Friday, September 26, 2008

Ideas to get new employees productive quickly

I had answered this question on recently & thought about sharing the same on my blog.

There are times when we are extremely happy to have a new team-member join us. After the initial few days, we realize that the new-hire might need more time to ramp-up, while you had hired thinking about an extra-hand to reach the deadline a lot faster.

What had gone wrong in the whole process? To start with, you could have done a few things to help the new-hire up-to-speed with the happenings in the project.

1. Before DAY-ONE

Even before the employee comes on-board (once both you & the potential candidate have agreed & decided to work together), get them involved in shadow-work with the technical team whenever possible.
(a) Share non-confidential technical data
(b) Get them to attend at least 3 out of 5 tech-meetings with the team before they even came on-board
(c) To a certain extent even incorporating their ideas, with a mention that the idea came from the new-source (new employee) will help boost their confidence.

I’m sure they know the technologies needed & so were hired, but the idea is to bring them to speed on the usage of those technologies in a newer architecture. This would also give them a chance to know the team well, making them compatible. All of these can be done even before they come on-board. Off course, getting a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) signed will help.

2. Ensure you have sufficient documentation of the existing work

This will act as a ‘best-source’ for the new employee to get relevant information, without needing too much of the peer’s or manager’s time. This could also help bring down the learning time considerably.

3. Hiring-Right

Hiring folks with technologies/skillsets that meet your requirement (at least to a 90% fit) will help in ensuring faster understanding of the codes, architecture, processes,etc., The lesser they need to learn something new; the faster they can become productive. The intent should be to get specialists into the role. Tell them of the challenges that you are facing & where they could add value – if they are able to see the big-picture (from 30,000 ft) and yet be able to get day-to-day work accomplished - you have a gem in your hands!

The HR Store

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Ever wondered why we need Superstars in sports, manufacturing, Information Technology, even Politics? Certain companies or individuals make all the difference in their field of work…Jordan in Basketball…Schumacher in F1…Usain Bolt in Athletics…GE…Google…Quite a number of times this question has often taken debating to a heated-level. At least I did debate it at a firm that was clear they didn’t want a ‘Superstar’ Culture – wherein everyone was treated as a star! It’s good to think that way when you are trying very hard at keeping EVERYONE happy. Let’s admit that’s never going to happen!

So why do we need Superstars? This is very small population of people who have it in them to risk everything and put more than 100% effort in carving new paths, setting market trends, providing new solutions – basically doing enough to stay ahead of the troops. They are NOT dependent on market conditions or strong products; at times they might not even require managers! Yes, this population is NECESSARY and we all need them in our field of work. They are the ones who push the envelope, define your high-bar for achievements and a whole lot more.

The challenge however is in accepting the fact that this population does exist. If we had to question their existence, then a good way to do it would be to ask – Why are performance management systems in place? Why are we constantly undergoing an exercise to find out the best person in the team? Why do we have awards for folks who have gone beyond their line of duty, performed exceedingly well, shown initiatives, and led teams to greater success? It is to ensure that ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution is not used. We go the extra mile to accommodate the top-performer, give into their demands & end up making them your team’s iconic figure. In other words, they are the ‘Superstars’ that we will ALWAYS want in our teams.

However, certain boundaries need to be expanded or erased to accommodate superstars.

- They need to be given freedom to excel
- Work with a manager better than them (else, you can say your goodbyes)
- They need to be directed on a particular course and let them take full responsibility
- Superstars work best as individual-performers
- Fast-paced environments really excite them

Now for some pitfalls to having Superstars, which can be managed effectively

- Don’t put them on a pedestal that clearly indicates them as the key-player. They are excellent in what they do; but that’s not a license to can walk over others!
- There is a big-boost to egos when people are identified as ‘Superstars’. It’s a killer if you don’t make them realize that – the fastest way down in taking a ride on ego-coasters! You don’t need to tolerate their Egos.
- Team members not able to match the Superstar’s level – are often subjected to humiliation. Ensure to kick some a%%! They are 'Part-of-the-team' and NOT 'a-team-by-themself'
- Please do not put them under low-performing managers. Superstars need someone to look up too; after all even they are looking at growing in their careers.

Superstars come with loads of baggage. If you are not up to managing them, then DONOT hire them!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Influential Manager

Don’t know if we all do it unknowingly as managers, but there is always a tendency to change working styles of team members to suit our own! Such as:

Meetings are held at times that work best at suiting the manager’s calendar – without consideration for the team member
Mails are sent in particular fonts & worded such that it suits the manager’s style
Operate in tones that match that of the manager

Effectively, managers try & make ‘CLONES’ of themselves via their team members! Net-net the team is headed for disaster (maybe some succeeded, an exception maybe). I’ve always believed that if two people in a room are always thinking alike, you are wasting precious time in finding a solution that you already want to implement. So how do you differentiate between good v/s cloning managers?

I’ve had a chance to work with a great manager who has greatly influenced my working style, cultivated thinking out-of-the-box habit and mostly importantly led by example by respecting & treating others with humility. Some pointers that worked best in improving me as a person both personally & professionally include:

Open Engagement Model

The open engagement model encourages team members to:

- Speak-up
- Bring their thoughts to the table
- Debate freely on solutions to a particular problem (unless you have a math problem with a unique solution!)
Ensure there is 2-Way communication, i.e., managers receiving feedback is as critical as handing out feedback

Excellent Communication Skills

Communication skills don’t necessarily mean verbal & written modes. There is a third kind of communication skill which is the hardest and that’s were Great Managers excel.
It is to resolve issues or problems in 2 parts: first, they ‘LISTEN’ to the problem thoroughly/completely & then get into ‘ACTION’ with practical solutions. The ability to involve listening powers with communication means that people will lend their ear to your speech; else, managers look like they are barking orders!

Excellent communication also involves precise data sharing, presentation skills that help to stay within timelines and engage audience in discussions.

Low Resistance to Change

Ask the HR of any organization about the people who deal best with change – very rarely will they say Managers! Surprising?

Great Managers understand that ‘Change is Necessary’, because eventually all individual growth plans, goals & efforts will only be as good as that of their Company’s. They have a low-resistance to Change, because they are able to reason & understand the need for such implementation.

As Jack Welch said - “If the outside world is changing faster than you are. You are losing the competition.”

Managers who are able to understand this – will definitely succeed!

Good Follow-up Methodology

Again the tendency is to allocate a task & bug the S**t out of the team member by asking for an update every minute of their existence. This can only lead to a disgruntled team member.

A more productive method that I’ve seen working very effectively would be to allocate work & DISCUSS/ASK the team-member for a reasonable timeline that they would need to complete the task. This encourages the team members to:

- Reciprocate the manager’s trust in them
- Get more organized
- Improve their time management
- Make predictable work estimations
- Ensure that there are NO surprises

Yes, even this can have ‘Check-Points’ when both manager & team members take stock of the work done. But, at least you give the team member some breathing space!

Brainstorm with team members

The success of managers is directly dependent on success of their team members. So to get the best foot forward in completing tasks; managers get the team to huddle in a conference room, cafeteria, coffee shops, wherever time-permitting – to discuss & decide on deliverables that would help the entire team to successful accomplishment the allotted tasks.

The HR Store

Monday, September 15, 2008

What the fuss about finding a ‘stable’ job?

During my conversation with people I get to hear about the kind-of-job a person would like to be in. The answers range from jobs that:-

- pay very high salaries
- gives career advancement options
- does not require relocation
- company is a top brand
- comes with lots of perks

The answer that stumps me is: ‘I want a stable job'….and by the way it should come with all the above mentioned goodies!

Now for a dose of reality…there is not one company that can give in writing about employing you for life! Even working for the government has age limitations! So how the heck do we get into a stable job that pays well, gives us perks & the rest of the goodies? Hmmm….the way I see it is crystal clear, there is after all a way to get a stable job with a Fortune 500 company.

Stability = Being the best in your profession

Yes, if there is a way to achieve the ‘stable-job’ goal it is only by striving to be the best in your respective field of work. The better you get at your work, the higher the chances of you staying employable for a long time & hence achieving the ‘stable-job’ criteria. Companies do have to increase or decrease their headcount based on overall company performance & that can only be achieved with individual’s contributing towards that goal. If you aren’t in the scheme of things that help the company get to that goal – tough luck – you are on your way out already. So effectively, your craving for a stable job can only be achieved with keeping yourself updated & abreast with the latest happenings in your field of work.

The only way to achieve ‘stable-status’ is to be ‘No. 1’ or ‘NO ONE’…

The HR Store

Friday, September 12, 2008

Five Myths About Leadership

Myth #1: You need formal authority and control to be a leader

Myth-breaker: Absolute, BS. How the heck do you intend to lead an organization without knowing the people who will help you succeed? You need to keep your stethoscope on people’s pulse all the time. It is possible to have an inclusive atmosphere and yet succeed. In a leadership role, people look up to you because they see a fruitful end to a vision that they share with you. They need someone to make them better than they already are - YOU are the ‘Chosen One’!! Think about a top league sports-club, the coach is accountable for a win or loss, however, the best team that wins has a Leader among peers. A player that holds everyone’s attention on-court directs the team towards a win – that person need not even be the Captain of the team.

Myth #2: You need a degree from a TOP 10 college

Myth-breaker: Not true. Leadership qualities are best seen in situations where you are required to get into the front-line and experience things from a close range. You need the ability to see the big-picture and get there through daily chores. Respect, trust and confidence does not stem from degrees from B-Schools, they come from implementation and execution.

Myth #3: Longer tenure with an organization can get you into a leadership role

Myth-breaker: Would you like a hire the services of a carpenter to fix your plumbing issues? You wouldn’t, huh. Same case with leadership too, a million years in an organization will not land you a leadership role, even though you play golf with the CEO. You need to have the patience, talent, vision, a trust-worthy attitude, respect of your peers/managers for the work you do - you need to LEAD ! In case you still have managed to get into a leadership role because of your tenure – thank your stars!

Myth #4: You need to be popular among people to be their Leader

Myth-breaker: Leadership is not a ‘Popularity Contest’ where you get voted for appearances and smooth talk. Leaders need to take hard-decisions at times which could improve efficiencies & effectiveness of work. Taking these decisions might make the 'popularity-contest-winner' look like a very unpopular person. Leaders should not strive to become popular, but have enough wisdom to draw the line between being popular and running in the opposite direction.

Myth #5: Only extroverted people can become Leaders

Myth-breaker: Leadership is a ‘Personality Trait’ NOT a ‘Personality Style’; the difference is definitely not subtle - it screams of a vast difference. You cannot categorize people as leaders just because they are extroverts; they need to be extroverted to project their business, talk to clients with confidence, appear to be approachable….its not a ‘Mask’…it’s a business need


The HR Store
"A leader is someone you would follow to a place you would not go to by yourself." - Joel Barker

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

How much time do you need to become a leader?

You need ‘Zero/No Time’ to be a leader! Yes, you heard it right. There is not one person who can put his/her hand up & tell you a time frame by when you can become a leader.

Leadership is a ‘Personality Trait’, which might have showed up at a very young age…when you were asked to lead your kindergarten class in competitions…asked to lead the campaign at school…asked to lead the basketball team at college…at a young age you were asked to ‘Lead’ means that most people saw a personality-trait in you that could:

- Influence others positively!
- Get people to listen to you, follow you, back you up when needed
- Get people TRUST your decisions and have FAITH in you!

To become a Leader, you don’t need to age or get grey hair. You only need to stand-up and be counted because of your exceptional ability to comprehend situations and take bold decisions which involve calculated risks & are ready to face the consequences (good or bad). You are a Leader because the people who chose you do not doubt your capabilities; they are there to reinforce your belief in yourself.

The other school-of-thought will argue about people who have not been able to realize their leadership skills, until they are told about them! It is possible, maybe the person hadn’t come across situations or circumstances which demanded showcasing the skills, but that is a rarity! Cause if it’s a trait it’s more a ‘fight or flight’ decision and instinct kicks-in.

The final verdict: Leaders are born NOT manufactured! Keep an eye out & you’ll agree….

Feel free to debate this one…

The HR Store

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Is there anything left to discuss about Leadership?

The answer seems an emphatic, YES, because we get to read so many articles on leadership and agree that they are the best that has ever been written. Out the blue, YOU become a leader one-day and realize that the thousand books you had read make no sense! You also realize the significant difference between ‘reading’ & ‘being’ a leader – the former is easier to do.

You have toiled about a decade long to realize one day that you suddenly are a ‘LEADER’ & things seem very different. Someone in the senior management team took notice & made you the head of the Business Unit. Now what? It's simple to understand – ‘The buck stops at YOU!’ More than thousand people can testify that they underwent hell when they came to this point – few succeeded, some survived and many others perished. Why did this happen? Did the management related books you read not talk about this situation?

Leadership requires different mettle and personal attributes that help them succeed. It needs a leadership mind. Check-list of successful leadership involves:-

1. Leaders TRUST their teams. They do not micro manage, but do get involved in the projects. That’s a very thin line!

2. Leaders stand at the frontline in organizations. They strategize in the boardrooms, discuss it at the cafeteria, and brainstorm on the shop-floor; basically they get folks involved in their ideas & vision

3. Leaders do not hesitate to roll-up their sleeves and get the work done. Even if it means making that cold-call to a customer, helping the marketing team with their collaterals, taking a dozen interviews to help the recruitment team close a critical position. They lead by example; not by barking orders!

4. An ideal day in a Leader’s life has 48 hours! They work relentlessly towards achieving their targets, they seem pushy, cold, straight forward, ruthless, taskmasters, whatever, if they aren’t you need to worry. Your next pay check/hike might just be dependent on bagging that marquee customer. The sooner you understand & implement this leadership trait the faster you will succeed

5. Leaders take tough calls. They have the guts to take decisions that you may never be able to make, like asking that under-performer who was given numerous chances to either to ramp-up or leave. Saying a confident ‘NO’ to a customer whose demands were unreasonable

6. They are frank, out-spoken and transparent in their work, yet at the same time able to recognize and reward good work. All this gets done at the frontline, while at the same time they are hovering at 30,000 feet to see the big-picture

7. Leaders enjoy their role, like a fish takes to water! They have a good time, enjoy time out in the sun and most importantly celebrate wins!

Let me know your thoughts.

Next up? How much time do you need to become a leader?

The HR Store

Monday, September 1, 2008

Welcome to 'The HR Store'..The journey begins...

Hi Folks,

It's a historical day! Finally registered a blog & writing my first post...

The idea of writing a 'HR Book' sounded clich├ęd & academic; the alternate was to write a 'HR Whitepaper' which meant that it had to be focused on a single topic per paper. This blog seemed like an ideal platform to get various thoughts under one roof. So, what's this blog all about? Well, at the rate of sounding like a broken-record, I'm trying to bring in new ideas, processes, strategies, leadership, et al - into the Human Resources (HR) playing field. There have been more than a million people who have written or spoken about the same thing, so where do I stand with my ideas?

With this blog, you will experience - that using simple HR messages you can:
- Get work done
- Make decisions faster
- Question existing HR ideologies with frankness
- Change your management approach towards HR and a whole lot more

It would great if you could share your ideas, read & comment on topics that mean the most to you.

Watch this space for more!

The HR Store