May 29, 2010

Leveraging HR analytics for High Impact...

During this month's NHRD meeting, N T Arunkumar, Ex CEO & Director, D&B TransUnion Analytic & Decision Services, made a brilliant presentation on the topic 'Leveraging HR analytics for High Impact...'.

The focus was primarily on three key words- Analytic, HR & Impact.

Speaking about 'analytic', he focused on
on how the success in using analytics lies more on asking the right questions rather than seeking the right answers. Analytics can produce the required answers but the questions asked should be intelligent & proper.

He also mentioned that HR metrics have failed in numerous occasions to provide actionable data. And hence I personally interpreted that analytics would serve that concern with predicting 'accurate' data that would give higher confidence & sharper intent to the HR for taking the right action.

A few challenges in establishing Enterprise HR analytics:

  • Quantifying the linkage of HR & Business.
  • Lack of technology [How many companies really have a sincere wish to invest on providing technology to HR????]
  • Obtaining raw data.
  • Identifying value added HR metrics.
  • Integrating HR & corporate measurement.
  • Subjectivity of HR metrics.
  • HR staff skill gap.
  • Access to metrics.
  • Accountability for metrics
  • Tying incentives to HR metrics.
Some of the key questions which must be asked while implementing Enterprise level HR analytics:

  • How to embed business insights into HR metrics?
  • What cultural & behavioral change is required in HR & business?
  • What are the few metrics that matter to business?
  • Do we understand business SWOT & does the metrics help analyze those?
He emphasized on the importance of particularly 'Employee Engagement Index' and various measures like Age staffing breakdown,Voluntary termination rate, Employee commitment index , Employee retention index, Employer brand strength, Internal hire rate,Manager quality index, Market opportunity index, Offer fit index etc.

He also mentioned that the readiness of HR & business to get aligned to analytics is based on dealing with certain paradoxes:

  1. Democratization of IT within enterprise.
  2. Too much data V/S too few being useful
  3. Skills sufficiency V/S Skills deficiency.

He recommended us to read the book 'Competing on analytics' by Thomas H Davenport & Jeanne H Harris. He quoted from the book that 'Analytics is good but competing on analytics is better'.

He also focused on how analytics have evolved from forecasting to Predictive analysis and now 'Decision Optimization'. Hence, if HR has to truly become a 'Business Enabler' then it must embrace this evolution in analytics at the earliest.

He also emphasized on the need for ethics and values in the operation of analytics.

He gave examples of companies that leveraged analytics for better business performance like Marriott [Revenue Mgmt], Wal Mart [Supply Chain Mgmt], RBC [Cost & Customer profitability] etc.

However, the most fascinating example was that from the book Moneyball which is about Oakland Athletics that used analytics to win a major tournament. The analytics helped the team management to locate the right positions at which they were supposed to play.

Analytics has worked for complex business as well as competitive sport. It's one area that certainly needs to be leveraged. I guess the leadership team has to show the intent and the HR team must show the credibility.

May 27, 2010

Love Letters....

I watched a play aptly titled 'Love letters' directed by Rahul Da Cunha starring Rajit Kapur & Shernaz Patel. The Pulitzer award winning play written by AR Gurney revolves around Melissa Gardner (Shernaz Patel) and Andrew Makepeac (Rajit Kapur) over 50 years when they communicate through letters except a few cherished moments when they met each other occasionally.

Their formative years and ever evolving maturity (& immaturity) is perfectly captured through the letter correspondences (which were beautifully recited & acted by them) .

The correspondence begins from a mere 'birthday party' thank you note to the last moment of Melissa's life.

The play reflects how Andrew & Melisa lived in a denial mode about their romantic feelings and got married to different people inspite of harboring their true feelings for each other only within themselves.

The plot might seem quite cleshay. But it's the brilliant performance and the lessons from the play which makes it remarkable.

Here are a few reflections of my personal thoughts from the play:

  • We often encounter these immensely special moments when we have to make seemingly indistinct decisions about our life. Yet quite foolishly our good humour supersedes our true intent and the pattern of our life completely changes. This pattern eventually extols 'regrets'.
  • We are always communicating with our people but how often do we really connect??? And even if we connect then does it stop there??? Relationships are nurtured through communication...connections... and beyond [Figure it out yourself]....
  • There are few people in our lives without whom there would be a vacum. Spend a lot of love and time for them. Do it either in a selfless or selfish manner. But do it. As long as you do the right thing it doesn't really matter whether it's selfless or selfish.

May 22, 2010

A discussion on the dynamics of 'Performance Management System'

Recently during the SHRM India monthly meeting held in Chennai, we discussed certain issues pertaining to 'Performance Management System'. We were divided into approximately 5 groups consisting of 4 to 5 HR practitioners,academicians & students. We discussed within the groups and then synthesized some of the most important learning from the discussion.

After parallel brain storming sessions we made the following conclusion:

1. Some of the key expectations from a PMS today are Credibility, not merely differentiating performance but identifying top performers , infusing trust in all stakeholders through utmost transparency.

2. The major roadblocks in PMS are organizational politics, time, increased subjectivity to be evaluated, 'Forced' rating [bell curve debate], lack of ownership, lack of instant/proper feedback.

3. The initiatives to clear the road blocks would be ownership, constant/proper feedback, minimizing subjectivity to a certain extent, training to use the PMS in the right manner, proper execution of performance appraisal process.

A few other thoughts which the entire group at large felt passionately about were:

1. The possibility of co-creating tailor made PMS through inclusiveness of all associates in the organization.

2. The need to discuss the 'change issues' while shifting into a new PMS system.

3. The need to better understand and match the right form of PMS with the right organizational context.

The entire group present during the meeting intends to regularly deliberate on the PMS issues through e-mails in order to gain further objectivity till we again meet next month.

May 17, 2010

Rural visits during induction....

There are times when we thank God for even the smallest blessings. And there are times when we are completely ignorant of the best things that happen to our life.

Remember that hot afternoon when you thanked God after drinking a chilled 'nimbu paani[Lemonade]'?
'Yes' most likely.

But do you remember thanking God while having one of your best meals in a luxury restaurant?
'Not really' I guess.

We are in a position to thank God and appreciate the 'nimbu paani' incident as we are put into a tough situation[extremely hot afternoon] & we get an instant gratification after drinking the 'nimbu paani' while there are many people around who are either too poor or too busy to enjoy the chilled nimbu paani.

Hence in order to appreciate even the little things in life we must recognize how it feels to have the lack of it.

The HR community focusses a great deal in orientation, training and also aims at 'value integration' during induction of new recruits.

I feel 'value integration' can not be easily executed as the HR community is always at a risk of getting too occupied with training and orientation.

Every well known company which I can think of has a certain sense of goodness in it's 'values'. In order to infuse that goodness in the new recruits , I feel 'rural visits' for a few days can serve the purpose.

I feel the following can be done during a 'rural visit':

  1. Have keen observation on the life in the village.
  2. Interact with the villagers.
  3. Take up a project[even small] which can be continued on a sustained basis by a fully commuted CSR team along with the support of the new recruits.
  4. Have an interactive session which can consist of the learning from the village life.
The rural visit would help in the following ways:

  1. They would become more sensitive towards the needs of the less fortunate.
  2. It will give them an opportunity to appreciate what all they have in their life including their job or profession. Hence, there will be an increase in the level of commitment and engagement in work.
  3. It will make the future CSR projects more genuine.
  4. It will inculcate a certain sense of goodness that could even match with the values of the company .

May 9, 2010

Quotes from Rabindranath Tagore and few HR lessons from them...

Today we celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore. I am missing the revelry in Kolkata & Delhi[C R Park].

I was born in Kolkata but I grew up in Delhi. The most formative years of my life belonged in Delhi and I could not really associate myself with the works of Rabindranath Tagore as a kid. My parents did make a lot of effort to get myself oriented towards Rabindra Sangeet but I could never appreciate it then.

But as I matured, I found a lot of depth and meaning in his works especially in the lyrics of his songs and the poems.

Let me share a few of his quotes which has people lessons infused in them:

  • "A mind all logic is like a knife all blade. It makes the hand bleed that uses it."- A beautiful quote that extols the importance of emotions and why emotions must be accommodated even if logic rules the scenario.

  • " For us the highest purpose of this world is not merely living in it,, knowing it and making use of it, but realizing our own selves in it through expansion of sympathy; not alienating ourselves from it and dominating it, but comprehending and uniting it with ourselves in perfect union."- A classic quote that speaks volumes on 'inclusiveness' , 'active engagement' and 'goodness'.
  • "All men have poetry in their hearts, and it is necessary for them, as much as possible, to express their feelings. For this they must have a medium, moving and pliant, which can refreshingly become their own, age after age. All great languages undergo change. Those languages which resist the spirit of change are doomed and will never produce great harvests of thought and literature. When forms become fixed, the spirit either weakly accepts its imprisonment or rebels. All revolutions consists of the "within" fighting against invasion from "without"... All great human movements are related to some great idea."-A quote that can spur thoughts on change management and idea generation.
  • "Asks the Possible of the Impossible, "Where is your dwelling-place?" "In the dreams of the Impotent," comes the answer."- A quote on courage, proactiveness and initiative.

  • "Death is not extinguishing the light; it is putting out the lamp because the dawn has come."- A quote that can inspire a turnaround, change or a complete business re-engineering.

  • "Everything comes to us that belongs to us if we create the capacity to receive it."-A quote on capacity building.

  • "Facts are many, but the truth is one." A quote on authenticity and integrity.

  • "Gross utility kills beauty. We now have all over the world huge production of things, huge organizations, huge administrations of empire - all obstructing the path of life. Civilization is waiting for a great consummation, for an expression of its soul in beauty. This must be your contribution to the world." -Need I say more :-)

  • "He who wants to do good knocks at the gate; he who loves finds the gate open."-A quote on execution and continuous learning & development.

  • "I have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument while the song I came to sing remains unsung."- A quote on work-life integration

  • "I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy." A quote on HR's true mission :-)

  • "If anger be the basis of our political activities, the excitement tends to become an end in itself, at the expense of the object to be achieved. side issues then assume an exaggerated importance, and all gravity of thought and action is lost; such excitement is not an exercise of strength, but a display of weakness." -A quote on anger management

  • "If life is journey be endless where is its goal? The answer is, it is everywhere. We are in a palace which has no end, but which we have reached. By exploring it and extending our relationship with it we are ever making it more and more our own. The infant is born in the same universe where lives the adult of ripe mind. But its position is not like a schoolboy who has yet to learn his alphabet, finding himself in a college class. The infant has it own joy of life because the world is not a mere road, but a home, of which it will have more and more as it grows up in wisdom. With our road that gain is at every step, for it is the road and the home in one; it leads us on yet gives us shelter."- A quote on having greater purpose in life and work.

All the quotes above are inspired from life so that they can inspire each and every elements of life in return. HR is only a small aspect yet an important one. A lot can be learned from the works of Rabindranath Tagore. I felt HR is one of them.

The quotes are obtained from this link .

Are you a future leader?

I found this link where you can test your leadership quotient for future times. What I find most interesting are the dimensions on which our leadership quotient for future is being tested. They are as follows:

  • Maker Instinct
  • Clarity
  • Diemma flipping
  • Immersive learning ability
  • Bio Empathy
  • Constructive depolarizing
  • Quiet transparency
  • Smart Mob organizing
  • Commons creating
The dimensions do sound complex but the link above explains each & every dimensions very clearly. Go ahead and test yourself!!!

May 7, 2010

The MSSW-SIFE Story – Recreating lives...

The association of MSSW with SIFE reached it's peak last year when my college was selected as the finalist of the National SIFE tournament. It was a proud moment for all of us in college and the core team of SIFE did a fabulous job. It was not merely about touching lives, it was beyond that. It was all about recreating lives. I once again thank and congratulate last year's SIFE team for their sincerity and selfless work.

But even this year the students of MSSW will have a lot to cheer about. The new SIFE team consisting of Prof Jayanthi Peter,HOD, Dept of MA-HRM,MSSW[Faculty Incharge]; Hadeeja S; Rakesh Kumar Patil; Madhumitha Sowndararajan;Prashanti. T; Arvind Srikantan; Adline Sophia;Sowmya Mathews;Harish.S;Tanvir Ahmed are working very hard towards multiple projects that could generate a lot of benefits and goodness in various target communities.

I pray and wish that the projects are a huge success. I would like to share a snapshot of this year's projects undertaken by the SIFE core team along with the support of everyone in MSSW.

Following is a write up mailed to me by my good friend and SIFE core team member 'Madhumita Soundarajan':

The Madras School of Social Work, as a pioneering institution in professionalizing social service, has undertaken several initiatives to promote the feeling of community development amongst students. One such quintessential initiative has been the SIFE.

SIFE stands for Students in Free Enterprise. As an NGO, headquartered in USA, it aims at creating self sustainability in a chosen community, by partnering with students from various educational institutions.

Thus, it is synonymous to the saying, “A meal today is for now; A skill today is forever".

MSSW is one such prestigious college to have been partnering with SIFE.

Every year, the MSSW-SIFE team undertakes a new project, targeting at a different community than before. It is interesting to note that students, as a part of this initiative, play the role of facilitators, thereby ensuring the non-dependency of the community on anybody else. This year, the new initiative undertaken has been named “Project Vidiyal”

This project targets the women community who are tsunami victims. The project comprises approximately of 40 women, across different locations in Chennai such as Thiruvanmiyur, Royapuram and Pazhaverkadu. These women belong to the age group 20 years to 40 years.

The community at Thiruvanmiyur (Identified by The TamilNadu Women’s Collective) has been trained on various skills such as candle making, embroidery and artificial flower making. They have also been trained on soft skills such as team building and entrepreneurial skills. The products done by them were also displayed for sale in one of the college festivals. It is to be noted here is that, these women have also been given certificates for undergoing the training program. This authenticity will help them get a loan in future.

The community at Royapuram and Pazhaverkadu are involved in the making of office stationery items (such as notepads, files, pen stands etc, as shown in the picture) made of eco friendly materials such as recycled paper. These women are paid Rs.15 per hour as labour charges for the work they do. The sale proceeds from the products are ploughed back into the business again.

The sife team has been helping the community in active selling by displaying the products in a lot of college fests. From the last week of February till date, the sales proceeds has reached Rs.38,000. The Sife team also helped the community get bulk orders from colleges and corporates.

As a future course of action, the MSSW-SIFE team is currently involved in active branding for the products and in the process, also preparing a product catalogue that could be used by the community representatives on their sales front, for marketing and publicity purposes.

Apart from Project Vidiyal, the team is also involved in the active monitoring of their last year’s sustainable venture, “Project Suyam”. This project focusing on the farming community, is now supporting around 50 families. The project, on one hand, targets a community in Tamabram, involving the cultivation of Vincea Rosea, a drug that is widely used for Cancer treatment. On the other hand, the venture also extends to the outskirts of the city in Melmaruvathur where various leguminous crops such as groundnuts are also being cultivated. These are regularly put through crop rotation to ensure the fertility of the soil. The team proudly conveys that this project has already become sustainable and is continuing to be run in association with Mr. P.S Nathan, Farm Director, Apoorva Farms, Kayapakkam, Kanchipuram Dist, TamilNadu

May 4, 2010

Exciting speakers for SHRM Annual Conference 2010

I received the invite for 62nd SHRM Annual Conference to be held between 27-30 June, 2010 in San Diego, California . What seems most impressive to me is the list of prolific speakers which will include:

  • Al Gore - Former Vice President of the United States Nobel Laureate
  • Steve Forbes – President and Chief Executive Officer of Forbes and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes magazine
  • Dave Ulrich Professor of Business at the University of Michigan and a partner at the RBL Group
  • Marcus Buckingham – New York Times best-selling author and business visionary
  • Dr. Fons Trompenaars – World Authority on Managing Cultural Diversity
The invite also mentions that there would be 150 concurrent sessions during the conference [WOW!!!!!]. It also promises insights on topics like:
  • Talent Management
  • Strategic HR
  • Global Human Resource
The probability of me attending the conference is really thin as I would be joining my new work at that point of time. However, I really hope that the next SHRM Annual Conference takes place in India and I would surely attend it :-)

For further information on the Annual Conference please visit .

You can also mail at

May 1, 2010

HR business partnering....

This week during the NHRD meeting, the theme was 'HR Business Partnering'. Even though this topic has been discussed in length in various forums and books, yet it seems very intricate. Has HR become a proper business partner yet??? Of course not in many companies.

Hence it makes sense to discuss this further in forums. Indeed we had a great time listening to Mr D Harish, Leadership Consultant & Executive coach and Tarun Kochhar, CEO, Carpediem .

A few thoughts by Mr D Harish:

  • In order to make a transition from HR expert to a HR business partner there has to be a shift from providing answers to asking the right questions, analyzing to synthesizing, controlling to collaborating, supply expertise to supply insights.
  • The HR business Partner's job is to Build Trust, Listen for Insights, Providing Personal Guidance, Aligning to the agenda.
  • The way forward for the partnership is through contextual business awareness, professional mutuality, passionate commitment and value consciousness.
  • A few competencies that would really help the HR business partners are functional knowledge, business acumen, consulting skills and coaching approach.
He also mentioned how the HR business partner must have 'selfless confidence' to have the courage to speak what is right for the company's long term goal.

Mr Tarun Kochhar gave insights towards two successful cases: Sathyam Cinemas and Isteel.
He explained how in these two companies the HR team plays a very inclusive role towards achieving the organizational vision. The cases were simple to understand and made a lot of impact on me because I could relate to them especially the Sathyam Cinemas case.

For example: It was observed that Sathyam Cinemas had a major amount of their audience among the 'teenager women' category but their security was a concern initially. However, the HR team recognized this and recruited many more security guards with the right prerequisites [they had strong appearance with pleasant personality]. Also a lot of thought was invested on finer details like their grooming and uniform colour[Bright so that the teenager women could easily spot them and feel secure]. The business leaders were also fully supportive of this because the HR could articulate the need for recruiting the security guards by aligning to the business vision of creating 'magical moments'.