Human Capital Musings!

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Archive for the category “HR”

Reverse mentoring – a less used, but potent employee engagement tool.


In the human resources function, most of us must be clearly able to articulate the values of a good, institutionalized mentoring process – as  a crucial ingredient in the pie that is organization development.

With good leaders acting as mentors, the mentees – mostly team members, reportee or a colleague – get to learn new technology, a new process in the organization structure, a new and innovative way to handle customers or close a sale. An organization that fosters a good mentoring culture and environment attracts talent that prefers to learn by the day, innovate, contribute and grow in the rungs.

With mentoring having been around for a while, and widely accepted at the personal and organizational level, the benefits are there to see for all.

Not the case with the opposite – I am sure there will be a lot of disagreement here – but the fact remains that ‘reverse mentoring’ is more in theory, that in practice.

Let’s look at a simple definition of reverse mentoring…. “a younger or less experienced Executive helps a more senior manager gain insight into areas, such as computers and changing IT technology, changing mindsets & expectations of the younger generation, new business concepts, thinking out of the box etc.” (with the transforming face of the Gen Y employee, you can just re-phrase this definition in a hundred more ways!)

Going back in history, ‘reverse mentoring’ as a concept in practice, had its roots probably in GE, where Jack Welch used it as a great tool to learn about the internet, technology applications, which later went on to bring in humongous changes in the way of work at GE. Those events, were a beginning to a transformation of GE as a technology driven organization, using the power of the internet to integrate the many components of GE – productions, suppliers, sales, marketing, and customers.

That was just the beginning though. However, it has somehow stuck on that ‘reverse mentoring’ is only powerful to understand new technology, innovation, trends in vogue and so on… It is such a wrong and misconceived notion that ‘reverse mentoring’ works only for those ‘cool’ things. Nothing can be far from reality and the real power from ‘reverse mentoring’.

Whilst it could have been true in a context then and earlier, it is far from true now. In fact this view only puts a cap on the immense potential of the concept of ‘reverse mentoring’, when institutionalized as a ‘strategic component’ of OD in any company.

Some of the areas where a well thought out, planned and implemented reverse mentoring program can help are – improving the processes, raking up ethics issues, strategy and strategic direction, better quality, a honest appraisal of leadership styles, impediments to real growth, bringing in an awareness of market reality and so on. The tangible and intangible value-adds could go on and on, as much as what the organization would want to build in the process.

With senior management, CXO’s and HR grappling for innovative ways to engage the work-force (the knowledge workers!), a prudent and thoughtful integration of ‘reverse mentoring’ in the overall scheme of HR/OD plan will be a must do. It will position the employer as a place where knowledge, critical and valuable inputs from the team and every individual are valued!

This is such a powerful ’employer value proposition’ in the clutter and race for real good talent!

To make reverse mentoring work and add real value, senior line management, the HR function, the CEO/CXO level, and even the board must commit to integration of ‘reverse mentoring’ in the overall scheme of things. This is the most vital need, as without this commitment, the organization can never get the real benefits of the process. Trying to implement reverse mentoring in isolation is as good as it not done at all.

Some steps that can make “reverse mentoring’ really work:

1. The HR/OD team works and gets a buy in for institutionalizing reverse mentoring in the overall scheme of things.
2. The team also gets a ‘reverse mentoring’ manual done, so that, when circulated, the manual makes clear what the process is, what the intent is, how everyone in the team, and in turn the organization can benefit.
3. Each individual program is documented as much by the reverse mentors and mentees; this brings in an element of measurement and seriousness to the program.
4. HR creates a mechanism for monitoring the progress or otherwise of the program. This can be spread across various functional areas, by bringing in the line management into the monitoring process.
5. Get the line management’s trust and confidence in each stage.
6. Identify the blocks to the process in the organization, and work on education/confidence building measures as the need may be.
7. Over a period, measure what positive difference the ‘reverse mentoring’ program’ has given the organization.

This is not an exhaustive and a perfect list. At best this can be a broad guideline; each organization must work with commitment on their own program that will work best for them!

‘Reverse mentoring’, if committed to, can be such a powerful ‘talent attraction’ tool, employee engagement tool, and ’employer brand proposition’. Isn’t it? And if yes, are we doing it in our workplaces??

 

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Performance management – communication.


Any employee who gives his best in the organisation does so, anticipating a good, transparent and clearly laid down performance management process.

And speaking of performance management, while employers may have the best of practices in place – if the same is not communicated well to the stakeholder, the objective and objectivity of the exercise gets lost in a maze.

The value of  performance communication management for any employer brand is timeless! Jack Welch is quoted to have said this on performance management (ranking): “Ranking has been portrayed as a cruel system.  The cruel system is the one that doesn’t let anyone know where they stand.”

And where they stand can be only clear, when each engaged employee/partner is communicated of how his contribution to the organizational goals and revenues will be measured.

A lot has been said and written about how it is important and crucial to manage performance in an organization, not much emphasis has been laid on the importance of communicating it to the members of the organization – at all levels.

This leads to a lot of confusion, uncertainty, and most of all, shock and surprise when in the middle of the year/end of the year, the employees are measured, reviewed, and  evaluated by a process which they are not even prima facie aware of.

A lot of  times, such a performance management exercise, which is truly objective and equal to all gets perceived to be biased, and partial; the only culprit in this whole event is the absence of a well laid down communication strategy – within the organization to all internal stakeholders.

 

That strategy which will, well in time, at the beginning of the period or year under review, state in writing to each and every employee the measures and attributes by which his/her contribution will be done.

 

Lack of such communication will also have an adverse impact of the really performing lot in the team. Whilst they give in their best, which would have exceeded their division and business objectives, they would see that their not so performing peers also seem to hold the same stature and growth in a ‘patriarchal’ management (perceptions matter a ton).

This can be highly dangerous to the overall health and long term growth of the company. Unless people see a visible difference between where performers will stand – higher – and where non performers will stand – lower or out of the organization – the best of  performers will desert the organization.

Communication, in the right time and in a very transparent manner (with all the measures quantified, sans any scope for bias), will be a decisive differentiator that would enable all concerned to view the process as legitimate and objective. And once this happens, tremendous amount of discipline comes by in the way everyone views the short term and long term goals. And they also know how and where they will grow within, with the kind of work they do in the period under review.

This highlights the critical nature of the performance communication process, and the time and energy the HR team, the SBU heads, and the CEO ought to spend in making this exercise possibly the best communication amongst the employees. If there is one single exercise that would contribute directly to the top line and the bottom line of the organization, it is PERFORMANCE COMMUNICATION.

The best way to do this will be to create a sort of ‘war room’ that takes care of the whole communication process – planning, vetting, implementing at all levels top down, ascertaining feedback on whether everyone had understood their goals right through. And post the actual performance process, a check on whether what happened is as per the communiqué to each of the employee.

Are our organisations performance communication ready and does HR Communication/performance communication matter?

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? 🙂

Know-all leadership!?


How many times, or how often do your see leaders at workplaces impose themselves by virtue of the position they hold? Quite often, if my own experiences are a  reflection of reality!

Little do such leaders realise that leadership, as a trait, is the ability to command respect not by virtue of the position they hold in the hierarchy, BUT, by the extent of knowledge sharing and value add they bring in to the team, and in turn to the organisation.

I must also add that many leaders have a great bouquet of positive leadership qualities that would be a great asset to the organistion – yet this habit of being a ‘i know all, you seldom know’ person fades all the best of other qualities in the persons leadership armor!

The composition of any team is essentially heterogenic. However homogenous and seamless HR or the organisation would want the team to be, it so happens that mostly, the process ends up in a team that is diverse and heterogenic.

This is so much true with peers at the same level, and in the same role in a team; and the leader of this diverse team has to possess the most balanced persona, to make sure that he gets the best out of this team, and also makes sure that the goals of the organisation and division are met.

Yet, many leaders lose this point completely. The attitude they carry to the team is “look, I am your boss”. Although they may not say this explicitly do this, they re-ierate this time and again, day in and day out, by their behavior, by the kind of language they use, and also in the way they constantly tell the team that they are leaders by virtue of their knowledge, and so it is they who know the most and best!”

This again is due to the fallacious assumption that the team is essentially less knowledgeable, and less learnt that the person who is leading, the so called ‘designated boss’.

Leaders must understand that this is the worst assumption they can make! And when you think that you are the best, the team does not co-create anything at all – mainly because, whatever they do, and create – the enviroment to make things bloom is not provided by the leader.

Such a mindset is a block for all forms of constructive action in the team, and will result in the best performers/potential resources in the team quitely walk away to better pastures.

So, are you a leader, who thinks that you know-all? And worse, send those vibes constantly to your team?

It is time you got aware of this singular negative behavioral trait and worked to overcome it.

Not just your team or organisation, even your career will take powerful wings!

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!

Do you hire from your direct competition?


It’s now common, and rather inevitable, to poach from your direct competition. However, there are a few things you must remember…

1. Never start with ‘your company is in dumps…’. The candidate is willing to look at you precisely because of some perception close to that or any issue which may not be in the open… Re-iterate as to how life can be better in your place, rather than speaking the load of negatives about competition…. throwing negatives reflects badly on the quality of your HR function…!

2. Engage only in a relevant conversation, from the specific prospective employee point of view. Statements like ‘xyzee from your place came at our terms etc’ would only get you desperadoes’ and not the real stars… Remember, you are not a savior, and you want them for a business objective too.

3. Listen to the prospective employee point of view, instead of mouthing platitudes on how your company got people cheap… What if the prospective employee retorts ‘you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.. uh…’?!

4. Showcase as to why you are good, and not as to why the other company is bad. The employee comes from there, and has no need to hear his present company information from you.

5. Clarify roles and responsibilities, instead of only sounding like buying ‘human vegetables’. That is HR at its pits, and is a bad reflection of how you value people.

6. By taking names, of whom you got for how much, you drive the prospective employee to more comparison which could lead to inequity thoughts, and that would only harm your company interests… plus now those who have come in are ‘your employees’, and whatever you did and do, directly speaks volumes about your quality of hiring.

7. A simple “this is the best we can pay in your case” is good for everyone. Don’t throw open a pandora’s box by mentioning all irrelevant data.

8. Remember, you hire people for your company growth. If that is not the pivot, then you are harming careers, and also you company.

9. Good prospective employees are smart candidates… think otherwise, the cream will never fall for you verbal innuendo. And no book in HR advises innuendo as a prudent hiring practice.

10. Allow the prospective employee to speak, and for god sake, you listen. As they always say, two ears are to listen that much more, that speaking with one mouth. And if it’s a telephonic conversation, you have to listen that much more.

Remember, the prospective candidate, in these few conversations, sees you as a brand ambassador. And HR is indeed the best brand ambassador for your organisation.

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?!

 

Musing on HR Communication.


I am one of the strong proponents of a strong HR Communication function as an integral part of the overall HR organisation. I also think that with the advent and integration of social media and the likes, and the age of the over-informed employee, it is only a prerequisite for an agile and successful HR function.

Some of my reasons for thinking so…

  • There is no denial that the HR leader and those in HR would be equipped by them self to inform the stakeholders about what is relevant and what HR deems as significant. This is now mostly restricted to HR operations, HR administration and EE related info. But given the constraint of time and ‘resources’, most of the times there is no emphasis on the import of a proper communication design. Having one by making the HR Communications pro take charge, will only greatly enhance the image of the HR function – this over a period of time. HR, as the proponents of the ‘employer brand’ MUST also ensure that even in the mundane, excellent standards and style of communication is in place. Who else  but a professional who is a combination of a HR and a communications pro to usher in this ‘best practice.
  • While HR facilitate the entire gamut of activities on the people front – from pre-entry to post-exit, a lot of times, even the best of ‘employer brands’ tend to screw up and self inflict ‘brand image’ injuries on themself, just because they are not equipped to deliver the right ‘communication’ – not the verbal stuff, but by the letters, mails etc. The HR Communications pro will take up the task of creating task specific communication templates (not static, but dynamic and audience specific).
  • HR is yet, by and large seen as the facilitator to the line management on a whole lot of people related activities – recruitment,  T and D, performance management, and so on. A well rounded HR Communications pro, who is fully conversant with the org and its HR, will be the best person to ensure that the ‘perception’ of the line management towards HR as a facilitator moves up the ladder. While the people in the core HR function can be seen as ‘content’ and the HR Communications pro ought to be the ‘delivery’ channel for HR.

Like can be seen above, the HR Communications professional who is an integral part of the HR team, can add a lot more ‘perceived’ and ‘tangible’ value to the HR Organisation – mentioned above is just a sampling of the value add.

To the question as to why the corporate communications or PR function of the organisation is not enough to add this value – the answer is this:

In most cases they are more glued on to macro image management, internally and externally – that may or may not have a desired impact with the employee and all the stakeholders. Also remains the fact that, the PR/corp comm people are fully engaged only in media related communication, which add only ‘leadership image’ value.

The HR Communication professional is the one who could play a great role in the ‘employer branding’ internally. And that can only add to all the buzz of ‘external branding’.

Its akin to creating the internal walk for the external talk.

Organisations successfully ‘walk the talk’ if a HR Communications pro is in place.

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?

Employee engagement truths… who’s responsible?


Creating an engaged employee is not just the responsibility of the human resources function or the head of Human Resources of an organization. Most contemporary organizations, barring an exceptional few, leave the task of creating employee engagement to the HR head or the human resources team. the top management and the leadership teams get disconnected with the day to day rigmarole of employee engagement, thinking or presuming that it is what the HR function exists for. Nothing can be far from true and more disastrous.

Irrespective of which phase – nascent, growing or well entrenched and established- an organization is in, employee engagement is a function of the leadership and top management – the A team if you can say so (including the board), and times of challenge and uncertainty, are the best times to re-visit these fundamental tenets of employee engagement.

There is just no better time to work on building ‘employer value proposition’ than now.

The broad definition of ‘employer value proposition’ is striking a balance between the values, both the employer and employee derive from the relationship. For any organization, be it big or small, there is one (in fact ONLY) critical factor that can bring value worth more than its weight in of gold – it is to create, sustain, and grow ‘employer/employee value proposition’ by the hour, by the day, for the eternity of the organization. It will not be an exaggeration to state that the ‘eternity/successful longevity’ of the organization, is inextricably linked to how engaged the employee/the work force is.

What causes shock and a bit of dismay in any student of ‘employee engagement’ is thatemployee disengagement’ becomes a tool of first resort for the leadership of the organization, when the going gets tough.

 

The management and the leadership, which ought to communicate more than ever, which ought to engage more than ever, which ought to look at taking every single employee  of the workforce into confidence, in trying times, does the opposite – be incommunicado, shut transparency, resort to mass retrenchment, even cut on hygiene benefits, and in the quest to tide over these tough times, do everything that is a no-no.

Undoing this, when the times get better, will be a humongous challenge, and any amount of selling by the same leadership is not going to help – for every one negative step today, even four positive steps to undo later might seem insignificant.

So, more than ever before, it is today that the leadership of the organization must spend loads of time on employee engagement – for the better of the short/long term interests of the organization. Rather than get into a shell or a reclusive mode, the top leadership must communicate more, know employee concerns, address the inherent and time-sensitive insecurities and get to the pulse of every single member of the team – every issue that may seem greatly important and downright trivial should be.

Each and every decision that is taken, and impacts any corner of the organization should be communicated clearly to the employees. In a word, having a ear on the ground, to the last step should be the cardinal rule, now, more than ever. It is also leadership’s responsibility to create a proactive and dynamic mechanism, where every manager/business head/human resources function is committed to THIS style of employee engagement, in all sincerity – and a great amount of effort should go into creating a right perception of these decisions, because employee engagement is also about every measure is perceived by the stake holders.

In all this, precipitate actions could be looked at as a measure of last resort, and when they are resorted to, they also should be explained with reason to the whole workforce – unless this is done, the whole exercise gets defeated.

There can be numerous ways and methods by which what is stated in a nutshell can be implemented, depending on the team size, the line of business, and the competitive scenario – all that can be debated and a plan of action formulated on a case to case basis. And all gleanings in contemporary HR and employee engagement practices must be relied upon.

Leadership must, NOW, more than ever before be truly-truly committed to absolute employee engagement – and that will be a recipe that will sustain organizations in the long run – much longer that every single employee will be a eternal brand ambassador – the inherent value derived for the organization will be phenomenal, and immeasurable.

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