Article (December-2018)


HRD is a spiritual function meant to make people lives better

Dr. T.V. Rao

Designation : -   Chairman TVRLS & Ex- Professor

Organization : -  IIMA, Ahmedabad


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Do you think that HRD function in organisations, which you and Dr. Udai Pareek Conceived four decades ago, has evolved in the right direction? If not, what are the gaps?
TV In a few organizations "yes"; in many "No". It is still evolving and constantly changing. Unfortunately, in several organizations it took a long time to release HR energies from routine administrative tasks to developmental activities. A few HR managers enjoyed more the "administration" of development a rather than "facilitation" of development. Administering development activities gives a new and false sense of power. Facilitating development requires a sense of responsibility, commitment to HR philosophy and expert power than administrative power. It is only in recent times many HR professionals started acquiring expert power. If you go through our earlier articles on performance coaching and counselling (see Pareek, Pereira and Rao), it required a deep listening, listening to feelings and underlying assumptions as a part of counselling or coaching. Today, it has become a specialization while we maintained that every manager or supervisor should be a counsellor and should acquire counselling skills. In fact most of our HRD programs focusing on performance appraisals focused on counselling skills. Today counselling is substituted by coaching and specialist coaches are being trained and made available as a part of HR interventions. We have grown in recognising the importance of coaching but are still limiting it to top management and taking it away from each of us.
Until two decades ago, HR was taken up as a generalist function but now it has become more of a specialist function. Will it be good for the organisation as well as professionals to become as specialist of one branch only in future?
TV HR should always focus on human resources. Human being is an integrated whole. Human being acts like a whole and not inparts. HR specialists consciously or unconsciously end up dividing a human being into parts. So, one of them treats the human being for KRAs and KPAs, another for coaching and review discussions, a third for assessment and development enters, and a fourth for 360 Degree feedback, and fifth for engagement, and sixth for training and development. So in HR specialization we have forgotten the integrated human being and have divided the human being into parts. How would you like to be treated? As a target or as a full human being? Take the medical field for example. If you break your hand, you are treated as an integrated person, your blood pressure, sugar, bone structure, anatomy, pathology, history-all matter and any specialist who attends to a part without caring for the whole ends up harming the person more than curing him. IN HR we don't seem to realize this. Our job is over by sponsoring someone for a training, or for 360 Program or for an ADC. This is the harm specializing has done. Integrated HRD systems were evolved by Udai Pareek and me with a purpose. With growth in size, most organizations are making mistakes of dividing people by introducing specialization. HR facilitations strategies and structures need a sea change.
It is generally said that element of human is no more left in HR function and it is reduced to resources only? Is it correct? What are the dangers of such mindset?
TV I tend to agree with that view in most cases. Means have become ends and what was thought originally to facilitate the three Cs (Competence, commitment and culture) building have forgotten their original purpose and are focusing on the trivials. For example, the number of competencies are more important than the quality of competence and the contours of competence and the dynamics of competence. Capacity utilization of training centers and training budgets are more important then learning and application. Number of ADCs conducted is more critical than what has been accomplished due to such interventions. Employee engagement rank among other companies or competitors or great place to work ranks are more important than the engagement itself or happiness at work. Competition and unhealthy competition in HR has resulted in many distortions. We are using wrong measures for HR and that is why I feel the H or Human is forgotten in HRD and Development got substituted by departments and what remains resources department. Hence I readily agreed to someone who says calling human being as a resource is a crime as human is filled with possibilities while resource limits the possibilities and focusses on measurement.
The result of this mind set is human being becomes a negotiable entity. The parameters of negotiation distort human talent. Negotiations are always on what has been demonstrated and not on what is likely to be accomplished. What is negotiated is in relations to what has been demonstrated and already measured and not one what the person could do. I agree that we could never recruit a person on possibilities. But having recruited one, are we treating the person as capable of creating new possibilities. In OCTAPACE, values how much scope are we giving for autonomy, pro-action and experimentation. Clear consequence is gross underutilization of talent. We are not even exploring. The culture at IIMA is a great example of freedom and autonomy while doing your work diligently. Many professors have done very creative work and explored their talent in many directions.
In this era of technology advancement, How HR professionals can keep them strongly connected with people without sacrificing the potential and advantages of technology in HRD function?
TV We should be technology savvy. Technology does not mean only IT. Technology is needed in many other fields and we should appreciate and encourage development of new technologies that solve most or at least aid in solving human problems: food, clean air, water, shelter, greenery around to produce enough oxygen, shelter, health (both mental and physical). I think we have not done enough on technologies required to produce more food, healthy food, clean air, decent places to live, educate oneself etc. Our human development Index is still at low level. Country's HR should focus on these issues and those organizations that contribute to human welfare should be encouraged. More and more HR professionals should join them. Technology in HR runs the risk of treating people as numbers. HRIS should become quality sensitive and not merely quantitative. This is a big challenge. HR analytics should not be limited to predict attrition and should move to predict creativity, innovations, OCTAPACE culture and so on. It should be used to provoke people and create more employment and entrepreneurship than unemployment and unrest. How? I have no answer. We have to put our heads together.
Do you also agree that HR function is going to extinct in near future? If so, What HR professionals should do to keep them relevant in business world?
TV As I mentioned in one of my you tube videos, HR has many avatars. HRD is a philosophy of continuous learning (the three Cs: building one's competencies, happiness and culture and values for the society and its future). Therefore it is spiritual. As a spiritual function it can never become extinct. Those who do not understand this and treat this like any other function meant to make a living better learn to appreciate the spirit of HR or the spirit of being human and the possibilities human being has. As a job or as a department if it continues to focus on replaceable activities, it could become extinct with advanced technologies available to do routine jobs. To keep themselves relevant in the changing world HR professionals should learn to respect human beings first. It starts with self respect. Discover more and more of one self. Experiment with new ways of creating happiness at work place. Try to understand human beings and their enormous potential. Don't just be happy by being a member of many WhatsApp groups and twitter clubs and Facebook fans. They provide networks to put you in touch with what is happening around and create choices for you. Use these choices to learn. Go deep. Social media distorts our understanding of any human being in depth. Human talent can't be captured by social media fully. In-depth and intense interactions and debates are a must. Reading books, blogs and listening to talks and watching movies and participating in debated will go a long way to make you experience the world. Continuous self reflection is a must.