Article (December-2016)


Rear viewing in HR

Abhishek Jha

Designation : -   Director - Global HR

Organization : -  e-Emphasys, Mumbai


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Given the manpower rush that India is witnessing over the last decade & half, especially in the IT industry, HR has emerged as the most visible & critical function for business leaders. This labour arbitrage & skill availability has constantly posed the ubiquitous question - How do we get a higher retention run rate? Functions, and HR in particular, are expected to think beyond the obvious and create winning environments for employees. Within this winning environment is a huge but seamless mash up of employee engagement, skill development, constant touch points with employees, continuous prodding to find organization wide sentiment, parity checks, countless innovations, intense people data analysis, etc. Little do we realize that this quest of creating a perfect work place, results in a tremendous strain in the system that often leads to many of the golden initiatives becoming counter-productive. This strain actually creates paralysis from all the analysis! The quest to outperform, on several occasions, puts us back on the drawing board and wondering why some things never worked despite them being high caliber.

I feel, it's extremely important for the HR function to advocate 'rear viewing' internally as well as to the business leaders it collaborates with. By Rear Viewing I mean, looking back continuously and ensuring we address the basics that often get towered over by strategy. Many a times, strategy is built at the cost of basics. I would also like to point out that part of the blame must be shouldered by HR as well, as we often build lofty strategies to visually impress board decisions. My countless interactions with youngsters, mid-level careerists and seasoned professionals over 'what really would they like to see in the organization' has led me to believe that almost everyone across levels likes to not 'being pushed into too much engagement'. An engagement overkill? I would assume it's a fact and that many of the organizations suffer from it, without understanding the adversity that potentially comes along with it. It's time for us to Rear View & fix basics!

Rear Viewing is in fact a precursor to a strong engagement
It could be the answer to 'how organizations can weave a strong engagement culture by working on basics'. In my opinion, if Rear Viewing is done as a conscious continual effort, there wouldn't be a need to forever innovate on the engagement piece. Rear viewing in itself will take care of retention and overall sentiments.

There are 3 basics that every organization should consciously work towards making top notch - demanding & giving excellence, transparent hiring process, and setting up employees for success. With these 3 basics in place, everything else is secondary.

Transparent hiring process 
One of the biggest challenges is to retain short tenured employees, those who are less than a year old in the system. We often see the maximum attrition coming out of this segment, which essentially means that newly inducted folks do not get settled resulting in an exit.

Many a times, what is promised at the time of selection is not what employees work on. There are role mismatches, and worse still, miscommunication around basic but critical parameters such as payouts, bonuses, etc. This is the biggest dampener! Recruitment teams often look at hiring as a BAU without getting trained on customer delight and experience. This is extremely important as anyone who enters the organization becomes an ambassador for it, irrespective of getting through or not. I think the hiring team often gets sidelined for several leaning initiatives around customer delight, when it is the function that should be nominated for customer centric high impact programs.

Demanding & Giving Excellence
Let it be understood by organizations that excellence is a 2 way street, and it is imperative that we see it that way! While the organization has the right to demand excellence from employees, organizations should be equally receptive and adaptive to 'give' employees an environment that they see as conducive to excellence. Infrastructure, policies, tools are all ingredients that can radically enhance performance. The biggest reason why organizations' struggle to drive excellence is the inability to truly understand the right collaborative mix between employees & organizations', to achieve excellence.

Setting up employees for success
Setting up tough yet reasonable goals. Very clearly differentiating between long & short tenured employees, given the fact that both these sets require a completely different learning & socializing interventions. A continuous look within the system to understand if folks are put up at the right place basis their experience, skill set and overall potential. Measuring potential so as to accelerate & normalize interventions for various sets of employees.

An interesting article by Dr. Noelle Nelson states (quote) "Typically, somewhere during the first four to six months the eagerness and desire of most employees wane. Employees will only self-sustain their enthusiasm for the work a limited amount of time. After that, in the absence of feeling appreciated by management - that their work matters, that they matter - employees adopt the "whatever" attitude. The job becomes "just a job." "I have to go to work" replaces "I want to go to work" and employees do barely what is required of them, if that. Dr. Noelle makes an extremely critical point here, and the sooner organizations realize this, the better they will be able to work on the same.

While several of my friends might argue about the above 3 pointers as strategic, I recommend they be seen as basics. Unless we do not inculcate these as basics and 'a given' part of culture, we will continue to struggle on the overall engagement piece.