13 March, 2007
12 March, 2007
The reason for the `invisibility' that I have implied in the example is the fundamental shift in the way today's HR professionals are seeing their roles. They seem to be taking a "hard" and "business like" view of their roles to the exclusion of the "softer" championship, advocacy and connect dimensions. As a result, many of today's HR professionals are not dealing with "people" as "people" and that is worrying.
While the transformation of HR as a serious partner in today's business environment is welcome, leaving behind the "humanness" is not. While HR professionals are busy designing and implementing programmes that are intended to benefit people, their current mode of relating with people seems to be what psychologists would call "agentic" — a cold approach, caring less about their feelings but more about what one wants from them.
This is what has prompted me to ask if HR professionals are in the people business any longer?
The five drivers
I see five factors driving this new "HR attitude towards people".
The preoccupation with becoming a strategic partner
It looks like some HR folks read only parts of Dave Ulrich's landmark book. While he spoke with as much gusto about the employee champion role as he did about the strategic partner role, most seem to consider the latter more attractive. In fact, the preoccupation is so severe that "being in touch with employees" is seen as totally non-strategic.
In my opinion, being champions and advocates is indeed strategic. It is for this reason that HR professionals were traditionally groomed in the "employee relations" role before being moved into "corporate" roles.
The frustration with the lack of reciprocity
In the past, the people-friendly attitude and actions of the HR professional met with a fair amount of reciprocity from the employees. Using the depth of this relationship, HR leaders were able to solve sticky people problems, negotiate with unions and hire and retain employees. In the emerging employment arrangements that we are witnessing, the relationship and persuasive powers of the HR Manager is unable to match the harsh forces of the labour market.
This is obviously leading to a certain level of frustration and anger among the HR folks with employees and their attitudes. The empathy and Theory Y assumptions needed among HR professionals to deal with the situation are not evident. Nor is there reflection about how they seem to have contributed to these changing (read bad) employee attitudes!
Disconnected by design
As organisations scale like never before, HR professionals have to spread themselves thinner than ever before. Spread thin beyond a point, HR presence becomes meaningless and leads to complete disconnect. The need for focus and specialisation is also driving the HR functions into silos. Like the super-specialist medical professional, each vertical within the HR looks only at one aspect of the employee - talent acquisition, talent engagement, talent development and so on. No one seems to be seeing the whole human being!
Feverish HR outsourcing, recourse to self-help technologies, emphasis on managerial responsibility for people and other such actions are also making HR more and more disconnected from people.
The modern HR manager has fewer and fewer touch points with his or her employees and this does not seem to cause any worry. Right from selection interviews to exit interviews, external service providers are taking over.
Mistaking a `Talent mind-set' for a `people mind-set'
HR is now called talent management and HR professionals prefix or suffix these words to their titles. Many believe that this gives the function and the professional a greater sense of purpose.
The only problem is that "Human" is now missing not only in spirit but also in "letter"!
The way the term talent is used also gives me the sense that HR is in the business of materials management and not in the business of people!
While the urgency to compete and establish supremacy in the labour market is high, the orientation seems more mechanistic and less humanistic.
Less science more techniques
Many of today's HR professionals lack knowledge about the basic science of human behaviour which forms the edifice for understanding people and their motives.
On the other hand they are overwhelmed with what today's HR consulting firms dish out - talent assessments methodologies, engagement models, criteria for becoming the "best in the list" and so on.
A sound grounding in the science of human behaviour would have helped today's HR professionals diagnose people issues better and strike a better balance between business demands and people's needs. Without this understanding of people, the empathy and concern are hard to come by.
The HR profession is undoubtedly under a lot of pressure given that most of today's business problems revolve around people. Merely being the warm and fuzzy guy around will not do. Giving up the people agenda altogether will not do either!
Let's get in touch with our own humanness
Let's understand the people behind the talent
Let's reconnect with these people as people
(The author is the founder and CEO of totus consulting, a strategic HR consulting firm that designs and implements systems and processes for organisations across diverse industries. He can be reached at
10 March, 2007
08 March, 2007
If we could get the poor and ill-educated women to earn their own money, we would have more warriors in the fight against poverty, and more champions of the girl child, says Rama Bijapurkar
THE new buzz in the conference circuit is the arithmetic argument that there could be a big GDP boost if more Indian women became economically active (77% of urban housewives, 60% of rural do not work outside the home). To me, a more compelling pay off of women earning is the resultant increase in their self-esteem and negotiating power with family and society and the resultant social and human development benefits. More importantly, if we could get the poor and the ill-educated women to earn their own money, we would have more warriors in the fight against poverty, and more champions of the girl child.
03 March, 2007
Samidha Sharma & Deepshikha Monga NEW DELHI
THE retail sector's hunt for manpower is leading players to hitherto uncharted territory. Now, school students (Class X and XII passouts) are being roped in to help the sector satisfy its insatiable appetite for skilled workforce. So, companies such as Reliance Retail, Pantaloon and Godrej Agrovet are going to schools to scout for talent. Reliance Retail, which plans to recruit around 5 lakh employees for its venture over the next five years, expects to hire around 60-70% of its front-end staff from government schools. These Class XII passouts then undergo a sixmonth training programme before getting on to the shop floor. Similarly, Pantaloon Retail hires as many as 300 school passouts from both government and private schools, out of the 600 it recruits every month. The retail major also gives them an option of pursuing a BBA in Retail through distance-learning programmes at Madurai Kamaraj University and pays half the fee on completion of one year of the course. It currently has on its rolls around 3,500 school passouts, picked up from various schools in the country. "The distance-learning BBA programme offers these youngsters a chance to chart out a career path of growth and an opportunity to become more than mere shopfloor attendants," says Pantaloon Retail HR head Sanjay Jog. The retailer has a five-week operations and sales training programme for its recruits and a week-long training on self-development. On the other hand, Godrej Agrovet, the Rs 870-crore rural retail initiative of the Godrej Group, trains Class X passouts under its sixmonth ‘Godrej Aadhaar Krishi Gurukul’ programme. It has so far trained 85 students in the field of agricultural advisory services, apart from personality development, computer skills and sales. It will train another batch of 120 students by May this year and plans to train about 1,000 such students by March 2008. According to CII, the retail sector can absorb 90 lakh people over the next five years. Ma Foi Management Consultants has been recruiting Class XII passouts for retail players and expects this trend to catch up as organised retail goes on an expansion spree. Says the HR consultancy’s chief operating office, E Balaji, "Both employee development and retention are on the agenda of retailers who are hiring in bulk, in anticipation of their massive expansion exercise."
Source : - The Economic Times
02 March, 2007
Vinod Mahanta & Vikas Kumar