Human Capital Musings!

a peek into the human capital world…

Archive for the tag “intellectual capital”

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).

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!

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?

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?

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.

HR professionals – Brand Managers! (repeat)


For so many years, it has been oft-repeated that the contemporary HR professional must be multifaceted, possess an understanding of cross-functional aspects in the organization, provide strategic direction, intent and inputs to the line managers, be capable and competent to sit on the board – in a nutshell, be not just a leader in HR, but a strategic think-tank that most across the organization can really look up to.

Times have changed, and here is the need for the new age HR professional to be a great brand manager.

A brand manager, who can clearly lay down the attributes that the organization stands for, craft a communication plans around that, and constantly iterate it, to the organization and to the outside world, which is populated by the target audience – prospective employees (internal clients), the external clients at large, and all those who matter.

Most of all, the crucial hat that the HR pro must be able to don with ease is that of a Brand Manager….  Unless he or she can be a smart and seasoned brand manager, it will be almost next to impossible for the HR Professional to win the war for talent and also sustain existing talent within – all this, amidst the intense fight for scarce talent, and a mad rush & scramble to recruit, retain, re-train, de and get the best out of people, here and now!

Creating the organizations brand value proposition can no more be just a role that the internal/external marketing team will do… the content which is so crucial for the success of any marketing program must come in from the top leadership, and it is only the HR professional who commands a place on the table, owing to the sheer cross functional value he can add, – who can drive the organizational marketing from within.

To re-phrase this, the core of the marketing program – that drives the BRAND of the organization – MUST be the onus of the HR leader in the organization.

For this, the HR leader must be one who can craft, articulate and strategize all branding efforts of the company, around the core values and messages that the organization stands for.

This besides, as for any product or service brand, the HR team must bear in mind that there is a need to reposition, re-package and re-invent the organization brand, time and again.

Its imperative to understand that the brand life cycle – call it, how much tangible and intangible results that communicating the brand can actually produce – is limited to a life cycle – as in PLC. At the laggard end of this cycle, like almost any PLC, the brand needs to re-invented, repositioned, or even completely re-launched…. This, by ensuring that the brand/organization reflects endearing values/benefits and at the same time, making the right brand noises in the right place (there is no great difference – for the outsider, a new Liril and a rejuvenated Infy or Wipro, could stand to communicate the same brand strength, energy and longevity!)

Who else but the HR leader know the so many P’s of the organization brand better than him or her….   While the internal marketing/branding team can go about the task of implementing the branding exercises, the strategic insight for the program must come in from the human resources head and the core HR team.

P for Product – the organization itself – encompassing its values, vision and mission – what the organization intends to be, and what it delivers end of the day – delivery of  not just the product or the services, but things like re-plough profits to be, the CSR program et al, the green commitment and so on.

P for Place  – the facilities, the infrastructure etc, the ambience, the kind of work culture, the hygiene issues which are unique to the company, how it can be a great place to work for a whole generation of employees.

P for performance – the performance of the organization measured by revenues and profits, can at best be the sum total of individual performances. It’s the HR’s onus to craft performance management programs across the organization to ensure the goals are achieved.

Akin to this, pick up any P component of the marketing pie, and one can clearly see the crucial role the HR leader can play as a branding professional.

As in marketing/branding any conventional product/service, promotion is the crucial P that determines win or otherwise for the marketing/branding efforts… and the promotion is continuous and consistent…  these could the the tangible and intangible benefits that the company can proffer to the current/prospective talent pool.

Besides this, branding is also about having great employee engagement tools – call it innovation in branding – how each organization has its unique EE programs in place.

The raison d’être of the HR professional as a brand manager is to create, sustain and re-create an endearing brand value proposition in the mind of the prospective buyers – here the employment market, and the employee pool, and the team within.

So, HR professionals as HR leaders in organizations are passé.  This is a new world in which every good HR professional is a marketing/branding specialist as well!

Whats your “human-stock” value?


As human resource professionals, the constant question that lingers in many of our minds is – what is this value of people and people practices that we keep listening to, in any HR meet worth its salt.

You also have a ton of theory that advises the HR professional in each one of us to use HR and financial data of the organization vis a vis the best comparable players in the industry. The constant suggestion is to do this over a period of a few years, and see what kind of value the people at the top add to the organization.

It may sound complex – but in simple parlance, the import of such analysis will be felt with this analogy-

Suppose that the market capitalization, which is the sum public stock value of the company today, is USD10b for Imaginary Inc. Assuming that this evening a couple of your senior management folks decide to call it quits and join the competition, how much will the market stock take a beating tomorrow morning when the bell rings. If the mark-cap of Imaginary Inc will be beaten to USD 9b, then, clearly that is the kind of human capital value of the person or persons whom you risk losing in a whiff.

The same can be done not just for a person in the board or senior people, but even who is perceived as a crucial human capital asset across levels.

HR leaders will do well to devise what they think are appropriate metrics to value the people, in comparison with standard industry information. This can be stock market performance over a period of time, market share of similar players, the annuated growth rate of the top 5 in the space…. The choice of data is endless, and depends on the ease plus accuracy in using them for analysis.

Using such tools will not just enlighten the HR leaders on the value of their human capital, but will also make them contributors to any people decision in the board-rooms.

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