Bridging the Generation Gap at Workplace

ciel blog - bridging generation gaps in the workplace

Our workplaces have a significant number of people in their 20’s and 30’s and are led by managers in their late 30’s, 40’s to 50’s. Given the economic and social changes in the 1990’s, people born in that period, especially in our cities grew up in the digital era. Using technology and internet is their second nature. The way they interact among themselves and their seniors is very different from those who were born a decade before. They have grown up with smart phones and social media unlike their older counterparts who learnt all these well later in life. They are used to quick responses, snappy chats, informality in communication, the world of upvotes and downvotes, emojis, transparency and at the same time, a deep sense of privacy.

Build a Positive Confluence

These behaviours are in a realm which is very different from the older social norms of demonstrating respect while interacting with elders, taking initiatives when asked, operating within set boundaries, fearful consciousness about hierarchy and authority. Our workplace today has people who have grown up in two distinctive realms which are way apart. How can the people born in 1960’s and 70’s and in senior leadership roles align with the thoughts and actions of their direct reports who are in  the crucial mid-level leadership roles having grown up in a different era? Similarly how can these mid-level managers lead the millennials who have a very different way of life? In a way, it’s the clash of three distinct ways of doing things. Can we convert clashing ways to a positive confluence?

The senior leaders have to adapt and drive adaptability throughout the organization. The unspoken and unwritten value for all progressive companies has to be adaptability, mutual respect, trust, openness to change and humility to learn. These do not need to be specified. These are the basics of workplace etiquette. Our colleges and families have to teach these to our children as a part of their growing up.

Diversity at work

Understanding one another and learning from one another are key to building harmony. Simple things such as using chats, videos, abbreviations, quick comments are a way of life for the young. Seniors have to learn and adapt their content, frequency and style while communicating to the others. Similarly, the traditional approach of face to face meetings, discussions and presentations are to be used for specific occasions and events. Everyone in the workplace have to learn using multiple methods and tools to get things done.

This is easier said than done unless there is mutual respect and flexibility. We have to discover the goodness in traditional methods and the value of grey hair; similarly we have to appreciate the value of new methods and learn how to deploy them to raise efficiency and speed. We have to value the energy and enthusiasm of our younger colleagues and leverage them appropriately. Leaders have to compose diverse teams to carry out various tasks and activities of a business so that there are enough opportunities to appreciate one another and the confluence starts delivering positive outcomes.

Respect is earned

There are cases where someone in his or her 20’s leads a team having many elder people in there. While the organization and senior leaders have to position the young leader well in the team and clearly vest the authority in the person, this does not ensure that everyone in the team accepts him or her as the boss.

Foundational principles of humanity have not changed. Our workplaces are not led by autocrats and hence, we cannot force others to respect their boss. Respect is earned by the person by his or her contribution to the success of others. Our younger generation is more comfortable than the older colleagues to recognize the boss for his or her competence and contribution. They do not worry much about the seniority, age, power and authority of the person. However, the older colleagues are habituated with reporting to someone who is senior by age and bestowed with power.

As more and more millennials are entering the workforce, it is likely that the boss is younger than many in the team. In such situations, the manager needs to be sensitive towards the mindset of the older colleagues while directing them and earn their respect.

We live in exciting times – we have to work overtime to build a confluence of ideas and positive energy, deploy diversity in work situations and demonstrate sensitivity towards the diverse norms at play.

Ref:…gap-at-workplace/ ‎


Expansion of Gig Economy

ciel blog - expanding gig-workers

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

What drives this economy?

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

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

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

How can an organization use gig workers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Driving Employee Wellness

ciel blog - employee wellness

Health is wealth, goes the old adage. This is true not only for an individual but also for an organization. When the employees are healthy, they do not need leaves due to sickness, the energy and enthusiasm at workplace stays high, engagement levels go up, employees feel good to come to work, customers love the company’s products and services. Needless to say, it’s a happy story for everyone, an ideal situation. India Inc. is not there yet, but how near are we?

Given the pollution levels and poor infrastructure in our cities, employees are exposed to high levels of physical stress and mental agony. We see increasing number of employees seeking day-off due to health issues such as headache, body pain, back pain, bouts of asthma attacks, migraine, stomach upset and so on. Such illnesses not only create disruption and loss for the employee but also for the business. We have to build a culture of wellness which can prevent some of these illnesses.

As technology has increased connected-ness in our world, instantaneity is running a riot. We want everything to happen quickly. This is sharply visible in a young country like India. In this backdrop, all organizations in India face a tougher challenge than many of their global peers to engage with their employees meaningfully. The subject of wellness could be the answer!

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

In the last couple of decades, increasing number of organizations invested on employee wellness. Most common programs are setting up a fitness centre or offering membership to a gym or a health club, holding fitness classes, consultation with dietician, yoga classes. Some organizations encouraged their employees for car-pooling and bike-pooling. Menu of snacks and meals in the cafeteria has been revamped to include less fats. Annual medical check-ups and health camps have been organized in company premises. Anyone can imagine, it is a long list and takes huge amount of efforts and a significant sum of money to implement. These programs have helped companies stand out in a crowd, but the jury is out if employee wellness has improved.

Technology is a big boon

This approach of company-wide program has lost its lustre. We are looking at customizable wellness programmes based on individual’s needs. As technology has been improving, there are scores of Apps which connect to wearables and track the person’s activities. These not only provide the individual a detailed snapshot of his or her health but also recommend possible actions. Such levels of personalization keeps the individual in its focus and hence, less likely to be ignored or taken lightly.

Secondly, some of these apps gamify the process and involve the user in the wellness programmes. Users get to compete as individuals and groups, get rewarded and showcase their achievements and recognition on the social media. This indirectly plays on the psyche of the users to spur into action. We see more people participate in marathons, join games and sports activities, become members of fitness clubs and so on. Gamification of wellness activities is playing a positive role.

Are Apps the Silver Bullet?

Leading a lifestyle that brings calmness and positivity is a personal choice. It takes significant amount of personal character to adopt healthy practices. Employer can create an environment, apps can help, wearables and similar such technology can enable. However, the action of walking, running, staying away from unhealthy food and lifestyle has to be carried out by the individual. This cannot be outsourced to anyone!

Last but not the least, organizations with character and visionary leadership can only build an environment that boosts employee wellness. No amount of apps, fitness clubs and healthy snacks are going to help if the leaders in the organization do not walk the talk. They need to set the tone around wellness. They need to openly talk about it, recognize achievers and appreciate behaviours of managers who run their teams without distress. Fundamentals remain constant!

Great organizations care for employee wellness. They demonstrate their belief through the character of their leaders and leverage all possible avenues to enhance wellness.


Changes in Customer Engagement

ciel blog - changing customer experience

Businesses exist because there is someone out there who believes in them and buys their promises. As technology has been transforming our lives, it is bound to impact the way a business communicates its promises to the outside world and engages with it. It was not too long ago that many businesses did not have a website. They relied on yellow pages and word of mouth. Many of them did not have a phone and email for the prospective customers and existing customers to interact with. Currently, a website, social media pages, emails and phones are not enough!

Quick conversation and decision

Customers do not have the time to read descriptive reviews and peruse emails. They need personalized attention and response. Service-providers asking for a turn-around of 24 hours and a week are looked down upon. Until a couple of years ago, customers accepted a complaint number or a ticket number over the phone helpline and waited through the promised turn-around time. Now the customer expects to be recognised by the company as soon as he or she waves at them. Companies have to not only recognise them but extend a warm welcome, anticipate their intention and offer solutions instantaneously. They do not want to talk to helpdesk executives if their problem is going to be just registered. Quick action is essential. Companies have to innovate!

Single window servicing needed

Customers are reaching service-providers on their Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and so on. They might write emails, call on the phone number, enquire with a dealer, discuss with their contacts about the service-provider. The service-provider may be a school. Hospital, grocery store, local government body, broadband provider, washing machine manufacturer, Car Company, software maker or a cloud service provider.

Any of these needs to provide one single window to the outside world for all interactions. Customers should get all the information that they may need, clarify their doubts and get their problems addressed without the need of further follow-ups. Organizations have to be listening across a range of media, connecting the dots seamlessly and responding fast. Customer convenience has to be the passion!

Technology has been evolving. Customer experience cloud solutions are available from a variety of providers. These help companies establish a plethora of communication channels with their customer, communicate to them in a focused manner and seamlessly interact with them. The potential inefficiency of a human in juggling across multiple channels and dealing with a range of issues is being addressed by these new solutions.

Leadership intent

There are hundreds of companies in any industry sector. However, the companies who produce significantly better results than the others have leaders who are committed and passionate about delivering superior experience to their customers. They drive the customer agenda hard within the organization. While recruiting talent for themselves, they look for people who have a customer mind-set. They focus on customers and hence, the internal dialogue in the company prioritises customer needs over the others. The action plans and programmes within the company has a significant component around attracting and retaining a customer. They look at customer life cycle and evolve methods of winning a large share of customers’ wallets.

Customer focus of the leaders results in sustainable practices around product development, customer engagement and operational efficiency; hence, growth in revenues and market share.

Ref: ‎

Celebrating Women as Leaders

ciel blog - Diversity

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

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

Changing milieu points to a transformation in our homes

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

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

Is woman empowerment just a fad now?

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

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

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

What can organizations do?

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

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

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

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


Making the Hiring Process more personal

ciel blog - recruiting needs to be more personalArtificial intelligence has made headlines around the world in the last few years. Recruiting has naturally been impacted by these technology changes. Bots and machines claim greater efficiency than human recruiters in picking out the best matches from millions of profiles in a large database of candidates. Companies have been advertising their vacancies on several platforms – online as well as offline, spreading the word about their open positions in the talent market using many recruitment agencies and involving their own employees to seek referrals. Yet they find it a challenge to reach the right person. And sometimes when they do reach, they cannot attract the best talent. Why is it so?

Attracting Talent is not same as Advertising

For any marketing campaign to reach its target audience successfully, we put together a message and advertise it using the right media. Similarly for recruitment, we should be able to copy-paste the same practice and catch the right talent. We have to write a message to attract talent, define our target audience and reach them using the media that is frequented by our target pool of talent. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Recruiters create a document called job description. They leverage all the sources they can command to identify the target talent pool using various search methods and automated tools. Then the long-list of potential talent are reached by emails, texts, automated phone calls, display notifications and adverts. This approach seems pretty robust. Yet, companies fail to attract the best.

The problem lies in all three components here : the message, the media used and the tenor of the message. In order to standardise the communication, companies define a job description. This is a piece of lifeless art which does not talk to the target audience. What is the motivation for someone who is already doing well on his job to evaluate a new opportunity? Active job-seekers will be happy to grab an opportunity, however an employer is looking to hire the best. What if an active job seeker is not the best?

Secondly, the technology tools carrying this piece of lifeless message are impersonal and do not make it a compelling proposition before a human. Last but not the least, the targeted person is asked to apply for the job by clicking a few buttons and gets no human contact. After he or she applies, the application often gets into a black hole. Most often, there is just an automated response sent out to the applicant and that’s it!

Job change is one among the three most significant transitions in one’s life. If I am not desperate, can such a major change be kick-started in my life by a non-human interface?

We must have a story to tell

Job descriptions were intended to help define a job and create a shared understanding about the job in an enterprise. This was never intended for talent attraction. Unfortunately, over a period of time, its purpose has been diluted.

The line manager and the recruiter have to collaboratively define the ideal person they are looking to hire. They have to craft a message creatively to attract the best-fit candidate. Job description can be an attachment but cannot be the main tool to communicate. The message has to be a story that helps a prospective candidate visualise a future. This has to be done by human intelligence, insights and intuition. Technology can help in identifying potential choices but cannot build the story on its own. That’s really the value that a Recruiter needs to bring to the process.

Who delivers the story and how?

It is important that the story takes into account what we are looking for, what we are offering, what a potential candidate is looking for and hence, why should he or she pick this up. The story has to be compelling so that we are able to hold the attention of the listener and make a promise that matters to him or her. Once the message is crafted, technology can carry it to the right audience.

We have technology tools that create the freedom and flexibility for a potential candidate to review the opportunity and decide if he or she should pursue this further. These tools do come handy in the backdrop of the demanding schedules all of us have. We can send a curtain-raiser first and then, take the next step of a meeting or conversation in person.

The recruiter who speaks to the candidate needs to not only provide information but also build credibility, seek information, judge suitability, sense the state of mind of the candidate and empathise with him or her. This calls for not only knowledge about the opportunity, the industry sector and the job market but also the social skills and personality traits to relate with a variety of people, care for their ambitions and help them shape their future. Technology is not yet there. We need humans to do this!

We need high order personal interactions to make the hiring process holistic and successful.


Care about Candidate Experience?

ciel blog - candidate experience

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

Are we attracting the best?

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

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

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

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

Devil lies in the details

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

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

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

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

Drive it right from the very top

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

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