipped, or a loan officer crediting loans to an individual with suspicious financial records. Such fraud, as Kanter says, not only blinds but paralyses performance.

Contributors to misconduct

Basically, three conditions lead to corporate misbehaviour. These can teach corporate biggies, some real big lessons.

Short is not always smart...

First and foremost, rewards for short-term performance. " If salaries, bonuses and promotions are tied to quarterly profits, it's difficult for managers to stop practices that affect their bottom line performances," says Gandossy. Management is highly pressurised when reward systems act as performance triggers.

Short-term performances must be rewarded but not at the cost of neglecting long-term business success. Undoubtedly short-term payouts motivate employees. Organisations must thus review their executive compensation practices, says, Hewitt's Executive Compensation Practice Leader, Michael Powers. The practice of integrating a balanced pay programme with long term performance and retention features would be ideal.

Benchmarking or setting standards is crucial for efficient measurement of performance. Standards must not be set towards the extreme ends. The compensation committee should benchmark pay against the 50th percentile of a reference group.

Too many but not any...

Secondly, increased complexity in today's business with a number of organisations contributing towards one transaction obscures inadequate performance and scams. All vendors are segmented on the basis of their roles and responsibilities. The emphasis is more on miniscule points, than on the bigger picture. Only during tough times do companies explore reasons for poor quality products or misconduct. That is the time when organisations and vendors shift the responsibility for errors committed and play innocent.

"Organisations that come together for a particular project, joint venture, or a series of transactions generally have very specific, often narrow concerns", Gandossy says. To avoid such misconduct, he suggests that the vendors be treated as an integral part of the organisation and not as separate entities. They must be communicated of the behaviour expected of them. An expert employee must, however, supervise the flow of active communication whether upward, downward or horizontal.

Kendell Sherrer, Vice President of Benefits and HRIS at Cardinal Health says, "Forging trust-based relationships with service providers does require extra effort, but pays off by ensuring shared values among the companies."

Agreeing on mutually shared objectives promotes mutual trust, which pays off by certifying shared value systems both among employees and vendors. Also top management must keep their employees informed of the need to employ service providers. Clarity in communication is always a saviour during tough times.

Up.. Up..And away!

Ignoring details and lack of accountability leads to poor performance. Higher aims and greater attention to detail prevent misconduct and inefficiency. Employees notice even subtle conflicts between professional and personal values and this might lead to diminished moral standards. Therefore, the differential perceptual threshold must be negligible when organisational and individual values are compared. Hewitt's Values Alignment Study helps companies and employees identify integrated values of the company and values that need to be focused upon.

Playing Good Samaritan

A sure shot recipe to reduce an organisation's misconduct is to provide employees balanced rewards. These encourage intelligent mistakes and sharing responsibilities. However, certain other methods that reduce susceptibility to misconduct could prevent instances of misbehaviour.
Ethical code It's not enough to have an ethical code it must be disseminated to all employees. Applying key ethical values reduces the pressure on employees to compromise ethical standards and resort to misconduct.

Audit Auditing business practices helps determine the sensitive areas of companies and prevents them from falling prey to misconduct.

Communicate Communication of business practices, both acceptable and unacceptable encourages good conduct.

Tie-up Employees who are pressurised to compromise ethical standards observe more misconduct at work. To avoid this, good conduct must be linked to performance appraisals. Therefore, employees must always be encouraged to resolve ethical dilemmas.

Balance Balanced benchmarking and balanced reward systems provide appropriate payoffs to the employees and the organisation as a whole.

Action A stitch in time saves nine is apt to this context. Acting swiftly on any reporting of misconduct will save time and resources.


Perception of values that influence conduct seldom differs across organisations. Definitely a high percentage of observed misbehaviour in organisations signals problems. A lower percentage on the other hand must not be mistaken for absence of misconduct altogether. It is therefore highly essential to carefully evaluate the circumstances.

Where Employers Find Top Talent

Where can small businesses find good employees? Despite the recent flood of corporate layoffs, entrepreneurs often gripe that the best candidates don’t even know their firm exists, and finding them can be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Traditional recruiting methods usually fail small companies. Broadcasting openings on job boards sometimes yields a flood of applicants who don’t qualify, and the number of responses can overwhelm small firms, says Dennis J. Ceru, a Babson College professor of entrepreneurship and a consultant to small and midsize companies. Paid recruiters can find good candidates, but at a high cost—typical fees are 20% or more of the position’s yearly salary. Ceru says the price may be worth it to fill a top position such as a chief financial officer but not for ordinary hires.

Instead, most small companies prefer to find candidates through referrals and networks of people they trust. To do this effectively, entrepreneurs need to articulate what they want in job applicants, says networking expert Diane Darling. “People don’t know what you need. They just can’t read your mind,” she says. She also suggests small business owners keep an open mind about who might refer good candidates. Sometimes unlikely social connections can refer good employees, although Darling cautions business owners always to check professional references, even when a trusted friend recommends someone.

Beyond reaching out to existing contacts, entrepreneurs can meet potential hires at networking events. Ceru says a casual meeting is a smart way to gauge whether the person is a good fit before starting the conventional application process. “Nothing beats eyeballing the candidate,” he says. “Rather than have 500 résumés and 10 appointments, why not go to two networking nights and have a beer, get to know them in social environment?” To cast a wider net, companies can look for job candidates at conferences and trade shows as well.

“A Better Pool”

Small businesses should enlist their current employees as recruiters, essentially selling friends and contacts on the benefits of working at their company, says Chris Collins, associate professor of human resource management at Cornell University’s school of Industrial & Labor Relations. “Take the price of that ad you were going to run and give it to the person who identifies the candidate who eventually gets hired,” he says. “You’ll probably get a better pool.”

One startup betting that companies will benefit from turning employees into recruiters is Jobvite. The two-year-old San Francisco Company offers Web-based software that allows hiring managers to give information about job openings to employees, who in turn can push it out to potential candidates in their professional and social networks. Hiring through employee referrals is more effective and less expensive than placing ads or using recruiters, according to Jobvite CEO Dan Finnigan, a former executive with Yahoo! (YHOO) Hot Jobs. “Everyone now has a Rolodex, and it’s all online and they’re all interconnected,” he says. Companies pay for the service based on the number of employees they have, with the price starting at about $500 a month for small firms. Even without paying for software, small businesses and their employees can use online networks to expand the reach of their hiring. LinkedIn reports that 45% of jobs posted on the network in the U.S. come from small and midsize companies, with an average of 22 responses per posting in November, up from 12 in January.

Small businesses can also find good candidates through universities. Owners and managers can show up at career fairs, ask campus career centers to refer candidates, and post to job boards and lists that go out to students, recent graduates, and alumni. Companies need to raise their profile on local campuses to get students’ attention, says Lindsey Pollak, an author and career expert who works with students and young professionals. “The students would love to work for you, they just don’t where to find you,” she says. Firms can get involved on campuses even before they need to hire by working with classes on consulting projects and hiring interns, says Erik Medina, director of graduate career services at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. “You’d be surprised, a little bit of good marketing, a little bit of good outreach can go a long way to distinguish yourself from the very large well-known firms that most students focus on,” he says. This year in particular is a good time to recruit on campuses, Pollak says, because many large firms won’t be hiring.

Wherever entrepreneurs look for new employees, they shouldn’t wait until they have to fill an opening. By constantly networking with an eye open for potential hires, owners and managers can keep a pool of candidates in mind for when they do want to bring someone on board.

Continually identifying good candidates is particularly important for small companies because the time and money they invest in filling each position compounds the cost of a mistake. Says Pollak: “It is so much more dangerous for them to make a bad hire because 1 out of 50 employees is so much more damaging than 1 out of 50,000.”

Ref: John Tozzi

Friday, January 23, 2009

HR Strategy: From Execution to Influence

To be effective leaders in their organizations, HR executives are going to need to successfully move the function from executing strategy to influencing it before decisions are made. The HR function has evolved over the past few decades, with each decade having a guiding paradigm that was interrupted by periods of economic recession.

The '70s were the decade of compliance, a time when HR's role seemed to focus on being the cop that kept managers from making discriminatory employment decisions. The '80s saw the emergence of strategic HRM, but from a siloed perspective as each aspect of the function (staffing, compensation, training, etc.) attempted to tie its activities to the firm's strategy. The '90s were characterized by the "strategic partner" paradigm, a time when HR's role was focused on aligning all of the function (processes, policies, etc.) in order to execute the strategy.

The present decade has been the decade of talent, with HR focused on creating the processes to attract, develop and retain the talent critical to organizational success. In each decade, the value of human resources increases, but each of these paradigms shares one thing in common: They all view HR's role as the executor of strategy. While HR's role in strategy execution is critical to both its internal credibility and the business' success, the emerging responsibility -- something we hopefully will see a lot more of in the next two or three years -- is to move from executing strategy to influencing it.
How HR leaders do this depends on whether their firm's strategic decision-making is characterized as a rational process or a process plagued by human frailty.

A Rational Process

The "rational" model suggests that strategy is a linear, goal-oriented, decision-making approach that entails gathering all of the relevant information and then making the decision what maximizes the relevant outcomes for the firm. This is usually the subject of the offsite "strategic planning" meetings and are reflected in the "strategic plan."
This approach assumes that all those involved in the decision share the same goals, but maybe not the same perspective or the same information. Thus, by getting them together to discuss their different perspectives and share their different information, consensus around what constitutes the "right" decision can be gained.

It is largely this model that has guided some of the work suggesting that HR can influence strategy by being "at the table" when these decisions are being made. Many decision-makers have functional blinders that limit how they define a problem. In addition, due to the pressures exerted by the financial community, decision-makers are prone to focus on the financial outcomes of a decision while ignoring other potential outcomes (corporate reputation, legal risk, customer reactions, employee engagement, etc.). These limitations to the decision-making process may result in decisions that provide maximum short-term financial payoffs, but simultaneously begin a set of processes that may threaten long-term viability.

In this model, the role of the HR executive is to ensure that these "unintended consequences" are all discussed and addressed before the decision is finalized. HR executives achieve this best not by telling, but rather by asking. Because HR executives may lack a reputation for deep knowledge of all areas of the business, they may not be viewed as a credible source of suggested strategies. However, because HR leaders are at the table, they can ask important questions. For instance, in the case of a downsizing or layoff, they might ask:

a) "If we decide to downsize by 10,000 will we be able to maintain our ability to provide customers with what they want from us?"
b) "What are some of the legal risks that we might incur if we engage in this layoff?"
c) "How will this impact our reputation as a socially responsible company?"
d) "Will this layoff be a negative signal to our talent that encourages them to start looking elsewhere?"

The economics of the business may dictate that laying off 10,000 employees is necessary. However, forcing the discussion may lead to either a different decision (Can we cut back hours and pay across the board instead of a layoff?) or to a better way to implement the same decision (How can we communicate to our talent that we value them so they do not begin looking outside?).

My work in studying HR leaders over the past three years reveals that forms of this process often take place outside of the normal "off-site" meeting. Members of the top management team may disagree with the direction a powerful CEO is pushing, but may be unwilling to express their disagreement openly.In this case, the HR leader's role is to try to surface those areas of disagreement confidentially, and then be the conduit to confront the CEO with these conflicting perspectives. This confrontation may take place in the CEO's office or at the executive leadership team meeting itself. Either way, HR executives are influencing the decision-making process when they take the responsibility for ensuring that all perspectives are recognized before a decision is reached.

Certainly, HR leaders can state a point of view, and, if grounded in a deep knowledge of the business, their opinion is often valued by other decision-makers. So the influence can be gained by persuasion as much as by questioning. In either case, the HR leader does not have the authority to make the better decision, but an effective HR executive will always make the decision better.

Plagued by Human Frailty

One hopes that the rational decision-making process characterizes all, or at least most, of the strategic decisions. However, has anyone ever seen a top management team? Too many "teams" are really made up of a group of individuals with their own ambitions, egos, desires and agendas.

A successful CEO may have become so blinded by his or her own success that dangerous levels of hubris begin to emerge. Or, either overtly or covertly, members of the team who hope to ascend to the CEO position may opportunistically seek to undermine the CEO and/or his or her potential competitors for that role. In essence, members of the top management team, like every other human being, can be subject to human frailties, and those frailties can severely impact the strategic decision-making process.

First, what are human frailties? These are universal characteristics of the human condition that, under the right circumstances, result in individuals making decisions that put self over others. While they are not limited to these, I like to focus on two that encompass most of the dysfunctional activities.

Hubris refers to excessive pride, or a belief that one's self is so good, intelligent, etc., that one can do no wrong. Every decision is the right one, and when others disagree, it is only because they do not possess the same level of capability. For instance, when retail industry novice Bob Nardelli, chairman and CEO of Home Depot, argued with longtime retail industry analysts that same-store sales was not a good metric for judging performance, he was displaying hubris.

Opportunism refers to self-interest seeking with guile, or having such a focus on achieving one's own ambitions or desires that one is willing to do whatever it takes, regardless of the consequences to others. The road of failed strategies is littered with leaders overcome by human frailties such as Ron Allen of Delta Air Lines, Jean-Marie Messier of Vivendi Universal or Phil Condit of Boeing. These are not evil men who sought to do harm to their organizations, but rather leaders blinded by their own weaknesses, which led them to pursue strategies that failed their firms.

In a process plagued by human frailties, HR executives may not find themselves in a position to influence at the table, but rather in the hallways; outside of the normal decision-making process.

Looking ahead, what do HR executives who find themselves in positions to influence decisions need to do? Here are several suggestions:

a) Be vigilant in identifying the first signs of human frailties. Business leaders who become isolated, unwilling to harbor disagreement, abusive or exhibit behavior that suggests they are above the rules are those suffering from frailties. If they are to succeed, the HR leader must step in.

b) Erect the guardrails that prevent human frailties. Executive coaches, 360-degree appraisals, employee-survey feedback and other feedback mechanisms can provide information business leaders will find difficult to ignore. My work with CHROs suggests that one of their major roles is to be the person who provides the hard feedback of how a leader is being perceived by others. Whatever the source, such feedback can keep egos in check and make leaders aware of their unrecognized opportunistic tendencies.

c) Create the controls that minimize the impact of human frailties. Some leaders may be overcome with frailties, yet still be effective decision-makers. For instance, much has been written about Steve Jobs, chairman and CEO of Apple, and his ego, tantrums and abuse of employees.

However, his intuitive grasp of the industry provides him with unique insights that have enabled Apple to emerge from the proverbial dustbin of the information- technology industry to become one of the most admired companies in the world. To the extent that his board and those around him ensure that he cannot make all decisions unilaterally, his frailties can live on while their impact is controlled.

Be ready to put your badge on the table. Most HR leaders can tell at least one story about the time they had to put their job on the line.

Randy MacDonald, senior vice president of HR at IBM, suggests that all good HR people will risk being fired at some point in their careers when they have to stand up for what they believe in. Sometimes it was having that hard conversation with the business leader about his or her weaknesses. Sometimes it was going before the board to report to them the business leader's weaknesses.

Regardless of the situation, the effective HR leader has a fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders to ensure that the most effective leader is in place, and sometimes that means replacing the present one.

Our emerging research on HR leaders suggests that the most effective ones successfully oversee the implementation of business strategies through human capital decisions and HR processes. But it also suggests that those who stand out are the ones who can expertly influence strategic decisions before they are made, be that at the table or in the hallway.

Ref: Patrick M. Wright
[About the Author: Patrick M. Wright is the William J. Conaty GE Professor of Strategic Human Resources and director of the Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University. He has published more than 40 articles in journals such as Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review and Strategic Management Journal, and has co-authored two textbooks: Human Resource Management: Gaining Competitive Advantage and Management of Organization. Wright previously held positions in the College of Business at Texas A&M University and the College of Business at the University of Notre Dame.]

Rewards & Recognition: Time to Pay Up...And Fast

Given today's economic and demographic challenges, HR practitioners will be narrowing the focus of recognition while expanding the scope.The nation is in an economic downturn that experts believe will be with us for the next few years, if not longer. No matter the industry or the region of the country, more and more companies are being forced to do more with less.

Consumers are buying fewer products and services and putting off nonessential purchases. Capital expenditures by businesses are being reined in and, in some cases, cut altogether. Every expense is being scrutinized, because savings go right to the bottom line.

Organizations are changing their business strategies to align with the new marketplace realities. In the "old days," when customers requested "better, cheaper, and faster," companies would respond with "pick two." Today, it's a business requirement for these same companies to accomplish all three.

There has been an unexpected positive consequence of this new reality: A greater number of business leaders outside human resources better understand that customers buy products from companies, but form relationships with people.

And it's these same people -- the employees -- who have the ability to create and enhance the kind of customer loyalty and retention required for survival in today's rocky economic times. Most CEOs understand how the Pareto Principal relates to their bottom line -- 80 percent of sales come from 20 percent of the customers.

More of these same senior leaders realize a new truth; that 80 percent of business outcomes can be directly traced to the efforts of 20 percent of the employees. These "A & B players" and "high performers" are being counted on more than ever to meet and exceed customer expectation.

Narrowing the Focus

The ultimate goal of reward-and-recognition approaches is to find, keep and motivate employees through a variety of organizational interventions. These can include tangible and intangible rewards, cash compensation, benefits, recognition approaches and employee-involvement and motivation strategies. But when it comes to allocating resources to fund these rewards programs in 2009, companies will need to narrow the focus while, at the same time, expand the scope of recognition.

All employees want to be rewarded for their performance, no matter how much, or how little, they actually contribute to the success of their organization. But "C" players (who can make up as much as 75 percent of the employee base) often do acceptable -- or minimally expectable -- work and are often happy to have and keep their job, let alone receive additional rewards.

Pay-for-performance requires companies to differentiate between their superstars and their under-performers. And based on recent national research on employee satisfaction, engagement and retention, most companies have a long way to go.

According to the 2008-09 Employee Hold'em National Workforce Engagement Benchmark, 50 percent of self-identified "superstar" employees are fully engaged with their organizations. These hard-working employees are ready, willing and able to go above and beyond customer requirements and plan to stay with the company if they're offered a little more money to go somewhere else.

Why? Because they are more likely to believe they are fairly rewarded and recognized for their contributions to the company's success, feel that excellent performance gets rewarded in their organization and believe their manager ensures the best employees receive the greatest rewards. Another study recently conducted by Leadership IQ indicated that 47 percent of high performers are actively looking for new jobs by posting and submitting their resumes and even going on job interviews. Companies need to "pay up" with alternative forms of rewards and recognition.

Finding Alternatives

Employers cannot afford to lose their best workers, who get the job done on time, on target and on budget. The best workers are given the toughest assignments because they have shown an ability to get the job done. They work on the hardest accounts due to their abilities in handling difficult clients. And they're often asked to "learn on the job" due to their ability to swim while others sink.

How do most companies reward these vital resources, these assets with feet? By giving them a performance increase that is only 2 percent or 3 percent bigger than the marginal employee sitting in the cubicle next to them received. Seniority pay, merit pay, incentive pay, team-based pay, skill-based pay and outcomes-oriented pay just don't cut it, especially when companies can barely afford their cost-of-living increases.

That's why more and more companies are going to be looking at alternatives to compensation and spot bonuses to reward their best and most dependable workers. Providing training and development, work/life balance and opportunities for advancement are three of the effective rewards for today's and tomorrow's hardest-working employees.

Going forward, consider this: You should be training the best employees so they can leave, or else they'll leave. That's right. Train them so they can leave, or else they'll leave. They're going to leave anyway. The average employee has 13 to 15 jobs over the course of his or her career, seven by the time they are 30 years of age.

However, when companies provide training and development opportunities on a consistent basis, these superstars will stay longer, work harder and recommend the organization as a great place to work. And aren't those exactly the kinds of behaviors that a pay-for-performance system is supposed to elicit from top employees?

Whether it's a result of the expectations of their managers or the demands they put on themselves, high performers in an organization know through experience that they won't be working only 40 hours in a week. They show up when they are needed, and stay until the job is completed. They're willing to give up some personal time in order to satisfy the needs of the job. But they expect payback as well.

Managers who want to keep their top performers retained and engaged will need to recognize the importance of their personal and family life and be flexible when the pendulum swings to the family side of the question. Managers will need to ensure that top performers are given the freedom to balance work and family responsibilities without hindering their career progression. And they'll need to be sensitive to the needs and problems of these employees when they arise.

Employees will continue to want the ability to move up and move over or they're going to move out. Many front-line supervisors and managers are reticent to let their best employees transfer to another division or department. The reason is understandable; the supervisor's performance review (and pay) is often based on the productivity or throughput of their direct reports.

More and more companies will be training their supervisors to be "engagement agents" for these top performers, providing career mentors throughout their employment. In the past, companies have pigeon-holed their best employees into the jobs they were "hired to do." When half of these workers are open to job offers from other companies, or are actively looking for them, this practice has to end. It's time to pay up. And fast.

Expanding the Scope

And finally, a few words about expanding the scope of recognition. Believe it or not, many companies still think about recognition in terms of the anniversary card hand-signed and delivered by the senior executive, the "five-year pin" given out at the annual awards luncheon or the gift catalogue the 10-year employee chooses from as acknowledgment of his or her continued tenure. Granted, these are worthwhile endeavors that all employees share in, even the three-quarters who are "C" players in the typical organization.

So, how are the best companies taking this one step further? They're doing it by recognizing the importance of daily satisfaction and ethics, diversity and safety. Companies that understand employees quit a boss and not a company are working hard to ensure that employees have a good relationship with their immediate supervisor. They're attracting talent by making certain there is a good fit between the applicant's skills and interests, and their job. And they are making sure that each job provides a feeling of personal accomplishment.

Today, companies better understand the critical nature of ensuring an ethical environment for their workers. Employees are less willing to cut ethical corners for short-term profits or modest improvements in a company's stock price. They are less willing to look the other way regarding issues of favoritism or unfair treatment of employees.

And today, providing a safe and secure workplace is no longer a "nice to have," but is more like a standard table stake in poker. Employees understand that, although compliance and ethics may lead you to the same place, compliance is based on things you have to do, while ethics are things you want to do. The difference in one verb makes all the difference in the world.

The year 2009 is going to be a difficult one for an increasing number of businesses. Decreasing revenues, shrinking profits, pressure from shareholders and competition from new and emerging markets are going to test the mettle of even the most solid companies.

Companies must continue to narrow the focus of their rewards programs to target the employees they count on most while expanding them beyond the typical merit-pay and spot-bonus programs many used to rely on. And by recognizing the importance of daily satisfaction and ethics to all employees, companies can improve the performance of all employees.

It's the old Fram Oil Filter commercial, with a twist: "Pay me now or pay up later."You make the choice ... or your employees will make it for you.

Ref: Marc Drizin
[About the Author: Marc Drizin is founder and chief instigator of Noblesville, Ind.-based Employee Hold'em, which provides talent-retention solutions and corporate training services. He is the author of Workforce Engagement: Strategies to Attract, Motivate, and Retain Talent, and a second book, Employee Engagement Fundamentals: A Guide for Managers and Supervisors. ]


The ripple effects of global credit crisis has hit the world economy hard triggering global credit recession. As the world enters what many see as the worst economic crisis since The Great Depression, several factors begin to interfere with our daily life.

Before understanding the genesis of the recession let us basically know what is recession......


The downturn of economic activities or a constant fall in demand is termed as recession. As observed the trade cycle boom precedes recession and depression and ultiamately recovery succeds recession.


The Great Depression of 1929 was a worldwide economic depression that lasted approximately 10 years. On October 24, 1929, “Black Thursday” 12.9 million shares of stock were sold in one day, triple the normal amount prices .This great depression ended under the supervision of U.S President Franklin.D.Roosevelt.


To understand the genesis of the current financial meltdown we need to start with the U.S housing market, a $22.5 trillion major economic driver larger in size than US stock market. Ratio of home prices to household incomes were at an all time high and appeared unsustainable as the home prices increased by nearly 85% overall with a per year compound rate of 12% between 2000 and 2005.

The idea that the housing prices would only appreciate caused US banks and mortgage companies to loosen their credit standards and start lending to families with no credit history and only tenous ability to service their mortgage. SUBPRIME lending , which in the us context meant lending to credit histories, grew rapidly during he housing bubble.

The first death knell for sub-prime mortgage holders was the increase in oil and commodity prices, which pushed up inflation and the all important interest rates. Unable to meet the higher payments, sub-prime borrowers began defaulting on their mortgages in large numbers. In various cases home owners walked away from the debt, ultimately resulting in sub-prime crisis.

Though this type of situation was encountered in the past, what makes the current crisis unique is its severity and global reach.


It took nearly a year of falling home prices and subsequent mortgage defaults to leak into larger economy. $56 billion 'New Century Financial Corporation', one of the largest sub-prime lenders was one of the first banks to fall. Two investment banks, 'Bear Sterns' and 'Lehman Brothers' filed for bankruptcy. After the 158-year old Lehman Brothers failed, the floodgates opened for insolvencies. Most of the investment banks failed as unlike retail banks, they typically do not have capital. When the news spread that banks were in financial difficulties, the loss of confidence caused a run on several institutions, and mainly banks in Europe and USA became insolvent. Not surprisingly the US markets began a long and unchecked downward slide, eventually loosing 40% of its value.


Due to the sub-prime crisis, property prices have appreciated much more rapidly. India has opportunity to learn from America’s mistakes. With the whole American industry in recession it is likely that India's export may take a downward trend affecting the manufacturing sector thus resulting in loss of jobs. We are already feeling the pinch. Many IT professionals may also lose their jobs. The government of India with the assistance of RBI has taken measures to combat the recession effects in India, by cutting CRR rate, repo rate and interest rates.

For India to be unperturbed by the recession, a well functioning disclosure and regulatory environment, an infrastructure that supports clear communication to the investors and high quality audits are to be followed by India thus leading itself on the path of growth and making itself an economic superpower.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Staffing & Recruiting: Changing Face of The Workplace

Get ready for demographic shifts that have changed -- and will continue to change -- the way people are recruited, hired and managed.There are dramatic changes afoot in the American workplace. Key among them is the massive shortage of workers beyond anyone's predictions. Companies were ready for baby boomers to retire. They knew they would rely on Generation X and Generation Y to replace those boomers. What they never could have predicted were the other factors exacerbating this shortage.

According to our findings and research from other sources, Gen Xers are downshifting to spend more time with their kids, so they are working fewer hours. And Gen Yers are flocking to entrepreneurship and self-employment. Even those interviewing at companies are finding that traveling and moving in with parents are more appealing than the jobs being offered.

In short, here's a summary of the new employees of today's workplace: Most will change jobs every two years. Most will start their adult life by moving back in with their parents. Most say that money is not their No. 1 concern in evaluating a job.

You think it's a recipe for instability, right? But what else is there to do? Work at IBM until you get a gold watch? There are no more jobs like that -- companies are under too much pressure to be lean and flexible (read: layoffs, downsizing and reorganizations) so workers have to be, too (read: constantly on the alert for new job possibilities) .

Just as the workplace is changing quickly to keep pace with new demographics and technologies, recruiters need to keep pace as well. Here are five trends recruiters should harness to stay ahead of the pack.

1. Recession-proof careers

Today, young people are in high demand, and study after study shows that the No. 1 concern of new graduates is not if they will have a job, but if they will have a job they like. This entry-level pickiness stems from the reality that there are more jobs than there are young people to fill them.

This is a demographically based trend that is largely independent of the economy. As mentioned above, Gen Xers are not working the long hours that baby boomers work, so they're not replacing retirees at the rate companies anticipated. On top of that, the entrepreneurial Gen Yers are not entering corporate America at the anticipated rate. So there are many fewer young people in the workforce to fill the gap.

The demographic shift explains why today's employment equation is employee-driven and employers will not have a chance to get power back until demographics shift, which will not happen for about 10 years.

2. Constant recruiting

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employees in their 20s are changing jobs every 18 months. Considering the time it takes to search, interview and accept, this could mean that, on average, an employee starts looking for a new job on day three of his or her current job. The job hunt has changed from being an event to being a constant state.

Employees understand that there are no longer corporate guarantees of long-term employment; layoffs, downsizing, reorganizations and de-equitization (firing or demoting law-firm partners) are all terms to describe today's unstable relationship between employer and employee. This means smart workers in today's market take responsibility for their own career stability by being constantly aware of the next place they could work.

Naturally, with their employees constantly job-hunting, companies now have to be constantly recruiting. The marketplace is so competitive today employers cannot afford to wait until they have openings. They have to recruit continually -- in anticipation of openings.

3. Branding as a recruiting tool

The best way to initiate a nonstop recruiting program is to shift away from talking about job openings and move toward talking more about what makes the company a great place to work.

Young employees care less about titles and salary and more about corporate culture, mentoring and social responsibility. This means the best way to engage young candidates is to talk about the company brand rather than specific jobs.

Additionally, branding is a more cost-effective way to recruit than posting jobs because the brand messaging is something candidates keep with them, as opposed to a job description, which candidates toss out of their heads as soon as they are done deciding if they want the job or not.

4. The demise of job boards

Job boards are designed to facilitate the job hunt as an event. They also operate on the assumption that employees are hunting for jobs. But neither is true for most young talent. In fact, jobs come so frequently to young people that many of those job ads seem more like spam than golden opportunities.

As most of the members of Generation Y become passive job candidates, the assumption that they are using job boards becomes less and less tenable. Consider also the fact that job descriptions posted on job boards often end up attracting the candidates who, for one reason or another, have a particularly difficult time finding employment, according to our findings.

5. The rise of job conversations

We've all heard the most effective way to get to passive young talent is to go to where they are, instead of waiting for them to come to you. We all know that young people are online, and that many recruiters have started going to social-networking sites such as Facebook to engage young candidates.

But Facebook is not an effective recruiting tool. For one thing, participants are not organized in a way that reveals their career goals to employers. On Facebook, people are organized by who they are friends with, so pinpointing candidates is difficult.

Also, young people do not expect to deal with career issues via Facebook. Social media is specific to tasks, and Facebook is for conveying quick, casual information about one's personal life. The idea of dealing with career issues there is not appealing to most young people -- to them, that would be misunderstanding the purpose of the medium.

A solution to the problem of not being able to find talented young recruits in today's market is to focus on bloggers. This should be what recruiters take much more seriously and where they should be looking in the next few years. Writing a blog requires a huge time commitment, so many bloggers write about career-related topics because that's what's worth the time investment. Blogs focus on ideas, and bloggers attract a community of people interested in the given career topic who want to talk about ideas before they hit mainstream media.

The blogosphere represents some of the most engaged sectors of young talent. Moreover, these people are organized by career interests, and they put their ideas out there so recruiters can judge them for the ideas they are likely to contribute on the job.

Corporate recruiters and managers do not intuitively know how to engage these bloggers in conversation. They should be looking for online sites that help them become familiar with the blogging style, find young bloggers interested in their line of work and convey their brand to that young talent. Harnessing the power of brand-based, continuous recruiting by entering into the career conversation online is fast becoming a requirement for corporate survival. Make sure you're not getting left behind.

[About the Author: Penelope Trunk is CEO of Brazen Careerist, a Madison, Wis., consulting firm, Web site and network of career-related blogs aimed at millennials and Generation Yers in the workplace. She is a columnist at the Boston Globe and her syndicated column runs in more than 200 publications worldwide.]