Second Career

cile blog - SecondCareer

Organizations are built brick by brick by the people that they on-board, develop and retain. 40% of the freshers hired from colleges leave their first jobs within the 1st year of starting work. They quickly get tired of what they do or their work environment. Many of them seek a different kind of work. Some of them face personal situations to leave their job and settle down in the new world that they embrace. A second career awaits them all!

Why Second Career?

Often choices about our career are made just because there is a hero or an idol who took that path to success. Many a times, the concerned individual has a limited knowledge about the possibilities and hence, leaves the choices to the others who are supposedly better at doing it. Family, individual choices and individual’s abilities and attitude play an important role in this critical step of one’s life.

One must invest energies and efforts in introspecting and seeking feedback from the significant others to understand one’s areas of strengths, aptitude and natural instincts. There are psychometric tools available to assess one’s personality traits, inherent strengths and so on. One’s current occupation might not be in sync with one’s abilities and personality traits. So, it is fair that one shifts into something that can leverage one’s strengths better and help one flourish as an individual.

Engineers move to finance, IT professionals move to politics, bureaucrats move to medicine, accountants move to business, HR professionals take up career in IT, Salespeople to music and so on. Choice of occupation as a family tradition is slowly getting obsolete. These transitions are drastic, but not impulsive. They are normally well-thought and could be a result of multitude of factors: could be a loud cry of the heart, wear and tear due to the mundaneness of a certain kind of work, rising demand of a certain kind of skill, lack of stimulation offered by the current job or just a window of opportunity to fulfil a dream!

Our times are dynamic and uncertain. A skill which is in demand today might go out of reckoning in the next 5 years. So, a choice made today might not be in good stead 5 years from now. So, one has to be flexible about the choices that one makes rather than looking at the career choice as a line engraved in stone. Second careers and third careers are likely to be the order of the day, as we go forward!

The first few years in the first job

Millennials are impatient; some say that they are well-informed and want quick gratification. These could be word-play, the fact is that they tend to look for favourable outcomes rather quickly compared to the generation born a decade or two ago.

Demands of industry have been changing so fast that our education system has not been able to keep pace. Students seeking excellence have to supplement their studies in mainstream institutes of education with specialised courses. Someone joining as a salesperson has limited skills in selling unless he or she has taken special courses, carried out extra-curricular assignments involving sales. An accountant is not ready to start real work right from the first month because the knowledge is swallow and inadequate.

Businesses are competing globally and are in a hurry for quick results. So, they need the fresh hire to get into the day-to-day business quickly. However, given the reality of our education system, they are not ready for the show and hence are given less significant tasks. Millennials looking for quick results ad recognition are disenchanted with the experience. Work-related stress plays a vicious role in work life. The need to do something else starts raising its head slowly.

It is important to recognize the triad of business context, competency and realistic expectation before one takes the plunge into a second career.

How to go about it?

There are several triggers that spur one to walk away from the current job. They could be related to the work, the environment, the boss or situations at home. However, once one walks out impulsively, it is normally a one-way route. So, one has to be rational rather than passionate about dropping the ball.

Financial resources are another important factor that need to be tied up well before one jumps into the unknown world of second career. Grass is greener on the other side. So, it is easy to be misled by the inner-calling, enthusiasm and passion for the new possibilities.

There are many who are risk-averse and fear the unknown. Nobody knows the future. The current job could be unimaginably transient and hence, certain amount of risk has to be embraced. It is important to evaluate one’s own strengths, determine areas of interest, believe in oneself, study all possibilities and take the plunge!


Equal Pay for Equal Work



Constitution of India as well as ILO (International Labour Organization) are clear about human dignity and fairness in rewarding workers. In spite of all these provisions, various studies have shown that there is a gender pay gap. Women workers tend to earn less than their men counterparts in many industry sectors. The phenomenon is pronounced clearly in industries such as textile, construction, entertainment and agriculture. Women’s day celebration has become a lot more wide-spread, yet the basic principle of fair reward and human dignity continue to be global issues.

Our belief system has to be revamped first

It is easy to say that equal pay has to be implemented. However, it is not possible to apply the principle on the ground because the business owners and senior managers do not believe that women and men can produce equal output. Many a times, they do not have a clear measurement system, rather they go by their mental measures. Further, they believe that a woman is weaker than a man and has many limitations that disables her to produce an output same as a man. These deeply-seated beliefs come on the way of implementation of equal pay for equal work.

If we have to eliminate the gender pay gap, we have to change this belief and make them accept the fact that a woman can produce the same output as a man in the same role.

Demand-Supply issue

Women by their physical being, need breaks from work for maternity and baby-care. Many a times, they share a large share of the responsibilities at home such as elder care, keeping the home tidy, cooking and so on. Thus, they face challenges to balance their time and focus between work and family. Workplaces which can find viable alternatives in staffing themselves will have less demand for employing women. Given the sluggish demand for women workers, it is likely that the principle of equal pay gets compromised. Just economics!

A large part of our population is still below the poverty line in spite of several well-meaning measures taken by the Government. There is a supply of blue collar workers from these families. Sometimes, there are women who are trying hard to get back to work after a hiatus. More often than not, these women are well-qualified and have relevant experience. Still, it is not easy for them to find meaningful work. In all these cases, they are willing to settle for a pay which might be lesser than the fair pay. Again, this is just economics of short-term gains.

Many small enterprises find it expensive in the short term to provide the statutory benefits to women such as paid leaves on maternity. So, they tend to mitigate the risk of such payments by paying lesser to women. Effective social security programmes can take away this responsibility from employers and hence, make it a level playing field for employment for any gender.

Measure Work

Many employers think that women produce lesser than their men counterparts. This is male chauvinistic thinking. There are many cases where women produce higher than men. Industry sectors such as manufacturing, assembly shops, electronic and electrical products, luxury goods, consumer products, education, science which employed only men just a few decades ago have increasing number of women working there. Old norms have to change if we can quantify work and measure them. Employers must find ways of doing this. They may be surprised to find many men working there might be less productive than the women. It could be a paradigm shift in their thinking.

Pay must be a reflection of the work output delivered now and the potential delivery in future. It cannot be a reflection of one’s gender, faith, whims and fancies.


Evolving Interview Strategies

ciel blog - interview strategies

Technology has been disrupting a number of things in our day to day lives including each day at work. Cloud technologies, mobility, social platforms, big data and artificial intelligence have transformed many activities in HR function of an organization, right from the way talent is attracted, and assessed to the way it is developed and retained. Behaviours and habits of employees have changed significantly over time. Hence, employer organizations are evolving their practices to adapt to these developments around us.

Let us focus on one cog in the wheel – interviews. This is one of the most commonly used tools to assess talent while recruiting for a role. Traditionally, organizations held face to face discussion with a potential hire to check if the person has the competency, attitude and interest to do the job, has adequate depth of experience and demonstrates alignment with organizational values. We know, this is a herculean task to assess all of these in an interview. Interviewers need to be experienced and competent to carry out such an assessment. Even if they are, research shows that reliability of interview as a tool of assessment is less than 35%. Yet organizations follow this as the common practice. Needless to say, with the advent of new technologies and changing norms in our society, we should introduce new methods.

Multi-Stage Assessment

Talent is a competitive advantage for any organization. It is extremely critical that an organization must choose the best and not settle for anything which is lesser. We have now access to a range of assessment tools that can reduce human bias, use analytics to increase reliability of the findings and are easy to administer.

In our current times, instantaneity is a virtue. Assessment methods which give a report immediately after the session are a great way to attract candidates to take up the challenge. IT industry and some Government programmes have started using hackathons, codefests or similar such sprint-like events which bring out the best in people working in a competitive game-like environment. However, all interviews do not have to be in a sprint-like environment. The strategy is to deploy a multi-stage process, each focusing on evaluation of a few aspects in adequate detail.

Instantaneous results and preferably a detailed feedback of the interview process are attractive to the aspirants. Considering the logistics of travel and busy schedule that each of us endure, we have to find technology to make such a multi-stage process a reality.

Leverage Technology

Video Interviews allow a candidate to take an interview at his or her convenience and Interviewers can evaluate the responses when they are free. There is no need to sync-up the schedule of both for this method of assessment which can be very efficient for screening applicants. This is very useful for recruiting junior level roles in an organization where the number of applicants for a job could be 20x of the number of open roles to fill.

Online mobile-based tests, case studies, hackathons, gamified assessment tests, analysis of simulated cases, virtual reality based interviews are new tools that are making recruitment easy to administer and test multiple parameters at the same time. Traditional methods of interviewing have to be preceded by some of these tech-based interventions. The organization will strengthen its employer brand and pick up candidates who are more likely to be successful.

Build a Roadmap and Execute

It is easy to say that technology tools and multi-stage assessment methods have to be deployed. However, it is very hard to put them into practice. Several organizations have not yet brought this onto their anvil, let alone planning and execution. It is a missed opportunity unless we bring this into action. When the leadership team is committed to the cause of boosting employer brand and making the selection process more reliable, planning can be kicked off.

The first step will be to list down the evaluation parameters, agree on a commonly agreed benchmark for evaluation and translate them into objective measures. The next step will be to design a battery of tests such that they are fit for the purpose and add value to the potential candidate as well as the employer organization. The choice of tests come next, keeping in mind the ease of administering them and the acceptance of the potential candidate. A lot of work, exciting and value-adding!



Expansion of Gig Economy

ciel blog - expanding gig-workers

Companies are looking for increasing flexibility in their staffing plans as revenue cycles are subject to greater volatility. Companies are building flexible plans to acquire talent by employing contract workers, freelancers, contingent workers and so on. Recent studies have shown that 150 million people are freelancing or delivering their individual gigs in North America and Western Europe. That is a substantial number!

What drives this economy?

Many millennials and some experienced professionals are making a conscious choice to walk a new path. They want to be their own boss, break free from the routine of a work life, live life on their own terms and follow their passion the way they want to pursue. These people are legal professionals, coaches, trainers, artistes, teachers, doctors, chefs, designers, architects, marketers, secretarial and admin assistants and similar such professionals. They are experts in their own field of work, want to explore new dimensions of their expertise by taking up a variety of assignments.

Sure enough, such gig-work creates uncertainty in their incomes. Sometimes, their work schedules get erratic and they have to put up with those. However, they are happy to walk this path when they find the benefits of gig-work such as the independence, liberty and the potential to discover the unexplored are bigger than the risk of inconsistent incomes.

At the same time, as global economy is growing and developing further, we find businesses shifting their workforce blend towards temporary jobs, fixed time work and freelancers. We will surely find increasing number of people willing to be gig workers.

How can an organization use gig workers?

In India, we have just 10% of our labour pool employed in the formal sector jobs and a huge number of workers are freelancing. There is a huge gig economy here. We find millions of workers in blue collar jobs working on daily wages or freelancers. We also find an increasing number of people in a range of specialised jobs such as teachers, doctors, lawyers, IT consultants and Finance managers working on fixed time basis for companies.

While the trend is there, our organizations are yet to get their workforce strategy right. We need to have clarity on the kind of work that will be carried out by an independent contractor, how such a person will be selected, what kind of remuneration has to be paid, how to protect the company’s proprietary information and so on. Similarly their workforce strategy needs to be clear about the kind of work to outsource, kind of work to be done by outsourced employees, methods of engaging and managing such employees.

Lack of a coherent strategy will result in a bunch of ad-hoc actions which are unlikely to be cost-efficient and delivering adequate value. Moreover, it could potentially compromise the long-term sustainability of the firm. It is critical that the workforce planning is done well, appropriate processes are used and the right partners are leveraged.

How could a professional deal with the realm of gig economy?

Gig workers are valued when they bring the right combination of capability and attitude to the table. While gig-working is interesting, offbeat and fashionable for some, the charm might die out soon if one is not ready for it. Sometimes, it could be depressing due to the lack of social anchors that a full-time employee or a contract worker experiences in an organization. Gig workers have to be ready to work independently in an isolated environment.

One needs to be clear about the inner calling and its connection with a larger purpose. This is the most crucial step in taking up gig-working. Else, one should get back to doing full-time work or contractual work in a routine job.

Once the decision is made, one has to be in the right places to pursue one’s passion, build one’s portfolio and associate with like-minded people to be a part of the eco system. Since gig-working is still in its nascent stage, it is important to play an active role in the ecosystem to succeed in the gig economy.



Celebrating Women as Leaders

ciel blog - Diversity

Glass ceiling for women is often talked about. It was used first in 1978 by Marilyn Loden in a panel discussion to explain how women have to overcome many challenges to rise to the top of an organization. It has been forty years and we have had many stellar women leaders not only leading organizations, local to global but also nations and transforming human lives. 23% of all national parliamentarians are women as of June 2016 as per UN Women. 70 countries in the world have had a female leader, says Pew Research Center. We have made progress; is this enough?

Huffington Post article in December 2017 shows, only 23 companies out of Fortune 500 and S&P 500 have female CEOs. Deloitte says, 12.4% of board seats in India are filled by women, not too far behind the global average which is 15%. Do these numbers indicate a satisfying development or a cause of worry?

Changing milieu points to a transformation in our homes

Nature’s creation of men and women remains unchanged. Though there is a rise of surrogacy, it is the women who have to bear children. However, if we look a bit deeper into our family structures and norms, there are changes visible all over. Economies of India and China have been growing fast. We see rapid urbanization, reducing family sizes, increasing mobility among families across cities, greater focus on education and employment. Naturally, the role of the woman in a family has undergone big changes.

Traditionally women in the family had the responsibility of child rearing, household chores, elder care, cooking, tidying the home and so on. We see these responsibilities increasingly being shared by the man and the woman in the family. Financial decisions in a family are being jointly made. Most activities which were made largely by the male members are now being discussed and the responsibilities are being shared. Voice of the woman in a family is significant now. Many women are gainfully employed and are contributing to the family’s income significantly. Girl children in most of our city-dwelling families receive equal importance as boys in all facets of life. Women have emerged clearly as leaders, often taller than the man in the family. The young girls in our cities are no less in any respect than the young boys. They claim their space in the society as much as the boys and join the workforce as an equal to the boys. This is encouraging. Where is the glass ceiling in this changing milieu?

Is woman empowerment just a fad now?

The issue is far from being over. City-dwellers in India have changed a lot, but they constitute a small percentage of the population. Moreover, there is still a big part of the city-population who is way behind the others as far as the shift in mentality is concerned. Many of these families in our cities and an overwhelming number of our families living outside the cities continue to follow the old traditions.

In many of these families, women go to work. But, the work they do is economically less rewarding than the work men do. Sometimes, they consciously decide to take up such work because they have inadequate support systems for smooth functioning of their homes. In some cases, traditional norms come to the fore where the woman has to discharge certain duties at home and hence, she chooses jobs which are less demanding on her schedules.

They tend to work at their own homes and at the same time, go out to work and contribute to their family income. In this situation, the work that women do is rarely about fulfilling their ambitions and actualising their dreams. So, we are far away from equality between men and women in this socio-economic class of our country. Naturally the girl child in these homes is less likely to craft a future which is lofty and ambitious. We never know when we are nipping a dream in its bud and disabling someone to dream. We need action here!

What can organizations do?

Companies need to accept the fact that a woman leader can do as good a job as a man. Deloitte report of 2017 tells us that gender diversity doubles when the top leader is a woman. This shows, the problem is quite deep-rooted. We have to have the mind-set of equality as far as ability of man and woman is concerned for a leadership role. Also this is about how we value diversity. This mind-set develops in a child when he or she grows up at our home and in the school. It is less likely to develop while he or she is an adult. Companies have a social responsibility to build this mind-set among children at school.

Secondly, we need to be sure why we celebrate Woman’s Day at work. If it is to celebrate diversity, and thank the women in our lives, we must celebrate this at our homes first than at the workplace. Companies can encourage their employees to celebrate diversity at their homes.

Many women drop off the journey in their careers because of commitments at home and the lack of support mechanisms. They find it difficult to get back to work when they are back on their feet again to give wings to their dreams. Companies should encourage women to restart their journey.

Last but not the least, it is important to understand that each job calls for certain skills and capabilities. We must not stereotype a job with a gender. We see, most nurses are women and most workers in a construction site are men. This does not mean that we develop a prejudice that certain jobs cannot be performed by a certain gender. Rather we should say, every person has a unique ability which will flourish in the right work and environment. This is a critical conversation that the leaders in a company must have.


Care about Candidate Experience?

ciel blog - candidate experience

Organizations focus on customer experience and the moment of truth. They invest substantially to deliver superior experience to a customer – prospective as well as existing. It is the employees of the organization who make the difference right from the stage of design to delivery of the product or the service. Attracting the right-fit employees is the first challenge and then, keeping them motivated for a long time is the next challenge. That brings us to the topic of Employer Brand. The stronger this brand is, the easier and economical it is, to attract and retain talent. Like reputation and credibility, employer brand takes time to build. Top leaders of the organization wrestle with all long-term issues and hence, this is one such topic that ought to find time in the Board room. Today, it is yet to find a place on the table because not enough has been done to measure the lost opportunity and the hidden treasure.

Are we attracting the best?

Place an advertisement for an open job and check the response. In most parts of India across sectors, we find many applications. But, are they the best that we can get? More often than not, the best talent doesn’t come forward to apply for a job unless you or the hiring manager is a talent magnet.

Organizations have hiring plans and they have to fill the vacant roles within a certain period of time. The recruiters within the company and the agency partners muster all energies to get people on board. The question remains if we are getting the best. Is the hiring engine well-tuned to pick the best?

One of the recent works of research, CIELWorks 2018 shows that employer brand is the 2nd most important challenge before the recruiters while attracting talent. Given the growth of an economy, talent is the competitive advantage that can potentially differentiate the performance of an organization from another. So, the best efforts must be done to attract the best!

Do your top employees receive many headhunting calls? Do you find a very few people in your industry to be better than your employees? Do your customers offer great reviews about your employees? If it’s YES all the way, you are doing well!

Devil lies in the details

Like we are concerned about the moments of truth with our customers, we need to be thinking of the moments of truth with the candidates. Their journey starts right from the time someone speaks or emails them about an opportunity. The candidate does some background work before he or she decides to pursue the opportunity. If it is a top talent, one is likely to deep-dive to understand more about the opportunity. The information about our organization, our top leaders, our plans, our ex-employees, vendors, clients and current employees are all available on the internet. The conversations that we are having with the others and vice versa leave behind trails which are moments of truth for a potential hire. Do we know if they are reflective of who we are? If not, do we do anything about it?

Does the hiring manager take the interest to brief the recruiters who are going to look for candidates? If the recruiters are going to the talent market with a generic job description, we cannot attract the best. Neither can we provide a realistic idea of who we are, what the job is and how the career is likely to shape. Job description document is something created by the HR team sometime in the past to comply with some requirements. That doesn’t describe fully what the line manager is looking for. Most organizations make the mistake of sending out a sample job description to many recruiting agencies. As a result, recruiters play the game of ‘fastest finger first‘ to churn out a few candidates. Naturally, candidates get half-baked or incomplete information about the opportunity. The best-fit might decline it and the organization makes a compromise hire!

Similarly, the way a candidate is received, interacted with, communicated and engaged are all moments of truth. They determine what he or she is going to speak about us in his or her circle. Given the power of social media, the experience gets amplified fast.

These minor details determine the quality of candidates we attract not only today but also in the future. Do we really care about these details of how a vacancy in our organization gets communicated and a candidate is engaged with?

Drive it right from the very top

Perception about an organization’s culture, norms and future prospects sum up its employer brand. It takes time to build. Hence, one needs a long-term approach to define what this employer brand is and what actions must be taken to realize its full potential.

While talking about employer branding, often experts talk about technology and standardised methods such as Application Tracking System, Website, Social Media presence, asynchronous video interviews, rewards for internal referral, Apps to engage with candidates and training recruiters. While these are useful and need to be done, the main hurdle to overcome is to treat this subject as a long-term strategic agenda and paying attention to it as much a strategic topic deserves.



Showing Emotions at work

ciel blog - emotions at work

Workplaces are microcosms of our society. Humans work there and they are not machines. It is natural that we will bring our emotions while working. It is unfair to expect that employees will bring with them the positive emotions such as love, happiness, high spirits, respectfulness, patience, pride, modesty and so on. Similarly, it is not realistic to expect that employees will leave behind the negative emotions such as anger, sadness, contempt, disgust, anxiety, fear and many such. As a student in school or college, we learn about the norms in the society and a workplace. Should we show emotions or not? If we show them, what are the do’s and don’ts?

Acceptance of self and everything around

Organizations study employee satisfaction and tend to do a few things to win over the hearts of their employees. There are various theories explaining the factors to enhance employee satisfaction and engagement. One of these theories attracts me – help the employee to be successful; we will see a direct impact on employee satisfaction and company’s financials. If we go by this theory, we have to focus on helping each employee find success.

The first and foremost thing to success is to accept the person with all his strengths and limitations. Often we do not accept our environment in its totality. We have strong likes and dislikes about various aspects of our environment; we rue over the shortcomings. Most often, our remorse takes us nowhere. Moreover, we hold ourselves in a surreal way rather than accepting our own self as a mosaic of positives and negatives.

The root causes behind fear, insecurities, hatred, anger and so on lie in lack of acceptance. Once we sort this out in our mind, life becomes easy, stress-free and enjoyable. The paradigm changes from ‘what I do not have’ to ‘what I have’.

Organizations and leaders must invest their energies on building the culture of acceptance of each other and acceptance of factors beyond one’s control. This makes the ride smooth and joyful because people look at the bright side of things and are motivated to make the most out of a given situation. The people who are uncomfortable with the environment of acceptance will leave for good. Such an environment of acceptance takes away fear and various such insecurities; thus, people show positive emotions such as ambitiousness, drive, joy and concern for others. These emotions are welcome at work!

There is a bad day. Recognize it!

All of us do have a bad day. Things do not go right. Client is not happy with our work, a colleague falls sick and a pile of his work has landed on your desk, people need you at home urgently to attend to something serious, your boss is in a bad mood and gets angry with you seeking permission to leave early, your car breaks down, you lose your mobile phone and wallet somewhere.

People will advise you to calm down, take a few deep breaths, pray God, be objective, not be judgemental, not blame it on stars of the day, not to be reactive and so on.

It’s okay to tell people that you are having a bad day and seek their understanding. It doesn’t make sense to fake a smile, put up a brave face and prove to the others that you are a strong human. It doesn’t help anyone; rather it wears us down and builds a lot of tension and stress which are completely avoidable!

Adapt and Communicate

Every place has its own norm and it changes over a period of time. The way our parliamentarians behave inside the parliament these days is very different from the way they did 3-4 decades ago. The norms of expressing oneself have been changing. Hence, it is important that we learn the norms fast and follow them.

Communicating one’s feelings, positive or negative, in an appropriate manner lightens the burden and sets one free to do one’s routine. It is a good idea to confide in someone trustworthy if you are not sure how to deal with the emotions running through the body and mind.

Finally, there is no reason why you should torture yourself bearing the burden of pent-up feelings and hurt. In spite of one’s best attempts, if you are unable to let them go and keep your sight on a better and brighter tomorrow, there is no point bearing the pain. Be authentic and move on!