Special Article (July-2018)

 Special Articles

Article of the Month - July 2018

Sanjeev Sharan

Designation : -   Director HR

Organization : -  ZTE, Gurgaon


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Why Lala organizations have strong retention DNA

One common aspiration of any professional is to work in highly admired, professionally managed organization alias fortune companies. We do come across references like "How Y organization works in employee development Or How Z organization has structured performance management process or How B organization has super vendor payment process" etc. It is not only good experience for internal employees working there, rather it is equally wonderful experience for external associates like vendors, partners, suppliers, contractors and customers. In spite of all the laid down standard process and policies are also not "Bug free"!!! They have their own share of challenges in terms of stagnated employee satisfaction, increasing attrition, joining issues, challenges of attracting right talents, lower customer satisfaction index, market challenges, distributors, stockist grievances, logistic distribution etc.

On the other hand there is no dearth of organizations falling into the category of "Not so professional" or in local term of "Lala organizations". Lala organizations are ideally family owned organizations which are still run by the owners in their own management style. These organizations have their own defined processes and policies. They have employee base and go through the same process and business challenges. The difference lies in their "INTERFERENCE & FLEXIBILITY" in management with very limited delegation of authority. In spite of this difference many employees are happily working there for ages along with numerous business partners who prefer working with these organizations for generations. It is interesting to study & explore their motivation factors to work in such organizations either as employees, vendors, consultants, partners etc. These learning make it more interesting:

Belongingness : I own it :
Many of the employees, partners, vendors feel more belonged to "Lala driven or Non Professional" organizations. They feel connected to the organization. The kick for them is surprisingly associating and KNOWING the management personally. They feel their views and opinions are heard and counted for the business. They get sense of pride in direct contribution.

Familiarization - Access to senior management :
One of the most attractive aspects of employees' satisfaction over there is easy access to the senior management. Though many of them have worldly designation, grades and hierarchy, but the informal access system is always there for the "own people or apna aadmi". They are seen as "Trusted Lieutenants". And many a times they are assigned as "Crisis Managers". The kick of having the one - o- one access to the promoter is a big morale booster. In case of vendors and suppliers, the same philosophy works. They can cross over the existing structure and connect with the senior management or promoter.

Flat structure - By-Passing culture :
In spite of written laid down process and policy, one can find a ready set of employees who are treated differently. Is it too tiring for professionals working in such organizations? The natural answer would be - Yes. An interesting incident is worth sharing. In one of the organization a CEO of a business unit manager had joined from an MNC and was posted in Germany before joining this organization. He found one of his team members bypassing him. It was not accepted by him though he tried to counsel him to follow the rules but it all failed. He could not align him for long. The facts remained the same, as the employee was with the organization for last 12 years and had seen the organization grow from scratch. He had been one of the few members who had joined them when the office was started from a small shuttered shop of around 800 sq meters. These kind of people do have problem accepting their managers and perceive them as "Relation barriers". This kind of relationship can be compared with mother in law and daughter in law, whereas MIL finds DIL as a barrier between her and son!! The handling requires balancing the same.

Caring & Personalized performance management system :
Performance management period is quite an interesting time for HR teams in such organizations. They invariably are accustomed of preparing TWO SET of employees Lists for increments. One list comprises of all the employees while the other list comes from the management or promoters with special recommendations for their "aapne aadmi". It is not very uncommon to have the exceptional list in most of the organizations, but in this case the percentage of beneficiaries is higher. Also interestingly the factors for getting a place in the exceptional list are different. This list is prepared keeping in mind loyalty, personal bonding, performance etc. Though performance does play an important role but one more factor also is considered by many promoters while deciding the amount or percentage. This factor is known as "environment driven requirement". Yes it is true. Promoters or management do show their benevolence considering the employees environment or situations especially related to their personal life!! e.g son's admission fees in engineering or medical college, or down payment to buy a house or down payment for car for daughter's marriage, which one will rarely find in professionally managed setups. This kind of flexibility is a big blessing to the people working there for ages. They do not have to struggle through the HR processes and policy guidelines. It is the choice between "Employee Need and Management Will" rest all is history. If both sides Kundli matches, nothing can stop.

Founding father of matrix reporting :
Have you ever thought about history of matrix reporting system in our country? It is as old as Lala system prevailing in our country. While the organizations have hierarchy system with multiple layers or so between owner and employee, in spite of the structure, few of the old ones continued having parallel relationship of reporting with owners in late evening or after some sales calls. This was the beginning of "Matrix Reporting" which has evolved into a full-fledged reporting system. And ironically while there are rims of pages written to strengthen the system in professional organizations, same is managed effectively for years and generations in Lala organizations.
Personalized - Customized travel policy :
It is nothing new when many of us "over spend or over shoot" our travel entitlements and find finance deducting from the bills while settling the travel bills. There are well designed travel policy in all the professional organizations with well defined limits of who can travel by air or train classified by class along with limits of hotels or guest houses. Though, there are clauses mentioned how to claim on exceptions cases but they are not encouraged keeping in mind to develop a culture of "wastage management". While on other hand in Lala organization, management clears the exception cases purely on the explanation by the so called employee with fewer struggles with accounts departments to justify the overshot expenses. It is purely on the wishes of the management.
Have you ever thought about a situation when you are traveling to a location where your In-laws stay? Yes, you might have travelled there many times. It's nothing unusual. Right? But the catch here is not about the location, it is more of thought process in such Lala culture. You should not be surprised to encounter the suggestion of taking your spouse along with you and on top of it, you will find administration department being instructed to provide a better kind of vehicle during your stay. After all it's the matter organization's image in front of your in-laws. How can organization compromise on it!!
Family blessing - CSR :
With the government making CSR mandatory for decent sized organizations, It has pulled the women folks from Lala family out in action. They are the ideal choice as CSR Chairmen leading the CSR initiatives of the organization. In some way it is beneficial for the society. In these organizations CSR is an extension to HR function thus makes an important KPI of HR Heads. One interesting observation has been that these Lala family women folks are usually more productive and sincere in delivering their responsibilities. They stick to their calendar and ensure full participation from top to bottom. While HR Head might have to struggle in getting support on other initiatives from department heads and senior management but on CSR front his life is easier. A small one liner mail from him attracts full attendance by all concerned at destined time and place. No questions asked. No justifications given!! Whether it is inaugurating a girl school, or blood donation camp or distributing blankets in slums or distributing books to adopted schools. The support is always there. In fact the best part of the whole game is the "zero constraints on budget". Accounts never questions the expenses assuming the "activity has the blessings of Madam"!! While on other hand in a professionally run organization, one has to follow set rules and processes to get budget and moreover exceptions are only encouraged as an exceptions in such professionally managed organizations and to get the approvals one has to spend rims of pages and hours of justification to concerned person with 50- 50 hope.
Un structured way of structuring -Emotion led manpower planning :
Though most of the Lala or promoter driven organizations try to implement scientific manpower planning but they succumb on the way and get into emotional traps. One of the best examples is observed during role conflict of so called "apne aadmi". In such case the role is carved to fit the "INCUMBANT". HR is advised to design role fitting the incumbent. The competency based hiring is put on the shelf and designer roles are developed. These experiences train HR experts becoming Designer JD Experts!!
Partner sensitive - Bhaichara Culture :
Even the Vendors and Suppliers at times are committed to such Lala managed organizations. Surprisingly they continue even during "low" time when the so called professionals flee during bad times. What keeps them together? On doing drill down, it is identified that "the comfort of knowing the management" is one big factor. This gives them comparatively much clearer picture of inside, while in other organizations they have zero or low visibility. They also have the privilege to have the opportunity to express to the right decision makers. In Lala organization they have the unwritten comfort that in case of emergency they have support of Lala to bail them out. It's the choice of certainty vs uncertainty. It is not to be missed that their loyalty is rewarded or compensated through other means for being loyal. Hence, they find long term benefit in staying with Lalas. Also most of the suppliers themselves are promoter driven in our country hence they feel more connected in working in such structures.
To sum up, it is true that grass is greener on the other side. Lala organizations do offer great experience to the employees even if at the cost of processes. While on the other hand it is universal fact that working in professionally managed and Fortune listed organizations is always pleasant experience. Still there are numerous reasons behind the success of Lala led organizations. They run with equal contribution of People, Passion and Relationships. They have their own DNA of functioning. As a writer my objective here is not to promote any culture neither demean any, rather should be read as an interesting information with different perspective. It also states that there is always a space for "Little different recipes of the world". Happiness and satisfaction of an employee is very individual at times and can be found in any organization. It depends upon how it is handled.