How does HR change in ‘Experience Economy’

ciel blog - experience economy

Recent study by Barclaycard who processes nearly 50% of UK’s debit card and credit card transactions, showed that customer spend in department stores, consumer appliances and vehicles have come down significantly while the spend on theatres, pubs, restaurants and cinemas have gone up. Many people do not want to spend money buying cars, homes and stuff; rather they would like to spend their time and money experiencing new environments, unique places, innovative practices, first-of-its-kind feelings and so on. Thanks to social media, they can flaunt all they have! And the friends and friends of friends make their posts go viral. That’s the experience youngsters are looking for!

If someone goes shopping or watching a movie, it’s a complete experience that she or he is looking for. Hence, the need is to go beyond what the shop sells or what the theatre plays. The shop has to think how it engages a customer right from the stage of pre-buy to long after the buy is done and provide an engaging experience. That is why modern-day theatres are turning into multiplexes complete with experience zones, food-courts, loyalty programs and are integrated with shopping centres, hair salons and game zones.

Today, owning stuff is not critical and does not necessarily reflect status, rather people are concerned about where they watched a movie, what holiday they went on, what they did there and where they had food and so on. It is not so much about what they bought as about the experience they had while buying. How is HR adapting on the face of this rise of a new economy called ‘experience economy’?

Candidate Experience all the way!

It is not a new theory – in the last two decades, business leaders and HR leaders alike, have stressed the importance of candidate experience. However, what has changed is about the ‘here and now’ impact of an experience that is not so good. Our smart phones and social media are a potent combination for the fire to spread and at the same time, has the potential to accentuate a positive experience.

HR Team has to be on its toes all the time to watch out for any negative comment and neutralize it at the earliest. Similarly, they need to gather the positive experiences and showcase those. It’s not natural for people to be spreading positive experiences as much as they do for negative stories. So, the HR team has a task at hand to create the right environment and spread the positives. It’s the experience which matters.

How is the Employee feeling now?

Each day at work is different for everyone in an organization. Employees work with their peers, sub-ordinates, bosses, also in some cases, with external stakeholders. Each interaction is a moment of truth and each moment adds to the overall experience. It is natural that all interactions do not become great. When the sum of all these experiences is above the mental image of a good day, the employee is happy. When majority of the days do not turn out to be good, it’s a trouble!

HR Team has to be tuned to the early signals and intervene at the right moment. Sometimes, HR teams are busy addressing various issues and hence, have no time to switch on their receivers. They do not make field visits, gather no relevant intelligence and hence, can at best operate in the reactive mode. Typically, organizations wait for the results of the annual employee satisfaction study to take action. But, it’s too late in today’s world! They have to find the energy, bandwidth, interest and capability to listen to all signals coming from the workplace so that appropriate actions can be taken in time.

Build the enabling infrastructure.

Often, the HR leaders and the Business leaders are well-intentioned to listen to experience of candidates as well as the employees. The HR team is capable of tuning into the vibes at the workplace and taking corrective actions. In spite of all the right things in place, execution suffers because the employees aren’t sure if they should be honest and genuine while interacting with the HR team and the senior leaders. They might be apprehensive because of unfavourable experiences in the past.

Leaders of the organization set the tone and show the candour in making decisions. This goes a long way in enabling the communication systems to work and collaborating with external centres of excellence to improve organizational processes.

In the days to come, as more and more people are going to be focused on the short-term and concerned about the experiences, HR has to ensure that agility and holistic approach in whatever it does right from talent attraction, assessment and acquisition to engagement, maintenance and development.

Ref: http://www.cielhr.com/how-does-hr-change-in-experience-economy/

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Hire Smart

ciel blog - hire smart

In our world of smart phones, high speed computing and intense communication, everything has to happen fast. Enterprises are often not happy with the pace of execution internally as well as with their external stakeholders. They hate to see positions lying vacant because of the fear of missing opportunities in the market.

Line managers are busy to describe what they need and the HR managers have no time to sit down with the line manager and agree on the requirements. At the same time, candidates look around for possible choices when they decide to apply for a job opportunity. They are not sure what kind of a role and employer they should be searching for. So, there is a lack of planning at both the ends and hence, hiring is damn difficult. How can an organization be smart in dealing with these complexities?

Do not waste time with CVs!

Marquee employers have researched extensively to understand what kind of talent fits them the best. They have tried to perfect their recruitment process by comparing the prediction of a recruitment process with actual performance of the new joiner in 6-12 months’ time. All these studies haven’t yet yielded a formula that is universal.

Normally, companies use a pre-written job description document to kick-off the hiring. Recruiters typically pick a few keywords from the document and dig into several databases to find a few CVs that have a high occurrence of these keywords. They speak to these folks about the job and push them to attend a job interview. Many candidates are open to check their market value and have hardly anything to loose; so, they agree to attend the interview without giving it a good thought. Interviewers normally review 20 CVs and interview 5 candidates before they choose one. Does the process have to start with a CV?

These days, CVs are not a good indication of what the candidate brings to the table. There are several resources which help a candidate produce a CV that matches the job requirement well. Secondly, interview as a tool is not highly reliable and hence, an applicant who answers well in an interview is not necessarily going to be a successful employee.

Can we define the business challenge the role has to deal with and the outcome expected? Based on these, can the recruiter develop a job description for the role, interview the candidate accordingly and provide a few paragraphs about the applicant justifying why you should interview him?

We do not need CVs. Let us conserve the time which is normally used to read up CVs of applicants. Rather, ask your Recruiter to give you a note of recommendation for the candidate. This note will be a good overview of the candidate and at the same time, triggers thoughts for the interview.

Go beyond the obvious!

We know there is no perfect-fit in this world. We have to always settle with a close-fit or the best-fit. All line managers do not like to believe this. They keep interviewing candidates with the hope of discovering the jackpot. It becomes an endless loop!

Sometimes, interviewers go along predicted lines of matching qualifications and past experiences of the candidate with their mental picture of an ideal candidate. One can manage the impressions of the interviewer in such a context because the desired responses are well-known.

One has to go beyond the obvious and deep-dive into the realms of behaviours, beliefs and attitudes of a candidate. Interviewers must be trained to ask open-ended questions, follow-up conversations, hold the discussion in an unbiased manner, rate the fitment as per pre-agreed rating scale and write a good summary of the findings. This is easier said than done. Organizations with mature HR processes invest on these infrastructure. Ideally, each interview must focus on specific aspects and explore deeply on just two to three aspects.

More than one conversations are essential

Google follows a Rule of Four where 4 experienced Googlers interview a job applicant and the total of their scores forms the base of hiring decision. There are similar such practices in other organizations as well. The idea here is to look at the fitment from a diverse perspective.

Candidates prefer a quick conclusion to their application process. Enterprises want quick closure of their open positions. Yet several challenges leave both the employer organization and candidates frustrated with the long cycle times.

One of the ways to deal with this dichotomy is to schedule multiple discussions back to back at one go. This helps candidates and the employer organization to assess one another holistically for a potential fitment. Moreover, the interviewers or assessors get an opportunity to compare between the candidates and firm up their mind.

Senior leaders play an important role in making the hiring process smart. Their commitment to make the process stable, reliable and robust is the first step. Else, the war for the best talent remains as a rhetoric and doesn’t reflect on the ground.

Ref: http://www.cielhr.com/hire-smart/

Should you allow your people to work from home?

ciel blog - work from homeWe understand the pros and cons of working from home or tele-commuting. Significant amount of research has been carried out on the subject. The Third Wave of Virtual Work is an interesting read.

Though all forms of work cannot be carried out remotely, with growing concerns about traffic, commuting hours and the environment, employees are happy to tele-commute. Moreover, advances in technology have transformed the way we communicate, make decisions and collaborate at work. These days, it is pretty easy to work together on a virtual platform. Organizations save costs on physical infrastructure and employee welfare.

Yet some of us do not feel comfortable working out of small offices and home offices. Some feel under-motivated to perform at their best when they are physically removed from their colleagues. Hence, organizations are flexible in configuring their workspaces and the policies around tele-commute. Such flexibilities give rise to confusion in defining and administering HR policies. Sometimes, workers think that virtual-working will impede learning, affect career growth and attenuate their social skills.

Given this complexity, when should one promote remote-working?

How much collaboration and intuition is required at work?

Individual contributors like a writer, researcher, trainer, carpenter, plumber, electrician, draftsman, statistician, tele-caller, customer service by emails, documentation executive, accountant and so on work for long stretches of time independently. They do not need continuous guidance from their supervisor; neither do they need an interaction with another co-worker to complete the piece of output required from them. One can work from anywhere in these cases as long as one is certified for his or her proficiency in the job.

Many a times, the job involves trouble-shooting unknown issues or rarely occurring challenges. One needs to be on-site to observe the events, diagnose the problem, discuss with the others to explore solutions and develop new ideas. Though we have advanced methods such as video-conferencing, live chats and so on, in these situations, nothing compares being together and tapping into one another’s thoughts and capabilities in a seamless manner. Non-verbal communication and group dynamics play an important role in such tasks.

If you are flying a plane, driving a car, treating a patient, giving care to a child, taking order in a restaurant, playing a physical sport, receiving a guest in the hotel lobby, cooking a meal and teaching a kid, one needs to use one’s physical presence to communicate empathy, use intuition and deploy human energies. While technology such as artificial intelligence, robotics, high-speed computing and super-fast connectivity are developing fast, we haven’t yet seen machines which are able to replicate human behaviours. These roles cannot be remote-worked.

Do you have well-defined Performance Standards?

It is common knowledge but many many organizations in the world find it very difficult to define roles, structure the deliverables of a role and define the output in an objective manner. Employees remain busy in tasks and activities, but the deliverables are often not very clear to them. They think, each day is a new day and look forward to what their supervisor asks of them. They seek inputs, guidance and supervision.

The lack of clarity could be due to ignorance or assigning low priority to organization-building or inability to design a performance management system. In either case, remote-working becomes impossible. The supervisors do not trust the judgement of their direct reports and prefer to monitor them closely. In this kind of an environment, one cannot allow tele-commute.

Do you Walk the Extra Mile to Care for the Employees?

It doesn’t need a pundit to advise us that employees need to be cared for. What’s the fuss? Humans value freedom and independence, but at the same time, they need recognition, challenges and confidence of others. They need to experience the trust of their colleagues, team members and superiors. They need to connect with the purpose of their work.

Remote workers or virtual workers often are out of mind because they are out of sight. This happens when an organization has both kinds of employees in the same team. The virtual workers feel neglected; their commitment weakens and the vicious cycle of performance starts. It becomes difficult for them to recover from it. Employer brand takes a beating. Though tele-commute increases the talent pool and supposedly, increases retention, in this situation, one’s ability to attract talent goes down and productivity of such employees suffers.

The senior managers in an organization have to see the merit in tele-commute and drive the program passionately. They need to make sure that the work is designed well for individual contribution, the employees are continuously trained, work is defined well in terms of targets and performance indicators. And the remote-working employees must find an emotional connect with the organization and the work.

Ref: http://www.cielhr.com/should-you-allow-your-people-to-work-from-home/

Should you invest on Training and Education of Employees?

ciel blog - invest on training and education

All workplaces want their employees to be at their productive-best. They invest energies on creating the right environment to perform, setting norms and values, organizing work in a manner that facilitates value creation, incentivising employees, adopting the right tools and technology, educating and developing employees and so on. Can someone stack-rank these factors so that efforts and investments can be accordingly channelized?

Training is good, What’s new?

Common wisdom says, most human beings are keen to learn new things. Given a fear-free environment and adequate sense of independence, they would apply the acquired knowledge on their work. They would practice newly acquired skills and sharpen the saw over time. They will need lesser efforts of guidance and supervision from their bosses. They feel cared for and valued.

Sometimes, such initiatives enable employees discover interest in new areas of work; they move out of their comfort zone and take up new kind of work within the organization. It allows the employer to move their employees across various roles in the organization. And at the same time, it helps employees acquire knowledge on various areas of work and be future-ready.

The moot question here, “Is training and Education a feel-good factor for the organization and the employees equally or do they directly contribute in revenues and profits of a business?”

Who misses the Training Programs?

Is it the manager who wants the program to happen or the employee who wants the program? All of us know, it is the ideal scenario when the manager as well as the employee want training, are keen on acquiring new knowledge and sharpening their existing skills. Most organizational contexts are far from this ideal.

When a manager believes that continuing investments in training keeps his troop ahead of the curve and motivate them to do more, the manager drives the initiative. He or she finds ways and means of designing and organizing appropriate reinforcements.

However, in many situations, managers believe, time on such activities is wastage of work hours; they see many lacunae in the program and believe, it isn’t good enough for their context. Some of them profess that employees must learn on-the-job and self-develop by observing others at work, drawing upon the resources on the internet. They exonerate themselves from the responsibility of developing their people and ask the employees to figure out a way of staying relevant to deliver what the job demands. The leaders have a problem here with their managerial talent! Before any further investment is made on training, they have to invest on the managers across levels in the organization to own up and drive the learning initiative in the company; and use it as a driver of performance.

When the HR team drops the beat on training, the Managers across the hierarchy of an organization must see this drop and put efforts to bring it back. That’s the goal of a high-performing organization.

It takes two to tango!

Organizations can facilitate learning, encourage acquiring new skills and create opportunities to learn. However, the onus lies on the learner. That is why they say, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

There are employees who tend to consider a training initiative to be a torture; they fail to concentrate on the learning objective, stay distracted, look for the comforts of a classroom and do not value the efforts put by their bosses and colleagues in creating the opportunity for him or her to learn. Hence, it is important that participation in continuing education, training and development is voluntary. There are industry sectors and certain roles which need the employee to upgrade his or her skills and knowledge on a continuous basis. In this context, an employee has to stay hungry for more knowledge and new skills. When someone shows a contra-behaviour, it’s time to bring in someone amenable to learn and develop rather than struggling to change someone’s motives.

Training and education is valuable only when the manager uses it to drive performance and when the employee craves for it!

ref: http://www.cielhr.com/should-you-invest-on-training-and-education-of-employees/

Do you build consensus?

Image result for participative leadership styles

Democracy is the largest form of governance in the world now… close to 60% of the world’s population live in democratic nations. Our societies value freedom of speech, majority view and the power of making choices. Organizations are microcosms of our societies and hence, we behave the same way at work. We expect our leader to be consulting us, acting upon our views, figuring out the majority view and updating us about the state of affairs from time to time.

Long and Arduous

Leaders often are worried about the time it takes to arrive at a decision if they open out the process to their team. Given the diaspora of our society, it is natural that the manager gets wide-ranging opinions and perspectives. Firstly, it takes time and effort to explain the issue to the team; secondly, it takes time to listen to the opinions of people. And most importantly, given the diverse suggestions one receives, it is not easy to decide. In the leader’s mind, there might be something very compelling but the team might not be seeing it with equal fervour. So, the leader takes time to re-position the issue and repeat the process. This is undoubtedly a long and arduous process.

Apply it in the right context

It is not possible that a manager builds consensus for each and every decision. As long as the guiding principles and values are clear, governance becomes easy and non-controversial. So, first of all, organizations need to create appropriate methods and platforms to co-create the guiding principles which determine the way of life. Secondly, a manager must recognize when the issue is complex either because of the inter-dependencies or it has a conflict with one or more principles. Those are the situations which need a larger involvement of people at different levels of the organization.

This is easier said than done. When one opens up the issue to the larger audience, various possibilities come at play. Some people see various lacunae in the capability of the boss; some people come up with utopian ideas due to their lack of knowledge or experience; some people in their quest of coming under the spotlight raise various issues. So, a manager ends up spending a lot of energy in cancelling the noise.

One needs to know which level of the organization needs to be involved and to what extent in the process. At times, discussions with colleagues help simplifying the issue and evolving new possibilities. Hence, participative style of leadership has to be applied in the right context!

Sustainable method

It is unlikely that the manager or the leader knows all. And at the same time, one must have the humility to learn new perspectives and develop solutions in collaboration with others. While making a decision, one has to be clear if the decision has a long term impact on the organization. For example, evolving the 3-year strategy, introducing a new product, launching a new advertisement, entering into a new wage agreement with the union, modifying the rewards scheme and so on have far-reaching consequences on the organization.

An organization can ill-afford to let all such decisions rest squarely on the shoulders of one person or a handful. While building a consensus takes time and calls for efforts to dialogue, it is critical to invest these efforts for the long term health of the organization. Participative style on all strategic issues for the organization assures sustainability.

The leader has to know when to apply democratic style and involve whom in the process.

Are you the charismatic leader?

ciel blog - charismatic leadershipAll of us revere charismatic leaders. We relate to the charisma of leaders like Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi, Jack Welch and so on. We get mesmerized with their words and inspired with their actions. We idolize them and do not need to examine their words with a lens of rationality. They do not need any special intervention to align the thoughts of their team members. Once signed up, the members stay committed to the cause and the conviction levels do not change. How often do we see such leaders? Is charisma a born quality or it can be acquired? When do we know that we have a charismatic leader amidst us? Is it practical to expect all the leaders in an organization are charismatic?

Is Charisma something that you either have or don’t?

People ask if leaders are born or made. Loads of research have taken place and most of them seem to be believe that one-third of leadership traits are in-born and the majority of the traits are learnt. Similarly, is Charisma a born quality?

If charisma is a born quality, all the leaders that we consider charismatic would have shone brightly right from their first experience of working with a group. We know of tales of these great leaders who were shy and private personalities; were not the natural public speakers. All of them were not gregarious; they were not magnets attracting people towards them. They were inspired by a cause and built a franchise of support base that connected with the same cause; they developed their ability to connect with the audience through their words – spoken and written; though their actions on the ground in support of the same cause. They knew how to establish that unique connection and kept at it. So, charisma is something that grows over a period of time like skills develop, maturity grows and strength evolves. It isn’t binary like YES and NO. It is a process of acquiring it one’s own way.

Good for an Organization?

Many predicted that Apple Computers will be in trouble after its charismatic leader Steve Jobs was away. Similarly, people weren’t sure if GE would continue staying at the top after Jack Welch is gone. However, all these fears have been put to rest.

It is true that a charismatic leader has a huge fan-following. So, organizations function very well without worrying much about the internal processes for governance and decision making. Various stakeholders respect the aura of the leader; they tend to see the bright side of the actions and gloss over the dark sides. The charisma of the leader is so strong in the minds of the followers that the leader’s intentions are never questioned.

For a sustainable organization, it is important to have democratic processes, objectives and rational approach interlaced with commitment of its employees towards the overall goal. Since a charismatic leader inspires the teams very well and the leader’s appeal is strong in their hearts, the organization stays cohesive. It is not necessary to put in place many internal processes and run them rigorously.

Missionaries of Charity ran in more than 100 countries in the world because all the teams in the world were deeply influenced by Mother Teresa, their leader. They did not need a machine-like organization to deliver the results. However, for the organization to sustain for many more decades, strong processes are required. A charismatic leader will be a huge plus, of course! A start-up, a new idea flourishes very well under the leadership of a visionary, a charismatic persona; for it to blossom into a greater and bigger institution, one cannot rely on charisma alone.

Grow your charisma!

We look upto someone who speaks his mind and appeals to our hearts. As much courage is needed to speak up, that much is required to listen! Do we listen to understand someone and examine our beliefs or counter the other person’s view point? Can we step into someone’s shoes and feel what the person is going through? Do we genuinely care for the people we work with? Do we show our care and compassion bound by the role of being the boss or we do it because we seriously care of their well-being? Do we talk the talk or walk the talk? Talking the talk wins someone the face-time but not the heart-time. Do we wear the mask of being confident, knowledgeable, unassailable, invincible and enigmatic all the time or stay human? Do we stay humble? Do we improve continuously and accept our follies?

Being authentic and human, passionate about a cause and connecting with the larger audience are the best solutions for someone aspiring to be a charismatic leader.

Do you really believe in diversity, as a leader?

ciel blog - cross cultural leadershipAs businesses are operating in an increasingly interconnected world, they find their stakeholders coming from different backgrounds of religious practices, cultural norms, language nativities, social do’s and don’ts. For a leader, it is not easy to deal with such a large diversity. Given an opportunity, most people tend to build an ecosystem that draws upon similarities rather than thriving on novelties. Some people welcome and in fact, look forward to understanding diverse practices; however, they do not have to deal with a wide range of emotions, multitude of ambitions and a sea of perspectives each day of their lives. Getting such a group of people from diverse backgrounds to converge on a few ideas is quite a challenge.

Why do organizations value diversity so much?

Undoubtedly, the first step is to recruit a mix of talent in terms of gender, academics, culture, ethnicity and physical abilities. The second and the most crucial step is to include all of them and engage all their hearts on the same set of goals and drive a common sense of purpose. All of us know that leading a diverse team is not an easy task, yet most forward-looking organizations call upon their employees in managerial roles to see the bright side of the coin.

We grow up with a set of social beliefs, norms and practices. We operate with a set of do’s and don’ts by the time we join the labour pool. We behave in certain ways without knowing why we do as such. In an organization, an employee deals with stakeholders who is not necessarily having the same perspective as the employee has. If the organization lacks diversity, the mismatch between viewpoint of the employee with that of the external stakeholder starts manifesting as customer complaints, employee grievances, lack of motivation to achieve the goals and so on. The stress starts showing up in the results of the firm.

To solve this undesired situation, organizations assemble a team which brings to the table a variety of experiences, views and beliefs. This team starts viewing a challenge from multiple angles and develops a solution which is more holistic than that can be delivered by a homogeneous team.

Inclusion is much beyond the diversity index.

Organizations want diversity and the index must look good. Hence, they want to hire women leaders, ex-servicemen, people from cities other than the home city, people with different abilities, young mothers returning back to work, older folks and so on. What do they get other than a healthy number meeting the target of diversity index?

One must not lose the sight of the wood for the trees. Organizations want diversity because they believe that they would be able to respond to external and internal situations holistically. The leader has to be build the environment where all the viewpoints are generated, heard and worked upon. Diversity plays its role only when the power of this characteristic is leveraged.

Organizations have to build platforms to bring together all groups of people to analyze a situation and come up with alternates. Every view must reach the ears and minds of people who are supposed to act on them.

Do not compromise the pace!

A leader in the armed forces has to direct the troops rather than engage in a dialogue and debate. This is because of the fact that a battlefield does not allow the luxury of time for a discussion, debate and consensus. Organizations who want to leverage on the power of diversity might get caught in the trap of slow pace. In today’s world, businesses need to be extremely agile. How can one be agile, yet at the same time engage all its rank and file in conversations?

In fact, organizations who value the talent of their employees, provide them with adequate freedom and independence to act. This empowerment creates a sense of responsibility and ownership in the minds of the employees, in turn creating a greater organizational momentum. A homogeneous workforce, on the other hand, might just fall into a zone of comfort, take things for granted and not challenge each other enough. It is not necessary that a lack of variety makes decision making easy and quickens the pace of execution. And at the same time, diversity does not slows things down.

The leader has to truly believe in the fact that a cross-cultural team can potentially deliver holistic and complete solutions. He has to build the right platforms in the organization to facilitate integration of ideas.