Friday, June 26, 2020

How to avoid derailment in the career?

He had good communication skills, he also had good curiosity. He had worked in one of the European countries for a few years and when he wanted to come back to India, it was a natural choice to hire him in a technology function. Because of his good exposure and presentation style, he was also nominated in the list of top potential within a year. He was good in everything but had a struggle for managing his team members. He was strong in his functional knowledge but somehow, he was always perceived superficial by his peers and team members. He had to struggle to establish his credibility. When he was assigned the mentor from the management team, he wanted the mentor from business & not from support functions citing they didn’t have the knowledge of business. But his immediate development need was his people management skills. Instead, he was thinking for the next role in the business and was expecting coaching on that.

He said that he would not learn anything from the coach assigned to him and he would like to work with the business director instead of that person who was in support function. Of course, it was his choice and his point of view might be right. However, his insight was not that great. When you start thinking that you are much better in particular traits without understanding the actual reality, your career may start derailing. He could not succeed only because of his perception that he needs to understand the business, which is perfectly fine, but missed the most crucial part of behavioural skills, i.e people management skills.   

There are three types of learning normally we have in life. Those learning are important at different stages of the career. These are:

  • Domain knowledge and functional skills: This learning happens when you are in early career. You are expected to be sound in your area of functions. You can choose to be an expert in the area of the function.
  • Perspective building: Here you learn how people behave & how they react. You learn about different perspectives in life, differences in the social strata, culture etc. This is not that easy, you have to build upon your learning, interpret your understanding and make the strategy to deal with the people.
  • Leadership building: This is about overall leadership development. Your signature style, executive presence, influencing and networking etc.

In the first stage, learning functional skills is not that difficult. If you have the basic talent, you grasp very easily. You become professional in your particular area of the function. You may not know all things, but you can read and learn. For example, you may be an expert in tax matters, but if you have the learning ability, you will also learn accounting. You also can learn business, market and all business-related things here easily if you are smart enough where to get the information. This applies for all functions. 

However, both stages required a lot of effort and an open mind set. Other two stages are about attitude, behaviours and competence (ABC). You can’t learn this like other skills. Functional skills can be taught and learnt. Perspective and leadership skills (including behavioural soft skills) needs more attention while learning. You have to put yourself always in a student mindset, you need to act like a sponge, absorbing the learning from events happening around you. Easy to say but difficult to put in the practice. 

And this is the challenge we always have. Here we need good mentors and coaches to help and support you to excel in your professional life. You will learn what the business is, but you have to learn how to do it.  

Most of the time, professionals only focus on functional learning and miss other parts of learning. Ignoring those two learning derails career growth easily.    

(Opinions are purely personal & does not represent my organization)

Please read the print replica of my latest book written for leaders on amazon kindle; Vitality in Human Resource            

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Me, Media and Journalism

I started my career firstly in media marketing & research, then moved into journalism and finally ended in Human Resources. First two careers were short and those were after graduation and post-graduation. However, I gained a lot of experience in those jobs. I dealt with different types of people. In my first job, I was working with a print newspaper. I along with my teammates used to visit door to door to understand the people's taste about newspaper reading, their behaviour pattern while reading the newspaper, their buying habits etc. Based on the findings, inputs were to be given to the editorial team for designing their contents, advertisement for their sales campaign and circulation for focusing where the demand is. It was an extensive job with a lot of travel, asking questions to different people, filling forms and consolidating the research. This was an internal system to support the business growth. In this process, we also used to generate a lot of leads for advertising and circulation of newspapers. I learnt many things about people, behaviour patterns, media commerce and business here. During this period, I also saw two shades of human being, nice and evil. Most of the people treated us very well & at another side, few people insulted us.

After working a year here, I joined as a sub-editor of English edition of one of the newspapers in Maharashtra. This was a local edition. During my college days, I was writing in different newspapers. I also was writing columns on social issues, employability & some political issues around the area. I used to cover political rallies with seniors & was handling education beat that time. This was enough experience for me to start as a sub-editor. While working here, I understood the socio-political issues, writing skills, articulation skills, how to give headlines, how to edit the copy and of course how to get the information from different sources. My job was mainly desk job, coordinating with different reporters and stringers, motivating them, coaching them and getting some good news, and then editing their copy for final print. Editing the first page & editorial page was always a privilege for me. My editorial colleagues working in Marathi edition used to ask me to write for them. I also got the opportunity to write a few editorials. Working in media companies is a big challenge. Media jobs are unorganised. It needs a lot of courage, patience and strong manipulation skills. During this period, I was working an evening shift from 15.00 hrs till finalizing the print. 

There are a lot of hands behind the scene, who work hand, day and night to bring the newspaper to your doorstep. They are printers, designers, proof-readers, circulation personnel etc. They work under a lot of pressure, stress which takes the toll of their health. I used to eat meals with them while dinner and everybody has enough food for others. Today most of the jobs are clubbed together or automated because of the technology.    

Mostly all media companies are dominated by politicians. You also become political while working for them. There are different ideologies, different groups with different mindset where your personal values are compromised. This was the main internal struggle for me.    

It was an enriching experience. I can say I built my personality while working in those 2 jobs. I learn to read people and their personalities. I moved into Human Resources. During my career, I also got the opportunity to establish the HR function in the largest growing media house. I worked closely with the leadership team of media house, got the opportunity to be a part of launches of television channels, web media etc. Media convergence was one of the initiatives that time which is currently working well with integrating same news on different media platforms. I got the opportunity to work with Mckinsey, Garcia design, E&Y etc on different projects in business, editorial and Human Resource while working with this media house. In fact, that experience built my further career in Human Resource.  
"When you work in Media, you get automatic respect irrespective of which department you work. Unfortunately, this respect goes in the head of most of the people."      
Today the media is at a different level altogether. Indian media has created its image, good or bad but it has created a lot of ripple effects in the society. Unfortunately, there are very few journalists who are living with their values. Majority of them have their own agenda. They are spineless & supporting political leaders for their personal gain. Nowadays they are PR agents and spokesmen for political parties rather than journalists. Package journalism is at a high peak now. Still there are few reporters, journalists & others who are trying to bring change in the society and political space. We should recognize and appreciate their efforts.   

However, technology has given the weapon in the hands of common citizens. With the strong social media, every citizen can be the citizen journalist and address the issues they are facing. However, one should be very careful to use it properly, otherwise it may get backfire.   

Unfortunately, the media industry, mainly print media, is hit badly by coronavirus pandemic. The main revenue source of advertisement is in bad shape. People are hesitant to buy the print media because of fear of virus spread. Small media houses are on the verge of closure and large media houses are rightsizing. Unfortunately, those who report news of layoffs are now laid off. Such news will be buried under the carpet of corporate offices of media houses.  

(Opinions are purely personal & does not represent my organization)

Please read the print replica of my latest book written for leaders on amazon kindle; Vitality in Human Resource      

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Imperfectly perfect

"The absence of flaw in beauty is itself a flaw": Havelock Ellis
Few years back I changed the place of Television. Cable which was taken from the DTH disc was now adjusted to the new place. In this process, at the previous place a small hole of previous cable was visible. Every time, that small hole used to get my attention. I decided to plug it with white cement. It worked well, but the colour of the wall was different. The small white patch on the light green wall was prominently visible to all. It was not the perfect wall and I always used to get distracted by that small white patch. The reason for the distraction was that it was not looking good and the wall was not perfect.  Only one option was to repaint the whole wall so that it looks good. But repainting the wall itself is a tedious process & it has some cost. Finally, I kept aside the decision of painting that wall. It was not wise to spend money on that small one- inch patch.

In our life, we have a lot of such small patches, flaws which look different, sometimes disturbs the symmetry and beauty of the area. We don’t see the other part which is good, looks nice and most of the time beautiful. Absence is a part of life; you will always find fault if you look for it. There will be a lot of undesirable things in the world. There will be good and bad. There will be a lot of flaws which will not look good but still we need to learn to live with that.

I think most of the problems in our life are not because we don’t have them. We are worried because of not having something in life. It is not about the thing itself but the feeling of missing that desired thing. Everybody is looking for that perfect picture. Expecting regularity is also okay. But all those are fine as far as they go, but there seems to be something in human nature that rejects the rigidity of perfect order.

Just reflect about the situation before Covid19. We wanted freedom of working from home, being at home, no travel at offices, and wanted to spend time with families. We were desiring that moment. Corona virus pandemic gave that opportunity. But now after spending 3 months ate homes, now everybody wants to go back to the offices and want to socialise with people. We need to understand that when there is beauty, there will also be pain.

We chase for perfection. Perfect relationship, perfect love, perfect house, kid listening to you and making their career as per your expectations and perfect life where we desire everything. We never get that perfection. We are not made for that. Happiness is not chasing perfection, but happiness is enjoying the uniqueness of that moment. When you recognize that uniqueness in relationship, love and things around you, you will start enjoying those things.   
It doesn’t mean that we ignore the quality of things. We should work towards making things better.  Self -realization of personal excellence helps us to make this world better. Not only because the world needs our service, but also because we do.    
"We need to understand that life is not perfect. There is no perfect picture. But it should not stop you to make that picture better. Somebody will still find that picture imperfect."    

Saturday, June 06, 2020

People agenda and HR processes after coronavirus pandemic.

What will be your answer if I ask you the question, “Who drives the digitalization journey in the organization?”. Typical answers will be CEO or CTO or somebody responsible in the Management board. I think digitalization is driven by the coronavirus pandemic; yes Covid19. Covid19 situation forced us to change. One fine morning, everybody started working from home using digital platforms. This is the New Normal now. 
"With a changed scenario in workforce management, we also need to understand the implication of the coronavirus pandemic on human resource & work."
You are already reading news of companies planning to move employees, to work from home giving them more flexibility. This will also save the cost on infrastructure. The use of flexible and contractual workforce will be one of the elements of workforce strategies. But before that lets predict what employer and Human Resource will have to work for creating a better future.
Three major imperatives will change the functioning of Human Resource function. HR professionals will have to change their mindset towards the workforce. Acceleration has already happened & it should continue. 

Imperatives in the new normal

Covid19 has given us enough space for learning and planning for the future. New normal will have the following three imperatives which will have implications on the future of work.
  • Digital acceleration: Covid19 has proven the tough teacher. It has already accelerated digital journey in organizations. As per the assumption, most of the white-collar employees will start working from home. (Please read my article here Covid19 is a tough leader.). This will bring different challenges. Employers will have set up a proper system of engagement, collaboration. Besides they also need to track the progress of employees and ensure the effectiveness and efficiency. Employers will have to establish a protocol of generating the data and analyse the productivity of employees. 
  • Aftershocks, Impact & consequences: We need different competencies in the new normal. Pandemic has consequences on the business. It has a big shock. Millions of people have lost their jobs and livelihood. Companies may not be fair during such periods. High performing organizations need to find innovative solutions to bounce back. Talent will be the key here. We need different skill sets. What we used to call critical & complex roles actually are not complex and critical. It will be crucial to manage the crisis. While working remotely, people may miss the human factor, while others may take extra efforts to keep engagement and keep that human factor in mind.
  • Organizational Ecosystem: Pandemic has changed the organizational ecosystem. Organizations have to prioritise & plan for resilience & prepare themselves for the new normal. This will be volatile, uncertain, complex, ambitious but also having impact on the culture, value system & design of the organizations. With new ways of working complex structures may not work and organizations need to relook their current structures and ecosystem. HR’s role will be very crucial to facilitate the flexible but value-based ecosystem in the organization. However, we also need to understand that employees are afraid, they are worried about their & family health. They may not be sure how they are safe, how their jobs will be impacted. They may be worried about the future in the economic uncertainties. Employers will have to give the proper message with the right intentions." 
We also are aware now that this pandemic has accelerated all actions which organizations wanted to take. With this changed scenario, workplaces will be defined by personalised solutions, focus on wellbeing, culture, autonomy and inclusivity. Work is already being untied from space and time and, while this freedom is liberating and empowering, there are challenges ahead. 
In particular, how do organisations respond when walls have come tumbling down between physical and digital, the workforce is more disparate and demanding than ever and the new rule is to expect change and keep on learning. 
"The answer is to keep the core principle of purposeful leadership at the heart of everything. Future workplaces require visionary leaders, and they will be those people who want to be not only ‘best in the world’ but ‘best for the world’."
Leaders with the support of HR should come forward to create the right workplaces as per the following four aspects:

Psychological workplace: This is about considering the emotional aspect of the workplace. Creating the ecosystem for engagement, trust, inclusion and ensuring the wellbeing of employees will be vital.

Physical workplace: In view of physical workplaces moving at home, employers need to support having the right infrastructure, digital platform and proper connectivity. Employees who will attend offices and factories will need assurance of safe and healthy workplaces. HR will have to work regularly to assess the situation and take appropriate calls so that employees are productive and efficient.

Digital Workplace:  This is not only about digitalization and automation but also thinking about how technology will foster new business models, ways to work and employee experiences. Further it is also preparing, educating, developing employees to work in the virtual world. Roles will be changed. Few new roles will be created. Sales will not happen like we do it today. Speed and agility will be core of workgroups. HR needs to work speedily in creating new behaviours in the digital and virtual world. People will have to take extra efforts to be more empathic & persevering. Networking & collaboration will happen in the virtual world. Employees will have to continuously learn in the new digital world.   

Purposeful workplace: Employees are looking forward to work with those companies whose value systems are strong. They will be attracted towards the purposeful economy. With strong evolving ideas of leadership, organisational models, value(s) and employee engagement it is very important to embed the purpose in everything which you do. 

New competencies 

Leadership roles are demanding but it will be more demanding. They also need to develop strong pipelines in different functional areas. Talent management will be even more crucial. It should be a business process instead of just one of the HR processes. 

We will need Talent with different competencies. Employees also need to go the extra mile. Learning agility will be the core of talent management for identifying high potential and top potential employees.  (Learning Agility).

Following are few new competences:  
  • Transdisciplinary: Expert in one functional area but having the basic knowledge of other areas also, 
  • New Media Literacy: Knows how to communicate on different platforms, able to connect customers and articulates proper communication. Knows how to design the communication. Practice storytelling techniques. 
  • Sense Making: Ability to determine deeper meaning or core what is said or expressed, 
  • Novel thinking: Clarity of thought & coming with innovative solution to complex problems, 
  • Data thinking: Ability to translate the data into abstract concept and understanding logics, 
  • Design Mindset: Ability to represent & develop jobs/tasks & processes for desired results.      
What will be the implications on HR? 
"For HR, it is not the business as usual. There are no boundaries now. Comfort zone has already vanished. It is the time to drive the change and support & coach business leaders." 
HR processes and actions need to accommodate those changes as per the situation. Policies will have to review regularly & there is no timeline. Policy documents will be dynamic. Systems have to be established. Platforms have to be created. Along with this, HR will have to align following actions:

Accelerating the Talent Management process: Getting this done, we need the right talent in the right role who will create the value for the organization. Talent should be a part of business strategy. More you discuss the talent in leadership meetings and different platforms, the more you know about the potential of the talent. Companies that underestimate the potential of talent will always miss the upside potential of what their colleagues might have been capable of. They will fail to capitalise on the opportunities that inevitably arise from this or any other economic shock.

Capabilities: Identify new skills & competencies that enable effective remote work, including greater digital skill. Assessment and development plans have to be implemented quickly.  
Employee Experience: With changed aspects and imperatives, employee experience journey maps will be different. We need to think about what those look like.

HR & Talent Analytics: How are you going to manage the data of employees working in different workplaces, home and office? You will have to track continuous sentiment to monitor culture/ engagement across an increasingly dispersed workforce. You also have to come up with the clear policy on what is ethical and what is not. Government regulations & privacy policies will have to be framed keeping practical aspects of life. 

Health & Wellness: It is not just fun activities some professionals are expert into. It is also not about having experts’ sessions for employees. Companies also have to come up with solutions for employees. Few things like more Medical Cover with corporate buffer for self, family, Life Cover in case of unfortunate death of employee, regular consultation by doctors on psychological health, Tracking the overall stress and happiness level will help employees to be productive. Along with this, you will have to create a support eco-system for employees.   

Total Reward: Organizations will have different sets of employees, like permanent, contractual, consultants and most importantly gig workforce. Their compensation & benefits will be different. HR will have to come up with innovative total reward policies for them. It is not only the compensation & benefits but also how they are treated, how they are engaged. It is also about culture, workplaces & employee experience for them. Gig economy will also bring some other challenges for the government on their health & social securities. It will be interesting to know how companies mange those different set of people with equal opportunities. 
"George Orwell, in his political satire writes, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” This is the common reality in the corporate world, society and political world. However, the question is how you deal with such realities and frame fair policies."             
Workforce planning & Gig economy: Cost optimization always is crucial. But it will be more. CEOs will exercise caution where fixed liabilities have a major portion of the costs. You have to come with a variable workforce planning model based on the business. Gig economy in white collar will emerge, however ethical and legal complexities will have to be handled.   

Choice between Human in technology or technology for human: While going for total digitization and automation, it will be the choice with companies how to manage the human depending upon the business. Some companies will go touchless, dehumanising the processes. One of the arguments will be quality and precision of the product. Companies need to embed de-humanizing models in the business model sensibly. This is a paradox, but organizations will have that choice in managing their human resources accordingly.          

Organization design: It will start with designing the organization for resilience along with efficiency & effectiveness. There is a need to design roles, structures and processes around results instead of tasks to increase responsiveness and flexibility. You also may have to shift to agile operating models and flexibly deploy your assets to solve problems. It also includes identifying nonvalue added roles and processes in the organization and eliminating those.

With these all accelerated actions we also need to investigate the roles of HR professionals. Typical in most of the organizations we have:

  • HR generalist, who is handling every aspect of people, but more transactional HR activities, 
  • HRBP, HR generalist but mainly strategic HR business partner, consultant, coach to managers and plays active role in the business,
  • COE, expertise and programme design of human resource areas in Talent Management, People Development, Analytics, C&B, talent Acquisition etc etc.
  • And finally, the HR Service team handles all transactional HR activities and support to HRBPs.   

If we want to be more effective, the following four roles should be embedded in the HR operating model.

Integrated Talent Development Leaders:  Integrated talent development leaders are an evolved form of the senior level HRBP or talent management manager who tackle the most pressing talent opportunities and challenges throughout the organization. They navigate across the organization and find out the right talent in collaboration with HRBP, talent acquisition team & people development function. They are the custodian & gatekeeper of the talent management process in the organization. This role requires strong networking & influencing skill, business acumen and courage to challenge biases of the senior leaders in the organization. They educate managers on talent management philosophy. Encourage employees to have their individual development plans and ensure that development programmes are delivered based on 70:20:10 learning philosophy.

Project Experts in HR: HR needs to establish the HR programme management team which should have an HR team trained in Project Management process & design thinking mindset. If you want effective HR processes, you need to constantly work on different projects in HR & this team will work on such projects. This team defines people issues, hypothesizes, tests and builds solutions. This team works agilely on more temporary project assignments and can be redeployed based on need. Create this dynamic team and this is the great opportunity to develop your HR team & their employability also.

Talent Health Process Experts: Process experts are HR professionals who are expert in transactional HR areas. Currently you will find experts in payroll, analytics, technical integrators working on HR software etc. These roles need to be strengthened. However, you also need an expert in Health & wellness who may be an expert in understanding human behaviour & human psychology and design the programme around this. They will monitor & track the overall Talent health of the organization. 

People Relations: We already have roles like Employer Relations or Industrial Relations Managers in most of the industries. Typically, HRBP plays this role from time to time. This is not a different role than this, but such roles need to be strengthened. Strong oral & written communication is important in this role. People relations roles need to be more strategic than typical IR/ER Managers. (DO you have the right capabilities?) They need to be proactive with strong human relations skills.      
Per say, these roles mean not necessarily full time but depending upon the organizational set up, these roles can be combined with some other roles.  

Few CXOs & CHROs are already taking few actions during the normal situation, however the journey is still far away. Earlier it was just the board room talks and very little action on the ground. Now it is the time for executing those actions. Of course, sometimes we need to stay in the course & sometimes we need to change the directions. During this pandemic situation, you have to do both.
(Opinions are purely personal & does not represent my organization)
Please read the print replica of my latest book written for leaders on amazon kindle; Vitality in Human Resource

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