Saturday, July 25, 2020

Future of work: High impact individual contributor roles

Every person after working an individual contributor expects that he should have a team to manage. Heading and managing a team is a dream of every professional. long back most of the organizations had created heavy hierarchical structures to accommodate that desire of employees. Organizations had big structures, chain of commands and different titles & designations. After spending a few years in particular titles (not roles), organizations used to promote employees to the next level. Jr, Sr and Dy was always prefixed to the title to satisfy the egos of employees. General Managers were managers without having any general management exposure. This structure created invisible ranks in the mind of employees. People used to get elevated to higher titles without much changing their roles. However, this structure created a lot of bureaucracy within the organizations. Big organizations had become like elephants. It created the hierarchical culture with slow decision making. In such structures Power flows vertically and upward, and employees are departmentalized. Multiple layers within the organizations create a lot of business & socio-political issues.

Today a lot of organizations are going away from the formal structures. It is very important to decide the span of control and layers within the organizations to increase the efficiency and effectiveness.   

Modern organizations are flat with few levels. Few organizations work in matrix structures and few in web structures. Few organizations are going towards project-based organizations and using different methodologies like agile, scrum, etc. Such organizations only need good talent and not the ego associated with titles.  That’s why some organizations are going away from Titles. Employees are instructed to write their name and department on the visiting cards. Everybody within the organization is treated important and they are empowered so that they fulfill their responsibilities. Such culture requires a high level of trust and employees need to be competent to work in such an environment. People are sensitized towards common purpose.

Working in such organizations demands different skill sets. There are very few people managers and team managers roles. Even people managers are expected to spend more time on development dialogues and not just supervising employee and micromanaging team members.   
This has resulted in creating a lot of individual contributor roles as per the expertise and competence. There are a lot of Individual contributor roles which have the major impact on the business. Employees in such roles are expected to network and influence and get the job done.  Such roles are also highly paid. With organizations transforming into more agile organizations, it is important that there are few layers and more connections without any barriers.

I have seen a lot of individual contributor roles which are strategic and very impactful. Those roles are HRBP, Marketing Manager, Programmer, Developer, Communication Expert, Business Controller, Talent Manager, People Development Manager, Business Manager, Product Manager, Application Manager, Data Scientist and even Sales Manager, Treasury Manager, Risk Manager, Auditor and so on.

Employees are expected to demonstrate all behaviours like a leader; such as developing strategy, making tactical plans, presenting and communicating ideas, setting priorities for the function or the market, coaching others, leading without the title, managing cross functional groups, influencing others and so on.  

Hence whenever you get the opportunity with a good role & high salary, don’t look at the reportee numbers. Just look what value that role adds in the organization. Further these roles need high level behavioural skills as they work with different people with complex environments with a lot of ambiguity. In fact, you learn solid leadership skills and acumen in individual contributor roles. It is easy to get the job done when somebody is in your hierarchy but very difficult when nobody is reporting you and still you are held responsible for the results.   

(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, July 18, 2020

Continue doing what you are doing during pandemic: Covid19 diary

During this pandemic situation, we are getting a lot of information about the coronavirus. The picture painted by the media is horrible and scary. We have already crossed the numbers of corona patients more than 10.12 lacs. This number looks very scary, however if we believe the government data, the recovery is almost 6.5 lacs. It means our recovery rate is 65% which is quite good. Deaths are almost 26273 (2.5%). Looking towards statistics, India is doing good. Somebody may say that we are not doing enough tests and hence numbers reported are not right. Possibly few state governments are manipulating the data. Quarantine rules are changing, now patients with mild symptoms are asked to quarantine at their home. So, does it mean that corona has lost its importance as a dangerous & deadly virus? The debate of lock down itself is a different discussion.
What do you feel, when you think about Covid19?
People are also arguing that deaths due to other diseases and ailments are more than coronavirus. That is true but people forget that other diseases and illnesses are not spread like covid19. In fact, coronavirus itself is not deadly, the conditions caused by the virus are deadly. If you have pre-illness or ailment like diabetics, kidney failure, or any serious illness, chances of getting affected are more. If your body is immune & strong, you don’t need to worry, you may get infected and still you can survive with proper treatment. Proper treatment is the rider here. Just compare the situation when it started, if somebody was tested positive during March, it was a crisis to the family, society, colony and government authorities. But now in July, if somebody is tested positive, it is not that much of a crisis for others except family members. Government authorities diluted actions like sanitization of the building, declaring the containment zones etc. Now such decisions are more politically, or community driven instead of pandemic driven.

Does it mean that the government has put the onus of infection on people and getting away from their responsibilities? Does it mean that the virus itself lost its virus load which qualifies it as a deadly virus? Or has the corona pandemic induced the medical scandal? We keep getting such questions. Lot of experts and opinions are expressed. The World Health Organization also doesn’t have answers to such questions. It keeps changing their stand conveniently.    
However, did people learn something from this pandemic? After different phases during the lock down, a lot of people learnt new skills, life skills necessary at home; relationships went good or bad depending upon the mindset. Work from home and work for home became new normal. Digitalization journey is accelerated. This is all OK, however there are so many other things we realised during this pandemic.
Positive side of the pandemic
Important thing is personal hygiene. Indians are always criticized for their bad habits related to hygiene. Eating pan and tobacco and spitting is common. This pandemic has taught people a good lesson. But will it continue? It is said that it takes 21 days to create the habit. Hopefully people will follow all good habits and will continue to be responsible citizens. I don’t know to what extent it will happen, as still people are not that much aware about this. 
During the pandemic people were empathetic with each other. At least understanding each other and empathizing gives a morale booster. We became more human. Good Samaritans came forward supporting migrant workers, poor & needy people. Others were supporting each other. I hope that we all will continue this humanhood.

People also invested in formal & informal learning during this period. It is good to keep this learning attitude and going the extra mile. I hope that this spirit of learning also will continue, and people will not stop learning. Corona virus itself is a big teacher and we should not underestimate it.

Disruption in business also induced some creative thinking and innovations in business models. Few industries and sectors are affected heavily. Hope people will be creative to bring back the business resiliently.           

We already started living with it. We don’t know when it will go, but we also should learn to protect ourselves, our families and think about the future instead of just thinking only about the coronavirus and pandemic. 

Saturday, July 11, 2020

How do you know that you are ready for the next leadership role?

At a certain point of career, everybody aspires to take a leadership role. Most of the time, employees think that by getting a certain high-level title, they are in a leadership role. Employees build up functional knowledge, confident self-image about their capabilities to handle the higher role. They start thinking that now they are eligible for the promotion and higher roles. 
"However, leadership is not about the title, designation, etc, it is about the role, influence, executive presence etc. It is also leading others, inspiring for the results." 

What are those indications that you are ready for the leadership roles? 

This needs strong insight and self-reflection. You need to take the regular inventories of your skills and competencies. There are some indications which you can rely on.

Following are some indications about your readiness to the next management level role. 
  • You think beyond your job: In the current role, employees focus on what they need to do and perform well. However, it is very important you understand how your boss and senior leaders think. You make your job interesting, go beyond your routine and you think like one level above always. You think beyond the boundaries of your task and take a holistic view and impact of your actions on others. 
  • You think beyond yourself:  You don’t think about yourself. You may have some personal aspirations, but that doesn’t mean that you should be selfish. You are regularly thinking about other people and how your actions impact them. You start believing in teamwork; you start supporting team members. You connect with the right people and create allies within the organization. 
  • Job is not routine for you anymore: The task is not only the task for you. It is also not the job; you demonstrate the passion. Work happens automatically for you. Work is not 9.00 to 5.00 routine for you now. Now you enjoy being at the office. The clock is there to help you manage your calendar, not to determine what time you leave. Your passion and enjoyment for the work you are doing is contagious and others can count on you because of your work ethic and positivity.
  • You take constant feedback: You are open to take the critical feedback and you don’t feel bad about you. While listening to the feedback you don’t become defensive. You think about it and try to improve on the feedback given by people. In fact, you set up a mechanism to get the feedback and make your development plans accordingly.
  • People speak good about you: In your absence, people recognize your achievements, speak about you nicely. This is because they are benefited because of your work, decisions etc. 
  • Your presence makes the difference: When you are in the office, your presence is felt. You give positive vibes and people feel good when they speak with you. They get inspired. You give them confidence & offer support. Juniors ask your suggestions and guidance. Leaders and managers in your organization suggest your name for new projects or assignments.
  • You try to excel and ready to learn: You enjoy learning new things, you enjoy experimenting, you make improvement proposals to your manager. You not only do your job great but improve the way of working. You are ahead from your peers. your managers always ask your opinion than others because you keep yourself updated. You choose reading books, listening podcast over watching stupid TV shows & movies. You proactively seek help from others & mentors.
"After realizing that you are ready for the next role, think about how you can work to achieve your goal. Your manager and organization should feel comfortable to promote you."
However, it totally depends upon the opportunities available within the organization. Work on a plan, always have a direct discussion with Manager and HR. Be visible in the organization on different forums. Take the opportunity to ask questions to the leadership team, express your ideas during meetings. Develop a network with the right people. Still it will not be enough, finally it is creating the credibility within the organization.    

(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, July 04, 2020

How to bridge the industry academia gap?

Student, institutes, industries and employability

Discussion about employability of engineering and management students is not new. As per the report  only 15-16% engineers are employable and only 10% management graduates are employable (Employability report.). It means when employers hire engineering and management students they have to invest on training, skilling and developing most of the students. 

Let’s take an analogy of product and customer. Students are the product of colleges and companies are customers, however, how many times colleges approach companies asking what they need? What types of skills and behaviours are required for industries? How many times professors go to industries to learn what happens on the shop floor? And accordingly design the course so that product is delivered as per the requirement. I think this is a two-way process, however accountability is more on those colleges to make students more employable. Most of the time, colleges interact with industries only for seminars, conferences and inviting professionals in the campus. This is just a “feel good factor” for colleges, feeling that they are interacting with industries. There are very few exceptions where they understand the requirements and design the syllabus, plan some sandwich courses, and arrange internships for the student.  For others the only motive is relationship building and having a placement. Most of the time colleges, institutes and placement committees contact companies only during placement season requesting placements without asking what companies need. Management institutes have become grooming institutes only focusing presentation skills, interview skills, language skills etc. This is good but students think that these are the only skills which matters. When they realise that this is not enough, then they join private professional institutes to upgrade their skills, which ideally colleges should have done.     

On the other side, for students it is just a degree which they think that it would take them towards their goals. Majority of the students get their degrees and struggle for getting the job. Finally, they end up doing petty jobs on the assembly line or working from small companies doing everything. The struggle never ends. The attitude of the students is not developed properly. They are more concerned about salary and job profiles instead of learning. I get surprised when students ask recruiters what their job profile would be.

Students should focus on learning and developing instead of just focusing on the job profile. They need to understand that they become productive after a lot of efforts invested by the companies. It takes a minimum 1-2 years to become employable. 

This debate is discussed on every forum, still it remains there. 

Unfortunately, Corona pandemic has brought different challenges for the students who are waiting to start their career. Companies are not hiring. Fresh hiring is on hold. It must be stressful. However, these days will also go.

To improve the employability, institutes & colleges should focus on the following:

  • Mandatory internship for teaching staff: There should be mandatory internship for professors for 2 months in a year in industries. Along with this every professor should have at least 4 consultancy assignments with industries. This can be paid or unpaid as per the requirement.  
  • Participation of industries in designing syllabus: Industry and academia interaction should not be limited to only seminars and lectures. It should go beyond like designing the course for industries as per their requirements. Companies may not afford to hire students but still they can develop students. And companies will not do it free. Institutes should think how to reciprocate the efforts of industries.
  • Specialized course for specific segment or industries: There can be specialized courses designed for specific segments and industries in collaboration of industries. This also can be for the group of industries.  

Few tips for students as under:

  • Develop yourself in your domain: You need to be strong in the domain which you chose. When you are taking any degree, it is expected you have learnt all theories, principles. Go the extra mile to learn the domain, functional skills.  
  • Develop a few more skills that will make you a more marketable candidate for the field you’re trying to break into. Keep learning and check around to find out which skills are highly valued, like coding, Analytics, social media, IoT, sensor technology etc.
  • Focus on developing your behavioural skills: Behaviour and soft skills make you more employable. There are a variety of such skills, but mainly these are networking & influencing, selling skills, communication skills, presentation skills, design mindset, agility etc.  
  • Network strongly with the seniors, alumina and professional in the field of your interest. Reach out to them, get their help to review your resume and be connected with them.
  • Find our opportunities to learn by offering your time on projects, assignments, research and offering help to professional networks on small things like handling their social media page or digital marketing etc. it will show that you have the right attitude.
  • Go for social work: Make sure you’re doing something useful that also gives back to your community or a cause that you’re passionate about. This will keep you feeling productive and fulfilled, while also giving you another line on your resume. 

Few training & placement officers are trying hard to bring the corporates and industries on board; however, this is limited to their level only. After the corona virus pandemic, the skilled workforce will be available in lateral hiring and if colleges and institutes & also students don’t wake up, it will be difficult for the students to get jobs in future. Institutes need to create the differentiator and should ask the question themselves: why will industries hire their students?  

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