Human Capital Musings!

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Archive for the tag “HR programs”

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??

 

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?

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…

Are we right-sizing attrition?


With the advent of the Gen Y employee composition, attrition is one thing that keeps haunting any talent management/HR professional, in any part of the world. May be, this challenge is more pronounced for the HR pro who is in an India or China or Philippines, the famed off-shoring destinations of choice.

Too often, we keep seeing HR bodies and top employers dishing our statistics about the rate of their attrition, and how well it is contained or well within acceptable standards or international norms. One always wonders if there are any stated accepted norms which say so much % of employee attrition is healthy for the competitive survival of the organisational animal.

Here, is’nt it important that for competitive survival, rightsizing attrition would be a more appropriate and relevant objective. We must be hearing HR people and employers state that, for this fiscal we have achieved the goals of rightsizing the attrition which will have a positive contribution to the top-line and bottom-line of the organisation.

With right-sizing as a HR and organisational objective, the tasks also get inseparably tied with the performance management process, putting in place the systems for an effective performance improvement program (whatever be your organisational nomenclature) – one that is clearly focused on measurably improving individual contribution, and then planning the exit management of those whose goals and skills are not in alignment with the organisation goals.

Assuming that the Jack Welch theory on  the effectiveness of people in the organisational pyramid stands, the minimal healthy attrition rate is 10-15%, depending upon factors like the type of industry, skills sets, engagement factors and so on.

When right sizing attrition is in play, with the combination of all HR factors and tools, on the bottom percentile of non-performing or under-performing employees, the HR program interventions make some % of this bottom to move up one notch – make them  as acceptable level of performers.

Then, the resulting attrition related information gets stated like this – In our employee strength of so many people, about 200 were seen to performing below acceptable standards; thanks to our effective HR programs and interventions, we could move 70 of them into the ‘desirable performance zone’. By this, we could rightsize attrition to so many percentage, which we deem as desirable owing to factors that are unique to us an as employer!

The rightsized attrition figures also give a whole different perspective to the way attrition is looked at, from the organisational perspective.

Lets now on get to right-sizing attrition that the usual fight to bring down attrition.

 

 

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