Sunday, July 26, 2009

People Management- Miss-stakes!

What not to do when the times are tough…
Key learnings:
  1. Business heads too are human, and prone to committing errors
  2. They need to avoid certain mistakes to be able to survive tough times
Often, it is what you don’t do that impacts success, rather than what you do. Quite a few business heads have undone their good work with a few slip-ups here and there. Unfortunately, the condition of the economy hasn’t supported them. Mistakes that could have easily been ignored in good times appear bigger and uglier during a recession. Expecting the top brass to be error-free is both unfair and unrealistic. But there are certain mistakes that must be avoided to survive the tough times. Here is what business heads must be wary of:
Look before you leap
Difficult times compel individuals to take difficult actions. But what is tough to fathom is why those actions appear more desperate than deliberate. In this downturn too, managements have made quite a few impulsive and copycat decisions, which they will regret once the economy bounces back. Decisions have to be made diligently, particularly during tough times. Right from evaluating the source of information to a critical analysis of the worth of the decision, due-diligence should be the guiding principle.
Power corrupts
When in trouble, the more the number of friends and advisors one has the better the chances of surviving. Even though everyone agrees that networking, both social and professional, can help bail out individuals, business heads are chary of networking with their rank and file. Although the reverse should be the case, managements become more guarded and cloistered when times turn bad. Here is what can help correct the mistake:
  1. Involve everyone, right from a shop-floor worker to a C-level executive, in generating ideas, innovative methods and short-cuts
  2. Continue to delegate as before
  3. Be transparent

Also, do what US President Barack Obama does! Obama’s team hosts discussions on the internet to invite suggestions and opinions from different people. In addition to generating ideas, the responses enable them to evaluate public sentiments.

Hasty decisions

“No one ever downsized their way to greatness,” says a business analyst. Yet, most belt-tightening initiatives have been so severe that the possibility of bouncing back to normalcy when the economy rolls out is bleak. In trimming flab, organisations have cut so deep that some of the muscle has also been hacked. Getting back top performers, who have been treated poorly, is almost impossible. Another equally hasty action is implementing strict recruitment freezes.

A downturn is an excellent time to pick up good talent at competitive wages. Once this opportunity is lost, the ugly practice of poaching, and paying through one’s nose, will return! Also, in organisations where layoffs have been extensive, those who stay will be grateful only for a few days! Soon employees will realise that they must now shoulder the workload of those laid off. Their disappointment and dissent will be just the beginning of troubles to follow! An effective way out is to try different alternatives to laying off.


With organisations reducing the numbers on their rolls, meeting the needs of customers will be a huge task. So, however tempted managements may be to pick up the competitors’ ‘uncared for’ customers, a downturn is not an opportune time to expand business. With fewer employees, there is no guarantee that customers, who shifted loyalty because they have been treated poorly, will receive any better treatment. Moreover, expecting teams with reduced manpower to be enthused about new business is irrational. A better way would be to treat existing customers with extra care. When customers stand testimony to how well an organisation took care of them despite the downturn, there can be no better advertising than that.

Do what can be done

The ‘more with less’ frenzy is such that managements stretch their fewer resources over heavy tasks without recognising that every work team will have only limited elasticity. A business consultant observes, “I have found that much of the ‘more’ is work that provides no value at the end of the day.” Business heads must scrutinise every task and determine its ROI, and only those with good returns should be retained, refitted into the workflow and delegated. Moreover, an employee performing five meaningful tasks will not feel as overworked as someone handling fewer, but non-contributory tasks.

Everyone makes mistakes, even business heads. But making the above-mentioned ones is more than a slip-up.
Ref: TheManageMentor.

Recruiting With Finesse !

Recruitment agencies can boost an organisation’ s recruiting prowess by following performance- based methodology.

Key learnings:

Job descriptions restrict talent search, and therefore, should be used only as a reference template

Recruiters need to identify at least two accomplishments- -individual and team based--to help recruitment managers steer the interview in the right direction

The workloads of a recruitment manager and a recruiter are inter-linked. If a recruiter works hard, then the recruitment manager need not struggle as hard! Recruitment managers, with the help of recruiters, can create an equation that is mutually beneficial, while serving the organisational interests in the long run.

Most recruiters complain about how recruitment managers reject piles of resumes ruthlessly, while the latter crib over the poor quality of database that the recruiters give them to sieve through. However, experts believe that with performance- based recruiting, the scenario would change for the better. Performance- based recruiting is a tool that recruiters could use to tame the fussy recruitment managers. The strategy aims at providing the managers with better choices, thereby ensuring more hits than misses.

Feel the pulse

Performance- based recruiting underscores identifying candidates who fit the organisation’ s talent description, while analysing the personality type of the candidate and understanding how well it is suited to the existing organisational culture. It makes traditional templates and tools like job description redundant, and uses instinctive judgments to shortlist candidates. The idea behind it is to improve the quality of candidates sent to recruitment managers for screening, thereby enhancing the success ratio.

The concept is based on certain key guiding principles that need to be adhered to for maximising its impact. The guidelines include:

Discard ‘ideal’ job description

Most job descriptions that are handed over to recruiters are more surreal than real! If recruiters go by the job description, they would cut the chances of finding the ‘right fit’ drastically, and instead, line up resumes that are anything but close to the organisational requirements. Experts, therefore, recommend discarding the job description and focussing on a simple “what kind of a candidate will do the job well” criterion. Stating the requirements simply makes the job of identifying talent easy. A simply stated requirement projects the candidate as a normal professional who is equipped to do the job well. In addition, a job description limits the choice, as it binds recruiters in details like experience and skills that may be important only because the manager thinks so, but not because the job requires them. The decision to discard the job description, however, has to be taken with the consent of the recruitment manager. The job of convincing the manager about how he will get a better screening profile without a description lies with the recruiter!

Develop thorough understanding

As ‘job descriptions’ go out of the window, recruiters need to understand the job in totality. Without a clear understanding of the job, recruiters will end up making inappropriate profile selection, leading to a high rejection rate. A job can be understood well by indulging in a point-by-point discussion with the recruitment manager about the pre-requisites mentioned by him. For instance, if the recruitment manager says that the candidate should have at least two years of global work experience, then it would be worthwhile to ask how global experience helps perform the job better. Thus, converting job description into performance profile will help recruiters develop a thorough understanding of the job.

Identify accomplishments

In the process of screening candidates, identifying two accomplishments- -team-based and individual-- can help recruitment managers make the interview process quick. Recruiters asking candidates to list two defining moments of their careers and communicating them to the recruitment managers can set the pace for the interview process, giving managers an insight into the real worth of the achievements.

Drop preconceived notions

Most recruiters and recruitment managers make their decisions within the first 10-15 minutes of the interview. This happens partly because they give into certain preconceived notions, and therefore, their decisions are not necessarily the best and the most prudent. Staying wary of this tendency and making a deliberate attempt to fight ‘first impressions’ is important for making logical recruiting decisions.

Invest in candidate preparation

To ensure that candidates are at ease, recruiters must prepare them by sharing information that can help them answer job and industry-related questions. Providing them with a list of probable questions will help candidates cut on their nervousness and anxiety before the interview.
Use holistic assessment Most cases of underperformance are attributed to non-technical skills. Technical competence alone will not give a complete picture. Hence, using a multi-factor assessment tool is important to ascertain candidate competence.

Recruiters who incorporate these recommendations in their recruiting plans will benefit immensely. As for recruitment managers, screening will be easier and decision-making much faster.

Ref: TheManageMentor.

Stopping May Not Be an Option

People live a lot longer than they used to. If you leave a CEO or other senior management role in your 60s, as most do - if your finances permit it in our current economy - you may have 20 or more good years ahead of you. Today, when people have the ambition, drive and energy to achieve great success in any field, it is unlikely that it will just stop when they change or leave a job.

I have never in my life met a successful CEO who was lazy. CEOs, like you, are incredibly hard-working and ambitious. And in spite some grumbling about how tough the job is, the great chief executives I know love their work. Thus, it stands to reason that unless you are about to die or you are infirm, when you make a career transition, your drive is not going to just go away.

You may even think you want to rest and relax, but according to the "retired" CEOs I have met, that desire won't last long. You will need an outlet to express yourself. The prospects of sleeping late, living on the beach, improving golf scores, going on cruises and playing all day hold almost no allure for the great leaders I have known.

Along with rest and relaxation, another favorite myth for the retiree is the ability to spend lots of quality time with the family. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your perspective, senior leaders likely have been working continuously for years, usually for decades. For better or worse, their families have been able to survive without them at home. It's a mistake to delude oneself into believing family members now want you around all of the time. For those who are married, retirement may be the spouse's greatest nightmare!

One top military officer shared his experience. "My wife said that she was looking forward to spending lots of time with me. One day, after a few months of retirement, I was in the kitchen alphabetizing the cans. To my amazement, she didn't really seem to care if baked beans should be filed under BA for baked or BE for beans. On the contrary, she reminded me that this was not the military, that I was not her officer and that it was time for me to find something else to do since I was driving her crazy."

Another former CEO laughed as he remembered his retirement. "My kids were grown up and living their own lives. They quickly grew tired of my visits. My wife got so tired of me she got a job in a dress store, just to get out of the house. One day I was watching TV by myself, and a delivery guy came to drop off a package. It was his last stop, so I invited him in for a cup of coffee, and we had a very interesting conversation about life."

After he left I thought, 'What a great conversation. That was the highlight of my week.' Then I looked into the mirror. I hadn't shaved for three days. I had been watching junk on TV. Then I realized what I had just said: 'The highlight of my week was having a cup of coffee with the delivery guy.' As a CEO, I may have had some bad weeks, but I never had a week so boring that coffee with delivery people was a highlight. I got a job the next day."

As you slow down to hand off the baton of leadership to your successor, whether you are the CEO or the executive vice president of human resources, you should have less to do at work. Let your successor start running the place. And I have an important suggestion: Use this time to start planning something exciting to do with the rest of your life. You will probably have too much drive and ambition to be a successful retiree.

You may be thinking: "If I announce my successor in advance, isn't there a danger that I will just become a lame duck?" Almost every executive goes through this dialogue as part of the challenge of slowing down. This fear often results from postponement of the announcement until the last minute, and inhibits what could otherwise be a much smoother transition process.

When it is approaching time to leave, face reality. You will become a lame duck! Attention will shift to your successor. His or her vision for the future of the company will mean more than yours. If you disapprove of executive team members' ideas, they will just wait it our and resell the same ideas to your successor. People will start sucking up to him or her in the same way they used to suck up to you.

Make peace with being a lame duck before it actually happens. Be a happy and productive lame duck. Coach your successor behind the scenes. Build that person's confidence, and begin the transfer of power before you have to. Your life, your successors' life and the lives of the executive team members will be a lot better.

[About the Author: Dr. Marshall Goldsmith is a world authority in helping successful leaders achieve positive, lasting change in behavior. He is the author or co-editor of 22 books, including The Wall Street Journal No. 1 business best-seller What Got You Here Won't Get You There.]

Emotionally Charged - HR practices

Does EQ matter?
Key learnings:
The hype about hiring individuals with high EQ may be just that
But research shows it that organisations have to offer their employees emotional support

With all this hype about emotional intelligence, emotional quotient or EQ is fast becoming an essential hiring feature. As much as organisations strive to hire the best, the focus on hiring those with high EQ is equally high. One behavioral analyst, fittingly questions, “do emotions actually belong to the workplace?” This week’s mailer reviews the excitement about EQ to understand and tag its true worth.

Is there a need for EQ?
Trying to set up the connection between emotions and decision-making, a group of behavioural scientists studied the case of the railroad worker who gained instant fame when he survived a railroad barb piercing him. As miraculous as his surviving was, an unknown fact about the incident is that even though the worker’s intellect was intact, he lost his ability to decide after the incident. An excerpt from the concluded study is as follows.
"Such patients develop severe damages in personal, professional and social decision making, in spite of otherwise largely preserved intellectual abilities... After the damage, they had difficulties planning their workday and future, and difficulties in choosing friends, partners and activities.. ." This study in itself provides evidence of the role emotions play in decision-making. Therefore, hiring those with high EQ is justified in upping an organisation’ s emotional intellect.

Equally important is that organisations understand how a change in workforce demographics almost decides importance of hiring and developing emotionally stable employees.

Demographic indulgence

A few demographic trends worth reviewing include:

  1. Late marriages
  2. Increased number of divorcees and single parents
  3. Increased number of households supported by unmarried individuals
  4. Increased number of singles

India is fast accepting the above trends, which are more pronounced in the West. These trends underline an increase in the number of individuals either living alone or in nuclear families.

Those who live alone or in families where members are either children or elderly parents crave companionship at work. Unlike normal families where individual emotional needs are met, unsatisfied emotional needs are carried to work. Thus, these individuals will try to build family connections at work for which they will indulge in emotional expressions.

Also, when ‘loners’ spend most of their waking hours at work, it is natural for them to network both professionally and socially with their colleagues. Therefore, it is not unfounded that these individuals do not have a life outside. Also, these individuals expect that their employers address their professional requirements and gratify their emotional needs too. Although this requirement adds to the expectations organisations must meet, providing emotional support to employees can be a win-win deal. Here is how.

The other side of the story

One of the biggest challenges organisations face is keeping their talent in-house and happy. If satisfying emotional needs can act as a motivation combined with retention tool, organisations can only gain by providing emotional support at work. But if meeting this requirement is going to be a permanent duty, then hiring individuals with high EQ cannot alone satisfy it. As one behavioural scientist says, “It takes one high-strung individual to test the EQ of an otherwise emotionally stable team”. Therefore, the best way out is to organise regular EQ development initiatives.

When employees are equipped to negotiate better, think and work creatively, decision making skills with integrity, manage stress and simply get along EQ is developed. Although a tall order, a bunch of common soft-skills programmes, run well and regularly can do the trick. Emotions have a rightful slot at workplace is confirmed, the next concern arising is, “do all organisations require employees with high EQ’?”

Emotionally balanced

Demographic trends do suggest why organisations must beef up their emotional intelligence. Is the need for hiring individuals with emotional intelligence so pressing that individuals without it are not hired at all?

Those with high EQ understand how their feelings affect them and those around them. They can decide the influence and impact of their feelings. This awareness helps them better modulate their conduct. Individuals with low EQ give in to their feelings easily and therefore experience more emotional outbursts. Depending on team and organisation size, nature of tasks and business, and communication flows, it is for organisations to discover whether they want to hire high EQ employees and how many. However, too much importance on EQ as a hiring feature is not justified as it is internally impelled.

The EQ hype is not hyperbole. Organisations need to up their emotional intelligence. But they do so at a relaxed and comfortable pace. As helpful as employees with high EQ are, those with low EQ may not be troublemakers as currently presumed.

Ref: TheManageMentor.

Retention Strategy: Meaningful Motivation

Retaining and developing existing talent can be more important to an organization and less expensive than acquiring new talent.

Unfortunately, even if an organization already is focused on retention, chances are good it is following a misguided and expensive compensation approach. "Misguided" may seem like strong criticism, but while extrinsic rewards of money and benefits may cause a short-term burst of productivity, they often don't motivate. Further, they also contain the seed for demotivation long term because, once compensation is awarded, it becomes expected. So when revenues dictate that bonuses are smaller, people aren't just unmotivated, they are actually demotivated, making them less satisfied overall with their jobs and, subsequently, the organization.

This finding is at the heart of the work of Frederick Herzberg, who is known in organizational development circles as the father of modern motivation. Herzberg didn't say appropriate compensation isn't necessary. It is. In fact, Herzberg found that while the presence of certain basics such as good working conditions and an appropriate salary didn't motivate or increase job satisfaction, their absence contributed significantly to job dissatisfaction.

Herzberg's research makes it clear that monetary rewards don't motivate and don't compensate for ineffective management. Real motivation comes from work in the form of achievement, recognition, meaningful work, responsibility, advancement and growth.

Managers can't always change the work itself, but there are practical and simple steps they can take to provide a more motivating workplace and manage in a way that changes the relationships employees have with their work, their managers and their organizations.

Leverage the Power of Human Nature

Humans are natural problem solvers. We like to figure things out and determine how things should be done, especially when we're the ones doing them.

This is why when talent managers give people the opportunity to express their opinions and provide input into work processes, they enhance buy-in and ownership, effectively using human drive to an organization's advantage. People who feel ownership of their work are likely to find that work more meaningful than people who have no say in how things are done.

For example: The next time a talent leader assigns a project, make sure that leader knows that people clearly understand the desired end result and the parameters for the work and also provides the latitude for them to determine how they are going to achieve it. Recognizing this natural human drive to be a part of the solution is a critical first step to motivating people to do their best and enjoy doing it.

Manage Performance and Mentor People

Talent leaders also must recognize this human drive to problem solve in themselves, and then curb it. If a manager is focused on his group's performance, he or she will feel the need to provide answers and solve problems, making employees feel less necessary in the process.

The talent manager's most effective role is to empower and mentor. In this role, the leader will motivate people to do more, and performance will take care of itself. Plus, helping people realize they can perform job tasks with less help enables them grow personally and professionally while making the managers' job that much easier.

When a talent leader is compelled to provide answers, he or she should ask questions instead. Asking good questions is a great way to help people learn to problem solve and make good decisions. It gives people the opportunity to discover the answers for themselves, which gives their work meaning and provides the right environment for sustainable learning, adding to their personal skill set and growth, which also is great for the organization.

Focus on the Person, Not the Job

When talent managers make people feel like they care more about the work than the employees, it can promote feelings of insignificance. Conversely, an employee who feels his manager's concern for his well-being is more likely to experience the trust characteristic of high-performing teams and organizations.

Talent leaders should take time to get to know their employees. This will not only help to build trust, it will provide invaluable insight into what motivates them. Different things motivate different people. One person might be thrilled about new responsibilities as a project manager, while another might experience a greater sense of achievement when allowed to actually produce the desired end product.

In addition to being sensitive to individual role preferences, it pays to note the varying degrees of structure individuals need to be happy in those work roles. Some people need and prefer more direction and clarification than others. This is especially true in ambiguous or uncertain situations.

To assess individual need for structure, ask people to write down questions they have about their jobs. Someone with lots of questions probably needs more structure, while the person who has few questions almost certainly needs less.

Show Up When Things Are Going Well
Being the human problem solvers we are, it's natural for a manager to intervene more often when something is not working than when things are going smoothly. Unfortunately, in this type of environment, employees soon begin to fear every conversation with managers, viewing them as people who show up only when there's a problem.

Brain chemistry research shows this fear of criticism actually triggers the fight-or-flight response, bathing the brain in fear hormones that increase defensive behavior and actually inhibit learning. Talent managers that only talk to employees when something's wrong end up with defensive and withholding employees, and fewer opportunities to uncover the information they need to know about workers and their performance.

To avoid this common scenario, talent leaders should intentionally make time to recognize employees for what is working. Schedule regular meetings where people are invited to report their successes. This structured recognition date will prompt employees to look forward to seeing the talent manager, motivating them to share everything necessary about their performance, as well as how to mentor them and help them achieve even more.

Plus, in the process of learning what's working, the manager also will learn what's not working. But the interaction starts with attention on what the person is doing right, which creates an atmosphere in which people are more open to suggestion and learning can take place.

Publicly Recognize Great Performance

In addition to making time to let employees tout their own achievements in private, public recognition helps to reinforce a sense of accomplishment and accountability. When people are publicly recognized for a job well done, they experience that sense of achievement all over again, which makes them eager to get back to work and tackle the next problem even more skillfully.

When a manager sees good problem solving and decision making, he or she should acknowledge the success privately and in front of others. Timing is important, so don't wait for the annual awards banquet. Making public recognition spontaneous and frequent will motivate everyone, create an environment that supports and encourages ongoing learning, achievement and accountability for all. This motivational culture is good for the employee, the manager and the organization.

But when attempting to recognize and motivate employees to do better work, talent managers should ask: Will my actions contribute to the person's sense of achievement or recognition? Do they fit their individual preferences? Will my actions enable him or her to grow and be prepared to take on more responsibility? Do they make the work more meaningful?

If the answers to any of these questions is no, talent leaders should recognize that while they may make the person feel rewarded for a job well done, they probably won't achieve the long-term motivation they're looking for.

[About the Author: Chris Musselwhile, Ed.D., is president and CEO of Discovery Learning Inc. and author of Dangerous Opportunity: Making Change Work.]

Monday, July 20, 2009

Recruitment and Retention - Move It!

Internal job rotation has come of age… ......

Key learnings:
  1. The second-generation internal movement systems are more strategic than the first- generation prorammes
  2. The second-generation methods shun the legacy system of the past, and are more competitive in nature

Employee retention is one of the most critical concerns of corporate leaders, especially in times when ‘buying talent’ does not appear viable. Organisations are reeling under immense pressure to develop and hone the talent that they already have, opening up internal movement options like job rotation, stretch assignments and taking employees to newer levels.

Economic downturns present a good opportunity to reflect on an organisation’ s employee development and succession planning initiatives. Most organisations are facing talent woes as they have failed to get their retention act together by creating a promising development plan for their staff. However, the present downturn may well be the turning point for organisations working towards employee development and retention. Before organisations incorporate an internal movement strategy in their retention plans, it is important to ascertain the goals.


The internal movement strategy can help organisations attain the following objectives:

Enhanced employability:

Internal job movements through job rotations and stretch assignments help increase the employability of workers. These initiatives giver workers the right kind of exposure and expand the scope of their expertise, resulting in both vertical and lateral growth .

Improved morale:

Internal movement makes the job more interesting and challenging, thereby enhancing employee engagement and morale. Employees also feel driven and motivated, as the new jobs test their abilities and help them realise their real potential.

Leadership development:

Job rotation is also used as an instrument for leadership development. When internal movement is planned and employees are moved up the corporate hierarchy, the intention is to develop potential leaders for future organisational requirements.

Better skills:

Internal movement helps employees build on their skills, as job rotation and stretch assignments require them to expand their kitty of skills.

To meet the demands of the new age, the internal movement systems too have undergone change.

The second-generation systems, as they are referred to, are pretty much the same as the first-generation internal movement systems; the difference, however, lies in the strategic component. While the first-generation systems are largely operational, the new generation systems are more strategic. In addition, there are other significant differences too. Understanding these differences will help organisations deploy their resources effectively.

Integration and differentiation

While most second-generation strategies are an improvised version of the earlier strategies, and therefore, are integrated through a common framework, differences lie in the approach and execution. As mentioned above, the second-generation systems are more strategic, as compared to the earlier more operational systems. In addition, they are also:

  1. Broader in their approach, and cater to a number of internal movement channels by creating attractive opportunities
  2. More proactive in creating opportunities for growth, which is unlike the first generation systems that are largely reactive
  3. More competitive, with better opportunities to nurture top talent, as compared to the first-generation programmes that are more of a legacy, lacking in quality

Job shifts can be temporary under the second-generation systems, unlike first-generation systems where job shifts are more like a permanent posting.

Understanding these differences will help HR leaders chart their course carefully. However, it is important to note that internal movements have to be deliberate, as they do not happen naturally.

The reason is simple: Most people hesitate to leave their comfort zones for something they are not sure of. Managers too fear losing their best men to jobs that may not suit them. In addition, HR policies too do not support random job movements. Despite the impediments, experts believe that leaders can leverage the potential of internal movement systems for boosting retention and development efforts.

Ref: TheManageMentor.

People Management - Simply Engaging!

Simple measures can make a big difference to employee engagement and organisational performance. ..
Key learnings:
  1. Gender, hierarchy, culture and industry have a great impact on employee engagement
  2. Employee engagement is best ensured through job satisfaction resulting from contribution

Employee engagement is essential for corporate survival. The significance of a committed and engaged staff can not be undermined.

Employee engagement represents the extent of emotional affiliation that employees have with their jobs. It is difficult to quantify engagement levels in terms of numbers. Nevertheless, it is important to measure it. An important factor in measuring employee engagement is the cultural bearing of the organisation. The meaning of employee engagement varies with geography, and depends to a large extent on the cultural disposition of the organisation. The corporate definition for engagement varies widely from country to country. In India, employee engagement is an emotional subject, encompassing elements like loyalty and commitment. Further, in the context of Indian companies, employee engagement is tangible, and can be quantified by the years of association with the company.

Along with different definitions, countries also have different sets of motivating factors. What motivates an Indian may not motivate an American and vice versa. Hence, understanding the interplay of various factors that result in employee engagement or disengagement can help leaders craft a successful strategy.

Engaging dimensions

Employee engagement is best described as the degree of alignment between job satisfaction and job contribution. When employees feel that their contribution is adding value to the job, it results in job satisfaction, which in turn leads to greater employee engagement. Hence, using these two parameters to ascertain the level of engagement can help leaders get a better insight to steer their efforts.

According to Business World – Anexi BlessingWhite survey on employee engagement, employee satisfaction and contribution combine in five different ways. They are:

  1. Fully engaged
  2. Nearly engaged
  3. Honeymooners and hamsters
  4. Crash and burn
  5. Disengaged

Each of these categories represents the level of employee engagement in the given job. The fully engaged category includes workers who are extremely satisfied with their jobs and contribution to the organisation. The nearly engaged section includes workers who score high on the contribution front, but give a few points a miss on the satisfaction component. The honeymooners and hamsters include those who are new to the job and show great drive to stick around. The crash and burn category includes workers whose contributions always fall short, thereby resulting in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction. The disengaged category, as the word suggests, comprises the disinterested lot, who figure on the underperformers list. In the context of Indian companies, 34 percent of employees are fully engaged, 29 percent nearly engaged and 13 percent are disengaged.

This segmentation of employees on the basis of their engagement levels can help leaders chalk out a better people management strategy. Employee engagement is a dynamic function and is affected deeply by the changes in the external environment. Thus, apart from employee behaviour and individual aspirations, there are other factors that have to be considered for a thorough understanding of the way engagement expresses itself.

Key determinants

Employee engagement, as mentioned earlier, depends on a large number of factors. In addition to an employee’s personal aspirations and cultural moorings, critical factors like gender, hierarchical status and the industry also influence engagement levels. The BW-Anexi survey revealed that men are 10 percent more engaged than women, and 6 percent less disengaged. Further, engagement also increased as one moved up the hierarchy. Those at the lower hierarchical levels showed less engagement, while those at the top exhibited maximum engagement. The difference in the levels of engagement was also evident across industries. In case of research-driven industries like pharmaceuticals, employee engagement was found to be low, while the engagement levels were high in service-oriented industries. Thus, it is evident that employee engagement depends on a number of parameters.

As mentioned earlier, job satisfaction and employee contribution are the two key components of employee engagement. However, understanding each of these, and the factors that lie within, is important to get a clear perspective of the interplay and dynamics of employee engagement and its components. According to the survey, job satisfaction is influenced by the following factors:

  1. Career development opportunities and training efforts (30 percent)
  2. Challenging work (19 percent)
  3. Better opportunities to leverage one’s strengths (29 percent)

Employee contribution, on the other hand, was found to be greatly influenced by:

  1. Development and training (26 percent)
  2. Effective feedback at regular intervals (25 percent)
  3. Clarity of goals and a clear understanding of what the individual is required to do and why (22 percent)

The aforementioned factors represent the Indian sentiment, but are also consistent with the global opinion about factors influencing satisfaction and contribution.

Final thoughts...

While employee engagement is a dynamic function and is dependent on a number of factors, it surely can be managed by incorporating certain basic measures. However, before doing so, leaders and managers must be sensitised to the various factors influencing engagement and steer their efforts to ensure perfect alignment.

Ref: TheManageMentor.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

HR Practices - The Brand Wagon!

Building employer brand the better way…
Key learnings:
  1. Employer branding is not a recruitment exercise, but a relationship building process
  2. To ensure effective brand creation, a clear understanding of the scope and objectives of the programme is important

Employer branding calls for an appropriate strategy to accomplish its objectives. However, most organisations do not pursue employer branding efforts in the right way. A recent survey conducted by the Employer Brand Institute revealed certain interesting facts. While some findings conform to universally accepted ideas on employer branding, there are others that come as a shocker. The findings include:

  1. CEO involvement is critical for branding success
  2. External and internal market research is not a success parameter
  3. More than 80 percent of the global corporations have an employer branding strategy
  4. Half of those having a branding programme showed a serious disconnect between branding objectives and strategy
  5. The scope for development and improvement in an employer branding strategy is dynamic and depends to a large extent on the environment surrounding the organisation

These findings are important for organisations that are working towards framing an effective branding strategy. Most organisations fail to link their strategies to branding objectives. For the desired branding effect, organisations have to focus on certain key measures, which ensure that they meet their programme objectives with ease.

Imperatives for success

To succeed with the employer branding strategy, organisations have to focus on the ‘intent’ of execution. To do so, leaders have to work on six critical parameters. They are:

Clear definition

Leaders need to begin their efforts by defining employer branding clearly, with reference to the organisational context. The definition should include the type of brand that the organisation wants to create, the kind of talent pool it wishes to attract and the changes that would accompany the process. Further, leaders need to understand that employer branding is not about recruiting talent; it is a relationship building exercise that is largely strategic in nature, aimed at creating a positive corporate image. This image would determine the quality of talent that would be associated with the organisation, and therefore, impacts the overall productivity of the organisation. Leaders, who take a narrow view of employer branding, fail to capitalise on its true potential. They will be vulnerable to crises as compared to those who focus on building lasting relationships through a strong brand.

Scope and objectives

Branding is not any ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity, but presents itself as and when there are changes taking place in the corporate environment. Leaders must, therefore, ascertain the objectives keeping in view the ‘need’ for the exercise. In addition, understanding the scope of the branding effort is also important to give it the right premise and context for execution. For instance, if an organisation wishes to attract alumni of certain universities and institutes, its approach and scope would be different from an organisation that wants to establish an employee referral culture. Thus, within a larger employer brand, organisations can create small branding strategies that cater to the changing business needs and different lifecycle stages of the business.

Ownership of process

Whose job is it anyway; HR, marketing or corporate communications? Most corporate initiatives fail because of the uncertainty over the ownership of the process. Hence, clarifying issues pertaining to ownership and accountability is important for the success of any initiative. In the case of employer branding, the effort has to be more collaborative, as the exercise is largely strategic and calls for the involvement of HR, marketing and corporate communications. Hence, allocating responsibility on the basis of the roles that each of the functions would play is important for the smooth execution of the strategy.

Understand ethos, drivers and needs

A clear understanding of the corporate culture, work ethos, talent routers and needs is important for building an effective employer brand. Collecting information and intelligence on important issues like external perception, leadership vision, employee concerns, suggestions for improvement and talent needs is critical for deriving the desired branding solution.

Leadership involvement

CEOs and other senior executives have to be involved in the process of employer branding. Leadership involvement enables managers to get a clear insight into the future needs, and helps them work on a premise that is more long-term in nature.

These key factors determine the success of any branding initiative.

Right channels

The world of communication has undergone a revolution. The number of channels available for communication today are plenty, thereby giving leaders a number of options to channelise their message. However, selecting the right channel of communication is important, since a wrong choice of medium can sabotage the very purpose of communication.

Communication in the context of branding has myriad complexities. Since the agenda of branding is to communicate a positive image about the employer, and also strike the right chord with target audience, it is important that cultural, geographic and demographic considerations are accounted for. Therefore, applying a common template to all global locations can boomerang for organisations that believe in a ‘tried and tested’ strategy. Developing sensitivity to the surrounding environment is, thus, critical for creating an appealing and successful employer brand.

Ref: TheManageMentor.

Training and Development - Preserve the Learned!

Learning professionals live on the edge, while their business strategist colleagues stay safely guarded...
Key learnings:
  1. Dual domain speciality is important for achieving corporate learning objectives
  2. Learning leaders have to partner, outsource and learn continuously to establish a desirable business-learning equation

Despite the growing interest and concern over an organisation’ s learning apparatus, recession seems to have sounded the alarm bells for learning professionals. Most organisations have been indifferent towards learning efforts, and as a result, learning theorists, strategists and instruction designers live under constant threat. It is indeed disconcerting to see how organisations let their learning muscle slacken, despite the definite strength it gives to their business prospects.

Experts believe that an effective learning framework is pivotal to business success. Hence, letting it pass under the axe in a bid to control costs can only be self-destructive. This, however, does not suggest that learning should be spared from cost analysis; it must be treated as an indispensable part of business, which gives much more than what it takes. Organisations that truncate their learning initiatives in a cost-cutting exercise only betray their shallow approach to learning. It is critical that organisations find the right balance between learning and doing business. Earlier, when organisations advocated the need for learning without analysing the business case, learning initiatives continued to mushroom without logic. And today, caught in the economic downturn, the learning function finds itself being axed, again without logic. Finding the right balance, where learning needs of business complement its growth needs, is important for success.

Business of learning

Most leaders acknowledge the need for striking the right balance between learning and business, but fail to achieve it. Also, every organisation takes a different approach to finding the desired balance, and hence, understanding the basic framework on which the approach should be based for best results is important.

According to Roberto Euguino, the chief learning and organisation development officer at Alloys Inc, the Sweden-based information protection and storage company, corporate success comes from a well-orchestrated act of pulling all critical business levers. Identifying these levers and aligning them is important for driving better corporate performance.

Euguino lists four levers that he believes are critical for organisational good performance. They are:

  1. The right set of people
  2. Effective training and development framework
  3. Ensuring good performance through effective compensation systems
  4. Performance optimisation through effective performance management systems

Each of these levers is important for consistent organisational success. Leaders who fail to leverage even one of these can sabotage their learning and HR efforts. Efficient learning officers work their way through these levers and make sure that their learning efforts are well aligned with the overall corporate objectives.

It is, however, difficult to ascertain that all the four levers work in tandem if the reigns are with one leader. Experts, therefore, suggest learning leaders to be more inclusive and bring in various perspectives to design their learning frameworks. Learning cannot translate into tangible benefits unless there is a partnership between business strategists and learning theorists. Each has to understand the perspective of the other to arrive at a holistic learning solution. There are also other ways of accomplishing a better learning experience. These include:

Partnering with external consultants

Learning leaders can partner with external consultants to leverage their enterprise learning experience and skills. The advantages of bringing in an external voice are many. For instance, external consultants always approach learning with an innovative bent of mind and treat it as a challenge. Therefore, the probability of a transformative learning experience increases. External consultants also keep the pace high and provide solutions at a faster rate. Their expertise also lends learning managers a sound base to build their future organisational development capabilities.

Continuing education

Learning leaders should ensure that their learning team is on a knowledge-enrichment drive constantly. To do so, organisations should offer continuing education programmes targeted at executives on the learning team. Consistent training and learning would help learning designers and theorists get an insight into the changing needs of business, and therefore, frame a programme that is effective and relevant. In addition, theoretical reinforcement of concepts will help executives from the business side to get a better hold of the learning concept.

The future looks bright for learning professionals who understand that business–learning dual domain speciality is the best way forward. For executives to grow in a manner that is more holistic and effective, it is important that learning experts make the right investments to ensure both learning goals and the organisation’ s larger business goals are met without compromising on either.

Ref: TheManageMentor.

Entwining Procurement and HR

The tipping point has been reached for the increased collaboration between HR and procurement -- but creating value is not as easy as bringing the teams together. A strong relationship starts with a foundation of mutual understanding and respect for one another's competencies.

The worlds of human resources and procurement have become increasingly entwined as the greatest cost to most organizations these days is that of human capital. To better manage this important and complex resource, HR and procurement professionals have had to collaborate and strategize more than ever before.

The traditional procurement organization has evolved into a "sourcing and procurement- service organization" or strategic sourcing organization." This elevated, more-strategic function of procurement is working closely with HR now more than ever before.

Sourcing professionals usually handle the high-value, high-risk, high-reward and highly complex types of purchases (mainly focused on services or specialty items) while procurement is focused on the operations side ("procure to pay" and "invoice review and recovery").

The trend is clear and is likely here to stay -- more HR services are now purchased with sourcing and procurement departments used as an intermediary. To be effective, HR and procurement teams must understand how to unlock value from one another by building a relationship that helps generate efficiencies and, ultimately, more effective acquisition of talent and other HR-related services (i.e., healthcare insurance) for their companies.

The Tipping Point

No longer new to one another, HR executives and procurement professionals are at a stage where their partnership has reached a certain level of maturity. HR executives -- once used to managing their own supply base, developing relationships with vendors and negotiating their own deals -- are bringing their procurement counterparts to the table.

Likewise, procurement teams are striving to add value and show that they are not just a formality that needs to be managed in the purchasing process.

Creating value is not as easy as bringing HR and procurement teams together and asking them to collaborate. The teams must establish a strong working relationship that starts with a foundation of mutual understanding and respect for one another's competencies.

Here are five ways HR and procurement teams can best collaborate to unlock their combined value:

1. Speak the same language.

Anyone who works amongst peers of the same discipline every day has a tendency to speak in their own language. To set clear objectives and manage processes effectively, HR/procurement teams must understand one another clearly.

Avoid HR/procurement- speak and, in instances where it's unavoidable, explain what terms mean. If you don't understand what something means, ask. For example, if the procurement team is discussing "aggregation" (combining buying power in specific categories within the various business units within a company), it may not be a familiar term or idea for the HR executives with whom they are working.

It would be important when discussing aggregation to be sure everyone in the room understands the concept so that they can provide input on where aggregation would be optimal.

2. Trust and value one another's expertise.

Procurement and HR teams must engage with one another without one side trying to dominate the other. Both parties must come to the table with the understanding that the ultimate objective is to meet the business goal (i.e., secure the right talent and HR services for the company's needs) and that, in partnership, they will deliver a more valuable solution.

Without this foundation of trust and respect, working together toward that end goal becomes increasingly complex and tedious, which can create detrimental results.

3. Remember your soft skills when establishing your partnership.

HR procurement is an area where a hard-skills approach must be balanced with a soft-skills approach. The procurement team must position itself as a strategic partner to HR, guiding the department in the direction it recommends vs. "taking over" negotiations or vendor relationships.

HR must remember that procurement's agenda isn't necessarily contradictory to its own, and should be open to other ideas and recommendations. Having a candid dialogue and leveraging the expertise, experience and knowledge of both parties will lead to a more effective solution for the company.

4. Create a consistent approach to vendor relationships.

Uniting HR and procurement has provided companies with a single view of their supply base, rather than each HR specialty knowing only about its own suppliers. This can lead to cost efficiencies due to scale/scope of services provided to the overall organization. However, most organizations that have procurement teams still have a large portfolio of HR services providers to manage.

Creating a consistent approach to vendor relationships not only helps the vendors come to expect a certain working relationship with your company, but can help ensure consistency in management of that relationship between procurement and HR as well.

A consistent approach to managing and negotiating with suppliers can eliminate gray areas between HR and procurement during the process, while also helping to generate efficiencies throughout the partnership.

5. Bring services purchasing expertise to the table.

HR procurement is vastly different from materials purchasing. Service purchases are more often based on relationships and are not returnable. Bringing a pure cost-savings mentality to HR procurement can hinder an HR/procurement team's relationship from the onset; value, not cost savings, is the ultimate goal. Staff quality and agency service levels are just as important as generating cost efficiencies.

At the end of the day, clearly defining roles from the onset and throughout the decision-making process is critical to a combined HR/procurement team's success. Who makes the final decision? Who has the lead on the decision timeline? Who is in charge of the process? Those organizations that get it right stand to improve in their efficiency, value and risk management.

Those organizations that allow ineffective procurement/ HR relationships to continue are missing a great opportunity to unlock value in their human-capital strategy.

[About the Author: Bernadette Kenny is chief career officer and senior vice president of human resources for Adecco Group North America. She is responsible for the human resources functions for Lee Hecht Harrison, Ajilon Professional Staffing, Ajilon Consulting and Adecco General Staffing.]

Organisational Behaviour - Poach Reproach

The not-so-good side of recruiting off competitors.

Key learnings:

  1. Poaching has its advantages
  2. But recruiting off competitors is not always a good idea

There are reasons why poaching is a successful way of filling critical vacancies. And there are also reasons, other than legal, why recruiting from one’s competitor is a huge mistake. This is particularly true when salespeople are poached or snared away from one’s archrivals, as this approach to filling vacancies is ridden with land mines. Unless organisations know how to avoid them, the best thing to do would be to avoid such recruiting! This mailer tries to expose a few recruit-from- competitors myths, so that organisations can tread cautiously.

Why snatch or snare?

Good salespeople are as rare as snakes in Ireland! The pressure to cover a large ground and numbers is so immense that organisations would not be bothered about orienting or training those who are new and inexperienced in a particular type of selling. Other than paying lip service to training and encouraging salespeople to refer to bulky and shoddily documented sales guides, there is little that most organisations do to equip their sales force. But this does not mean organisations do not understand how detrimental poor sales teams can be to business.

Therefore, it appears that the quickest and the most ‘logical’ approach to building a good sales team is to recruit someone who is already doing the job well. However, this approach of bringing rivals’ men across will not do much good for organisations because many of their assumptions are only myths.

Myth 1 The more insular and complex the industry, the better it is to recruit insiders.
As one analyst rightly says, “No one came out of the womb mastering your industry.” Recruiters need to understand that such a belief is only shaky. However, there are certain specialised skills and knowledge that salespeople require to serve in a particular industry. Instead of taking newcomers through the entire gamut of training, equipping them with those special skills and knowledge is a better approach than recruiting salespeople ‘with similar experience’, only to realise they are worse mismatches than freshers.

Organisations bent upon recruiting individuals with relevant industry experience should understand the challenge of scalability. Organisations cannot fit in all or could afford all! This inward recruiting trend can keep talent pipelines dry and make referral programmes a waste of time.

Myth 2 They will bring their clientele across.
Given the ‘rolling stones’ trend, no one raises an eyebrow when people jump jobs. In fact, employees with 3–5 years of tenures have become an oddity! Even customers understand that employee loyalty has a changed definition these days. Therefore, assuming they will follow their ‘trusted advisor and friend’ is unrealistic. As marketing observations go, customers once hooked to a brand or product, are likely to remain more loyal to it than a salesperson to his organisation! Moreover, someone who could bring in his clientele could also take them away when he leaves the organisation.

Myth 3 Recruiting someone who works for the big guys is a good thing for small enterprises.
This only works when both enterprises are identical in their operations. And even if they do, a fact worth considering is that no two organisations have analogous sales cultures. Therefore, the assumption that someone who has done a similar job well in a bigger organisation will also be successful in a smaller set up is incorrect. An expert says, “A synergistic match between your company and the candidate is needed to put together a long-lasting sales marriage.”

Another incorrect assumption is that salespeople will carry forward their passion into the new job. While passionate salespeople are a driving force, those who jump jobs frequently do not remember what to be passionate about! “Salespeople who bounce from company to company in the industry become ‘vanilla’,” says an observer.

Even when full-fledged training isn’t a possibility, infusing newcomers with passion should be a primary objective of on-boarding. Some will argue that the surest way to infuse passion is to train well. However, there a few other things that can trigger passion when there is no training.

They include:

  1. Telling a salesperson that he has been chosen specially for a product launch
  2. Asking a salesperson to become a role-model for others
  3. Making a salesperson in-charge of a team soon after on-boarding

Myth 4 Those recruited from big companies will blend into their new roles with ease.
Sometimes, the real reasons for recruiting from competitors are laziness and the inability to train. While the latter is understandable, laziness is not. The lack of drive to scout for and select the right talent leads organisations into believing that recruiting experienced hands from one’s competitors will give them ready-made salespersons. But the truth is that when someone comes on board, he needs to be trained in ‘the organisation’ s way of selling’, no matter where he worked before, and for how long.

The above beliefs are common in organisations. Being a little worldly-wise should help them steer clear of the myths that affect their recruiting.

Ref: TheManageMentor.