Friday, January 30, 2009

Here's an Out-Of-The-Box Idea!

When it comes to 'Out-Of-The-Box' ideas, we've so often thought, heard, seen, managed - but, here is one that caught my attention!

My disclaimer holds good: 'Circumstances reveal personality traits'. The 'Thinking Trait' is definitely right on top.

- The HR Store

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Train Your Interviewers!

So, you got a call from 'that' Company you were so eager to work for!

You believed that your work experience would make you an ideal-match for that company. You sent across your resume and as expected got through the initial rounds of resume screening/HR phone interviews successfully. Now, they want to meet you in-person for an entire day at their office. This would give their interview panel of 4-5 people (across levels) a good chance to get to know you well. Also, to ensure the grilling interview would help them in determining your ‘fitment’ into their organization.

The day arrives and you feel prepared to take on questions!

Round #1: You meet the first interviewer. The questions flow freely and so do the answers. You are told that your candidature suits the role perfectly! You are confident of a positive outcome!

Round #2: The questions delve deeper into your work experience, specialties, etc. Your area of expertise gets identified. Again you ace all the questions!

Round #3: The Subject Matter Expert (SME) for your area of expertise walks into the room. You notice a certain ‘look’ on the interviewer’s face and don’t like it. The looks tell you that the person has decided the outcome. The interview is just a formality which needs to be completed. No attempts are made to make you feel comfortable. The discussions starts and you start feeling pressurized to think of solutions the way the interviewer would have approached them. You’re getting the feeling of forcefully being ‘led’ in a certain direction - one that you don’t agree. At times, the interviewer gets aggressive. The discussion starts to veer towards an argument! You have no clue on what’s happening. The discussion ends and you are told – “Some one from HR (they don’t remember our names!) will get in touch with you are the next round”

Round #4: The business head wants to meet you! After all, he/she runs the show for that department and they want the best for the team. Talks go smoothly and you feel back-on-track! ‘The HR Person’ is up next.

Round #5: ‘The HR person’ does the final round and takes some notes on your role fitment, salary details, etc.

Interview Result: The wait for the results lasted for over a week. A mail was sent to you informing that you didn’t get through!!! Apparently, Interviewer #4 didn’t like you much! The feedback was that you are not ‘up-to-the-mark’. You are stunned! What happened? You were the ‘ideal’ candidate for the role. Unfortunately, this situation does happen for real.

It’s unfortunate, but interviewers do make their share of mistakes too!

Reasons could be:

- Lack of training for interviewers: Not much time and money is spent on training interviewers. They are told to learn on-the-job from other interviewers! “Who has the time for training? Our daily work is run on tight deadlines!” - is the usual reason.

- Favoritism: it’s definitely bad! Candidates should be chosen based purely on merit and off course with a clean background (Ref checked!). However, it is obvious at times that interviewer’s do have a tendency to go with their favorite candidate.

- Unrealistic Expectations: If the role doesn’t involve creating rockets - then you don’t need scientists! Know what you need and then start the interview process. Else, you are wasting a lot of effort, time and money.

- Pressured to Hire ASAP

- Comparisons with Oneself: Interviews are not a place to check on skill-percentile-positioning!

- Depending heavily on First-Impression: First impressions are generally formed within 30 seconds of meeting a person. The next 30 minutes are spent in confirming the impressions! Stay away from it.

What’s the role of HR in fixing this problem?

To start with, sell the idea of ‘Interviewer Training’ to the management. Really! You’ll need a buy-in to even take the first-step. Training involves money; you’ll need to justify the spending. Use your best creative efforts! You don’tneed to learn rocket-science to find out the costs of a bad hire.

- The HR Store

Friday, January 23, 2009

Change is NOT an Option!

We love this topic. Don’t we?

Everyone’s talking about ‘Change’. From jobs, careers, politics, education, automobiles, houses, vacations, leadership, blogs, companies, etc. – it’s becoming a common language everywhere. Yet, the real proof is in the 'end-result' of embracing Change! Many times discussions on this topic are left behind at the table, they don't see the light of the day.

You can’t really blame anyone. There’s a high priority given to get things done on a day-to-day basis. Transactional activities consume 90% of a person’s time at work. Honestly, no one cares for Change, unless it’s at a point where going ahead with work gets halted! Obviously, embracing Change for no reason is foolish! It should have a purpose, a definite cause for introducing it.

Change is all about Timing. Identifying that opportune time is a task most people don’t want to take up. An error is often treated with an air of “We’ll fix it for now and worry later” approach. The problem with that approach is that, the next person handling the issue will land at the same error and spend the same amount of time rectifying it!

Here’s a situation:

You have a Human Resource Information System (HRIS) to ease HR transactional activities like typing out appraisal letters, various requests for HR related documentation, manage database operations, etc. The system is running smooth for a year. During the course of the year there was a repetitive error which got overlooked, assuming ‘someone else’ will handle it. Voila! One fine day the system crashes (due the error); hell has just broken loose at work! Everyone from HR to Finance (Off course!) to Engineering has advice on the next steps. The third-party vendor is called, they are given a deadline to get it fixed or else you go to the next best vendor. Believe it! 9 out of 10 times it just a threat! You want the system up & running ASAP!

Unfortunately, the vendor can’t fix the issue and you are forced to take up another HRIS application. The work has to start from scratch!! The Change has taken you by surprise, the clear vision you had just got blurred, no one has a clue on what next to do! A state of hysteria sweeps through teams…Change has just rocked the boat!!!

Come to think of it, Change at a very major level is often more acceptable. Like replacement at the senior management level, leadership changing hands, changes in company policy to accommodate latest legal procedure and more. The trouble starts when Change happens to day-to-day activities. Like having to alter the process of generating candidate offer letters, preparing new format for appraisal letters (you had used the earlier one for 3 years!!), getting used to a newer HRIS application, taking a newer route to work, even changing cubicles at work!!

So the next time you ever ask someone else to Change...Ask yourself a question: Am I ready to accept the consequence of Change? After all, you cannot always Control/Change the situation…You can only CHANGE YOURSELF!

- The HR Store

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world" - Gandhi

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Only The Strong Survive!

You heard that right!

Recession isn’t a great thing to happen to any generation. Nonetheless, when it does happen and if you are stuck right in the middle of one – Buckle up! The road ahead just got a whole lot bumpy. However, I strongly feel a little dose of recession is necessary to help keep our feet firmly planted on the ground. Think about it – everyone one us learns methods to stretch that $//GBP/Yen/Rs to its maximum.

Surely, we all love unprecedented growth that boosts the economy to greater heights. All sections of the industry get a boost too. However, the unprecedented growth tends to create an urgency that blurs the line when it comes to identifying the Best-From-The-Rest. In a fast-paced growth environment, we find ourselves fighting with time and head along a route that hopefully takes us to the top. The fight is to become the best in the “LEAST-TIME-TAKEN” category. So far so good....

Now fast forward to an era which has seen more than 10 years of unprecedented growth in the past. The economy-bubble has grown to an extent that lingers on a thin line between accommodating more growth and eliminating weaker players from the field. That’s more like a situation - we hate to call it “Recession”. The playing field is shrinking continuously, the company’s with stronger strategies, deeper pockets, competitive staff, recurring customers and a lean mass – will SURVIVE!

The favorite words of these times are “Cost-Cutting” and “Frugality”. A dollar saved is a dollar gained! Driving ‘Frugality’ in spending isn’t just a HR thing. It’s ownership lies with every single employee in the organization.

The more you save, the better the chances of retaining your job! Really!

- The HR Store

Congratulations! President Obama

My best wishes to President Obama. When the party is over - the real work begins. Not sure if you really did miss the Swearing-In ceremony. In case you did, you can his inaugural speech at

Yes! Change Can Happen!
- The HR Store

"Greatness is never a given. It must be earned" - Barack Obama

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

5 Days and 4 Nights...HR Lessons

Nope! This is not an advertisement for a travel itinerary by a fly-by-night operator!

I’m referring to 5 Days and 4 Nights that were spent in the hospital, while my mother underwent neurosurgery for extreme case of Trigeminal Neuralgia. She’s doing fine now, but the tabs are not helping her stay active. Needs to rest for at least 15 hours a day! Anyway, my stay at the hospital (as her caretaker/attendee) was filled with loads of tension, anxiety and extremely high levels of hyper-tension, while she was undergoing surgery in the Operation Theatre. The calming effect and help from my wife kept me from going into a hysterical black-hole! Thanks Honey. You the best!

So, I did manage to keep calm and in fact had a lot of lessons to learn from the hospital staff! They were efficiency in motion! Here are the Top 3 HR lessons:

Lesson #1: Keep your cool!

The doctors, nurses and every single paramedical in the Operation Theatre, ICU and wards displayed calmness during the entire surgery. I did get to see the video of the surgery, to re-assure and also to keep me informed about the procedure. They had to keep their cool! And hold their nerve with tons of patience! After all, the patient’s life was in their hands! Literally!

Anxiety kills half your brain-cells! It could even dull clear-thoughts. I’m sure your role as HR could involve hiring, firing, appraisals, employee relations and lots more. This makes you feel swamped with work! Just imagine; if your next move involved saving a person’s life and you froze! Here’s what I learnt – take on one issue at a time. Multi-tasking is great, but even that needs a priority list to be prepared before you get into the task. A cool head is what helps you get that list straight and with enough room for flexibility. For example, retention of employees should be a higher priority than planning a replacement for them! Unless they are fired for either integrity issues or poor performance. It’s a no-brainer, right?

Lesson #2: Timely Communication is MANDATORY!

At the hospital, I’d spent a considerable amount of time outside the Operation Theatre and ICU waiting for the doctor to come and update me on the medical situation. The waiting time was filled with anticipation of news from the doctor. Thankfully, he did come with the update.

Now translate that situation at your work. I suppose it’s the same. Right? Honestly, there will be queries around Performance Appraisal, Employee Referral, Company Policies and Practices, Salary Structure, Employee Benefits and more (see you are swamped with work!) Hold on! Don’t panic. Either you know the answers to ALL the queries (not likely) or you DON’T know. If you do know, then you’ll answer (hopefully on time) to the query. If you know and still NOT answering the query on time, it’s a shame.

The trouble starts when you don’t know the answer! You get a query from an employee via mail/call/in-person, for which you don’t know the answer. What to do next? Unable to think through it, you sit on the query for many days without doing anything about it. Meanwhile, the employee who had to fill the appraisal waited and sent an incomplete one which is going to impact the hike! It’s an extreme case, but nonetheless, it did happen. If you DON’T know the answer, let the person know. Ask for time to get back (be practical in taking time) and then come back to ask your manager or other team members, but get that query answered – ON TIME.

Lesson #3: Think and Act

More often than not, we do have a tendency to “jump-the-gun” while solving problems! It’s good, after all being action-oriented is appreciated. However (gotcha!), a little discretion never hurts, while deciding the course of action. THINK & ACT! Is easier said than done? You bet!

Fire-fighting is a tough skill. Combine that with some strategic thinking and you’ll get yourself a killer-combo! Here is an example, the appraisal letters needs to prepared, reviewed, printed and handed over to the manager/employee. You are asked to come-up with a plan with action items and deadlines. The first reaction is to “Act” first and get an aggressive date; all along you are telling yourself to finish the task within 48 hours! Build that impression with your manager by going for the kill. STEP BACK! You are setting yourself up for disaster. Quite surely, a manager appreciates a thinking mind that converts thoughts to action.

The best lessons are learnt in the most unlikeliest of places! Mine just happened to be the hospital…

- The HR Store

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Permissive Leadership!

Is leadership just about creating a vision, mission, inspiring & influencing people, draw the roadmap and everything else that others don’t do? (Note that I didn’t say – Can’t Do!)

Actually, it’s all of it and most importantly a leader should have the TRUST in the abilities of people they hire. Really! What is an idea worth if it doesn’t get executed well? That’s precisely where ‘Permissive Leadership’ comes into the picture.

Unless it’s a math equation, most of the problems have more than one solution. The leader defines the end product; the people, who are hired, more often than not - take different paths towards the same goal! This translates into newer ideas, experimentation, higher risk-factor, people will challenge the existing ideas/status-quo – are you as a leader ready to accept this?

Permissive Leadership is really about letting people choose their path; might be either right or wrong. At least let them try it out, unless their choices hurt the business real bad. The end-result of the PL working style is found to be more effective is getting the best out of people. So what exactly does Permissive Leadership do for business? It ensures:

- A constant flow of Creative Ideas is guaranteed when folks are given freedom at work
- More than 100% effort goes into work when you let people do their thing
- Going beyond “Line-of-Duty” becomes just a way of life at work
- Employee confidence levels are at an all time high
- Recognizing future leaders gets easier, so does your succession planning! (Really!)
- Serves as a ‘Platform’ to generate newer ideas for the product/project

Sure, there are enough reasons to be hesitant with taking such an approach to leadership. It could lead to misuse of freedom; managing egos will be an issue (everyone has an idea, right? You only want one!); work could border on over-confidence and a thousand more reasons.

Really! If you are thinking about the negatives a lot, then you should take a step back and re-evaluate your thoughts! Negatives have a tendency to multiple faster, make into you another micro-manager! You are a LEADER, who should INSPIRE!

Let Go! The next BIG THING for your company could come from the person working in the corner cubicle!

- The HR Store

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year 2009!

Wish everyone a very happy New Year '09!

Hope the year ahead brings to you loads of good health, success and happiness!

- The HR Store