The Leapfrog HR

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Maitreyee Bhaduri

Vertical Head Employee Engagement and Communication

Adani Power Limited

 

The Leapfrog HR

A concept that has found prominence in the corporate world of late in the wake of the financial downturn is ‘’Sustainability’’. The word Sustainability inherently implies long term thought and action. More than any other aspect of a business, HR needs to focus most on Sustainability issues. You may ask why? The answer is simple. Whenever, there is a downturn, the first resource on the chopping block almost always, is the Human Resource.

The dawn of HR or the personnel department was during the period of Industrial Revolution. Beginning as the time keeper and payroll processor of the industrial workforce, to maintaining safety standards and appropriate working conditions, the Human Resource department has come a long way.

Change is a constant and the same holds true for HR too. From unskilled or semi skilled workforce to blue collar and then white collar jobs, the HR team has evolved to handle the entire gamut of people practices and behaviours.

Who could have predicted back in the 1900’s, when multiple people tried to handle just one machine, that one day we would be dealing with a generation of workforce that can handle multiple complex machines at the same time! Rapid changes in technology, lifestyle and perceptions can quickly outdate people policies and processes. Therefore, sustainability is not about predictability but about longevity. Longevity is all about understanding some important parameters and monitoring them all the time.

Much has been written on the topic of motivation and engagement. That they are necessary topics to understand, is a given. However, technology and people perceptions are changing at a rapid pace today. Sustainability is about managing these changes consistently over a period of time.

The easiest way to keep track of these changes is to keep an ear to the ground. Is HR listening enough? Are we using the right mediums to listen both from inside as well as from the market? If we are listening, then are we able to convert the same into measurable initiatives?

One of the main challenges that organisations face today is that of attrition – especially that of skilled and competent workforce. In India, we like to cite examples of foreign companies and their people practices. Japanese companies and their turnover rates are lauded by all. But, we overlook the fact that Japanese as a society, believes in building relationships for life. Job security is the prime reason for low turnover rates in Japanese organisations. The same holds true for Indian PSUs too.

Job security has been treated as the underdog for several decades now, as an unfortunate result of an inconclusive study on productivity. If motivation and engagement were the mecca of employee satisfaction, then some of the best companies of the world, would have zero employee turnover. The data however speaks differently. The stress of frequent performance appraisals, subjective feedback and evaluations and inconsequential appraisal methodology has taken its toll on the workforce morale already.

Employees are no longer loyal to an employer since, they get no guarantees from an employer either. The viscious cycle of distrusts has much larger implications. The first danger is that is knowledge obsolescence. Training and Development is meaningless, if employees are not ready or unwilling to learn.

Knowledge Obsolescence is a phenomenon that is frightening in its magnitude today. Fresh recruits join an organisation with a generic set of knowledge and skills. Over a period of time they absorb knowledge available within their peer group or seniors at work. The learning pretty much stops there.

Are we training enough? Is training and up-skilling the responsibility of HR alone? Or is there a deeper problem? Can technology have negative ramifications? Could easy access to Google and Wikipedia be the reason behind the lethargy to learn more and uncover new knowledge?

It is clear even to the most non discerning eye that the merit of the brightest fresher’s today is a lot lesser than the merit of the last decade. But can corporates really afford to pay for the slip up of the education system.

The frog in the well syndrome. We will do what others in our industry do is an attitude that will kill HR as a function soon. Innovation in people practices does not come from following the crowd outside; but from actually listening to your OWN crowd. From uniform restrictions to leaves, we have not evolved with time and always find a convenient excuse in the name of law. Laws can be changed or amended. Somehow HR has forgotten that.

The Ragging Mentality. Just because we have experienced challenges and our seniors have created amazing work despite difficulties, does not mean the Gen Next have to face the same hardships. If we are willing to make changes and provide better facilities and lifestyle to our own children, why does the concept not apply to the young workforce? Every time we hear a question on existing policies of the organisation, we scrounge the deepest corners of our memory and try our best to prove that the policy validity still holds. HR needs to stop living in the past and come out of the Senior College Ragger mode.

Equality at work must and should apply to my wife or daughter but never to my female colleague. This ironic mentality is an issue that HR needs to nip once and for all. If women refuse to have babies because their corporate career may be doomed, soon we will have to develop hiring SOPs for robots since, human beings will be in short supply.

There are no easy solutions to people’s problems. Neither, should HR try to please everyone and compromise on professionalism. However, uncovering the root cause of an issue is the key to Sustainable Development.

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