13 March, 2007

Morality is a private and costly luxury

John Maxwell

AN ETHICAL dilemma can be defined as an undesirable or unpleasant choice relating to a moral principle or practice. In such situations, do we do the easy thing or the right thing? Business people in particular desire to win through achievement and success. But many think they have to choose between being ethical and winning. Many people believe that embracing ethics would limit their options, their opportunities, their very ability to succeed in business. They agree with Harvard history professor Henry Adams who stated: “Morality is a private and costly luxury.” Fortunately, there is an increasing desire for ethical dealing in business. One of our problems is that ethics is never a business issue or a social issue or a political issue. It is always a personal issue. People say they want integrity. But at the same time, ironically, studies indicate that the majority of people don’t always act with the kind of integrity they request from others. If you embrace ethical behaviour, will it automatically make you rich and successful? Of course not. Can it pave the way for you to become successful? Absolutely! Ethics + competence is a winning equation. In contrast, people who continually attempt to test the edge of ethics inevitably go over that edge. In the short term, behaving ethically may look like a loss. However, in the long term, people always lose when they live without ethics. Have you ever met anyone who lived a life of shortcuts, deception, and cheating who finished well?

Source: - The Economic Times

12 March, 2007

Are HR professionals in the people business any longer?

Ganesh Chella

A sound grounding in the science of human behaviour will help today's HR professionals diagnose people issues better and strike a better balance between business demands and people's needs.

As a human resource consultant, I have had the unenviable task (on more than one occasion) of introducing my clients' HR manager to their own employees! If you find this hard to believe try this test - ask a random sample of employees in any large organisation to list the names of their HR team members. If they do pass this test, ask them if they have seen them at least once, face-to-face. If they pass this test too, they are blessed. The rest may read on ...
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!

So... .
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

A Triumph of Story telling

Every once in a while, a movie comes along that blows you away just by how utterly simple and beautiful it is. The Pursuit Of Happyness is one of those movies, a heart-warming story of father and son, human beings, pulling together. Will Smith and eight-year-old Jaden Smith, father and son in real life, bring this to us on screen poignantly, and always with a look-on-the-brightside lightness. Their optimism comes to define, and uplift the movie. And in the process, they rise above the difficult circumstances that are integral to its story.

Chris Gardner's job as a salesman is a false start; with a wife and young son to provide for, he can hardly make ends meet. Tough times are in store. His wife leaves him, and he and his son - who he fiercely refuses to give his wife custody of - are evicted from their home because he can't pay the rent. A touching, often sad story of the two of them up against life's odds unfolds. Each time they survive one(just about), you find yourself hoping that their next episode is an inflection that turns the tide for the better. Often, they only find themselves up against another trying circumstance.

Jaden Smith, both as Christopher Gardner in this movie and as Jaden the actor, is memorable: Because of the events around him rocking his world, Christopher is often unsettled, and sometimes displays it, just as a kid of his age would. But he does not dwell, and often takes comfort in his dad's presence, like any other eightyear-old (Will Smith as his real dad must surely have helped). In turn, Chris Gardner, in spite of the hopeless situation that he sees and the desperation that he feels, looks to Christopher for reassurance. His son is easily distracted by the present moment, and doesn't know enough to comprehend just how badly off they might be. He sometimes even forgets that things are looking gloomy, something that adults are able to do much less effectively. "Are you happy?" Chris asks his son in one scene, "Because if you're happy, then I'm happy, then things are fine," taking comfort from the child-like optimism that his son has.

You sense that Gardner always has a fierce ray of hope that never goes away. Will Smith's performance is moving, and empathetic, you're rooting for him fervently. He brings many unwritten (and ineffable) facets to his character, and a large part of my being drawn into this movie and then loving it is because of what Will Smith brings to his role.

The Pursuit Of Happyness is persuasive proof that a story can be told simply, without adornment or flourish, and still fully engage your senses and leave strong, lasting impressions.

FILM : The Pursuit Of Happyness

DIRECTOR : Gabriele Muccino

CAST : Will Smith, Jaden Smith
Source: Madras plus , The Economic Times

08 March, 2007

Igniting women entrepreneurship

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.
The only problem, as always in India, is how do we make this happen? Conventional job creation will not happen as fast as we need it to, and poor and less educated women will find it increasingly tough to have a shot at those fewer jobs. The only way to fix this is entrepreneurship, enabling them to become economically active at an income level that makes the effort worthwhile.
It is this that is the focus of TIE women’s initiative. TIE is an Indian diaspora originated, global network, committed to fostering entrepreneurship. The TIE model for action is based on awareness creation (to spark desire and spur action) — advocacy (to create systemic enablers and remove systemic road blocks) — assistance (mentoring through a semi-formal process to get high potential entrepreneurs off the ground). As a first step to understanding how best to deploy this model for fostering grassroots entrepreneurship for women, a group from TIE women and UTI Bank collaborated a baseline study (GEM — Grassroots Entrepreneurship Movement for women), to map the structure and conduct of women entrepreneurship as it exists today. The study was conducted by India Consultancy Group, and mentored by two volunteers from McKinsey. I think today would be a good day to share the study findings, for use in any which way, by all who are concerned with women entrepreneurship.
Is there a desire for entrepreneurship among middle class urban Indian women who are currently not working? A survey to measure the NQ or the entrepreneurial quotient was conducted (1,200 middle class urban women excluding the top 20% of households and the bottom 30% in terms of social class) in six diverse cities — Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Coimbatore, Chandigarh, Hyderabad and Indore.
The heartening answer was that about one in every four women wanted to have a business of her own. Half of these potential entrepreneurs already are running some money-making activity from home and are ready to convert it to a formal business. The other half have so far been solely home makers, but have given a fair degree of thought to visioning their business.
What is their profile? Forget images of Kiran Shaw or Vandana Luthra. Of these women, 40% had less than nine years of education, another 40% were standard tenth pass, and only 20% had an education beyond that. The reasons for not studying further were forced on them in 75% of the cases, “family said enough”, “financial constraints”, and “got married off”. The touching statistic was that women with high NQ also had more educated mothers — relatively speaking, of course. Of them, 95% were married, almost all had children, and 67% had nuclear families. Obviously the strategy to stimulate such entrepreneurship has to take these constraints into account.
WHAT stops them? Just about everything — lack of know-how, lack of space, lack of family support, lack of finances. (Interestingly that was not the first and last item on the list. It isn’t just about money. It is about support in many more ways, because they have fewer role models to learn from.) Part 2 of the study was to know more about what motivates and frustrates existing women entrepreneurs, and how they can be taken to the next level.
Four segments of women entrepreneurs exist: Self-help groups: Those who are well served and mentored by microfinance institutions.
Grassroots entrepreneurs: Those who are driven by a need to augment the family’s finances especially to secure their children’s future — tailors, flower sellers, STD booth owners, paanshops. With turnover aspiration of five lakh a year, they are very work focused, as they can see any increase in their earnings as directly impacting their childrens’ lives. They are hungry for formal skills and training and can clearly articulate what they want to learn that will help them earn more. Domestic family support, financial support and better infrastructure and mechanisation is what they ask for.
Mid-rung entrepreneurs: They are driven by a need to build reputation, become known, and improve quality and satisfy creative instincts . Mostly graduate +, they typically have garments shops, poultry farms, export businesses etc., with turnover aspirations from Rs 50 lakh to Rs 1 crore. Fairly well supported by the family, their biggest need is for know-how to take the ‘quality of their business’ to the next level. However, they do not want to scale too much, because to them, there is an optimal level beyond which, they believe their children will get neglected.
Upper Crust: Drawn from the top-most social class, very well educated, with businesses like export houses, travel agencies, traders in pharmaceuticals, often adjuncts to their husband’s businesses, they aspire to turnovers of more than Rs 5 crore. Where are the bankers for the grassroots entrepreneurs? The mid-rung can get bank loans if she makes an effort to, but prefers friends and family funding, while the upper crust leverages her family balance sheet to get loans for her business. However the most potent and hungry segment, the grassroots entrepreneur is stuck in the middle with no access to finance — below the nose of the bank, and beyond the ken of micro finance.
A segmented strategy customised for the mid-rung and grassroots entrepreneurs is being worked on: Awareness to help take the leap with family blessing, advocacy relating to school curricula and new banking offerings, and assistance to hand hold them to the next level.
source:- The Economic Times

Dont try to change others to suit you!!

People are brought up with different values. Their philosophy of life is different from yours. Due to this there are differences in this world. Thats why the world exists. Dont expect them to change according to your confirmations. Accept them the way they are. Thats the beauty and basis of all the realtionships.

03 March, 2007

It’s back to school for retail head-hunters


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

Brahmins At The Gate : Indian CEOs are the next big thing on global boards

Vinod Mahanta & Vikas Kumar

HSBC’S INDIA CEO Naina Lal Kidwai is usually at her confident best, but on that spring afternoon last year she was understandably nervous. The convention hall at the hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland, had more than 5,000 shareholders of Nestle attending the company’s Annual General Meeting. They were to elect three new board members for the Swiss FMCG major, and Kidwai was one of the candidates. The other two were European h e a v y w e i g h t s Steven George Hoch, founder and senior partner of Highmount Capital, a highly regarded investment banking firm, and the formidable Jean-RenĂ© Fourtou, chairman of the supervisory board of Vivendi and member of the boards of CapGemini, Sanofi-Aventis and AXA. After a three-minute video clip on each candidate, the electronic voting began and then the nerve-wrecking wait for the results. Finally when the results were flashed, Kidwai had achieved another of the many firsts that dot her career — she was elected with highest number of votes, becoming the first woman head of an Indian company to grace a global board. “People voted for diversity: they voted for diversity of exposure and the diversity of different markets,” says Kidwai.

The same month, one of India’s biggest corporate leaders was going through a similar experience. On April 18, 2006, Tata group chairman Ratan Tata’s name was proposed for directorship on the board of Fiat Spa by the Agnelli family. Later, on 4th May, Tata was formally inducted into the Fiat board. He wasn’t the first Tata to do so — way back in ‘70s, JRD Tata sat on the global board of directors of Chase Manhattan Bank with an Agnelli family member, the then president of Fiat, Dr Giovanni Agnelli. More recently, Ratan Tata joined another global board, that of New York-headquartered Alcoa, the world’s largest aluminium producer. And soon after came news of Infosys chairman NR Narayana Murthy accepting an invitation to join the board of Anglo-Dutch foods major Unilever. HDFC chairman Deepak Parekh graces the board of Singapore telecom company Singtel, while ace lawyer Zia Mody is on the board of a HSBC subsidiary in Hong Kong.

And in what could be an indicator of times ahead, headhunters in Spencer Stuart, a leading global search firm, are on the lookout for three eminent Indian business leaders to fill board positions for global companies — a Fortune 100 financial services firm, a luxury company, and a media group. Sources in the search industry disclose that two European corporate giants are also on a lookout for Indian directors for their global boards. In fact such is the demand for Indian CEOs that HSBC’s Kidwai has had to decline invitations by two American companies for their boards. What explains this clamour for Indian board directors? Trust Narayana Murthy to hit the nail bang on the head: “It signifies two things — India matters, and Indians matter. India matters as a country and as a market, and Indians matter as competent people.” Deepak Parekh elaborates: “India is happening. The MNCs have tremendous interest in India and the Indian market. They are looking at the favourable demographics, increasing disposable incomes, our huge population, the 9% GDP growth, the stability in government, Indian companies going out, among a host of other reasons,” he says. And the Indian market is a hard nut to crack as any MNC will tell you, so any expertise from here is welcome. “As people recognise the challenge to penetrate this market, they are going to get many representatives (from here) on board,” says Paul C Reilly, chairman and CEO, Korn/Ferry International, the world’s largest executive search firm. Results from the Spencer Stuart Board Index 2006 give us yet another insight. It’s part of a much larger trend — 52% of the S&P 500 companies want directors with international experience. BUILDING THE BOARD ACCORDING TO THE survey, a small minority (6%) of directors currently at the top 200 of the S&P 500 companies are from outside the US. Companies now want to change this, with a board that reflects the increasingly global nature of business. The survey also notes that corporate boards have begun to think strategically about the backgrounds and expertise they need in their board rooms in order to keep pace with the changing demands of the marketplace. Companies are thinking in terms of “what is the mix of capabilities we need to bring to the board over the next one to three years that will best support our business success,” the survey states. Thomas J Neff, chairman, Spencer Stuart US, and one of world’s leading headhunters, says, “The crunch in high quality independent and diverse director talent also requires companies to look outside their borders. The experience of companies with Indian board members is positive as they get a different view of the world and access to a very high quality pool of Indian executives and entrepreneurs on their Board.” Industry watchers add that it’s just not mere tokenism — global companies are feeling an inherent need for diversity. “There is a push for diversity at board level, in terms of reach, culture and gender,” says Kidwai. And that’s where Indians fit in perfectly. In fact, Indians rank fifth at 6% of the total international directors on global boards, after the UK (28 %), Canada (21%), and Germany (10%). Indian management skills are also well known, and many Indian leaders have proved their worth in the global arena. And it’s one area where they have an edge over their Chinese counterparts. “You see more Indians than Chinese on global boards because it’s a cultural difference people see. In general, Indians are more open, adaptable, and straightforward while the Chinese culture is hierarchial and quieter,” says Reilly. One reason why global companies are more comfortable is that a few NRIs, mainly academics and senior executives, have blended in well with global boards, and have added value in their assignments. Among the academicians are Kellogg dean Dipak Jain (Hartmax Corp, John Deere, Northern Trust Corp, Peoples Energy), Michigan University’s CK Prahalad (NCR Corp and World Resources Institute), Tuck School’s Vijay Govindarajan (Mainstay Partners and Executive Development Associates) and Emory University’s Jagdish Sheth (Cryocell International and Adayana Inc). Indian executives in MNCs are hopping aboard this bandwagon too. The latest is Rajat Gupta, who joined the Goldman Sachs board in November.
Earlier, Vyomesh Joshi, the high-profile head of the printers business in Hewlett-Packard joined the Yahoo board. Indian CEOs admit it’s a great experience. “Unilever is the second largest FMCG company in the world, it’s Anglo-Dutch, and it operates in 100 countries. There are lot of lessons for us because we operate in 38 countries, we are also a multinational. So there will always be lessons in human resources management, innovation, corporate governance, finance and so on. In every area there are opportunities for me to learn,” says Murthy. HSBC’s Kidwai agrees: “The similarities between Nestle and HSBC are mind boggling. Some of the challenges are similar, so there’s a huge amount of learning that I have been able to apply to HSBC. The experience of seeing vision from the top is tremendous.” Observing strategy and governance in new cultural context can be informing and interesting for Indian CEOs. Even board functioning varies across countries. Says HDFC’s Parekh, “Meetings are much longer in Singapore and can go on for 4-5 hours, and they are much more structured. Topics like succession planning are very big on global boards.” There is another trend emerging, of having Indians on advisory boards to the corporate boards of directors. For example, Narayana Murthy is a member of the Asia-Pacific advisory board of British Telecommunications plc. Similarly, Ratan Tata is member, Asia-Pacific Advisory Committee to the board of directors of the New York Stock Exchange, and the international advisory boards of the Mitsubishi Corporation, the American International Group and JP Morgan Chase. “In this arrangement, the company gets a window into the market, and the leaders don’t have to deal with Sarbanes-Oxley issues, time constraints don’t apply, and yet the work they do is strategic,” says Anjali Bansal, country manager, Spencer Stuart. Experts say it’s going to be a big trend going forward, and with a limited pool of CEOs with relevant exposure and stature, there could be talent crunch here as well. “The pool of Indian directors will be taken up soon,” says Jeffrey M Hauswirth of Spencer Stuart. Right now, Indian CEOs are happy representing their country abroad. “It always feels nice because at the end of the day unless India gets respect, Indians won’t get respect,” says Murthy.