Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Are you better than your boss?

A lot of Performance and Talent Management blogs that I read have been talking about this Executive Quiz by Korn Ferry International (one of the largest recruiting and outsourcing firms in the world).
I assume you will use the link to read up on the survey results.
Here I have a few observations on the results

Employees are impatient these days. They want to jump on to the golden treadmill, get running and retire rich very early. There is a sea of opportunity waiting there to be converted. Hence a big feeling of being unemployed

A corollary from the above is that everyone wants the boss’s job as fast as can be.

Also companies are facing real talent crunch as they charter new territories and cultures. As a result a lot of them have to compromise on the occupants of the leadership positions. Once upon a time, that was true for new economy companies; today it is true for everyone.

The results of the ‘trust in boss’ factor is quite interesting. About 35% have mentioned that they do not trust their boss enough. That is also because
1. Employees are extremely competitive and goes well with their aiming specific jobs in a specific time frame
2. The uncertainties related to the modern world where you either shape up or just die

Also, ego and self image plays a huge role in self assessment reports. One needs to factor that part in this study as well.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Professorial Headhunting

In a shocking article under the Investigation section on Businessweek magazine, I read that the jury is still out on whether faculty (and the school) can accept research grants and other sponsorships from corporate organizations in lieu of recommending best students for open positions. It seems that teaching assistants in a number of US schools were lured by prospective employers by freebies into giving up the names of the best in the graduating class.
And I am concerned for
There is big money involved
Where do we put morals and ethics in this scheme of things?

Some recruiters like Valero Energy are quite candid about their utilizing graduate teaching assistants as a quick lead into talented possible hires. There was a time when royalty and government would fund most of new research and would also provide the consulting assignments to academics. But times changed and the corporates took over from them. While professors are the best source for reference and recommendation for fresh hires, there is a sure conflict of interest involved over here.

The question to be asked is how would we question Ethics and Values in organizations if schools and professors are not stable on clarifying their values? While it might work in the favour of most students and recruiters to get the right recommendations, it might not work for the majority when it comes to questions of equal opportunity for all.

In India, with the soaring economy and great demand for Indian managers abroad, making it to the first slots during placement season in the premier B schools is like an Olympic race won for recruiters. Campuses have rules and regulations on acceptable behaviour for both students and recruiters however most of it is managed by students and slips are not too less. We often hear of students getting an unfair opportunity or breaking a rule.
We went to a hallowed institution for hiring the last season and were met by confusing rules, bullying students of the placement committee and unprofessional attitude overall. While we wrote to the faculty in charge and were assured of proper redressal, we, as ethical recruiters are not sure if we got to meet the best breed or if the students we went looking for got information of our opportunity.

Readers may read on in the link below:
The Professor is a head hunter

Friday, July 27, 2007

Hire me, if you can!

[Photo courtesy: Fortune]

We have been facing an utter talent crunch when we go looking for our organization. And the ailments seem to be applicable for people across the industries, levels and background. However our experience is the worst with the booming IT product and services sectors.
Candidates are unprofessional and unscrupulous. They do not think twice about misusing air tickets issued to them to travel for interviews, lie about their references, background and credentials and worst of all go back on all kinds of commitment.
Given that our economy is booming, there is a huge demand for talent (irrespective of quality and values). As a start-up not only do we have to pay astronomical prices for sub-standard talent, most of our efforts in search and closure, go down the drain.
My colleagues in recruitment have no answers and are constantly looking at new and innovative ways to gather prospective employees. They seem to be constantly bettered at their own game!

I regularly interact and spend at least a day with fresher recruits during our three-four week rigorous induction program. There is so much promise in them (we, of course, pick up the best), spunk in their ideas and excitement that it is very easy to get lit up and I enjoy it thoroughly. From them, I try to understand what drives them and this is what I found
It is money for everything. They come at a price and wouldn’t mind waiting and buying time if the best price doesn’t come by. Anyway they are spoilt for choice and do not have financial responsibilities like the previous generation. Most of their parents are still working or have retired rich.
They are smart and even though they do not have work experience, they are uber-cool and confident and the employers better keep their minds well engaged, otherwise they will pack their bags.
They’d rather be kept in good music. Good entertainment, plush office, infrastructure, flashy pay-offs and a lot of expensive socialization and vacations are a must.
They do not think much of completing assignments and sticking on for the sake of their team for as less as even a couple of weeks. It is impossible to think of a three year stint, at least a year? They require a lot of reasons to commit that too. Most of them want to start off on their own.
Surprisingly, their parents are much involved in every choice they make. We often get calls from parents checking every detail about company background, work profile and benefits beyond pay.
They can never be told that they are wrong or can improve. Self esteem is in and that’s the final word.

All in all, I can tell you that today’s twenty-somethings are the most high-maintenance workforce that we have ever encountered

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

People processes in the New World

My colleagues, in the profession, and I have often discussed on integrative people processes in organizations by which we mean that the entire organizational life cycle of an employee will be governed by a single vision which in turn will touch his/her org life at various stages through regulations, interventions, development and transition. Often all the well-meaning efforts by Business Managers and HR get nullified due to lack of integration and a larger vision on people processes flowing from the Organisational Vision and Goals.
Those thoughts were at one level.
As I read, think and talk more and more on the level playing field in economies and societies across the world, I wonder how the integrated HR Value Chain will take shape in the New World in Transition.

We ‘do’ it differently Now
The concept of business has changed. We no longer conceptualise, design and manufacture goods to be sold across the road. We mostly create digitized services and pack them through fibre channels across the world. When we do create products (like the baby products I referred to, in my previous post) we do all of it real-time. We do usability studies in emerging economies where there is a booming population with huge purchasing power, design it in talent rich places; get the final zing from the sophisticated expertise of the Old World and manufacture it where the regulations are friendly, labour cheap and assembly lines are tireless. My organization defines, designs, creates and populates a product platform in India and offers it as a digitized service (SAS) to clients in the US. We do the information mining, texting and structuring in India and thereby hone our clients’ decision making skills in the developed financial markets abroad. It is all about across the time zones, climates and culture. (Our CEO even names his blog page on a time zone)

Different HR realities in the ‘differently done business’ world

Talent Acquisition
Talent is spread all over the world and the employer-employee relation is undergoing major change. It can be a contract defined by content of delivery, time period, expertise and knowledge sharing rather than a full time commitment basis a work-day.
We are increasingly using professional networks/international organisations (e.g. LinkedIn, Ryze, SHRM, IEEE etc) to search for the expertise and social networks (e.g. Orkut, Tagged) to break into communities of professionals to understand their preferences and views before we can even think of offering to hire them. We are consulting employment law experts from the country of the consultant to define specialized contracts. We lure them with our flexibility to let them work virtually, pursue their research/interests, maintain their greater life goals and yet lend us their expertise.
In this scenario, our age old teaching of understanding body language and using graphology to read behind the façade of the candidate are redundant. There is talent with its characteristics and you buy it, much like browsing the shelves of huge marts to pick up a brand of cheese or chocolate.

Retention—do we aspire for it at all?
The challenge is that statutory laws are unique and diverse and professionals like us are looking at international certification to have a window into the lives and laws of our well spread employees.
Then there are those corporates who have taken over behemoths in developed countries which already have established norms, benefits and commitments made to the employees. It is a challenge for HR to maintain those and yet create value through higher ROCE on people.
However it is interesting to note how the level playing field has made certain age groups of population across the world quite homogeneous. Given a certain socio-economic eligibility, most new entrants in the job market eat, talk, dress, learn and get entertained similarly across the world. But they might have different aspirations given their society and upbringing. And that is the most difficult thing to catch for so-called ‘Talent Magnets’. But since the life cycle has been drastically brought down, what we rather do is manage and document tangible knowledge and let go of the rest.

Organisational Intervention—unique, every moment
is no longer a planned process across structure, systems and processes. We are amoebic in structure, we do as the Romans do and we set processes to see value gets created. Our talent is not committed to us beyond this moment.

That’s the end of the story or creation of a new story, whichever way you wish to look at it. Hence diversity and cross cultural sensitivity is of such prime importance for managing people across boundaries. People and organizational development is no longer a singularly defined method.
How we pan out the original organizational goal through such diverse and multi-cultural lands and people should be our primary concern now.

In the flat world, while at one end, there is immense scope for People Professionals to make a difference by being flexible and insightful and by seeing the storm before it hits us, at the other end, if you ask me, it is the death of my profession especially as I have been told and taught in school.

Today’s People Professionals
1.Ought to be soothsayers or naysayers with the ability to tell the business logically where they should tread in search of value through human-effort.
2.Cannot be vague and without data-points. The age of rhetoric in managing people processes is over.
3.Should be hard core sellers of ideas. I increasingly see myself as a seller of my vision and idea to the Business.
4.Should provide customized solutions once the ideas get sold.
Should have the implementation ability to pull off the idea and the solution to create credibility and
5.Should stay in the ‘business’ by reinventing themselves everyday. I no longer have a set process of dealing with my people and it gives me cold sweat.

People professionals like me might be increasingly crowding themselves out of sleek businesses. And that led me to think of this post. However while starting with modes of integrating the HR Value Chain, I concluded that while we are planning to shape up we might just get shipped out…so much for a cliché!

Hail the soothsaying People Professional with a third eye on the effervescent flat world.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Talent Trap Quandary

Tagging Talent Trap--The Cost of Development by Niladri Roy,
I have to say the following
I somehow think that the only way to manage and develop Talent in any industry, especially the knowledge based ones, is to improve their employability.I will always look for 'what's in it for me' if I have to decide whether am growing or not.Monetary incentive as we all know is a base motive added is the wage bill burden, so it is a loss-loss proposition for both the sides.

Organisations in the knowledge economy (read especially KPOs) space might look at the following options:
i)Develop opportunities for learning on the job (both role related as well as e-learning) so that man-hours (maybe billable for such organisations) are not eaten up.
ii)Look at introducing sponsored higher studies (most old economy and services companies already do this one)
iii)Develop systems and cost structures keeping in mind high attrition figures. There will be a constant churn of people leaving to pursue higher studies while freshers arrive to take their place.This one is not directly related to Roy's talent trap point of view. However it has implications on the ability of companies to support talent management programs
iv)Look at introducing re-employment opportunities once people come back with higher qualification.
For all these programs, serious consideration needs to go in while selecting nominees.

At the end of it, we must appreciate that India is a destination for knowledge process outsourcing given the overhead cost advantages. [atleast under-graduates hope to land themselves plum jobs which was unthinkable even half a decade back.] If we cannot service that, then it will anyway not serve the economy as long as we do not move up the value chain in outsourcing. Some behemoths like GM,GE,DuPont have started outsourcing high-end research but given our infrastructure we have a long way to go. it is easier for them to suck specialised talent to their age old research centres.

Monday, March 12, 2007

HR be damned....

Half said and half unsaid thoughts from a business leader:

1. Intellectually challenged people make it to a career in HR.
What is your IQ? Oh am sorry, yours is slightly better but if you average it out among all professionals, then it will hover around 90.
2. HR can never understand the business. How on earth do you think you will strategically partner me in my growth plans?
You don't understand my product idea. I mean, you do, but with lack of technical knowledge you half comprehend it!
3. I will do my own thing and not include you in my forward thinking and ideas. However I will expect you to manage talent, envisage the challenges to talent management processes as a result of the changes I make and build my organisation.
4. I think you are a glorified clerk.

Wow, do you expect your colleague in HR to make any sizeable difference to your organisation? God save thy people!

Friday, March 2, 2007

Human Resources as I am experiencing it

HR in Startups (KPO's /BPO's/Consulting)–Some Reflections by an esteemed and much senior colleague recently led me to think about how we are organizing and setting up processes in our organization
As I had mentioned earlier we are a start-up into our second year involved in company research, which we offer through our patent-awaited product platform. Our business is niche. We employ people with proven academic track records and more often than not we are on the look out for very specific areas of specialization and skills. Given this, it is a great challenge for us to initiate robust systems so that we not only give a good base to our people processes, we also go a long way in developing and thereby retaining our valued workforce.
To begin with, we have two clear verticals within HR. One is responsible for Talent Acquisition and Employee Relations and the other for Talent Management.
As the owner of the second piece, I have my work cut out. We really do not have the luxury to expend a lot of resources on setting up processes and challenges are aplenty. Hence I often find myself doing a little bit of everything and thereby losing focus on the main piece (as has been mentioned in the post I tagged above). But we are learning fast.
The main challenges that I face as the owner of Talent Management piece are:
# A highly evolved middle management team, who have joined us looking for freedom to experiment, learn and get rewarded in the process. Are we able to give them that experience?
# A junior management team who have been loyal and have chosen us right in the beginning of our life and by virtue of their vintage have progressed up the ladder. How do we differentiate them on the basis of performance, valuing their loyalty yet building a meritocratic organization?
# Alternatives for our employees are many and varied. How do we engage them and maximize their satisfaction given the constraints of cost, organizational life stage and maturity of people capability?
# How will the Talent Management piece fit like the other end of a puzzle to make the rest of our processes like Talent Acquisition, Employee relations and separation a single whole?
# How do I hone my team and my own skills to contribute fairly?

To institutionalize Talent Acquisition processes,
# We have started building relationships with various sources like B school/special school campuses, manpower vendors and especially existing employees. Our co-founders have employed their networks, both online and offline and the resources of their alma maters.
# We have developed extensive Hiring Kits and have identified Hiring Managers across the different functions who’d partner with HR in the process
# We are in the process of drawing up behavioural and functional competencies for every role
# We are looking at various methods like BEI, Case Interview, Role Playing and psychometrics to capture the identified competencies.

Parallely on the HR operations front, we are looking at
# Selecting a cost effective HRMS (Human Resource Management System) meant for SMEs which has the flexibility to key in our specific customization demands and at the same time has scalability
# Cleaning and channelising processes like employee joining, induction (we have one of the best and most comprehensive induction programs for our Research Associates) and maintenance of employee database which have come to be in the last year of our existence before HR could formally take over
# We have outsourced payroll but right now we have cleared specific roles and work flows for the inputs to be passed to the vendors through appropriate checks and balances
# We are in the process of designing an HR page on the Intranet which can be later merged with the Employee Self Service on the HRMS

However the pressing need, right now, is to develop supervisory skills in our front line managers who are managing people of same age group and for the first time. I have been talking to individual trainers, specific schools and experts to arrive at a method to go about it. We need supervisors and they need to see growth in terms of compensation and designation to stay put.
I am also devising a performance management ethic for the organization from the Organisational Vision and Values. This would incorporate the Competency Dictionary we are otherwise developing and thereby take on the next level of career development and succession planning.

My friend here doesn’t think too highly of my efforts given the vision and dreams of his former colleagues who have co-founded this organization. However I see value in his concept of HR as a people supply chain function, I have always been a great believer of integrated systems in HR. And we are trying to learn from the world around as we trip and again put our act together.

You will hear more from me on our little milestones, successes and learning on this page.