Human Capital Musings!

a peek into the human capital world…

Archive for the category “competence”

Do you “manage up” as an employee?


“Managing up” could sound something akin to maneuver, and be a sycophant to the higher ups, and something which is to be abhorred.

Not really. Managing up is an important aspect of a successful career, the art by which one is clear about what makes his boss succeed in his role, which has a direct impact of his own goal accomplished. It is vital for one’s career growth, if looked from the background that unless the boss’s goals are contributed to, there is little that can be accomplished in the team.

To manage up is not about being cozy or a yes-man to the boss. It is about being genuinely concerned about the boss getting to his goals and winning post. To that extent, it means a lot about understanding his mind, knowing his challenges and pressures, how is he working or planning to get his team to win and every thing which has to do with the departmental goals.

An individual who is not concerned about his immediate boss will be working in isolation; Consider the fact that every task of yours, is on one way or other aligned to your higher ups goals, and in turn the company goals, then, there will be a clear appreciation of Managing up.

Devoid of management jargon, managing up is the right way to contribute to the boss’s success and in turn for you to move up the organization’s hierarchy.

If you are reporting to a new boss, spend considerable amount of time knowing him from the workplace perspective. Some pointers to this understanding will be

What is he set to achieve? What are his goals? Getting this insight by formal or informal discussions with his is the only way that you gain a ‘boss perspective’. This is important, and many a times, his world will be so different from your world of work.

Is he an introvert or extrovert? If he is a man of few words, then he may be tremendously focused on tasks to be done, and subsequent discussions. An extrovert may be verbose and would like to hear a lot of views on how things are and how things can be

What is his communication style? If he is a reader, then he will like detailed reports on work, and then he will proffer his views. If he is a listener, then he will call you and team for a discussion, which will be a periodical review of sorts.

Discuss and set mutual expectations time and again. What is his expectation from you – for the year, for the quarter, for the month? And in turn translate that to the micro level expectations from your team. It will help knowing the expectations threadbare, so that you look good with a winning team. And this winning is not by your measure or your bosses, your company’s measure.

Managing up just about getting a peek into the the boss’s world of work, a wonderful perspective that will aid your career, in any organization.

And finally, it is so important for the boss to behave in a way that his co-worker can indeed contribute his mite to his goals, and in turn the organisation’s goals.

Deserve to be managed up, in a word!

 

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Employee engagement and Leadership.


As a HR learner, I only keep on re-stating the fact that good engagement is just not about the cosmetics of some HR function initiatives – yes those initiatives do help to increase or better EE.

That said, unless the style of leadership is one that is intent on fostering a great workplace for the team, then no amount of other initiatives can save the day in bettering EE at that workplace.

This is also re-iterated in the article on building a sustainable engagement strategy by good friend Abhishek Mittal of Towers Watson, Singapore.

Two key takeaways from this work from the HR/EE perspective are enablement and energy. From a personal view point I would rate energy as the number one priority, and enablement later.

While what HR folks commonly call as a great work environment is a combination of numerous factors within the organisational framework, the crucial software in this whole application is the ‘leadership’ disk!

Keep all the other facilities which HR assiduously puts in place, but just remove the software of good leadership – the carefully cooked EE pie will crumble.

Energy and enablement are the direct results of a great leader for the different groups within the organisation.

This is easily evident, yet most of our organisations lack the HR framework to address this important people issue – in fact it goes to the extent of some of us assuming that – where there is the lack of an enabling and energizing leader, other elements in canvas – like compensation, additional responsibilities, better role, career path etc – will catalyze EE.

This is not true; and yet it seems to be least realised in our efforts of building a holistic EE program.

Energize and enablement are just a direct fallout of the leaders at different levels within the organisation. Not an inch more.

Its HR’s responsibility to make sure that necessary training and re-training initiatives are built in to make sure that a majority of the leaders can energize and enable. Sans this, all other investments in a robust EE program will just be an exercise in vain.

The question really is – how many of us in HR are willing to accept this, and work hard on making better leaders out of our people?!

(A note of thanks to Abhiskek Mittal for his insights).

Hiring, for happiness


I have had some wonderful learning as a recruiter/HR professional and always ponder about ‘hiring for happiness’.

We have read and written volumes about hiring the right person with the best skills and competencies, but hiring for happiness is a class in itself, and doing so will only foster a great and happy work place. Needless to say, and I dont think anyone will differ – a happy organisation ought to be a productive and winning organisation.

Here are a few tangibles,  that hiring for happiness would bring in to the organisation, making life happier for the organisation, its team and its topline and bottom line.

Happiness is being self disciplined.

This is a most important differential that will add immense value to the workforce and the teams. Whilst there would be so many hazy and nebulous definitions of what happiness means to each one of us, the fact remains that happiness is rather simple – people who are more self aware, know what they are, understand their strengths and weaknesses, and understand the value they can bring to the table. Happy persons are grounded in reality, and aspire to achieve incrementally, by being sincere, illustrious, creative, and solution centric.

Happiness is being satisfied and contended.

Happiness comes from being driven by the self and one’s own inherent values. So when a happy person comes in in any role, is a satisfied person, and takes his work head on with remarkable agility, and with a happy goal in mind. The absence of dissonance is by far the biggest positive factor that would contribute to workplace productivity.

Happiness is being a better team player and co-worker
.

A happy employee, but for rare exceptions to a decimal percentile, is a good team player, and when many happy men and women are an integral part of the team, the performance is optimal, moving towards the team goals and corporate goals. The team comprising happy employees is a galvanised and energetic teams, that will be driven by happy leaders, who think that winning and happiness are just synonyms.

Happiness is being infectiously optimistic.

When someone at the workplace is infectitiously optimistic, he or she takes on any challenge headon, comes in with oodles of creativity, thus proffering solutions to workplace problems, looking at client and customer happiness as a goal, and crafting all products/services with mutual goals in mind. Happiness is the only state of mind that thinks win win which is the most desirable business strategy.

Happiness is being motivated.

Being in a happy state of mind, is being self motivated to accomplish ones’ personal and professional goals. In fact happiness creates a natural flow in the person that would not be possible with any other factor of motivation. Power, position, and money will rank far behind happiness as a facilitator to motivate. There are enough and more best employer surveys to drive home the point that the best paymasters are not the best and happy employers. And many leaders and HR professionals across the spectrum of diverse businesses will testify to the role a happy work force can play, and what money as a driving force cannot achieve.

As professionals, if each of us aspire to build happy teams, keep the customers and vendors happy, and keep the board happy, it’s the best possible winnning scenario. And the topline and bottomline can only be something everyone can be happy about.

Indeed, the best way to keep the employees at all levels of the organisaition is to keep them happy; might sound simple, but it would mean humungous efforts by the stakeholders, with HR in the drivers seat.  Employeee engagement can get to its best with the happiness of the employees and the workforce as its pivot.

What are your views on hiring for happiness, or happy hiring? 🙂

Does your organisation have an exit management SOP?


Most leaders among us believe that managing exits of employees is the HR functions responsibility. Nothing can be far from true. Good leaders make sure that employee exits are handled with care and finesse…  isn’t is often said that every employee is the organisations brand ambassador.

Loads of  care is taken by organizations in engaging employees when they are with an organization. The same care and attention is somehow given a convenient go, when an employee decides to part ways with the company for personal/professional reasons, what be it. Even worse, the process in mismanaged, for want of time and a want of an understanding of how critical  the exit process is, to the employer brand.

Here are 2 real life situations which speak volumes on what could be the best way of exit management, and which serves to beef up the employer value proposition (EVP) in the eyes of all stakeholders.

Victor has served the midsized company from inception, built the brand assiduously by bringing in clients, relationships, revenues, through team-building, and a whole lot of relevant and related tangibles and intangibles. In his stint of over 2 years with the organization, never has he sought any goodies, upped the ante,  nor voiced his environmental constraints, nd has accepted decisions of the company, owing to the market conditions with grace and poise. This, despite even a lot of monetary setbacks, and going back on benefits that are promised & legally binding; and a lot of initial promise on how he will have a skyrocketing professional growth, and how his role and compensation will grow as he meets his expectations.  Even when Victor has many setbacks on his personal front, he continues his work, sans any attention by the organization.

Time comes for Victor to move on, to nurture his personal and professional life as he desires.  He communicates this to the person above in the hierarchy, and his resignation is accepted, taking facts into consideration. He serves his responsibilities; in the interregnum before he is released, a senior most person in the organization comes up and tells him that he cannot go; that he will struggle for survival (issues like food and shelter?!), if he sticks to his decision. Veiled threats are held at him for no reason. It is harassment in its diplomatic form of sorts; many in the corporate office of the organization and even some erstwhile colleagues are pushed to throw muck at Victor; this continues even as he leaves graciously.  He quietly moves to take care of his personal and professional priorities, blind to most of this ‘throwing muck’.

Now to John; John has worked with a large MNC, a leader in its space in the country for a little over 2 years; his stint has been fine, his contributions being above average. His presence is always acknowledged by leaders in the organization, and those leaders make it a point to call him for anything that was to do with the good of the long-term interests of the MNC.

John, wanting professional advancement decides to move on, and communicates the same to his functional head. The head refuses to accept his resignation come what may.  The next morning, to the huge surprise of John, his boss flies in to his place from the corporate office, and expresses gratitude for the work John has done, and pleads him to stay. The boss says any issues can be sorted out, unconditionally, within the framework of the organizational policies.

However, John sticks to his decision, which is finally accepted half heartedly by the boss. The boss also advises John to facilitate in getting an appropriate person for John’s replacement, and also to help in the client transitioning etc.

In the meanwhile most national leaders from the organization continuously communicate to John, checking out is they can help and make him stay. John’s boss even went to the extent to advising the HR to check if John would prefer to report to someone else, yet stay back in the company.  HR also is constantly in communication, and checks what all separation issues need to be addressed; by when moneys of settlement are needed etc.

On the last day of John’s service, his boss again travels down to his location, and bids farewell with lavish praises. Most regional leaders of the organization and most teams were in attendance; even an hour before the close of that day, a functional head tells John to join his team, and he would take care of professional and personal needs.

To cap it all, John’s boss writes a mail to every employee in the company, across the country, and marked to all regional and global leaders, that John’s work at the company was great, and it was a matter of pride to have had him working for the company; wishing him the best moving forward. HR also ensures that all what is due to John is taken care off, without any need for following from his side.

From these real-life stories, it is very clear that John will be a great brand ambassador carrying the brand flag forever. Needless to say, Victor will be a bitter man, carrying only bitter memories.

(Both John and Victor are real life instances, with organisations that dealt with exits in a diametrically opposite fashion).

Managing employee exit, in commonsense parlance, is all about etching great memories of the organization, in the mind and heart of the exiting employee.

One step ahead, it is high time organizations had a formal SOP on managing exits well!

Hiring people… are we asking the right questions?


On January 15th, 2009, Captain Chesley Sullenberger made an emergency landing of his 50-ton passenger aircraft, US Airlines Flight 1549 – softly gliding it onto the Hudson River in New York City, saving the lives of all 155 people on board.

What he did was not only a feat, but also a testimony to his on-the-job skills, dedication and passion. Plain words would not suffice to express the feat of Capt Sullenberger.

What are the odds that you and me, as hiring managers, will find our Captain ‘Sully’ Sullenberger?  .

For most of us in the corporate/human resources space, the formidable challenge is to get the star hired out of the lot of candidates out there, be it a CXO or a frontline sales foot soldier. This singular ability to identify and hire individuals, who can excel at work, and beat the market – the raison d’etre of any winning organization!

The trick is probably looking at the candidate’s core competence and also what he is passionate about, at work or otherwise. Picture this: If you were the guy in charge of hiring pilots for US Airlines, how would you have identified Capt Chesley Sullenberger from the whole lot of aspiring and young pilots?

Or rather how would you not at any cost miss out on hiring the handful of Capt Sullenbergers from a thousand aspirants.

While there are surely many proven models on ‘how to hire the right person for the right job’, the most simple and cost effective way is to factor a few simple questions as a part of the hiring discussions.

In today’s rapid fire hiring processes, it is competency assessment on the basis of standard question templates that dominate rather than a few rudimentary but revealing questions.

One such rudimentary question is: What do you do in your spare time? What are you passionate about?

When Michael Balboni, New York State’s deputy secretary for public safety, thanked Capt Sullenberger for a job done brilliantly, he responded “That’s what we’re trained to do.”

But that was humility at its best, a singular hallmark of passionate leaders.

In an interview like situation (hiring), only a probing question on the Captain’s hobbies, life likes and passion would have revealed this:

When most friends were getting their driver’s licenses, he got his pilot’s license. For fun, he flew glider planes, which is what he did when he landed in the Hudson River with no engines. Extracurricular activity? An accident investigator for the Air Line Pilots Association and work with federal aviation officials to improve training and methods for evacuating aircraft in emergencies. This explains why he walked through the cabin twice, making sure no one was left behind before he escaped the sinking plane himself on that day over the Hudson river!

This might seem eccentric and obsessive to quote from what I read somewhere: “Obsessions are one of the greatest telltale signs of success. Understand a person’s obsessions and you will understand her natural motivation. That one thing for which she would walk to the end of the earth.”

Well, we are not hiring for those who would be willing to do that long walk, but only those whose probability of success on the job is above average, at least and excellent, at best.

So, are we ever looking for that little obsession for job-related skills – a receptionist excels in greeting people with a smile, and has to like doing that and being hospitable, a sales guy needs to be passionate about people and how the product and services benefit the customer, a recruiter is passionate about helping people shape their careers, a doctor is passionate about saving lives… this list is just endless depending on who has to be hired.

Puttting it in a nutshell,  only the right and simple questions throw up our ‘Captain Sullenberger’s!!

Are we ever asking the right questions while hiring?!

 

Stability or competence.. what would you say?


Few days ago,  someone had called me to get my opinion on which I would think is the deciding factor in getting someone for a role with my client organisation.

My reply was  – while I may personally opine that competency is of paramount importance and will score over stability, other things remaining the same, most of my clients would indeed feel uncomfortable sharing that view of mine. And so, from a client perspective, stability scores over competence…. Yes, most of my clients would rather appoint a more stable candidate than someone who could deliver much better. Period.

That said, it also made me think as to why most clients  – and assuming that these are just a sample of the whole universe – most organisations prefer to bet safe on a seemingly ‘stable’ person, leaving competence behind in the hiring process.

Could it be because of the following?

  1. The persons responsible for the hire prefer a safe bet, someone who has just been an ok and average performer, who will stay on for a while, thus proving the hirer right from having gotten a stable candidate onboard.
  2. The opposite of this – what if the decision to hire the more competent person happens to boomerang? What if he does not adopt and settle into the ‘culture’ of the current team (which is almost always masqueraded as organisation culture).
  3. Having someone who is extremely competent would means that there is a possibility that the incumbent is the smartest of the lot, and would upset the apple-cart for a whole lot of folks who are a product of the current ‘comfort zone’!
  4. Justifying the cost of the hire becomes much easier when the person hangs on for long, than otherwise. Apart from the cost of hire, numerous other HR metrics would look so good in the name of stability – cost of rehire, attrition and so on… ….expect offcourse the revenue/employee which could have been much  better with a more competent hire.

This is just a sample of what might contribute the right hire strategy of the organisation.

Little does the organisation or the HR therein realise that to have someone more competent – there also would be a need to work on appropriate engagement and ‘stay’ strategies – and this would indeed call for a little more proactive and evolved HR/leadership – than that may be needed to sustain a ‘stable’ employee.

Surprisingly, in the name of stability, is it the right thing to overlook what could have been the opportunity ‘revenue’ impact of the organisation in having someone more competent, even if it is for a lesser period of time – compare this with the ‘average’ revenues with stable employees.

And with the new gen workforce which is dynamic and organisationally ‘ephemeral’, I only think the organisations that advocate stability over competence will be the losers!

What do you think?

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