Sunday, February 04, 2007

ERrrr...Dear HR,

I have a sincere request. And it is directed at the HR folks. Apologies if you’re a HR professional, and this post hurts you. But I want to really get this message out. And if you're a HR person, I'd obviously like to know your opinion.

Here's the message - Please try some creative and unconventional strategies/tactics to manage Employees. Please come out of the shells that you all seem to have got into. Please think different if not radically different. Please introspect on current HR practices and what’s wrong with them. Start afresh. Try and make a true connection with the employees. Forget about pleasing the management for some time. If required, spend a lot of time on how to convince the management about why it’s first important to have happy employees. Happy customers will be a natural consequence. The fact is that I am yet to encounter a HR experience that I might love. If I were a blunter person, I might even have said “I am yet to encounter a HR experience”. I only see HR professionals talking about compensation, performance appraisals, incentives, and attrition in a conventional and stoic manner. I see them not being able to wield their wares when with business managers. Perhaps, to be fair to HR departments, in quite a few cases, this is so because they have the responsibility but not the authority. Nevertheless, I see quite a few of them just enjoying the powers of being a HR person in terms of their roles in the process of compensation finalization. Anyways, for the genuine professionals, it may boil down to whether they are able to make a convincing business case for employee satisfaction (in practice, not in theory) and thereafter make it happen. How many organizations you know think afresh when it comes to HR….and at least try a pilot project based on such an idea? How many at least take that one chance and risk failure as much as they may hope for equally unprecedented success? Screech. Stop.

Yeah. All that was empty talk leading to nowhere. So, let’s look at what may be done in reality lest you brush me off as a good-for-nothing cribber. Let’s take some of the key areas as mentioned in PCMM and think of something nice and unconventional to do in each of those….a couple of these maybe crazy-sounding but nothing ventured, nothing gained is something we’ll have to remember. And anyways, if you know me, you know I believe that being crazy is good at times.

- Compensation: What if it is not kept a secret like the way it is in today’s organizations? How about putting it out in the open and discussing it and coming up with a completely transparent way of calculating everyone’s salary? As a (mature) team? How about a process that involves people thrashing out everything in the open and then going back assured that there are no secrets and not imagining that his colleague is getting much more than what he deserves etc. Hmm?

- Performance Appraisal: What if performance appraisals are removed altogether and revamped bit by bit to make them effective and genuine? How about appraisals not being done just by the manager but by a team of people from various levels. What about changing all the parameters from individually oriented ones to collaboration-oriented ones? What about giving employees a bonus if they’re self-critical and honest about their own performance? Eh?

- Attrition: How about HR and Management spending a lot of quality time on exit interviews? Well, that’s an ordinary thought. How about introducing a clever lifeline that employees can use the minute they feel like they should be looking for other options (moving out of the company, I mean)? Maybe an anonymous lifeline that will result in suggestions and assurance that address the employee’s concerns and changes her mind? If the employee wants to leave for reasons related to compensation, then the treatment may have to be different.

- Incentives: How about incentives that are a lot more thoughtful than they generally are? Maybe employees can keep a log of what they need/want etc and the organization decides on the incentive based on this employee-specific list. An accumulation of 10 such occasions could be translated into access to a great training programme, promotion etc

- Succession Planning: Apart from getting managers to choose who their successors ought to be, why not get people at junior levels to identify who they would like to be led by?

- Mentoring: Why not keep aside one component of senior people’s salary for performance as a mentor?

- Team Building - Internal Competition Vs Collaboration: Why not identify everything that causes internal competition and do something to kill it? Internal competition may help in the short-run but will lead to dirty politics and stupidity in the long-run. It is a simple case of conditioning. Humans stop working unless they are put in an environment that is competitive. Create an environment for collaboration and accept work on those terms and things will change.

- Work Environment: I don’t know if the HR is responsible for a turnaround in work environment policies but lots of companies seem to have got creative on this. Most of the ideas I am about to mention have already been implemented in employee-friendly companies. Anyways….kill the concept of exclusive offices and experience based privileges in the work environment unless it is a scare something that is essential for a particular role (eg: huge cupboards for those who handle a lot of documentation). Everybody is equal. Everybody plays her role. Bring in the pets. Arrange for some fauna as well. Allow music as long as everybody around agrees to it.

- Communication: Well, get away from those boring mails. Use some creative methods. Go get some advertising professionals like the marketing department does. Use your psychologists. Adopt storytelling.

- Personal Competency Development: Invest in some Personal KM tools! Show your employees that you are concerned for their own knowledge apart from the organizational knowledge management. Investing in personal KM will most likely pave the way for better organizational KM.

- Training: Allow employees to attend a training programme of their choice (high quality, expensive – assuming that the really good ones are bound to be effective, a topic of their choice rather than only those associated with the employee’s current job) at least once a year.

I shall stop here. Obviously, there is no dearth of people who can get more adventurous and creative with their ideas on how people processes and policies can be revamped. No, I still haven’t read some of those books that talk about companies that do a lot of so-called weird things to keep their employees delighted. But one related book I have read is Bob Sutton’s book on 11 ½ weird ideas….


Gautam Ghosh said...

Hi Nimmy, very true. Most of us HR people lose our imagination after joining the corporate world. And some of us, did not have it in the first place !

HR as a function is a paradoxical one and while one part of it stresses compliance and control and administrative-ness another part of it focusses on change and learning. The first part however is what is overwhelmingly in evidence for most employees. And that is sad !

Nimmy said...

That's a very frank response! :)
I guess things will change as HR professionals like you spread the word and business managers look away from just the bottom line... :)

Anshul said...


I agree with you. But in todays worly, most of us want to be survive the day instead of Performing. You are talking about HR, I would say this is applicable to all the fields. Organisations have a core value defined for Innovation. But the moment you try to be innovate, you will be labeled as a freak. Values and ethics are things to be destroyed the moment you find them, as it spoils the culture. The culture of corruption we have created. I see no difference in a Government Office and a Big MNC. Well in Govt. office you can still be autonomus and be secure about ur job.

I am a Quality Assurance professional. To me Quality is ensuring Customer(Internal/external) Satisfaction but more often than not, I am told to ensure that Process is followed and customer satisfaction is not your responsibility.

Nimmy said...


Thanks for the passionate perspective. I am with you. It is more of a general scenario than one restricted to HR. Maybe HR is more conspicuous - sadly for them - because they are responsible for employee satisfaction. :(