Should we be tailor-making stuff?

Customer Service Support Assistance Service Help Guide Concept

It has been nearly a century since the era of industrial revolution popularized mass production, assembly line manufacturing and standardisation. The world saw a socio-economic upheaval where many jobs of craftsmanship vanished, machines took over manufacturing processes, and standards were developed for tools, machines, products, processes and quality. Economies of scale brought down the time to manufacture, cycle time to bring an idea into fruition; defects in the final product reduced; accidents and hazards could be prevented. Also, the cost of manufacturing came down. As the world economy has improved, there are discerning customers who have unique needs and high involvement with the requirements. We tailor-make the offerings – a product or a service for that discerning customer!

Numerous opportunities to Tailor-make:

As a result of standardisation, we have a little to differentiate between products and their features, whether it is a cola, a laptop, an ice-cream, health insurance, credit card or a cab hailing app.  So, marketing techniques are coming of age to identify a target set of customers, build a positive draw among them towards the offering and help the brand position itself in a manner appealing to the target audience. Often the unique value proposition is not in terms of product features but in the way the company delivers the offering, engages with the customer and builds an ecosystem to accentuate the impact of the purchase.

Henry Ford spoke about Model T, “You can have any colour you like, so long as it’s black”. That was assembly line manufacturing and the world has lapped it up. A century later, more and more companies are experimenting customised offering for the discerning customer.

Can I have a laptop from Dell that meets my requirement, a smart phone from Apple that’s made just for me, a pair of glasses from Ray Ban that suits my lifestyle, a car from Volkswagen with a set of features that I need, cosmetics from L’Oreal just for me, a watch from Rolex just for me, medicine from Pfizer made to treat my physical condition, lessons in Harvard that suits my level of intellect and interest, my preferred breakfast at any Taj Hotel I go to? Opportunities are endless!

Are we ready?

Levi’s has carried out experiments to customize jeans for their customers, once in late nineties and second time in early 2000’s. Dell has mass customised its laptops very successfully in the past. There are many more examples where the customer picks and chooses items from a long list of possibilities and designs something unique for himself or herself. The possibilities run into thousands and hence, it is not very easy for all customers to make the right choices. Hence, companies have to design methods to deliver a wow experience to the customer. The methods have to keep pace with what a typical customer of theirs looks for, such as convenience, un-intrusiveness, expertise, history, track record, brand image, speed of action, responsiveness and so on. It’s clearly a tall order.

The organization trying to offer customized stuff needs a certain kind of human resources who are passionate about customer experience, knowledgeable in the domain and can engage with the customers meaningfully. Secondly, it needs to have the culture of engaging customers to discover their needs and developing a solution that delivers value. Top leaders in the company have to demonstrate this commitment by personal examples. Moreover, the organization has to build systems and processes to listen to customers, act on those voices and continuously develop its value delivery.

Technology isn’t the panacea.

Often we hear technology such as artificial intelligence can help in offering personalized services to customers, gathering their voice and analysing the results. Many companies have deployed bots and automation tools to improve user experience. All of these help but they are not the silver bullet to achieve the goal. The real value is created when one is able to meaningfully engage with a customer. As technology has become an integrated part of our lives, many customers are tired of automation and dehumanization. They look for a human interface rather than talking to a faceless system or a black box.

Secondly, the cost of delivering a personalized product or service is huge compared to mass production. An organization has to be sure that the customer recognizes the value delivered by such an offering and is willing to pay for the same. Else, you launch the product or service ahead of its time, weaken yourself by exhausting your resources too soon, expose your idea to be improvised by the others at a later date and risk losing the first-mover advantage.

Right time and Right place are essential for the customized economy to take off for your organization!

Ref: http://www.cielhr.com/blog

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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/

What’s your To-Do List for the New Year?

Ciel blog - New-Years-Resolution

This is the time of the year we talk about New Year Resolutions. And very soon, most of us forget about them. Some of us wonder what a good starting point is. Let us explore this!

Recognize Inefficiency Traps

We live in times where instant noodles and fast food are the order of the day, binge-eating is commonplace and speed is celebrated. We are expected to be tech-savvy and connected all the time. Managers are expected to be decisive and quick on their feet. Surely enough, these social norms are a result of the technologies that surround us. In the late nineties and early 2000’s, we saw most industries improving their productivity. However, in the last few years, there hasn’t been any such drastic changes in the outcomes. The disruptive technologies such as cloud computing, social media, AI and robotics haven’t been able to provide a quantum leap in individual productivity. Why?

We have definitely been able to automate many manual tasks and made life simpler. However, at the same time, we have been growing impatient, losing our calm, engaging in meaningless conversations and worrying way too much about tasks which are not in our control. These traps encourage inefficiency. Recognizing these and staying away from them is the need of the hour.

Agree on the moot point in a conversation

Our world celebrates action, recognizes boldness and expressiveness. Many of us think it is our duty to express. In our urge of forming an opinion quickly, we tend to jump to conclusions and react rather than trying to understand. We see conversations going astray because the parties aren’t listening to each other; rather their mind is busy strategising a counter-point.

We love the social networks but do not exhibit collaboration, sensitiveness and understanding in our day to day work. We announce to the world that we are feeling awesome while the truth is that we are feeling miserable. This is a dichotomy that we see at work each day. Our world will be a better place if we invest time and efforts to understand where the other person is coming from and what the moot point is. Since we are in a hurry, we react to the other person with the assumption that we have understood the point well.

Communication lessons taught us something called ‘feedback’. The listener is expected to check back with the speaker if his understanding is correct and accordingly, takes the next step of action. This lesson has gone out of the window. Can we go back to the basics and understand the moot point in any discussion? We will understand others well and be efficient in our actions.

Stay calm and healthy

One of the major issues plaguing our society is lifestyle diseases. Our pace at work combined with our insecurities and the volatility of our business environment exposes us to several peaks of emotions each day. Naturally, our body and mind gets hurt along the way due to the steep falls and rises that we ride on.

We hear advice on food, exercises, sleep, relaxation and various therapies. We find them difficult to practice because these address the symptoms merely. Unless we engineer at the root of the issue, the health troubles will not go away and hence, productivity will not improve.

I wonder why we have become restless, busy and prone to illnesses while the previous generation did not complain so much. There have been changes in lifestyle, right from the food that we eat, the amount of rest that we take, the variety of conversations we engage with and the modes of entertainment that we indulge in. All of these link to our state of mind. Can we loosen up a bit, be a bit more easy-going, identify a few variables which are less controllable and stop worrying about them? Calm minds stay healthy and do more!

Ref: http://www.cielhr.com/whats-your-to-do-list-for-the-new-year/

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/

Future of the Job of a Recruiter

ciel blog - future of a Recruiter's job

Automation by bots is getting ubiquitous. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are catching up fast across industry sectors and a variety of jobs therein. More often than not, we are talking to a bot to enquire about a gym membership, buying a house, fixing an appointment with a doctor, checking availability of our favourite sauce in the store, placing a dinner order, booking a movie ticket, playing a game of chess and so on. The buy-suggestions that we see in our emails, the recommendations of trading an equity or a bond that we receive on our phones, the pop-ups that come on our screens are all by machines and algorithms. They know what products we are buying, the topics that we have an interest in and the people we are in touch with. They know with a fair degree of accuracy what we are most likely to do at a point of time. Does this phenomenon potentially render millions jobless?

As usual, there are two schools of thoughts here. Let’s focus on the job of Recruiters today. Researchers at University of Oxford published a paper in Sep 2013 on future of employment. Please refer to a graph in the study. 47% of the US jobs are most likely to be automated. The study says, the probability of automating the job of an HR Assistant is 90%; that for payroll and timekeeping clerks is 97%. What about the job of Recruiter?

ciel blog - graphic - future of a Recruiter's job

The Real Recruiter will always be in demand!

Jobs which require creativity, social skills and perception or intuition require human capabilities, robots are unable to match yet. Though Artificial intelligence has been rapidly developing, robots are yet to match our abilities to take a decision based on the gut-feel, intuition and emotions. Winning hearts isn’t yet in the domain of robots! Sophia has been granted citizenship, but in the near future, we aren’t likely to marry a robot; a robot is unlikely to conceive life, understand human feelings, sense deeper meanings in the words spoken, express them in the form of an art and so on any time soon.

A typical day of a recruiter has quite a few administrative tasks such as reaching out to the clients who have a need for talent, scheduling meetings, making notes of conversations, preparing documents, maintaining database of candidates, reviewing pipeline of orders, sending proposals, preparing offer letters and so on. Automation is already catching up on all these facets.

The interesting parts in the life of a Recruiter are to build one’s own credibility with the hiring manager and a candidate, ask exploratory questions, listen to the unspoken words, interpret human motives, study behaviours of individuals and groups, connect the dots to build a picture, use it to match an individual’s aspirations with the beliefs and values of an employer.

Are you the Real Recruiter?

Many recruiters these days have a very low level of skills in recruiting. They look for a detailed job description, use job boards to advertise the role, receive applications and manage the pipeline. This is excellence in execution of administrative tasks, soon a bot will do all of these without a glitch.

The Recruiter who works in the realm of discovering real needs, consulting the client on the ideal fit and advising the candidate on the ideal career choice is getting rarer. This is the Real Recruiter who will always be in demand!

It’s not late. Develop now!

Business world is getting increasingly competitive. Talent is one of the most crucial ingredients of the success recipe for an organization. They need the right-fit talent who is not necessarily from the best of colleges and the highest-paid in the market. The right-fit for a company is someone who matches their context well.

The Recruiter must be creative to spot all possible sourcing grounds and reach the target candidates. He or she needs to bring up all the insight about the industry to be able to understand the context of a candidate perceptively. Further, he or she needs to observe various events in an organization and the behaviours of its leaders to comprehend the operating values there. Last but not the least, the recruiter has to mix these perceptive abilities, insights and intuition with one’s social skills to be able to emerge as a credible advisor for the organization and the talent.

One has to consciously build these skills to emerge as a Talent Architect who is coveted by the Top Leaders of any organization.

Ref: http://www.cielhr.com/future-of-the-job-of-a-recruiter/