July 28, 2009

Leadership in crisis!!!!

What does the above statement mean to you in HR context???

To me it means being beyond a HR proffesional on duty. To me it means just being a human being...a nice, sensitive & strong human being....

I would have failed to realise this if I was not present during the NHRD monthly meeting last friday listening to one of the most humble & nicest HR proffesional I have heard speaking in the recent times.

I thank Mr H N Shrinivas, Senior HR Vice President, Taj Group of Hotels & NHRD,Chennai for giving me the oppurtunity to attend the meeting.

Mr H N Shrinivas spoke about how the HR team in Taj Group of Hotel handled the crisis situation post 26/11 terror attack in Taj Hotel,Mumbai.

The need for that situation was to be really sensitive towards all the victims and their families. That is exactly what the HR team in Taj did. It was a very tough period for all Indians and for the Taj family.

It was tough to see the dead bodies of Taj associates who served Taj with utmost passion till that horrific day.It was equally painful to see their customers in such a state. It was an emotional challenge to move from one funeral to the other. It was not only sensitivity which mattered then but a lot of strength was needed to get back to regular business and infuse faith and sense of security in every Taj associates and customer's heart.

Here are a few initiatives which the HR team at Taj took:

1. A few days after the incident, they directly spoke to each and every associates[present in the hotel that day] in a common hall communicating that their jobs were completely secure and not even a single associate including casual/contract/apprentice employees would loose their job. They also clearly communicated that all their salaries would be paid for sure. It was also announced that the Hotel would be opened very soon[I guess within 3 weeks!!] and the employees who would not be able to work temporarily in the damaged part of the hotel would surely get their salaries either directly in the bank account or through money order.

2. Counselling sessions were organised in association with TISS for employees and guests.

3. A settlement sheet was announced for deceased employees in the attack that included death relief ranging from Rs 35 lakhs to Rs 85 lakh, last drawn salary to be paid to dependent as long as they are alive, education sponsored for their kids till they would recieve their proffesional degrees, Medical assistance, any loan taken from the company would be waived off and much more. The assistance given to the injured employees in terms of treatment & monetary assistance were really impressive too.

4. Outreach centres were organised where art of living course, engagement activities,team activities etc were undertaken.

5. Their compassion was also reflective in the way they took various initiatives for the welfare of victims of the terror attack who were not part of Taj Hotel. Need Assesment Surveys were done alongwith TISS in order to decide monetary help for them. They also plan to train the children of victims to become employable. The treatment of many victims were also taken care of by them.

6 Mr Ratan Tata met the families of deceased employees and extended great support.

But beyond all the above mentioned measures, what really inspires me is the commitment and selflessness shown by the Taj associates on 26/11. I heard various examples of how a 23 year old girl showed prescence of mind by risking her life multiple times to keep the guests safe and secure. Then, I heard how an associate who worked in the hotel for many years rescued more than 50 guests and his collegues but recievd bullet shots in the end. His collegues miss him a lot and believe that their lives were saved because of him . His wife feels that she could now realise how great her husband was.

Mr Shrinivas along with many others believe that people like them have redifined service....service of a different level...

So True!!!!

Events like 26/11 are very unfortunate but they help us to ponder about various questions like What is career all about??? or What is the HR proffession all about??? or even what is life all about???

A company might have the best graduates from the most fancy B-School but what does it really take for a company to infuse a great sense of belongingness and integrity that translates to 'service of a different level'?????

Is it 'divine blessing' or 'a great company culture' or 'unmatched HR practices' or something else????

I believe it is a certain sense of goodness in whatever the company persues. A company which lives and breathes it's value system.

July 26, 2009

Jai Ho Indian Army!!!!!


It's been 10 years since the Victory of the Indian Army during the Kargil War. Many gallant officers and jawans sacrificed their lives for Mother India. Many parents,wives,children also made huge sacrifice in the process. We knew all about it then and we still know it. It's the 10th anniversary of Kargil Victory today and we remind ourselves of those huge sacrifices by the brave Indian Army again.

However, merely knowing all about the sacrifice and occasionally reminding ourselves of it will not be enough to pay our true tribute to them.

We need to realise how it feels to go through years of tough training to join the armed forces. We need to realise how it feels to stay away from family and consider the entire troop to be one's family. We need to realise how it feels to guard the nation in snow peaked mountain against enemies so that miles away from the border a kid can feel the warmth of sleeping in his mother's lap. We need to realise what it feels like to make death look so easy so that we civilians can lead an easier life. We need to realise that when these brave men put themselves in insecure circumstances, we can lead a secure life. We need to realise the pain of bullets entering our body or bombs shattering our body parts.

If we can realise this much then there is still much beyond...not to be realised alone...but to be done...

Whatever proffesion we persue, let's persue it with greater integrity and greater sincerity in the persuit of making a Stronger India. As a HR proffesional in the making I feel that is the best way we can pay our true tribute to those brave army officers and jawans.

Thanks Mother India for blessing us with such brave Army Officers and Jawans.

Jai Hind!!!!!

July 25, 2009

Meeting a man who lost his job :-(

I went to buy a text book for my internal exams in a shop nearby my place and I met this guy who caught my attention. All of a sudden we said 'hi' to each other and stroked off a conversation on what books we were buying. After the usual introduction, I came to know that he was laid off from his company in USA and is back in India to prepare for GMAT.

A lot of his Indian peers in the IT company he was working for were also laid off but were still hopeful of getting a job there.

However, he chose to come back as he found more sense in it. I told him about the various popular B-Schools and how he could best utilize his time in Chennai by teaching Quants in a GMAT coaching centre [he told me he is good in Quants] while preparing for GMAT.

Of course, the HR guy inside me was very keenly trying to tell the nicest things to him to make him feel good.

In the end, he loved my humble suggestions and thanked me for all the nice things I told him to feel better.

Now, what I really want to stress on is that I do not know how genuinely I was able to help him [Infact he is still in touch with me through mails] but there could have been someone more able than me with a much better oppurtunity and advice for him.

What I really appreciate is that he is so chilled out and so full of life even after being laid off. He is 30 years old and still finding out ways to keep his hopes about a bright future alive.

But I really wonder how many laid off people in our country today would be so proactive and extroverted to share such problems with an absolute stranger???????????????

July 19, 2009

Corporate Governance!!!!

I was having a brain storming session with my friend on what should be the theme for 'HR Symphony' [The bi-annual HR convention organised by MA-HRM,MSSW]this year. I suggested 'Corporate Governance-A retrospection' as the theme.

I felt that a need to discuss such an issue is extremely relevent now considering the business environment and the recent developments which have taken place.

If we can go to the extent of having Chief Fun Officers then why not Chief Governing Officers???

How should we define the job profile of a Chief Governing Officer????

Do corporate governance awards really matter????

Who should exactly form the Corporate Governance team of the company????

Should the Government also have it's representatives in the Corporate Governance Commitee????

What is the role of HR in Corporate Governance????

Please mail me your thoughts on the theme. Suggestions for other themes are also most welcome.

July 17, 2009

Conditions Apply...

I am back after watching a very engaging play called 'Conditions Apply' starring Mandira Bedi & Darshan Jariwala [directed by Vikranth Pawar].

It was a pleasure watching both Mandira and Darshan act. The play revolved around the life of the two charachters played by them. Both led their conflicted life in such ways that it left them confused,amused and worried. They had their own wierd ways of infusing sanity in their lives but their efforts made them all the more insane.

I am not going to review the play in this post but share a little thought on what I learnt from the play.

Sometimes we focus too much on what we want in our life ie love,money,success,fame etc. But we do not realise that everything in life comes with a 'conditions apply' tag. We get so carried away with our wants that we overlook the 'conditions apply' tag.

Simmilar to the advertisements in newspapers which talk about ultra attractive offers but often with a small 'conditions apply' tag in the end.

That 'conditions apply' tag suddenly seems unreasonable.

So, it becomes important that we give due focus to the 'unreasonable conditions apply' tag which we often miss out.

For any unreasonable want in life, there is an unreasonable 'conditions apply' tag.

All the best with your dreams in life *

*Conditions Apply: You gotta stop dreamin and start sloging ;-)

July 13, 2009

The stupendous SIFE team!!!!!


One of the nicest things about studying in my college is that I have been blessed with awesome classmates. Each of them teach me a lot on various facets about HR,hobbies,friendship,life and much much beyond......

This time a group of class mates taught me and inspired me on lessons about entrepreneurship, social sensitivity, perseverence and more importantly about compassion.

The SIFE team comprising of Ms Jayanthi Peter[HOD,MA-HRM & the chief pillar of support],Vasantha Kumari Maam[Proffesor Incharge], Kaviya Suresh aka Kavz, Janani aka Janu,Prashant aka Prash, Ramya aka Ramz, Bhargavi aka Bharu [Core Team] along with the support of the rest of the class [Special contribution by Daniel aka Danny, Rajkumar aka Raju,Subhashini aka Subha & Rahul] got the 2nd runners up place in the recently held National level SIFE [Students In Free Enterprise] competition in Mumbai.

I would like to share the following snapshots about the social projects undertaken by them which was shared to me by Kavz [President, SIFE Team,MSSW.]:

SIFE – Madras School of Social Work

The students of the department of MA.HRM – Madras School of Social Work are involved in a number of community building activities that help in the upliftment of the disadvantaged sections of the society. They function under the banner of SIFE (Students In Free Enterprise).

Now, a brief about MSSW SIFE and the current year’s projects.

SIFE (Students In Free Enterprise) is an international network of student, academic and business leaders who have made a commitment to create a better world with better leaders—individuals who have the ability and are willing to put forth the effort to make a meaningful contribution to their communities, and are working together to improve the lives of others.

Economic empowerment through sustainable entrepreneurship and community empowerment has always been the cornerstone of the Students In Free Enterprise movement or SIFE. The SIFE Team at the Madras School of Social Work (MSSW) is comprised of a group of highly passionate and self motivated individuals who BELIEVE –

· Believe in the intrinsic and abundant potential of every individual

· Believe in the enduring power and spirit of entrepreneurship

· Believe that they can make a difference to the society

The MSSW SIFE team takes up novel projects every year to effect holistic and sustainable economic change that would eventually lead to social empowerment, by adopting a select community and imparting entrepreneurial skills to them. This is done with the conviction that the change brought about by these projects would make a difference to the lives of people beyond the community involved. And most often than not, the community at large is indeed benefited by SIFE projects.

In the year 2008 – 2009 the MSSW SIFE Team had taken up two key projects, each of which had a special focus in addition to adhering to the criteria laid down by SIFE International. The projects satisfy all the 7 criterion of SIFE, including the latest addition of Environmental Sustainability.

Project Siragugal

Literally translated, the word Sirugagal means “Wings” in Tamil. And true to its name, this project was aimed at giving wings to the lives of certain very special children. MSSW SIFE identified Sri Arunodayam, a home for mentally challenged children in Chennai. The aim was to make the children proficient in a particular skill so as to make them self reliant. Team MSSW SIFE hit upon the idea to impart craft skills to these children. The Team concentrated mainly on enabling the children to make products such as artificial jewellery, candles, greeting cards, artificial flowers and the like. The materials used to make the products were eco-friendly, recycled products. The demand in the market for such products is high, making it a viable business option for the Home. The returns have been attractive and they hope to sustain the Home through this effort.

In addition to the monetary benefits such a project has given flight to creativity of the children and also instilled in them a feeling of great self worth.

This project empowers the community of the Mentally Challenged.

Project Suyam

Suyam in Tamil means the Self. In the context of this project of Team SIFE, it implies the self empowerment of the beneficiaries involved. Through this ongoing project, The SIFE Team is helping the poor and landless farmers of Anandhapuram Slum (Tambaram, Chennai) gain sustainable income through the cultivation of medicinal herbs. These herbs such as Vinca rosea are those that can treat numerous life-threatening diseases. There is a huge demand for such medicinal herbs in alternative medicine and the SIFE team has thought of this as a viable and a sustainable business opportunity. The simplicity of the techniques involved as well as its cost effectiveness of the project have made it very attractive to these farmers. Project Suyam has given these individuals a hope for a better life.

The project empowers the community of landless farmers in Tambaram.

Project with the Gypsy Community

The gypsy community for Kotturpuram has over 100 families out of which over 40 households are involved in making and selling artificial and beaded jewellery. During the pilot visits conducted by the students earlier in March, it was found that they were devoid of various opportunities and their economic status was not improving. Their daily incomes are not sufficient to get them through each day.

The solution that the team of students arrived at was to be instrumental in improving their business skills and helping them gather respect in the society by making their place of business look attractive. In order to promote Business Ethics and Marketing skills among the community, a small gathering was organized on Saturday, 28th March at their settlement. The meeting was well attended by over 50 people and the students interacted with the community on what their needs are and how they can make their businesses flourish keeping in mind a few basic aspects such as cleanliness, amiable customer interaction, fixing right prices and packing of the articles. Students identified 6 deserving members from the group and gave them several useful products such as bamboo chairs, mats, bags, dusting cloth, broomstick and paper covers.

The SIFE team catches up with them at regular intervals at places such as Gandhi Mandapam, outside Kapaleeshwarar temple and Besant Nagar to make sure that they are using the products and that it brings a great deal of benefit for them.

The project benefits the gypsy community by helping them improve on business ethics and marketing skills.

July 9, 2009

The Indispensable Element in your organisation....

I clearly remember those days as a kid when elders around me used to discuss that without Sachin Tendulkar, the future of Indian cricket would be uncertain. Sachin was considered the indispensable part of the team.

It was a worry then but now Indian cricket has found many heroes like Dhoni & Yuvraj who are doing incredibly well. Thanks to Saurav Ganguly for focussing on infusing young talents in the team when he was the captain.

In many organizations and teams we find these incredible performers who eventually gain a larger than life image.

Nothing wrong in it!!! It does a great deal of good to the company as long as they are there. It can further serve a greater purpose if they take up mentorship role and prepare a successor who is equally or more promising.

The problem occurs when they truly become 'indispensable' and this further worsens when the company celebrates this fact.

Following are a few humble suggestions on how to not let your company suffer from the 'indispensable syndrome':

1. Make sure the performance is much more celebrated than the performer.
2. Foster a culture of sincere learning & development.
3. Include 'quality of mentorship' as one of the criteria for performance appraisal.
4. Infuse a philosophy of continuing great legacy and not leaving great legacy in a company.
5. Celebrate the good old 'team work' in all facets of work.

July 6, 2009

Guardian Angels by C. Upasika Maithreya

It's been a year[approx] since I came across an interesting poem titled 'Guardian Angels' by one of my class mate, Upasika Maithreya.

Like all other talented classmates, she also inspires me in many ways. This time through her inimitable poetic skills.

As you enjoy reading it, try recognizing the 'Gurdian Angel' through her poetic endeavour.

Guardian Angels

Welcome to my world and you will see it all,

Every desktop and conference hall,

My day is filled with joy and fear…

I smile as I hand out promotions and hear the cheers

I dread the pink slips drenched in tears.

Skipping along from interviews

Rushing to see if people keep curfews

Final need as Maslow says

Self actualisation is what everyone craves.

Salary, allowance and basic pay

Your pay pack survives on K.R.As

A noisy Union wanting a hike,

Threatening forever to hold a strike.

Heard it all

Sweet tit-bits and a harsh word

A complain that the canteen serves smelly curd.

A swollen finger a stolen bike

All this business I don’t particularly like!

Labour laws make me swoon

Failing to solve a problem spells doom.

Setting right the office goon,

Sharing the grievance of the peon

By the time I’m done its well past noon.

Tired I enter my office room

Phone comes alive like a buzzing snake

Sigh that’s the end of my much awaited break.

Training a group of CEOs,

Polishing soft skills that are at an all time low…

I must confess

A wrong move lands me in a lot of mess.

Integrity, honesty, happiness

Get to see these less and less.

So my day goes by and by

Handling the HR of an organisation Oh My!

We do it all in a days work

Handing a perk

Hiring a clerk

We are the guardian angels who soar by

And cradle the organisation taking it high!

July 5, 2009

Winning in Turbulent Times....

This speech by Harish Manwani, Chairman, Hindustan Unilever Limited encapsulates how the turbulence in the economy took place and it's effect on the India in a logical sequence that provides a lucid snapshot.

However, what caught my attention were the following HUL initiatives in it's pursuit of winning in Turbulent Times:

1. Go to Market Model
2. War on Waste
3. Plan for and manage the business more dynamically
4. Conserving Cash
5. Right Leadership and Integrity