Monday, February 26, 2007

To all ye Managers and Leaders—Part 2

As early as in 1998, a McKinsey research survey (War for Talent) claimed that a company can attract and retain the right people only when
# talent management is put as a corporate priority
# there is a unique employee value proposition and
# The management can well explain why a smart and talented individual would work for them rather than the one next door.
And the primary key to keeping the good people is a constant initiative to develop and develop them further.

Companies which are so particular about their ‘hard’ results in financials and assets, do not look at their most vulnerable resource—their people!

According to HR Institute, a leading not-for-profit, a good worker-supervisor relationship is the primary reason behind retention. Companies which tolerate underperforming people, especially under-performing bosses, pay the greatest price. Sub-par managers drive talent away from the company and also pre-empt positions which could have been used as development opportunities. McKinsey’s War for Talent, 2000, survey of 6500 senior and middle level managers in 35 large US companies noted the following as the significant ways that an underperforming manager affects the career of people
# Impediment to learning
# Hurting career development
# Impediment in creating a larger contribution to the bottom line; and finally
# Making them leave the company.
The finding of this survey resonates Jim Collins’ idea quoted in my previous post.

I have left positions with previous employers because I have found the mentoring relationship with my supervisor meaningless and have failed to see any value for my career and individual development in spite of being nominated to organization wide leadership development initiatives which seemed more of window-dressing than anything serious.

Most employees look for meaningful work, feedback and recognition apart from a good working relationship with the team and the supervisor. While most managers do the day-to-day supervision regularly, they do not do the rest of the managerial role.
They need to ‘engage’ employees by showing the big picture, there is always a feeling ‘Aha!’ when my work is connected clearly to the company’s vision and objectives. Good managers also discuss career development options proactively with the employees. They advocate learning opportunities and develop an employee’s strengths and skill sets with a long term goal.
Stretch assignments are a key mode of adult learning so often a manager, who matches the right employee to the stretch projects available, becomes a winning retention manager!
Sensitivity to diversity among employees is another major factor. In India, we have always lived in a community of diversity but it is shocking to find the stereotypical thought impressions we carry about others and hence unconsciously get guided in our behaviour.

The common pitfalls are a plenty
# Often managers lose the long term view and push people for short term goals which not only affect the commitment levels of employees but also fail to take the talent pool to the next level. # Often ‘High-fliers’ are identified subjectively because they reflect something that a manager sees in him or herself.
# Also at times organizations/managers use a single method for assessing/identifying talent potential among people which gives a limited view. Talent management initiatives exist as islands within the company or in one-off processes which do not bear any fruit.
# The Senior Management should be clear on its motives behind the entire talent management strategy. It should not be to play up to the gallery of media, analysts, investors etc.

Retention initiatives maybe expanded to Transitioning processes. While there may not be scope for vertical growth all the time, our age old job enrichment processes come to play in terms of expanding an employee’s role. Stretch assignments are quite popular as an intervention at this stage.
Effective managers network with each other to share and transfer talent across businesses and geographies. A talented employee usually has competencies that can be of value across different buckets of the organizations and it also keeps the employee in the learning loop thereby helping in employee engagement and retention.
Great managers also know when to ‘let go’ and end the working relationship. They manage the exit well to learn why the employee is leaving and what could have been done differently in the earlier stages of the employee life cycle in the organization.

A Towers Perrin survey on Talent Management in 2005 revealed that
1. Most respondent companies believe that they are not providing enough support to their managers to play their role as talent managers effectively.
2. Respondents do not generally believe that their HR organizations are equipped to partner with the line especially in areas connected to data and measurement for decision making.

These are disturbing findings especially if one looks at the scenario today in 2007 when there is an essential dearth of skilled workers as well as qualified managers accompanied by an ageing workforce across the world and Generation Y-ers (those born after 1980) requiring skilled supervision to be productive.

Talent Management: The State of the Art, 2005, Towers Perrin HR Services
Managers as Talent Leaders by Catherine J Rezak, Paradigm Learning, Florida, USA
War for Talent, Part Two, The McKinsey Quarterly, 2001, Number 2

To all ye Managers and Leaders—Part 1

I have been losing sleep lately on the issues of Talent Management. As I define and envision my role as a meaningful professional, there are some insights which come in. A reader, here, recently commented that HR, at times, is not even involved in Hiring. The way I read it is that HR as a sub-organisation within the larger one is not adept/keen to handle the process. While that maybe partially true, hiring managers cannot push the ultimate accountability saying “it is HR’s job and I have other better things to do” simply because they know
# what is to be done on the job
# the culture
# the team dynamics
# the results they and the organization need.

HR needs to add value by providing inputs on methods of prospective talent assessment, sources of attracting them and retooling the employee orientation, training and mentoring programs. However research shows that these very tools may backfire if managers rely too heavily on “it’s HR’s job” approach.

The organizational life cycle of an employee can be defined thus: Attracting→→Retaining→→Transitioning

Attracting new talent is really a war cry and there is huge competition across the trans- national space. I work for a niche start-up in the bundled space of technology and company research services. We are finding it equally difficult to hire talent in USA as much as in India. We pay above-par at times but look at very strong academics and competencies to fit the role and the culture here. The difficulty we are facing leads me to believe
# Prospective employees do not look for money all the time (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs still holds true)
# Niche skill sets and differentiating competencies (like we are looking for) are hard to come by # There is too much competition in hiring from the existing talent pool which may involve compromises on quality and other parameters. This fact, in turn, leads to high overhead costs and not necessarily high productivity.
# Recruiting organizations must go one step behind in the value chain and get involved in training people while they are still in under-grad schools. A lot of companies have already taken this route.

On-boarding is a key part of the attraction stage in the cycle. It is seen that dissatisfied employees leave within 3 to 6 months of being in a new job.
Good hiring managers create a support network for the new employees to help them quickly get on to speed.
They show the ‘big picture’ to help employees understand the value and place of their contribution towards the organizational collective goal. They also understand that being available for questions and feedback is a critical investment of time.
In our organization, we value ‘High Quality Moments of Truth’ meaning that each and every interaction with every stake holder is a ‘moment of truth’ for the organization at large and have to be given that importance. During the talent attracting and hiring phase, this Value would translate for us, in HR, as
# Establishing quality processes in short listing and selecting talent
# Helping Hiring Managers with the right tools of assessment and providing insights into the potential and hidden competencies of candidates
# Creating a positive experience and making it customized as much as possible, when new employees join us
# Helping Hiring Managers to be ‘present’ as the new employee struggles through the choppy waters of settling down And am sure we will find and add value in the process.

In his book ‘Good to Great:Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Other’s Don’t’, Jim Collins says that the best companies, those that have gone from good to great, “get the right people on the bus, the right people in the right seats and the wrong people off the bus.” Collins goes on to say that it doesn’t matter if you are in the right direction with the wrong people because great vision without great people is irrelevant.

Leave you to chew on that till we come back on the next stage of the employee life cycle.

Good to Great by Jim Collins, 2001
Managers as Talent Leaders by Catherine J Rezak, Paradigm Learning, Florida, USA
Moments of Truth by Jan Carlzon, 1987

From the desk of an HR guy--Part 2

The other day P told me that he was asked by his HR department to submit his job description and two references after he was working for almost two years. Also when he wished to know about the car leasing rules they had no idea and once organized an offsite where all HR guys sat in a gang and drank while the employees were left to themselves! He works on highly intellectual stuff for 12-14 hours a day and has no fitness/entertainment zones at work. His friend D told me that line HR discussed his manager’s development areas and the solution thus provided by HR in an open forum. Also when D wished to check one of his team member’s exit formalities, he was quizzed on compensation and while he answered on the negative, he was shown the entire confidential report of the employee in question at the click of a button while doling out expert advice.
Mind you, my friends P and D are from the best institutes of the country, have the best brains and work for the ‘dream come true’ investment bankers!

Does it mean that HR survives on a false sense of acquired power?
Does it mean HR is unprofessional and unethical?
Where did the ‘healer’, the ‘employee champion’ and the ‘strategic partner’ vanish amidst all this?

No wonder HR is a bad word in everybody’s lexicon…

D has some observations on this A student gets acquainted to the HR professionals during internships when they are treated like ignorant no-bodies, the attitude being “here I make or break your future!” During the final placement, the situation is no different, it seems! Questions stinking of ignorance are doled out and decisions made.

No wonder for years I have wondered why people think HR is relegated to hiring alone! And why often people pass an under the breath “HR must be kept in good humor”?

Does it really make it meaningless for believers like us who with all faith, thought and deed are here to make a difference?

From the desk of an HR guy!

After more than five years of corporate time, I am quite used to the glances, not-so-polite jokes and regular comments on ‘HR Guys’. Am also quite used to ‘Why HR is hated?’ discussions in HR forums. And for the first time am putting a post on my work area. (This is definitely not a technical discussion.)

Often HR is seen as a choice for those who really do not have any other. However I (and many others like me) have chosen to be in this field because we see HR as a healer and a helper in an organisation. Also as a contributor to people development without which organizations will come to a standstill. However much we bring in robotics and chips to do our bit on shop floors and software development centres, I believe Hawthorne’s experiments are equally valid today. I also believe that each one of us have this innate need to grow and develop as programmed as a plant goes towards light or a wasp towards a flicker. So the correct initiatives in people development can never go waste.

I do not contest that in India we, HR folks, have definitely left a lot to be done, we are far from where we ought to be. To the extent that I often get to hear that it is a surprise that being an HR person I need to work for such long hours while in reality most of my friends in the fraternity work for extended hours everyday and often over the weekend too. Have we sold HR poorly or is it that, as a friend from the line puts it, we lack expertise? I just look upon it as gross mismatch of expectations.
While few of us contain ourselves within the fencing of this function, it is actually 50% of a line manager’s and 80% of a leader’s job. However people look upon the HR Department as the doer of all decisions---the face of Devil! Which brings me to conclude that probably we couldn’t align ourselves with those for whom we exist. We are still ‘they’ who dole out the bad numbers, ‘they’ who mess up stuff; ‘they’ who have no work and DON’T deliver.

This year, Talent Management, has been voted as the greatest challenge for organizations worldwide. (Workforce Magazine, Jan 2, 2007)And talent is as potent as a bomb. In the shrinking world, choices are plenty and organizations will remain organized till they can keep their key people.
The second greatest area of concern is Succession Planning. Until and unless leaders are developed organizations can’t grow. But leadership development has five major dilemmas [Leadership Development through corporate universities, J Storey (2004)]
1.The extent to which and the way in which leadership can really be taught
2.The changing nature of leadership
3.The comparative nature of leadership
4.The measurement and evaluation of leadership development interventions
5.The integration of leadership programs with other organizational systems—such as career development or reward systems—and the degree of linkage with business strategy

The survival and success of HR fraternity depends on whether we can pull through these challenges in keeping with the needs of the business. We will succeed only when others see value in what we do. This is a much clich├ęd statement. One which we cannot ignore. However much I tell you that am one who really believes in the purpose behind this existence, am sure people even of my own organization would still think that not me as an individual but the function as a whole has no right to be here.

To create value we need a holistic approach, not one of stunted initiatives here and there with a short term view. And there will be a way to show the purpose behind our existence.