December 31, 2009

Finance: What Every HR Professional Must Know

Yesterday, I had a great session on the above mentioned topic during the NHRD meeting in Chennai. The speaker, V Ramesh, Sr Vice President & CFO, Carborundum Universal explained the relevance of many finance concepts that should be understood and leveraged by HR professionals. One such concept that has fascinated me a lot is 'Time value of money'. It's incredibly important for an HR professional to recognize and understand such a concept especially when the HR team is fixing a VRS scheme for it's associate. Well!!! VRS scheme is just one of the many instances when a concept like 'time value of money' becomes very important.

He also mentioned the need to develop HR metrics in 4 essential areas[taking the example of Genpact]:

1. Growth
2. Retention[attrition by tenure,level,location,business; early attrition %,cost per hire etc]
3.Employee Engagement[Survey Response Rate etc]
4. People Cost

I particularly loved the Q&A session the most. An expected question on why there is a kind of loggerhead between HR & Finance was raised. I was quite convinced with the answer when Mr Ramesh said that HR should build the case in a better and logical manner. A classic example is that of a few revered companies that pay higher salary to their employees when compared to other companies in the industry. Well!!! one of the reason for this possibility is that the HR team in such organizations helps the associates to create greater value for the business, which allows the finance team to pay better salary to all it's associates. This basically means that Finance and HR have to take co-ownership for fixing the pay package of it's associates with equal interest.

One of the example of HR helping the associates creating greater value for business is by setting up lazor sharp KRAs for the associates.

Another interesting question raised was on what are the parameters considered in a variable pay????

One of the important point to be kept in mind in such a context is that the variable pay should be fixed not on a relatively permanent basis but on the basis of what the business wants to achieve in that financial year.

Rancho's views on Human Resource Management...

I watched the bollywood movie '3 idiots' today. A truly fantastic experience.I especially loved the character of Rancho played by Aamir Khan. I could relate with the character. Rancho is a witty engineering student who is truly passionate about machines and applies his theoretical knowledge in as many real life opportunities as possible. He doesn't chase high paid placement offers or an American dream. He wants to pursue excellence alone. He is passionate about people especially his friends and can go to any extent to help them in the most dire situations. He is also an impractical optimist who turns impractical possibilities into practical realities.

No wonder, I am influenced and inspired by the character. So I am attempting to post Rancho's views on managing people if he was a real character with strong and sincere opinion on HR issues.

Here it goes:

1. Finding out your employee's true passion in the business is worth it. Set him free and have faith in him.

2. Ensure that your employees do not turn cynical and always try to preserve their goodness.

3. Be there for your employees in their good times as well as bad times.

4. Be a constant learner and strive towards contributing towards the future of your domain.

5. Know what is right for people first and then for business. That's the only way to be the best business partner.

6. Help to fulfill your employee's dream by empowering them and they would empower your business.

7. Know your self priorities but try to be as selfless as possible. HR is a tough domain because of this reason but it is beautiful because of the same reason too.

8. Be candid about your opinion on people and business. But try not hurting others' sentiments in the process. Be sensitive.

9. Put theory knowledge in practice wherever possible.

10. Be an impractical optimist. At times, it is the most practical thing in business.

11. Whenever in self doubt or problem, say to yourself 'All izzzzzzzzzzz welllll' ... It might not solve your problem but it would give you the courage to find the solution...

December 26, 2009

Marina Beach: 5 years after Tsunami....

It's five years since Tsunami struck in the Indian Coastline. It's also five years approximately since I came to Chennai. 26th December 2004 was a day of despair and immense pain. It was a day when nature showed it's ugly side.

We never searched for the answer as to why nature did so.

Maybe we were too consumed in the pain we got inflicted with.....
Maybe we were too busy with our prayers....

Today early morning I went for a jog in the Marina Beach. It appeared calm and pristine.

Did it appear the same way moments before Tsunami struck five years back?

Did one of the Tsunami victim feel the same way moments before Tsunami struck as I felt today morning?

Well!!! the pics above have been clicked by me this early morning.

December 24, 2009

HR lesson from Chetan Bhagat

Firstly, Merry Christmas!!!!!!

I was reading this article about Chetan Bhagat which appeared in Forbes India website. While reading it, I found a simple yet very powerful HR lesson.

Consider the following para from the article:
'When it came to taking a summer project, he didn’t want to do “anything hardcore.” There was a placement at Cadburys that no one else wanted, and he leapt at it: “Two months in Lonavala! Chocolates!” His project, to fix a wrapping machine that was supposed to do 250 chocolate lollipops a minute, but was only doing 75. He puzzled over it, but didn’t crack it. One night, he bumped into the foreman, a veteran of the place. Rather than go eat alone in the executive canteen, he went along with him to the worker’s canteen. They talked for three hours, about the man’s life, his children, his struggles. The next day, the wrapping machine was miraculously performing at full capacity. The foreman told him that he’d worked there ten years, he knew the machine inside-out. Until then, “No one heard me. You did. I had to make your project successful.”

It emphasizes on the power of 'listening'. I am sure all the HR guys have been advised to be great listeners at one point of their learning curve. We all recognize it's importance and respect it. However, I feel the above mentioned incident with Chetan Bhagat can be a good reminder to us if we are at the risk of forgetting this basic quality of being a great listener.

I am aware of a few friends working for extremely reputed firms who had to quit their company because the HR did not have enough time to listen to them.

In such a scenario, either we should improve the listening skills of such HR associates or hire a few more HR associates in case the company feels they are already blessed with great listening skills.

Bottom line : No compromise when it comes to knowing the pulse of your associates!!!!

How a HR Manager would write a love letter.

I received a forwarded mail from a friend on 'How a HR Manager would write a love letter.' Here it goes:

Grade 7.0 S.M

Sub: Offer of love!

Ref: Meeting in a seminar

Dearest Ms Juliet,

I am pleased to inform you that I have fallen in love with you since the 14th of October (Saturday). With reference to the meeting held between us on the 13th of Oct. at 1500 hrs, would like to present myself as a prospective lover.

Our love affair would be on probation for a period of three months and depending on compatibility, would be made permanent. Of course, upon completion of probation, there will be continuous on the job training and performance appraisal schemes leading up to promotion from lover to spouse.

The expenses incurred for coffee and entertainment would initially be shared equally between us. Later, based on your performance, I might take up a larger share of the expenses. However I am broadminded enough to be taken care of, on your expense account.

I request you to kindly respond within 3 days of receiving this letter, failing which, this offer would be cancelled without further notice and I shall be considering someone else.

I would be happy, if you could forward this letter to your collegue if you do not wish to take up this offer.

Wish you all the best!

Thanking you in anticipation,

Yours sincerely,
HR Manager
A BC Co. Pvt. Ltd

December 21, 2009

A fascinating interaction with an Indian Army Officer!!!

I am not shy of interacting with strangers anywhere. This habit has often helped me to make new friends and have scintillating conversations with them.

I have added one more person in my friend list today. He is a Major in the Indian Army and was sitting next to me during a book reading event which we attended. He appeared to be a simple man completely engrossed in his book. We reached the venue pretty early. It made sense to start a conversation and we greeted each other. Then I came to know that he is an Indian Army officer, a Major.

I have a lot of respect for the Indian Army for many reasons. However, let me mention two of the multiple reasons. Firstly, I wanted to join the Indian Army but could not because of personal reasons [I love the phrase 'personal reasons'. It makes justifications so easy ;-) ]. Secondly, I have met many great HR professional who are ex Army officers.

My conversation with him ranged from how he got into the prestigious National Defence Academy, his training, the Kargil War, his Shaurya Chakra and even HR [how can I miss that :-)].

He told me how supportive his parents and siblings were while joining the armed forces. In a way I feel we civilians must thank every parents of the Indian Armed forces officers and jawans for being so supportive and encouraging to them.

He even shared a lot about the tough training which he went through in National Defense Academy. The secret behind getting used to the training is all about conditioning one's mind. When he joined NDA, he struggled to do a few push ups but after the training of about 6 months, he could easily do 150 push ups and even run more than 15 kms per day. I particularly liked a statement where he mentioned that the body listens to the mind and it is even more important to train the mind than the body.

The most fascinating part of the conversation was about his fight with the enemies during the Kargil War. He had even shot at a few enemies. I could not help in resisting myself from asking him how he felt when he shot at the enemy. I thought that it was an insensitive question from me and I wondered how he would react. He was calm and candid. He said that at the moment when he shot the enemy, he was only thinking about his duty. There were no causalities in his team. He was focused about his job and killing the enemy was his duty. However, later he came to know about the enemy's family [through the photograph I guess] and felt sad about the incident.

His bravery won him the Shaurya Chakra. I feel the Shaurya Chakra belongs to his family too who have been encouraging and supportive of him in joining the army.

He even shared a few HR lessons with me. He told me the huge relevance of motivation in the army. He shared many examples about leadership in crisis and team work.

It's interesting how the corporate world complains about economic turbulence and turmoil. On the other hand, the Indian Army gives birth to national heroes during turbulent times through bravery and outstanding professionalism that matches none in the world.

I feel the HR community has a lot to learn from the Indian Armed Forces.

Let me share a few quotes by Field Marshal Madappa Cariappa . I am sure the HR community will find these simple yet immensely powerful quotes very interesting:

  • "An officer is nothing without the soldiers."
  • "Army is there to serve the Government of the day, and we should make sure that it does not get mixed up with party politics. A soldier is above politics and should not believe in caste or creed,"
  • "an Indian and to the last breath would remain an Indian. To me there is only two Stans - Hindustan (India) and Foujistan (the Army)."

Another inspiring quote I would like to share is by Field Marshal Philip Chetwode which my new found friend shared with me:

‘The, honour and welfare of your country comes first, always and every time, the honour welfare and comfort of the men you command comes next .Your own ease, comfort and safety comes last, always and every time'

Whenever the Indian Army is at work, they live the above mentioned quotes and thats what makes them so special to all of us. They make a huge impact to our nation through their sacrifice, integrity, work ethics, discipline, bravery and much more.

If the HR community has to make a huge impact in the business then we should also have the same qualities with same intensity. Many might say that the dynamics in the Army are very different from the ones in business. Thats true but we can still learn a lot from them.

Can't we foster similar pride among our associates for their company???
Can't we enjoy better team spirit and camaraderie???
Can't we infuse better discipline and work ethics in our company???

A yes to the above three questions can make a huge difference to the business and in being a true HR professional.

And like always, a Salute to Indian Armed forces from the bottom of my heart.

December 17, 2009

Interesting inferences from SHRM India's Leadership Summit researches

The State of HR in India Research by TNS

Emerging new perspectives about HR:

  • A solid pillar in the business model, no longer just a cost center.
  • Contributions impacting bottom line and business strategy.
  • Supporting direct brand-build for business success.
  • Direct impact on immediate CSR, PR programs.
Emerging new perspectives about HR:

  • Next is what?
  • Leveraging 360 Degree individual employee potential.
  • Tapping into diversity potential.
  • Change management to change-preparedness.
  • CSR to Sustainability.
Research on LIC of India: Decoding the DNA that manages the Trust of Millions [By Noel Machado]-

Some of LIC's counter intuitive HR practices:

  • It succeeds at scale by generalizing instead of specializing.
  • It does not acquire talent laterally; instead, it retains and grows people to be entrepreneurial.
  • It not only coaches it's people top-down but importantly, also coaching it's people bottom-up.
  • People freely share knowledge-especially junior officials with senior-when they could have been 'powerful' by hoarding it.
Research on Indian Railways: Managing People in the World's Largest Employer [By Vijay Pereira]

  • Indian Railways is a self sufficient and self reliant organization- often regarded as a 'country within a country' as they have their own schools,hospitals,housing and cooperative banks. They have their own 'Railway Budget' and maintain their own security force known as the 'Railway Protection Force [RPF].
  • Attractive employment proposition-Free passes and concessional tickets to travel on all routes for IR employees and their families, definitive career progression, work-life balance,job security etc.
  • Recruitment and selection is highly formalized and transparent, leaving less scope for corruption and malpractices.
  • Training and Development is available at all levels.
  • Pay and conditions: a complex structure- The structure of emoluments and conditions of service of railway employees are reviewed periodically by Government 'Pay Commissions'. Allowances are linked to the cost of living index [Dearness Allowance]. Other allowances include night duty allowance, running allowance,house rent allowance, hill allowance,bad climate allowance etc. Employees on deputation from different zones and divisions working in the PSU's were fixed in higher grades as an incentive.
  • Employment Relations have been managed successfully for decades: No major Industrial Conflict since the historic 1974 strike.
Research on Leadership Readiness: The Next Wave [By 9.9 Media]

  • CHROs are not far behind their c-level peers and are making their presence at the CEO's partner's table and bring expertise in the strategic areas viz; global expansion, mergers & acquisitions, quality initiative and change management activities.
  • CHRO's seem to be preparing themselves for the next leadership levels.
  • CHRO's scored above average on the eight must-have attributes for top leadership positions.
  • CHRO's are actively playing a part in various management and executive committees where decision making is driven largely by consensus but CHRO's have yet to find a place for themselves on the board.
  • Only 22 % of CXO's [CFOs,CIOs and CTO's] believe that their organizations are ready to have the CHRO as part of the top leadership positions.
  • 22% of CHROs are willing to join the board, but only 9% believe they are ready.
  • CEO's value the contribution of their CHRO executives. They find CHRO's better than other C level peers on all parameters except 'insights into company's businesses'.
  • The concept of 'CHRO-plus' role is still emerging in India. CHRO-plus role refers to CHRO's emerging role.

December 14, 2009

Sky rocketing in the business- The Rocket Singh Way!!!!

It's been ages since Corporate India learned a few lessons from bollywood movies. Lagaan was infact the last movie that drew the attention of B-School junta and the corporate for learning a few management gems.

I am just back from watching Rocket Singh- Salesman of the year starring Ranbir Kapoor as the main protagonist Harpreet Singh Bedi aka Rocket Singh. He is an academic disaster with 30 something % from his B- Com Graduation exam. While his friends want him to crack the CAT exam, he recognizes his academic limitations and decides to pursue a career in sales. Thanks to the Big Boss [AYS owner] who feels that he would contribute to the balance sheet even though he was not promising in his marks sheet.

He gets a job at a sales company called AYS which is a sharp contrast to his idealistic values and work ethics.
He finds himself in a space plagued with politics, bribes, unrealistic targets, a porn addict etc. However, when he is directly confronted with bribe, he sticks to his ideals and files a complaint against the client. This doesn't go well with his bosses and he is verbally abused and given a lower profile job with strict warning.

Along with this comes humiliation from his colleagues who keep throwing paper rockets at him.

Frustrated yet motivated, he starts an underground sales business called Rocket Sales Corp without the knowledge of anyone in the company. Slowly, he ropes in few other employees and gives them equal share of profits. He uses the existing premises of the office for his business but operates in a smart and discreet manner.

His business is based on customer orientation, great service, building realationship,trust,honesty,equal share of profits and mutual respect [lets include amazing wits and risk too ;-)]. Customers are in awe of the business and sales propel to sky rocketing level

However, AYS owner comes to know about it and buys his company for Ruppee one in a rather humiliating manner.

Well!! the acquisition doesn't help much either. The liabilities increase and sales fall even further.
Rocket Singh is offered a job as Vice President- sales and told to return.

Predictably, he refuses the offer and provides the AYS owner some business gyan. It's the gyan part which completely mesmerizes me. He advises the AYS owner about making a transition from numbers[money] to people. He explains how a business is all about people and not so much about numbers.

The gyan leaves the AYS owner[including me] speechless for a few moments. Good sense prevails and AYS owner asks for a one Ruppee coin[ in a humbling manner this time ;-)] and returns the share of Rocket Singh's company back to him.

It's a movie which all the HR guys must watch and feel proud of.

One of my favorite blogger and inspiration Gautam Ghosh has also written his interesting thoughts on the movie. Check this out.

December 9, 2009

LEADERSHIP NEXT: SHRM India’s Knowledge Summit.

It's a great pleasure to inform all that I have been invited to LEADERSHIP NEXT: SHRM India’s Knowledge Summit as a Student Presenter on 11.12.2009 at Mumbai.

I would be presenting my perspective as a student on an interesting research about People Practices in Indian Railways- the world’s largest rail network and employer .

I believe it's a perfect platform to integrate one of my passion and one of my fascination.
The passion being HR and the fascination being 'Indian Railways'. My fascination about Indian Railways is deeply rooted to my early childhood days when my most sought after birthday gift used to be those battery driven mini toy trains. The fascination still remains the same but the reasons are a little different.

Today, I get fascinated about Indian Railways for the sheer fact that it manages 1.7 million employees and 1 million pensioners. It's HR practices has it's impact on such a huge number of people and their families. It has also not witnessed a single major Industrial Dispute for the past 35 years. The 'fringe benefits' & 'welfare benefits' provided to Indian Railways employees are the best. There are many more such facts that fascinates me as a budding HR.

The presentation is going to be about my innocent yet sincere perspective on the new age HR practices in the India Railways.

It is even more special as I would be blessed to share the session with Mr Vijay Pereira & Mr Dhananjay Bansod.

Mr Vijay Pereira is an expert of Indian Railways HR (and business) matters, an educator and Consultant. He has worked in Indian Railways for 7 years and hence has deep understanding of the system itself, rather than being an outside observer. He is based out of London (where he teaches at Portsmouth University. He is an alumni of IIM Ahmedabad. He is the researcher of the study.

Mr Dhananjay Bansod is the Chief People Officer for Deloitte India Ops and is above all an amazing HR professional. He’s had a range of experiences – Line, Consulting and HR and takes great joy in interacting with HR community.

December 7, 2009

HR as a soft power...

My close friends are aware of the fact that I am an ardent fan of Shri Shashi Tharoor. He stands as a mascot of ideas that are refreshing and sincere. I was watching this video which delightfully stresses on 'Why nations should pursue 'soft' power. I must say he sounds very convincing as 'almost' always.

He highlights how countries use soft power on the basis of influencing and attracting other countries through foreign policies, political values, culture etc. He emphasizes on how Alliance Francaise has made other countries more aware of the French ethos and similarly Mtv has done the same for USA. There are many such examples.

Similarly, I believe that many companies through their upmarket and spunky HR interventions have successfully left an indelible mark on the mindset of many potential employees.

A classic yet obvious example is that of Google's 'fun' culture or the 'Learning & Development' culture of HUL. So fundamentally it's the culture of the organization that has the potency of creating a massive influence on many people.

So here the potential employees are not getting attracted towards these companies primarily for the reverence which consumers accord to the products and services of those companies. It's more because of the 'soft power' influence they have on the potential employees.

At times in life we all do some great stuff without being conscious about them fully. I believe the HR fraternity in many companies have done some stupendous work yet they are not really aware of the great benefits it has fostered for their companies. May be they got overshadowed by the phenomenal strides made by the business success.

It's promising to hear about HR's role as a business partner. I completely endorse it but at the same time HR should continue to pursue the 'soft power' role and the business should appreciate that more sincerely.

Some of the best business success stories are integrally 'people success' stories and I feel it has been possible because of HR's 'soft power' role over the years.

I strongly feel that HR's transformational role is intertwined with the 'Soft power' it will exercise in the future course of time.

December 6, 2009

A simple yet fascinating categorization of employees

During a weekend dinner with a family friend yesterday, we had some very insightful conversation. The uncle is not an HR professional but has vast experience as an engineer and has strong opinion on varied subjects.

He was reminiscing about how much interest his leadership team took in him during his initial days in the plant. His face was suffused with joy as he continued speaking about the amount of autonomy they used to enjoy at the plant level. According to him the scenario has changed. Diffidence has crept in the minds of new age leaders towards their subordinates and even towards themselves.

Well!!! I must confess that I did not provide any point of view as I was too occupied listening to my uncle.

However this post is not about what I have written above. It's rather about a simple yet fascinating categorization of employees he shared with us.

It's called the A,B,C categorization. It's as follows:

A: Apna[hindi word for 'myself']- These employees are a classic example of self obsessed employees. They are not bothered about the company neither the peers,subordinates and superior. Or rather I would correct myself by saying that these employees might be concerned about the peers, subordinates and superiors only if they can serve or facilitate his self interest and purpose.

B: Boss- Well!!! I am sure we all have met this specie. They are the ones concerned more about their boss's interest, purpose and vision than the company's vision. The funny part is that their commitment towards the boss transcends the boundaries of their boss's professional life. He might even agree to dedicate his time and energy to fulfill the boss's dog's purpose.

C: Company- Even the Gallup Survey reveals that not many employees fall under this category. In other words they are the actively engaged employees. They are the ones who dedicate their professional life for the company and it's purpose.

MSSW shines at HR Vista 09

Madras School of Social Work continued it's winning momentum during HR Vista 2009- A National Study Conference on 'HR Challenges-Post Recession' held at Women's Christian College on 4th December 2009.

MA-HRM Department won the first prize and the third prize[it was shared by 2 teams from MSSW jointly] in the paper presentation competition. The first prize winners made a presentation on HR Outsourcing and it's tremendous opportunities. A very well deserved win which comprised of an indepth study done by the team that included various companies and their perspective about HRO[both supply and demand perspective].

My team that comprised of yours truly :-), Lijo Jacob and Shruthi Thomas won the third prize in the paper presentation on the topic 'Managing transition from Transactional HR to Transformational HR'.

We divided our presentation in three parts where we first explained the concept of transformation in the HR context, followed by the road blocks in the transition and finally the road map of the transition.

The third prize was shared by another impressive team from MSSW. So out of the 4 prizes, 3 were won by MSSW.

In the best manager event also we took the limelight as three of our student including me :-) have reached the final round that takes place this week. Wish us good luck :-)