Is your Age just a number?

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A fifty year old salesman is looking for a change from his current job. He is a graduate and has been selling electrical appliances all his life. He understands the consumer preferences well; knows about the products thoroughly. He is skilled well to make a sale happen and has been meeting his targets. It should be easy for him to get a new job based on his proven track record, knowledge and expertise. Will the Top retailers hire him? Will the consumer durable industry welcome him with open arms to retail their products?

Age plays an important factor in recruiting decisions

Recruiters and employers alike, are prejudiced towards hiring a certain kind of people. They subconsciously choose people who match a set of criteria. Age is one such unspoken criterion that interviewers and assessors apply while deciding.

Two-thirds of our population are below the age of 35. Hence, a lot of managers in the mid to senior levels are in their youth. Given the social norms that we grow up with, most Indians are not comfortable to supervise someone who is senior to them by age. So, subconsciously they look for younger people to work in their teams. Age plays an important role in getting chosen for a job, not the skills alone.

And it is often believed that the younger people are energetic, dynamic, ambitious, quick-learners, tech-savvy and willing to adapt. Many people think that the older people are rigid, inflexible, slow, impatient and among the spent-force. Naturally, there is just a handful of jobs such as a trainer, a teacher, a singer, a chef where grey hair is valued.

No Law that prevents discrimination based on age

In the US, it is unlawful to enquire about the age of the applicant in an interview. In India, our constitution prevents discrimination based on caste, creed and religion. Age is not one of these. Hence, an employer can decide to use age as a criterion for their decisions of recruiting and retirement. Legally speaking, there is nothing wrong in using age as a filter. Organizations do look at the age of the applicants to judge their suitability with what the role demands. They tend to figure if the applicant will be able to cope with the stress, work schedule, challenges and demands of the role. This kind of judgement is not among the best HR practices. However, interviewers and assessors follow such methods most often than not.

Make way for the young

Many organizations in India are on a growth path. So, it is easy to promote someone into a bigger role, offer greater responsibilities at a higher salary. Hence, the ageing manager does not obstruct the individual growth of his or her direct reports, rather the experience and maturity of the senior are leveraged often in the organization. This sounds like a fairy tale. Does this happen routinely?

Certainly not! Workmen do not follow this kind of a growth path. Secondly, most organizations do not get on this dream run. Since our economy sees inflation, costs keep increasing each year. As someone ages in the same role, the cost goes up without a comparable increase in the impact. The only way an organization can deal with this situation is to rediscover new ways, transform itself and optimize its cost structure. So, the old guard has to make way for the young in order to optimize the costs and inject new thinking.

Age is not just a number. As long as it correlates with the impact delivered, it is hale and hearty.

 

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Can we create a gender neutral environment at workplaces In India?

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There have been debates around glass ceiling for women, inadequate participation of women in the Board rooms, inequality in pay, discrimination against women while recruiting and inadequate social infrastructure to support women at workplaces. These debates have been taking place across the world over the last few decades.

The debate continues…

We can already experience a huge change in India when we compare a workplace in the early 90’s and now. Number of women employees at work vis-a-vis men has risen rapidly; number of women students in the higher education courses such as Engineering and Management has increased manifold; many Boardrooms have women. Some of these changes have happened due to changes in legal provisions and some due to the peer pressure in the society. These days, firms provide paid maternity leaves for six months; some offer sabbaticals and friendly policies around pregnancy and early stages of motherhood. Governments make special arrangements to ease the woes of women in commuting to work, attending to strenuous tasks, working at odd hours and so on. There are additional safeguards such as Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act to dispel fears of women to come to work. All these are aimed at increasing participation of women in the economy and its GDP. In spite of so many changes in our society, the debate hasn’t been put to rest.

Let us not be fanatic about gender equality!

 

We have seen families in their overzealous drive to scale greater peaks of achievement in the realms of financial and professional status, compromise on building social capital for their future. The next generation that gets ready to join the workforce bears a set of values which are very different from their parents. Social scientists are studying this phenomenon. The jury is still out on that. However, one thing is for sure : fanatic rush to achieve a set of goals is not the same as focus and determination to achieve them.

We have seen senior executives of large multinationals chasing gender diversity targets and going on a recruiting spree to achieve that score. Does this overdrive get the organization the desired assets and human capital? Not always! The cost of such overdrive outweighs the results that we land up with.

Should each workplace reflect the gender ratio of the society?

As per 2011 Census we are 940 females per 1000 males. In 2001, it was 933 per 1000. This is nearly 49-51; should all organizations ideally have their workforce in the same ratio? If we are fanatic about gender equality, we will force every organization to reflect this.

Are we ready for this? While this could be a highly desirable situation and a socio-political masterstroke to pursue, it is not feasible at this point of time. We do not have so many women available for work. Reasons behind poor supply of women talent for work are plenty. Right from social dogma, economic need, availability of social infrastructure to opportunities, there are many factors.

Moreover, nature has created the bodies of men and women differently; it has created unique capabilities for each of them. We must not ignore them. We should leverage on this diversity rather than trying to fix everything with the same brush.

And at the same time, we must not typecast some roles with a certain gender as was the practice decades ago. Women need not be compulsorily raising children, growing families and providing care to the others. The point here is to argue against the mindless drive to achieve equal participation of men and women in each and every walk of life.

How can organizations deal with this?

We have many challenges at hand; we have to evolve pragmatic solutions.

When we see the rural vs urban India, we find more women in rural India participating in the labour force (27%) than in urban areas (16%). This could be due to the limitations in our social systems and economic realities. Women in the urban India are educated and capable as much as their men counterparts. Factors such as lack of support systems to take care of the young and the old in their families are a big obstacle. Organizations can leverage on this unemployed and under-employed diaspora by redesigning their work. Some parts of work can be done with no supervision, at hours the employee finds convenient; the organization has to build systems in such a way that one can find solutions when he or she faces a challenge. Needless to say that IT and the intent of the leadership are big enablers here.

We have seen several small organizations fearing the prospect of maternity leaves and the costs. While the intentions are noble and genuine, many of them find it too much of a disruption and too expensive. Secondly, we know how young mothers struggle to balance the demands at work with those at home. This is one of the big reasons why so many women drop out of the active workforce for many years in their prime and more often than not, find it difficult to return to the productive work life. Organizations have to influence the Government of the day to improve the social security measures, bear the costs and provide utilities such as creche, play schools and so on which people at large can avail. Currently, they are too few and far between.

In summary, we see this as a journey that has to be undertaken by the government, the society and the organizations at the same time towards leveraging the talent and capabilities that men and women possess. Social systems have to keep evolving so that the girls in the families do not fall behind when their parents prioritize the possibilities. The drive towards having equal participation across genders is mindless. Let this be based on the talent and capabilities only. If that makes 80 women and 20 men, so be it!

 

There are enough opportunities!

ciel blog - layoffs-in-it-sector

Layoffs in IT industry are inevitable given the technological changes and socio-political changes we are witnessing. 89% of respondents to a survey carried out by CIEL last month corroborate with this. They see this as an irreversible change in the employment markets for the IT industry in India. This may sound depressing, but all is not lost. There are enough opportunities to be leveraged upon.

Why is it a big deal?

Typically, organizations asked the IT companies to automate their work processes by designing and developing an IT Application and then, making it available over a network. They had to maintain the infrastructure and the application so that business runs as usual. They saved dollars, increased speed and improved customer satisfaction. However, the landscape has changed in the last 5 years with the advent of smart phones, cloud computing and social networks. Customers transact business round the clock, communicate often and expect instantaneous results. Similarly, companies now have the access to a myriad of IT applications, do not need to own it and maintain an IT infrastructure by themselves. Our IT industry has geared up well to this new phenomenon of social, mobility, analytics and cloud. They have learnt these technologies and deployed them at work well.

Now, we are witnessing the next wave of change where artificial intelligence and big data are playing an important role in the computing process. New platforms have emerged which are helping the IT folks to create and deploy an IT application much faster and simpler than ever before. Automated tools such as bots and a range of automation platforms are reducing human efforts. Moreover, they are delighting customers by letting them be in charge of the transactions that they want to carry out with an organization. These disruptions are making many jobs redundant. Our estimates indicate loss of half a million jobs over 3 years. Most people didn’t see this coming.

Socio-political changes around the world are putting pressures on Governments in the West to review their policies of outsourcing work beyond their borders and allowing people outside their countries to carry out work there. Immigration policies are being relooked. Hence, companies in India have to find other ways of generating demand and continuously climbing the value chain. CIEL’s study shows the factors responsible for the potential job losses to be the Policies of Governments in the West, declining demands of outsourcing IT work and the advent of automation tools. Only 33% of the respondents anticipated this phenomenon.

The survey shows, most people (67%) believe, this event will get taken care to a significant extent by the normal attrition that happens in the industry. 44% believe that companies will shed the weak performers in this process. Similarly, 44% believe that the change has come faster than expected. However, a significant part of the working population in IT (56%) believe that the lay-offs are being discussed a lot and is causing panic.

New opportunities

New technologies such as augmented reality, robotics and big data are making waves in various industry sectors. They are no more restricted to sectors such as manufacturing, logistics, energy and financial services. We are seeing them applied in industry sectors like entertainment, hospitality and various other service sectors. The way we live our life is changing, right from the way we cook our food, keep in contact with the others, entertain ourselves, use appliances at home to educate our kids and take care of our health and wealth. Each of these have been transformed significantly in the last few years and have created millions of opportunities for our IT sector. Our IT folks need to reskill themselves quickly to seize upon these occasions and make hay while the sun shines.

Redeployment opportunities

Some of the IT folks can migrate to the other sectors of economy because each of them are deploying digital technologies in a significant way. Right from their processes to interact with customers to internal work processes, business planning and analysis we will see application of mobility and IT applications. Organizations will increase headcount in their IT and Technology functions to create the right applications, analyse the day-to-day transactions to derive insights and protect the information and wisdom from any threat. 44% of the respondents of the survey believe that upto a quarter of the laid off people can be absorbed in other industry sectors.

All is not lost. We have a way ahead to a bright future.

Rise of Well-informed candidates

JOBSEEKERS ARE WELL-INFORMED
Candidates are consulting an average
of 16 sources before applying…
…and only 36% apply witho...

Over the last decade, internet has become ubiquitous in recruitment across the globe. Employers and potential employees alike use the internet to meet one another directly or through an agency. In either case, the candidate and the company make a choice based on their individual perception and judgement of how well they fit the requirements of the other. Traditionally employers and candidates meet one another and conclude if there is a fitment. However, in today’s time, candidates rely on information available publicly as well as what they gather through their contacts and the social media. Candidates have access to a lot of information other than what they learn during an interview. How does this impact talent acquisition?

The Moments of Truth in a Recruitment Process

We see experts in Communication and Advertising specialise in the domain of employer branding. They advise companies how to stand out in the crowd of HR Leaders seeking talent and communicate their value proposition to the potential employee.

Crafting a communication is a skill of high order. Done well, this helps a company tremendously in building an image that creates curiosity in the minds of potential candidates. We have seen it at play for several IT and Outsourcing companies in the last couple of decades. However, such communication becomes a hyperbole if the attendant parts in the organization cannot deliver the experience that the candidates expect. This is easier said than done. The moment of truth for a candidate starts right from the time he or she comes across a recruitment advertisement. Then starts several action steps such as applying for a job, receiving feedback, various communication through various stages of the selection process, the visits and contacts during the entire process till the person successfully comes on board.

At each of these stages, different stakeholders interact with the candidate. The moot challenge before the HR leaders is to ensure that all stakeholders in the process are aligned to what is being promised in the value proposition and deliver the experience consistently. It is a massive transformation program for the organization!

The Social Media is on an Overdrive

ciel blog - well informed candidate

Ex-employees and current employees of the organization express their views about working in a firm. Candidates who attend interviews with a potential employer talk about their experience. The social media and the search engines have made things easy for broadcasting these moments of truth all over. Companies do invest huge energies to communicate who they are, what kind of talent they are looking for and build an image that describes them as an employer.

One cannot escape from the fact that there are grapevines within an organization, a lone wolf who is an internal adversary, some unintentional cases of negligence that spoil the party and some disgruntled souls who are out there. The team has to be alert and proactive in warding off the evil eye. And at the same time, one needs to be fast enough to attend to the mistakes and failures; recover the lost ground. There should be no let up in one’s efforts to spread the positive news that takes place in different parts of the organization.

Today’s well-informed candidates form their opinions looking at various such intimations, undertones and nuances. So, the employer organization has to be fast enough and hitting the bull’s eye consistently.

Match expectations and stay agile

Life is fast today : decisions are being taken faster than ever before; thinking through is often understood as procrastination and viewed with despise. Organizations have to keep pace with the likes of their target audience. The cycle times are coming down in every aspect of our life. So, it is natural that candidates expect quick answer, the interviewers need more choice and the jobseekers have access to several opportunities at the same time. This trinity makes the task for the HR folks exciting and challenging.

Leaders have to organize a good set of candidates at one go and make a quick decision. They need to decide when to keep looking for the illusive ideal candidate and when to be happy with the best available candidate. Long cycle times aren’t going down well – organizations have to be agile.

Expectations are mutual and dynamic in a relationship between the employer brand and the talent pool. Hence, it is important that a winning organization keeps a tab on the trends in the talent market and makes adjustments in its actions on a regular basis.

The rise of well-informed candidates has made life simple for the Talent acquisition specialists and HR leaders in many ways. They get an enviable advantage if they tune in to the signals in the market with respect to their employer brand and make course-corrections. This calls for agility and rigorous execution!

Are you the Indispensable Employee?

ciel blog - indispensable employee

Artificial intelligence, cognitive computing and automation are redefining jobs and creating uncertainties for various professions. Robots, sensors, computers, internet, cloud computing and software are going to rule the roost. Several transactional jobs are likely to be performed automatically and human beings carrying out simple and repeatable tasks are likely to lose their jobs. What can an employee do to stay indispensable?

Do you have the Skills that are relevant and use them generously?

These days, emails, websites, e-commerce sites, social media, chat-bots and various such digital methods have shortened the sales cycle and reduced the need of salespersons. Going forward, these developments will be ubiquitous. This is just an example. For each industry, we will have more and more such automated tools making human effort redundant. So, this is going to be something similar to the time of industrial revolution, movement of manufacturing jobs to China, near-death of handicrafts, movement of call centre jobs to cheaper economies and so on.

To stay relevant, one has to have the skills that are going to build the future. For example, someone writing software codes or testing it, has to acquire new skills such as machine learning, big data techniques, cloud architecture, mobility and business analysis.

Often we see the change round the corner but we think that the change is not going to affect us. However, the change process like any other event of nature happens slowly and hits us unless we are sensitive to our environment. Irrespective of one’s profession, may it be finance, HR, sales, production, legal, medical care, teaching or singing, one has to keep an eye on the latest developments in the industry sector and function. We have to keep reskilling ourselves to be on the cutting edge. We will not let ourselves down!

Getting reskilled and certified is not enough! One has to be an expert in it; the best in the team as far as the skill is concerned. One has to be the go-to person in the team on the subject. If we think a bit deeper, we know, it is not only knowing how to do that complex problem but also about solving it hands-on and showing it to the others in the team.

Do you see the big picture and act benevolently?

Many of us do not see how our day to day contributions make a difference in the overall scheme of things. We think and operate in silos; many of us do not bother much about the targets of the team, the department, let alone the organization. Missing the big picture can never make one the organization-man.

Leaders and all other stakeholders in the business always look to work with people who see the big picture, feel for the organization, act benevolently keeping the big picture in mind, extend the hand of support when needed and walk the extra mile to fulfil the bigger goal. You are indispensable if you are this person!

Do you believe you are indispensable and over-reach?

Truly speaking, nobody is indispensable to an organization which has a purpose and spirit. No one person can hold a system its hostage for ever. There could be a vacuum temporarily, but the system recharges itself and gets on the road again.

If someone believes that the organization cannot survive without him or her, the actions will speak of the person’s attitude. Arrogance becomes visible; the members in the team see the person exceeding his brief often and taking a larger than life approach. This is a sure recipe for failure. It is possible that one will be dispensed with!

The key to a secured job is staying agile on skillsets, applying them at work, making the job of the manager easy, acting in view of the bigger picture of the organization and building a strong network within the organization. Let’s do it!

 

How do you know if the new job offer is better than your current job?

ciel blog - new job offer vs current job

Over 4 million people change their jobs each year in India and many more face job interviews. Most of them are anxious and unsure if the new job offer is better than their current jobs. Is there a tool that can help somebody pick the one that scores higher over the other?

What do we look for in a job?

Compensation, of course, is one of the features that is associated with most jobs. That apart, there are several factors that determine one’s thoughts about the job consciously or subconsciously. Firstly, it is the purpose, the mission and the social norm associated with the job. Be it the job of a driver, a doctor, cook, teacher, cleaning staff, engineer, plumber, accountant, content writer, salesman, software programmer, all of us want to do a job that adds value in the ecosystem that we care about. Most often, the identity of a person is linked to the profession and where one works. Hence, it is important that the job and the industry are held highly in the person’s mind.

Secondly, it is the work environment – the colleagues we work with, the bosses we report to, the empowerment that we receive, the recognition that we receive and the challenges it poses on the way. Each of us wake up to make the day more productive and satisfying. It is our workplace that helps us realize the goals for the day. Hence, we look forward to a workplace that creates energy, optimism and ignites a creative spirit in our mind.

Finally, certain aspects of the role are important for each of us. For example, working on a particular kind of equipment, tools and software is important for the person in a technical job. Similarly for someone who has significant responsibility in the family, commuting time, work hours and holidays are important considerations. Opportunities to grow along a particular career path are important for an ambitious worker. We find the job satisfying when most of these are in place and on an overall level, we feel fulfilled.

Hard and soft aspects of choice-making:

Given the above construct, one should make a list of factors under the 3 broad categories: the job, the workplace and the fine-print. Job change is an important event in one’s life and can have a huge impact on one’s future. Hence, adequate care must be taken to consider all aspects from a rational as well as emotional standpoint.

It is easy to compare two opportunities on aspects such as compensation, title, industry’s attractiveness, the level of technology in use and practice of internal promotions. However, what about the soft aspects of the workplace? As someone once said, “We get to choose neither our parents nor our boss”, it is important that you know about the culture of recognition, the colleagues that you will work with and the boss you’ll report to.

We can network with colleagues in industry, refer to various studies that rank best practices in various organizations, study what people are talking about the employer on social media and industry platforms like Glassdoor, Indeed, LinkedIn etc. We can speak to ex-employees of the company to understand about the workplace. It is not easy to do it and has to be done.

Do we have the check-list of what we look for and value?

After making up our mind about the decision factors pertaining to each of the 3 aspects i.e. job, workplace and role-specific details, one needs to list them down. Each one of these factors has to be assigned a weight on a scale of 1 – 5 where 1 indicates least significant and 5 is the most.

Then the next step is to score both opportunities on each of these decision factors and weighted score has to be arrived at. Based on the sum of the weighted score for each opportunity, one can decide which one is better. Simple, isn’t it?

Let us take an example: a software engineer is ambitious, looking for growth opportunities and a good work-life balance. The decision table could be something like this:

Decision Factors
Decision Weight on scale of 1 – 5
Current Job on a scale of 1 – 5
Weighted Score for Current Job
New Job Opportunity on a scale of 1 – 5
Weighted Score for the New Opportunity
Job          
1.       Compensation

5

4 20 5

25

2.       Reputation of the firm

5

4 20 3

15

3.       Opportunity to work in various industry sectors

5

2 10 5

25

Workplace          
4.       Well-qualified Colleagues

4

2 8 5

20

5.       Supportive boss

5

4 20 3

15

6.       Recognition for the work done

3

4 12 5

15

7.       Opportunities to learn

4

4 16 5

20

8.       Challenging work

4

3 12 5

20

Role-related Specifics          
9.       Commuting from work

5

5 25 2

10

10.   Work hours

5

5 25 3

15

11.   Leadership opportunities

5

3 15 5

25

12.   Impact on the organization

5

2 10 5

25

     

193

 

230

This tool helps one identify all the soft and hard aspects of decision making, consider them holistically and take the ultimate decision. It makes our life simpler and organized. Let’s go for it!

Should you outsource hiring?

ciel blog - outsource or inhouse recruiting

Companies consider talent as their competitive advantage. Leaders believe that machines, technology, capital, knowhow and processes can be acquired easier than talent. Various studies have proven that acquiring talent is one of their major challenges. Should organizations build their internal capability to hire for themselves or rely on external agencies?

Needless to mention that either method has its own pros and cons. The solution lies in the old saying – ‘horses for courses’.

When do you build inhouse capability?

Some think of talent acquisition as a critical success factor and hence, they must deal with this strategic task inhouse. They cannot outsource this to anyone. Some leaders think that the skills that they are hiring are rare to find and assume that nobody other than an inhouse team can invest their energies in finding those needles from the haystack. We find another argument in support of inhouse hiring when the company doesn’t want many people to know that it is hiring for the particular role.

All these are myths! Rather one should use a simple 2×2 matrix to decide the strategy.

Decide if talent acquisition is strategically important for the organization’s results and secondly if it impacts operational metrics of the organization.

For an airline, in-flight catering is an important function but not strategically important; neither it impacts the operational metrics of the airline in a significant way. However, for a restaurant, it is not only a strategic value but also important operationally. Given this example, one knows that a restaurant has to have inhouse capability to prepare the food.

Outsource when Recruitment is Strategically Less Important but makes an Impact on Operational Metrics of the firm

Leaders choose the top few levers (typically 3 to 5) which are strategically important for the organization. Recruitment may not figure there in the list. However, recruiting the right people on time could be important from operational perspective such as servicing customers, running important errands, completing tasks with speed and accuracy. In these situations, one must leave it to experts than invest energies inhouse to focus on something which is not on the strategic agenda item. The external expert knows how to minimize the cycle time, increase process efficiency and optimize the quality.

This is like a company outsourcing its cleaning needs to an agency; hiring people for sales support, sales promotion, administrative tasks, customer service, maintenance and several other non-core activities through an outsourced agency; back-filling vacant roles.

Outsource and Build Strategic Partnership when Recruitment is Strategically Important but does Not make an impact on Operational Metric of the firm

Organizations take up new projects or have ongoing needs to back-fill vacancies or have a few key roles to fill. These are strategically important for the organization because future revenue streams are linked with the success of these. And most of the times, these do not impact the operational metrics of the organization in the short term.

In these situations, leaders make the mistake of building an inhouse team to deliver on these. Such an effort becomes not only a distraction for the senior leaders but also is an expensive proposition. Moreover, these teams turn inefficient over a longer period of time, say 2-3 years.

The solution here is to build a strategic partnership with an outsourced player who provides high mindshare for the engagement, considers it important for them, works as an extension of the organization, stays efficient and competitive, leverages on its knowledge of the market and works under an objective framework of governance.

Plan it yourself if Recruitment is a Strategic Lever and Impacts the Operational Metric

The top leaders of an organization may feel that getting the right talent on-board is one of their critical success factors and moreover, recruitment impacts the operational metrics of the firm. This situation shows hiring is high on strategic importance and at the same time, has a high impact on the operational metrics such as revenues, cycle times, error rates and so on.

This is like an assembly shop for a car company, kitchen for a restaurant, design shop for a consumer product company, engineering team for a manufacturing company. All these have to be done inhouse.

Planning for recruitment is critical and it must not be confused with the implementation of the plan. Once the organization is clear about the kind of people it needs, the timelines, the critical attributes and the value proposition for a prospective employee, execution starts. Many a times, organizations fail to plan this well and hope that the plan will evolve alongside the execution. If this happens well, it is just a sweet coincidence and cannot be repeated.

For an organization providing services to its customers, it needs to have the right people at the right time. The situation here scores high on both the dimensions : strategic importance and operational impact. Hence, the organization must own the critical piece of planning the talent acquisition process and managing it.

Stop Recruiting if it is Not on Strategic agenda and does Not Impact the Operational Metric of the firm

If nobody cares about recruiting, the firm has to eliminate the function and not even think of outsourcing either. This is simple decision because it scores low on both the dimensions: strategic as well as operational importance.

Talent Acquisition as a process is to be outsourced when it appears on the strategic agenda of the firm or when it impacts the operational metric. Keep the planning function inhouse if it is on the strategic agenda as well as impacts the organization operationally. Leaders have to take a clear stance!