Friday, March 14, 2008

What smart HR Managers do?

HR departments in most organisations have to constantly face the pressure of an expanding workforce. Smart HR managers adopt a structured approach for making their life easy while hiring new people and retaining the existing ones. This structured approach to talent management involves systematic processes at each stage of human resource management, ranging from sourcing to assessment, reference checks and to on boarding and retaining.

In the initial stage of sourcing, it is important to tap into the right and varied set of talent sources such as online job boards, Web-based communities, target companies to headhunt from, and universities/schools that nurture the right skills. Veena Gundavelli, CEO, SITI Corporation says, “Depending on the level of position, the sourcing strategy varies and it is important for recruiters to know that the success of closing a position with the right talent largely depends on the sourcing strategy and the execution. Assessment is a very objective evaluation step and needs to be predefined to shortlist the right talent,”
“An analysis of the current workforce demographics would give the HR manager information about the organisation’s recruitment successes and failures. Identifying the best ways to recruit and the pitfalls/failures are a smart way to approach sourcing.”
"An analysis of workforce demographics would give the HR manager information about the company’s recruitment successes and failures"
Further analysis of the exiting employees, about their age/experience distribution, tenure in the job and reasons for leaving are used to find ways to manage attrition within the current workforce. “If enough data is available, it may actually end up in a mathematical equation which can predict the attrition.

HR managers clearly define systems and processes for the success of HR strategy. Once they are in place, the next step is to ensure that these systems are well complied.
“It starts from defining the job description, structuring the search accordingly and then assessing the short-listed candidates on their competence, experience and qualifications vis-a-vis the job description. Post that, the candidate is absorbed and trained within the system.”
Correct assessment
"It is important for recruiters to know that the success of closing a position with the right talent largely depends on the sourcing strategy and the execution"
Develop battery of tests to assess the technical competence and assess personality traits which would include behavioural patterns in a given situation.
Assessment can be divided into several steps such as basic aptitude tests, technical assessments and HR assessments. These steps form the basic gates to pass over to reference checking, hiring and on boarding steps.
Successful on-boarding results into better retention rates. As part of retention, several companies adopt techniques such as assigning seniors to be mentors to the new employees, having specific people development managers to take care of new employee development, knowledge management and training, etc.
Group discussions assess communication skills and aptitude to take a lead and participate. These are also pointers to ownership traits of an individual when assigned certain key responsibilities.
Validate past performance with data and evaluate the consistency of those performances. Institute a detailed background check to validate evaluation judgment. By these practices the assessment process can become more comprehensive.

In the current scenario all employees look at a career path within the organisation. We endeavour to give a realistic career path to an employee at the time of joining so that the employees should look at learning on the job, upgrading his skill sets and then deliver consistent performance in the current role before looking on to move to the next level within the organisation. The appraisal process includes specific discussions on the career path which acts as a tool in the process.

Understanding expectations
Ensure that the “feel good factor” is infused when the candidate is inducted as an employee. It is critical that the new entrant feels important in the new environment.
Assign tasks which is close to the new entrants’ key competency to instill confidence. Define performance parameters to arrest ambiguity and take them through the career options as they move forward.
Any new employee joins an organisation with certain set of expectations. Understanding these expectations on day one is essential to ensure a long-term relationship. And that can play a very vital role in controlling the attrition rate.
Experts believes that when an employee joins and looks for a quick change, there are certain areas of expectations which are not met, “A one-on-one discussion helps to identify the reasons why an employee is looking for the change. These could be simple things which can be addressed after discussing with the employee’s manager while there are some which need more time.” But once the employee understands that the company is serious about its commitment, he generally continues.
Career growth
The role of a clear and well-defined on-boarding policy and assessment cannot be over emphasised, more so in the current scenario. The knowledge worker of today is vibrant to the environment around him and expects transparency in terms of his interaction with his employer.
“Herein projecting the true image of the organisation and the business at the time of joining, training (both technical and behavioural), as an investment in employee’s growth and free and fair performance assessment, does go a long way in increasing the belonging of the employee to the organisation, thereby checking the attrition rates,”
Every employee looks for interesting work, good income, opportunity to learn, career growth and a healthy and fair work environment in any job, though the order may change for different people. Emphasising the importance of training. Training ensures that the employee gets the opportunity to learn and prepare for handling new opportunities /responsibilities. A well-designed appraisal system and periodic assessments are necessary to evaluate the performance. This also helps to plan the career growth of the employee.

It’s important to identify the training needs of the employees in a formal process and ensure that it is executed within defined time parameters. It’s also important to nominate employees to identified training programmes, either at customer location or recognised technical bodies.
By and large employees look for acquiring additional skills, enhance their existing ones and they look forward to organisational support to fulfill their aspirations. It’s important that a balance is struck between employee aspiration and organisational requirement from the business perspective.” Given the right kind of exposure and training, it is believed that attrition levels can be sustained at moderate levels.
Key challenges
Organisations need to proactively motivate the critical employees by assigning them key responsibilities, including their leadership roles. Employee engagement is also very important as it can ensure employee’s participation and it can also take ownership on responsibilities assigned to them.
Keeping open communication channels with employees and facilitate interaction with top management on a defined frequency is important.
Growing job rates coupled with tightening labour pool is the biggest contributor to high attrition rate. “Companies are forced to think out-of-the box to create more value to the employees in three areas—career growth, financial growth and job satisfaction. Companies are also forced to think about talent pools that are from rural areas that are still not caught in the job hopping culture.

Pecautions for a new HR manager
Some people directly enter management positions, others work their way up the ladder to get the desired designation, and there are those who are elevated based on company needs. It is a career path that varies like no other. New managers, be it the rookies who have been promoted internally or those who have just joined an organisation, all tend to face a unique set of challenges in their new roles.
Changing focus
The challenge of transitioning from a solo performer to a manager is like changing responsibilities of a single person when he becomes a parent. The focus shifts from an individual’s needs to the needs of others, and it is a much steeper learning curve than anyone ever imagines.
Most new managers continue to act like an individual performer than someone who is in charge. They start their lives as a manager without clearly understanding their new roles.
Many of them believe that since they were promoted to their new roles because they were good at what they did, they need to continue to do that. But once they assumed the mantle of management they quite ignore the first fundamental rule of management—managers do not do, they enable. This oversight results in lower productivity, weak performance, poor morale and career burnouts.

Role of the organisation
Organisations need to play an important role here. They need to prepare their managers to take up the new role effectively.
There is need to prepare people through a year-long leadership development programme to make them understand how to transition into a role where the focus is on the team and enabling it.

No longer the ‘doer’
Managers have to learn to get the work done through effective use of their staff. They need to view themselves as being a director of other people’s work instead of just a “doer”. This is one of the most challenging adjustments a new manager has to make. As managers they need to realise the fact that it is the team’s performance that determines their achievements.
It is the organisation’s responsibility towards their new managers that the expectations and output are very clearly shared with them so that they are more focussed in their actions.
Top management need to set up regular meetings with their new managers and take time to talk about things and give and ask for regular feedback. Also, a number of coaching activities like role-playing, case studies, management training, etc, need to be undertaken by organisations to help new managers settle in the system.
One of the biggest fears among new managers is that of appearing technically incompetent in front of their technical peers. This fear is strongest among those who are not certain that they want to be managers.
The art of communication
One fact that all new managers have to deal with at some point is the animosity that they may face from either veterans or peers who have not achieved the same place in the hierarchy.
The best way to deal with animosity is to keep communication channels open with team members and make them feel valued in the organisation. Being assertive and clearly defining the expectations from the team is the best way to ensure that the focus is always the work at hand.
A matter of trust
Another challenge faced by new managers is the one related to delegation. New managers tend not to delegate for fear of failure or maybe lack of trust in the abilities of their team members. They often end up all stressed out as they are attempting to do all the work themselves causing immense frustration in their team members. Such situations help no one. Getting into a management role is a big leap of faith. New managers need to trust their team members.
Smart managers will always work towards ensuring that their team members know what is expected out of them. They will define acceptance criteria for the work to be done and establish checks and balances to ensure that work progresses as per plan.
New managers are hesitant to ask for help, even when they find themselves in thoroughly unfamiliar territory. This invariably leads to a lot of stress. As these new managers internalise their stress, their focus becomes internal as well. They become insecure and self-focussed and cannot properly support their teams.
Inevitably, trust breaks down, staff members are alienated, and productivity suffers. The top management should be more vigilant in their observations and if required offer help even when unasked.
Organisations should try to imbibe in their new managers goals that are a blend of corporate and personal targets and give them time and experience to prove their worth. To get better at anything, one has to try, fail, reflect, regroup, and try again, until one succeeds.
When the new manager does fail, or realises that he or she is failing and seeks help, the top management must be prepared to work with the rookie to attain a higher level of performance.
Becoming a manager may be perceived as a thankless job. But with the right preparation and the right mindset it can be a fulfilling career option and a natural progression of an individual’s capabilities.
The feeling that one is an enabler of others in one’s team can be a great experience. This feeling can uplift a new manager to accomplish tasks he/she thought he/she could never do. And thus can begin a life-long affair of a rookie manager towards a fulfilling climb up the corporate ladder.
An HR manager should pay attention to the values and cultural aspects of his organisation.

HR managers need to develop the following aspects:
Respect the individual by respecting his time
Our respect for each other is indicated by the respect we show for each other’s time. The HRD manager has to learn to respect each individual and the contributions that each individual can make to the organisation. The following analysis may indicate the importance of time.
Promote trust by being trustworthy
Ours is a relationship-oriented culture. We like to please each other and prefer not to offend the other person on his face. However, we do not hesitate to speak ill of the other person behind him. It is difficult to be forthright and straightforward. We are insecure and afraid of hurting the other person in front of him, but do not hesitate speaking against him to others. We maintain two faces. I have begun to believe that this has become our culture. As a result most of us seem to have two faces: what we mean or what we think privately and what we say publicly is different, similarly what we promise to do and what we attempt to do are also different.
As we grow, we seem to discover more and more of these differences and tend to become less trusting of others. When we do not trust others, we also become less trustworthy. If others can be so unreliable why not me for a change? Why should I be the one to sacrifice my own convenience? This attitude sets in and as you grow older, you tend to learn from the low trustworthiness of others and become less trustworthy yourself.
To get over this in others countries, people are substituted by technology and systems. You cannot enter the railway station unless you have the right kind of ticket. The machine decides whether you have the right ticket or not.
If we respect each other, the next important thing we need to do is to create a culture of trust. The only way we can do this is by becoming more and more trustworthy. We should not make promises that we are not able to keep and when we make a promise, we should keep it up at any cost. The HRD manager should make efforts to create a trustworthy and trusting culture. This should become an important HRD agenda for organisation. If we have to change the society, it could begin in an organisation first and begin in HR departments even earlier.
Continuous introspection
Introspect continuously about yourself and the roles you are performing and undertake self-renewal exercises at both individual and group levels.
Our self-perception and perceptions of others may not be the same. Introspection is a good tool to move our perceptions closer to those of others. When we introspect we should ask ourselves the question, “Why have I behaved the way I have behaved?” Such self-examination is the first step for growth. It leads to discovery and lays the foundation for the future. Self-examination could also be a painful process. No change is possible in the directions suggested above without introspection. It is the introspection which will put us in touch with our weaknesses and help us improve. It is introspection that helps us understand others better, as most others are also like us.
While as individuals we should introspect, as teams we need to conduct periodic renewal exercises and take the help of outsiders to facilitate this process. Organisational and team renewal exercises are building blocks for the sustained development of organisations and groups.
Learn from an external agent
Learn from your neighbours by using them as sounding boards for change and reflection. Such introspection can be tremendously facilitated if we can take the help of an external agent. The external agent could be a consultant, a fellow HRD professional, a line manager or even someone who is not connected with your field. When the National HRD Network was started, one of the intentions was to facilitate networking among HRD professionals so that they can learn from each other. We have not yet been able to fully establish the culture of HRD managers serving as consultants to each other.

We seem to think, only successful HRD managers make good consultants. I believe that those who have attempted it, however unsuccessfully, may make good consultants. They can at least put us in touch with the realities and complexity of problems involved in the change.

It is high time that our organisations learned to provide professional leave for every HRD manager to enable him work as a consultant for another organisation. If there is fear of helping a competitor, the HRD manager could be spared for compatible or sister organisations. It is worthwhile, even if they can be spared to work with an NGO or an educational institution. It will rejuvenate the HRD manager and at the same time, may do some good to the client organisation where the HRD manager spends some time.
Attention to culture and values
An HR manager should pay attention to the values and cultural aspects of the organisation. If there is one thing that can be learnt from successful companies and organisations, it is the attention they pay to the values and culture. HRD managers should get themselves trained in understanding the cultural dimensions of organisational life. They should prepare themselves professionally by going through appropriate professional development programmes. The doctoral Fellow programme offered by the Academy of HRD and XLRI as well as the IGNOU programme are some avenues available for such higher studies. Periodic surveys of organisational culture and using feedback to initiate change are some of the things that could be done.
Promote managerial effectiveness
Finally, an important question that HRD managers should ask themselves, is about their role in their organisation. In the past, their role focused on maintenance functions. As experience shows, it is a very narrow way of looking at this important function.
I consider the main role of HRD people is to create conditions for empowering people in organisations so that they can make things happen. Such an empowering role requires a constant examination of the factors that are motivating and facilitate managerial effectiveness. They should, therefore, keep examining structures, systems, styles, skills, technology, attitudes, and personalities, etc, that block effective managerial performance and plan, and undertake activities that remove such blocks. This is the single-most important task of the HRD manager. The HRD manager will be able to change himself into a transformational leader if he undertakes some of the things I have mentioned here. If these principles are followed, the HRD manager will not only enjoy his work and job but also take his organisation forward.
On the basis of this discussion, the current status of HRD managers can be said to be the following:
A large number of HRD managers are not professionally qualified to handle HR roles. They lack adequate professional preparation. Even the institutions that prepare HR managers are not doing the right things. Thc curricula is not right and preparation is inadequate.
HRD managers of today do very little human resource development and do a lot of personnel administration, including estate management and welfare activities.
A large part of their time is spent on recruitment, performance appraisals, compensation surveys, administration and management.
There is only a change in title and there is no real human resources development taking place.
There are few HRD managers who have made a mark and are role models. They seem to exhibit remarkable similarity. Their stories need to be written and they need to be emulated.
The characteristics they seem to share include their role-making behaviour rather than role-taking, their ability to see the big picture and integrate themselves and their intervention with the business they serve; their ability to develop others, their sensitivity to behavioural science, their willingness to shift roles, their networking competencies, their aptitude to learn and their cosmopolitan outlook.


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