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Archive for the category “performance management”

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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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).

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?

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!

Teamwork tips… can be used in HR programs!


Teamwork is not rocket science, and mostly a matter of common sense. Here are 50 simple but powerful ways you could make teamwork work.

1.    Act with integrity; this is one quality that will make a great team.
2.    Credibility as a team-leader is mostly as good as only it is perceived. So       display credibility and act with credibility.
3.    Walk the talk; you get judged well only when you walk the talk. Example: if you are asking for quality work, it’s a given that you also would do the same. Doing the other way destroys credibility.
4.    Be enthusiastic; encourage the team to be enthusiastic as well.
5.    Never hire in haste, which makes waste.
6.    Educate the team on who your customer is, who your competition is.
7.    Create a mechanism to know what is happening in competition.
8.    Let the team know that the customer is supreme, and he is your most important asset.
9.    Give no room for politics in your team. At the hint of it, stem it at the root; and exhibit the fact that politicking is a strict no-no.
10.    Communicate personally as often as possible; use the phone; only re-iterate in written communication.
11.    Smile and laugh in the team, work need not be serious as most of us would think it to be.
12.    Share the joy of any of your team-members.
13.    Share and partake in their sorrows. Give a helping hand, in whichever way you can when a need arises.
14.    Make the team workplace a fun place to be; again laugh and smile.
15.    Show the team member how happy you are to have him/her in the team.
16.    Celebrate each of your team-members birthdays, anniversary… pass on gifts voluntarily.
17.    Have a vision statement for the team; in line with the organization’s vision statement.
18.    Make the purpose of the team clear – it could be revenues, number of customers, turn around time, producing so many units… whatever.
19.    Let this purpose be written down and shared amongst all team members.
20.    Set individual goals clearly – leave no ambiguity in this – make it measurable for them as well as you.
21.    Clear state the expected quality of work, and quantity of work – on a day, for  a week, for the month, and for the year.
22.    Go out of your way to help a team member reach the stated goal.
23.    Make each of them feel that he/she can confide in you.
24.    Understand and talk to them of their job-goals and career goals.
25.    Make learning a team habit. Encourage learning in any form.
26.    Train the team in relevant and contemporary work skills.
27.    Build the team on the strength of his/her personal qualities.
28.    Don’t brood on their weaknesses. Or pass comments on them.
29.    Make them aware of the business opportunities and threats, and the way to remain in a position of advantage.
30.    Build a lot of fun around the goals…  make work interesting…..
31.    Celebrate small milestones, by any team member, and shower praises in public
32.    Celebrate and reward team ideas, which would bring in better results, fresh insights, and knowledge to all – and celebrate this each and every time.
33.    Discourage yes-men. If two people agreed on everything, then one of them is redundant.
34.    Show the team members a growth path – a path that would be intertwined with positive contribution.
35.    Reward excellence. Abhor mediocrity.
36.    Do not reprimand team members. Grown ups don’t need to be reprimanded; they only need to be counseled or advised.
37.    Allow people to make mistakes, which are the only way you get a learning team. Sans mistakes, no new things are going to happen.
38.    Make corrections well in time; not once in a blue moon. Once in a blue moon corrections upset the person, you and the team objectives.
39.    Evince interest in each individual; know them a little more than professionally – their family, their interests, passion, hobbies etc.
40.    Go for lunch once a week outside the office campus; this is by far the best way to bond.
41.    Get the families of teams together once a month. If the teams are cross location, make it at least once in a quarter.
42.    Be transparent and rational in all decision making.
43.    Be objective and not subjective in any of your deeds at work, and related to work.
44.    Make incentive plans objective, simple and clear. Complicated plans lead to a lack of uniform understanding across the team. This colors judgment, and defeats the team spirit.
45.    Take personal interest to ensure that all pay-out timelines are adhered to by the organization and the divisions.
46.    State clearly that a performer would have a soft corner, and would be rewarded.
47.    Reward performers often. And for the accomplishments.
48.    Keep team meetings brief, and with a stated objective and agenda.
49.    Do not meet formally without a written agenda circulated.
50.    Build in a surprise element in rewards for small wins – this could be internal or external to the organization – could be a new client acquired, a new proposal, a cost saving measure, a new idea, whatever…

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.

In HR, communication does have power! or does it??


How many of us think that performance management is just one of those annual HR rituals where a bunch of forms are shoved in across all the employee desks, with a prayer that there be godspeed in the exercise getting completed without any employee issues.

This is just a wish, and reality is far away.

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.

I am confident that those organisations which do not have such a process in place will do so on a war footing!

So, does HR Communication/performance communication matter?

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