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December 30, 2013

Diversity - HR Focus and Trends

Diversity continues to remain the Biggest Challenge and Focus for most organizations. So let’s begin with some common questions about Diversity -
What is Diversity? Is it being Politically Correct w.r.t. Gender? Is it having more women as employees, management or board? Is it affirmative action in Corporations?

In one word, diversity is about Pluralism – where more than one idea is accepted. Concept of pluralism (referred as Diversity herein after) is based on strong business logic focused at achieving business goals effectively. To take a leaf out of Jack Welch’s (former Chairman & CEO, General Electric) book,"It makes great business sense to have open and diverse culture because that allows you to look for ideas and talent from a much wider base”.

Unfortunately, like so many other great ideas and thoughts, Diversity has become a metric and number to be reported: So many women in leadership roles, X % of women in workforce, special privileges / policies for women, parenthood etc.

At the cost of sounding politically correct, (people who know me will vouch that being politically incorrect is my default status. Once a woman friend aptly articulated that nothing political is ever correct) I was impressed to hear news of Mary Barra (newly appointed CEO of GM) joining likes of Indira Nooyi, Meg Whitman, Virginia Marie Rometty, Ursula Burns and Merissa Meyers. Most of these admiring women leaders grew and succeeded before current trends of diversity interventions. Common theme would be that they contributed at significantly higher levels in their jobs. Leaders (mostly gentlemen) saw potential and supported an outstanding contributor for business reasons.

Challenge lies in understanding that Diversity is about Organizational Values and creating a value based strong foundation to foster multiplicity of ideas. People at all levels in organizations need to believe and practice Respect for individual, aligning to one solution/approach whilst knowing that there are more than one possible solution to any given situation.

These days everyone talks about having a diverse culture and open environment, how they respect and promote diverse candidates etc, but in reality as long as you are consciously segmenting people based on ethnicity, gender, age, background etc, organization hasn’t embraced the concept in its spirit. Diversity is being forced top down.

During my tenure as HR Manager at Genpact India, we had young women employees taking up smoking (which is uncommon in social environment) because they felt left out. They believed that lot of work gets done in “cozy smoking clubs” during breaks and to grow they need to play the part. Similarly, in each organization there are so many informal groups / sub-culture which put tremendous pressure on people to play the part. It makes impossible for diverse culture to prosper.

This demonstrates how just having great number (% of diverse groups) in work force coupled with great women oriented policies have nothing to do with Diversity or openness. HR and Leadership get comfortable by looking at numbers on reports and miss the whole point.

Point is about creating culture of inclusiveness. It’s not only claiming to be an Equal Opportunity Employer, but hiring people with right values and giving them confidence to be themselves. This is where HR and Leadership play facilitator and liberator. This can’t be done through sitting in meeting rooms and try to create plethora of policies and freebies but needs establishing one on one relationship of equals. Fact remains Organizations don’t make people great but great people make organizations great.

I am sure 2013 was a great year for all of you reading this blog and it brought its share of frustrations, turmoil and challenges. I pray and hope that you enter year 2014 with bigger dreams. May god give you and your loved ones strength and wisdom to fulfill your dreams.

Warm Regards,

December 18, 2013

CLMs : Career Limiting Moves

In our earlier blog we talked about Stop Doing List. An important part of building successful career is knowing what to do as well as being aware of what not to do.
In context of this article people are well qualified, have required skills and demonstrated capability to succeed.  Success and growth bring its own challenges. People lose their way and find themselves not achieving their goals. all extremes are excluded, people are capable leaders/managers for purpose of thoughts shared here.
Your first reaction, to this perspective maybe of denial. However, with little reflection you would realize, how often we all end up doing one or more of the following. Same holds true for our leaders, manager and coaches. They all are human too, however what separates them is their ability to reduce occurrences of these behaviors.
  1. Know Little, assume a lot and Do Nothing: Biggest hurdle to continuous growth comes when we stop learning and relying on facts. Confidence becomes over confidence. We stop following basics, start cutting corners, instead of following process rigor and gathering facts we are driven by assumptions. We stop taking ownership and acting. Remember ““Diligence is the mother of good luck.”
  2. Perennial Cribbers: There is nothing more frustrating for people than to deal with a perennial complainer and victim. Who are always there to blame everyone for their misery and failure as if entire world has ganged up against them. As we grow and succeed our expectation rise; even small failures are difficult to accept. We start imagining problems which don’t exist; falling into negativity trap. To quote Benjamin Franklin “Who had deceived thee so often as thyself?” We spend so much time worrying about other people hurting us, yet fail to comprehend the damage we inflict on ourselves. If you are using negative self-talk, lying to yourself or indulging in addictive behavior you are self-sabotaging. Life can dish up enough challenges without us adding to the mix. Be kind to yourself. Treat yourself like you would a best friend."
  3. Upward Delegation: In my experience as HR, I felt so helpless at times watching brilliant people getting into trap of making their Managers/Leadership work instead of focusing their energy to deliver more in order to get ahead. My favorite is time and energy spent by Executives/Secretaries/Assistants talking about lower value addition work being passed on to them by boss and implying that they should be doing it themselves. [After all its open culture and everyone is equal !!]. Forget about everything else, simply look at cost, would you rather have a person with 3x to 6x your salary do that so called lower end work? Does this make business sense? So stop complaining and get on with the Job, your job exists to make your boss more productive and effective. Same applies to people in technical / delivery or project teams where they feel that doing only high tech work is work and everything else is simply somebody else’s problem (read boss, project leader, customer, organization, HR and so on).
  4. Not delivering on commitments: This one needs no explaining. One has to deliver on commitments every time. We very often used this quote during my days @ GE, to drive home the message –“Yesterday’s headlines are today’s fish wrapping paper”.
  5. Making other look bad: Only way to success is through continuously deliver superior results. Anytime spent in making others look bad is going to come back and hurt you in more than one ways. Once I had this colleague, couple of his team members would, on purpose, produce less than acceptable results, undermine his authority and make him look bad in front of peers and superiors (by withholding critical information and spreading false statement/accusations). Because in their understanding collaboration meant their manager rectifying and completing their work. (Upward delegation, they were too qualified to produce a flawless database or write up). Without going into specifics, let’s look at outcome in any organization – surely Manager (remember  context, we have already excluded extremes) will have a tough time and will suffer. But anyone walking in the role, will dismantle team, even if they believe in your side of story, no one wants to take chance with their career. If, organization promotes one team member, (s)he will be aware of  other's mischief, in order to deliver.(s)he will dismantle team or introduce new members to balance power. Bottom-line, playing dirty politics isn’t going to help, it's a CLM, in more than one ways and impacting more than one career. Similarly, getting involved in gossip. bad mouthing organization, leaders and managers will take you nowhere; if you are so unhappy with people at work and aren’t inspired by leadership, simply move on. Half an hour spent in these activities means waste of 6-7% productive time a day!!
  6. Repeating mistakes/Silly mistakes: Sometimes, as we learn new and complex skills, we tend to start paying less attention to supposedly routine work. Resulting in repeating silly mistakes. To add fuel to fire people tend to have ‘so what’ attitude, because in their mind impact is so small and no heavens are going to fall. Look at situation from business leader’s perspective, you would realize that by spending time in reviewing/redoing your work organization is investing 3x-6x your cost, to make your contribution work. However kind and benevolent your Manager is (s)he can’t afford you, you simply have made yourself unaffordable in a competitive market place.
If you would have received an email, having words with scrambled characters except first and last character and were able to read them. Email, would have told you that you are in select 5% or so people in the world who can do this. Well something to cheer about isn’t it? But, other side of coin is that you might be prone to ignoring spelling mistakes, add impact of IT, Social media tools etc… your strength itself might be source of a threat. Moral of the Story - no matter what strength or success, you have to anticipate challenges and work on mitigating them.
We used to say at GE; to grow you need to look at each situation and think how person two levels above you (your manager’s manager) would act. I say, anticipate how your organization’s Customer would like you to work. That is the only way to avoid making CLMs. All of us may not be naturals at looking at big picture, so surround yourself with people who are able to share big picture and help you find your place in the Picture.

Signing off with a quote from Thomas Edison - " Success is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration".
Warm Regards,.