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A carefree person, who can laugh at him self and see the lighter side of life,with a smile on his face, will make an excellent HR MANAGER.
The HR Factor
The Human Resources (HR) department should become part of the management team and take responsibility for the overall competitiveness and performance of a company - not just the feel good factor. HR Professionals should recognize that people are the critical resource in an organization.
In an era of rightsizing and pink slips, the role of the Human Resources (HR) department has become more important than ever. Unfortunately, the fact that human capital is of paramount importance in an organization is something most management's readily accept - but rarely do anything about.
"Every company admits that people are the most important resource. From saying it to believing it is a big jump. To believe it takes courage, and companies have to develop that courage," says Sumantra Ghoshal, Robert P Bauman professor of strategic leadership, London Business School.
According to him, "The most important challenge for HR professionals today is to recognize that money is not the critical resource, it is people. In a competitive economy that's the reality."
But the problem in countries like India is that a lot of HR managers still do not believe that they manage the most critical resource - i.e., people. "HR managers in India have not themselves accepted this role. The real problem with HR managers lies in building self-confidence and in recognizing this role for themselves. Only if HR managers themselves believe in this, will everyone else believe in it," says Ghoshal.
So what does it take to instill that self-belief among HR managers? Ghoshal feels that people have evolved from being factors of production - when the only issue was in managing costs and HR was only an operational job. "Today, organizations have evolved when people are strategic resources. The moment you take people as key strategic resources, the role of HR evolves and even the operational issues of HR like recruitment, training and retention play a different role."
He adds that another trend is emerging in companies: People are being treated as volunteer investors. Like shareholders who invest money in the company and expect good returns and growth in the capital, people - particularly talented people - invest human capital in the company and expect return and growth. According to Ghoshal, the role of HR changes completely in this situation. "If you treat people as a key strategic resource within the company, then the company owns people, the company develops people.
But when you look at people as volunteer investors, people own their careers and the company supports them to become the best they can be."
"There is an evolution happening in HR roles and it is the HR managers' mandate to make this clear and help the company and management understand this. Only then will the practices follow. The first step is self-belief and then convincing the management about it. That is the biggest challenge," he adds.
Globally, are HR managers matching up to this challenge? "The problem is not confined to India - it's all over the world," says Ghoshal. "For a long time, HR has been a dumping ground in companies. If you did not do well here, there and everywhere you went to HR. That's the way HR has been treated. Now to nurture talent in the company, you need an outstanding quality of HR professionals.
So the first step for companies is to start with replacing incompetent HR personnel with highest quality managers in HR. If you do not have quality people, you cannot expect HR to play that role well. It starts with the CEO's conviction and then the right HR personnel join you. It is a two-way process."
Today, job security is a concern for every employee. So what role can HR professionals play when the employees are apprehensive? "One problem with HR managers is when they assume that their role is to be the protector of the feel-good factor," says Ghoshal. Instead HR managers should realize that their role is to make the enterprise competitive by attracting, developing, motivating and retaining the best talent. "Every gardener knows that if you have to maintain a good garden, you need to do some pruning. And actually that pruning is an essential part of the HR role," says Ghoshal.
For instance, GE has the vitality index to rank its employees. The top 25 percent employees qualify for stock options and the bottom is constantly weeded out. "Weeding out of non-performers is an integral part of the HR function. HR professionals have to understand that under-performance is not because the employee is bad. It is because the person-company fit is not right," says Ghoshal.
Ghoshal compares employees to a flower bed. He says, "Like flowers, some employees blossom and others have to be cut out. The sooner HR professionals move away from being the feel-good factor, to taking the interest of employees and helping them develop, its good for the organization." This means that if the business demands that some employees have to leave, then HR managers have to manage that process.
But often such weeding out action is misunderstood. So how do you handle this? According to Ghoshal, companies have to ensure that they give the best possible separation terms to their employees. "If the company is competitive, then the jobs will be stable. In a competitive economy no manager can guarantee employment, only the market can," he says.
And if any company has to go for a voluntary separation scheme, the terms have to be as good as the company can afford. Further, the company has to ensure that "the landing of the employees who are leaving the organization is as soft as it can be and it must also protect the dignity of these employees".
The advantage that the company initiating such measures gets will be dual. First, it makes sure that the company does not get any bad publicity and then, it will also keep up the morale of those employees who are staying in the company. Ghoshal warns that HR managers projecting a helpless face in such circumstances could be the worst thing that could happen.
Ghoshal explains: "Happy employees perform well and to that extent HR is responsible for joy and happiness. But this notion that any difficult action can be justified as a bad management decision by HR managers is the process by which HR delegitimizes itself, vis-a-vis the top management process. By doing so HR becomes peripheral in terms of the operational role, rather than playing a true strategic role in transforming the enterprise."
One of the most dramatic - also one of the earliest -- examples among companies who managed the process of rightsizing well, is that of GE Corporation. Between 1981-1986 the US-headquartered General Electric let 130,000 employees go. That's when its CEO Jack Welch got the reputation of "Neutron" Jack. What GE did was to create good terms for the people who left, and arranging for their outplacement services. "All of those were absolutely the best in class," says Ghoshal.
Another example is of the German airline, Lufthansa. In 1991 the airline had to rightsize because it was going bankrupt. Apart from creating good terms for the people who left, the airline also created a talent pool, and used for some of its employees who were leaving as consultants.
From historically playing a secondary role, HR has changed a lot. For instance, companies like Microsoft are going out of their way to attract people. Microsoft has 300 people who monitor software engineers all over the world and stay in touch with them. The underlying idea is, when these software engineers look for a change of job, the first place they would call is the Microsoft HR acquaintance.
"Everybody says that people are the most important resource, but what they do is to choose the best from whoever applies for a job. That's not the job of an HR manager. Instead it's to monitor and point the best people and to develop them." Ghoshal stresses that only through consistent coaching, mentoring, feedback and retention will HR be able to create a bond between people and the company.
But Indian family-run companies have always been run on the principles of bonding between the company and the employees. How can bonding translate into competitiveness? "Bonding is aligning the individuals values beliefs of the company. Ultimately you don't want mercenaries as no great team is built out of mercenaries," says Ghoshal.
If a company believes that it can hire the best people with the best salaries, then such recruits are bound to leave with a better salary, which is not the way the company would like to see it happen.
He adds, "You have to create that strong affiliation within people in the company to ensure that people stay and understand that this is long-term. But this is not long-term against a guarantee, it is long-term against a constant mutual seduction and choice. The company believes that the employee is competitive and important. The employee feels that the company is wonderful and exciting and wants to be with the company."
To get mutual bonding, companies have to get a competitive, performance oriented culture, track good people and ensure that there is a very strong performance management system, where people know what they are doing and get a sense of enjoyment.
This ensures that those who a good job get the benefits. "In the name of equity, do not maintain a common way of looking at low and high performers in the same light. That's not a company that's a bureaucracy. At the same time ensure that there is a mutual attraction between the company and the employee," says Ghoshal.
Ghoshal has plenty of advice to offer young HR professionals. "Become a part of the management team and take responsibility for the overall competitiveness and performance of the company, not just the feel-good factor," he says. He also asks the HR executives to take the strategic task of how to track, attract, develop and retain the very best people by looking at best practices around the world.
"Become outside-oriented rather than internally-focused. Don't get bogged down by the operational aspects of the present. Instead pay attention to the transformational aspects of the future. That's the true role of HR. To be a partner of the top management in transforming the company for the future rather than maintaining the present co-operational tasks," concludes Ghoshal.
Creating a Culture of Appreciation
Avoid awards that set people apart from each other, such as programs for the top sales person. Only one person can win this award, so only a few will try. It also separates winners from losers. Instead, have employees aim at beating their own sales output from the previous month.
Let employees set their own goals, help them understand how it helps the team and company, and acknowledge their contribution.
Encourage employees to acknowledge others daily. Set up an informal network, like a newsletter or bulletin board where people can compliment their colleagues.
Give employees the opportunity during meetings to talk about what they have accomplished that week. In other words, let them brag about themselves. But don't make it mandatory; let employees speak only if they want to.
Recognize people for their strengths on more than specific projects or achievements. Recognize how each individual's strength contributes to the team as a whole.
Make every employee aware of other's strengths and give him or her a chance to learn from one another.
Reinforce the value of the work itself. Acknowledge how employees work contributes to the community and to their customers.
Celebrate the vision of where the company is going and how the employees are helping the company get there.
Continually recognize the achievements of the group as a whole.
Design incentives to award departments in which everyone is awarded for the group's accomplishments.
For everybody's review and feedback:
Key attributes of Managers
Responsible & accountable:
First let me try to explain the difference between responsibility and accountability. In simple terms it is as follows:
Accountability - The obligation to demonstrate and take responsibility for performance in light of agreed expectations.
The difference between responsibility and accountability is that responsibility is the obligation to act whereas accountability is the obligation to answer for an action.
A manager is
· Responsible for his actions
· Accountable for the results of his actions
· Accountable for his subordinate’s actions and results of that action
· Responsible to his subordinates for the actions of the management.
Balance competing goals and set priorities:
Example – A Manager for his department could have both cost reduction and quality improvement as two different goals. Sometimes these 2 goals are competing. Hence he has to see that one is not achieved by sacrificing the other. Both the goals are to be met for organizational benefit.
So he has to:
· Analyse the goal, the impact of that goal on the organizational well being and prioritise the goals in the right order.
· Identify the competing goals and set the method to achieve both without compromising each other.
· He has to analyse the goals of his subordinates and guide them to the right priority according to the organizational goals.
Must think analytical and theoretical:
Theoretical – You should know the theory. For example the statutory rules should be known as it is written in the book.
Analytical – Any situation has to analysed threadbare. Everything cannot be black and white. Hence using the analytical skills you have to bring out what is not apparent. Think analytically and help your subordinates. Faced with a problem at work, don’t look at the ‘obvious’ for reasons – think out of the box.
He has to:
· Mediate between his subordinates, between different departments
· Mediate between the top management and his subordinates
To mediate, he has to have the qualities of analytical thinking, theoretical knowledge, balance between conflicting interests and prioritise as per the organizational requirements.
Politician: The ‘worldrefernce.com dictionary states the meaning of a politician as “a schemer who tries to gain advantage in an organization in cunning ways”. But as a manager some qualities of a politician is required like:
· Not to give commitment as much as possible
· Talk very evasively without taking sides
Diplomat: A diplomat has to be diplomatic. The meanings of diplomatic are – tactful, suave, subtle, discreet etc. Of these the most applicable for managers is tactful and discreet.
· Should be tactful to handle difficult situations, difficult people
· Should be discreet while in discussions because there could be several matters which cannot be discussed openly.
The manager hence has to have some of the qualities of a ‘diplomat’.
Managers should be symbols (icon) of
· Clarity of thoughts
Make difficult decisions:
All decisions may not be palatable to everybody all the time. Somebody, sometime will be discontent. A Manager should have the courage, understanding and clarity to take difficult decisions which will be in the overall interest of the organization. The decision should be taken after due consideration of all related facts, discussions wherever necessary and after weighing all the pros and cons of the matter.
Michael Roberto, a Professor at Harvard Business School where he teaches General management says:
“There are 7 strategies when carefully studied and applied will enable Managers to take difficult decisions”. In his view, the 7 strategies are:
· Draw analogy (draw comparison) with the past when faced with a complex situation and figure out the lessons learnt from that past experience.
· Imitation – Draw experience from similar situations from other successful organisations (if feasible).
· Adopt ‘rule of thumb’ to simplify the complex situation.
· Reformulate – Analyse, dissect and reformulate the complex scenario into many small simpler scenarios.
· Refer to Experts – refer and take advise from experts in the particular field.
· Rigorous debate – conduct rigorous debate among colleagues (if feasible) before arriving at the decision.
· Experiment – Conduct small experiments and gather feedback, critique before reaching the final decision.
And after the decision is made, audit the decision making process, correct the process if necessary and learn lessons from the pitfalls faced.
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