Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Another query from a reader:

“I have resigned from my current company (worked here for over five years) and accepted another offer. However, my present company would like to match the offer in terms of better role & compensation. I’m stuck! Do I leave or stay?”

Here’s what I would say in just three words - You should leave.

Here’s why: Counter-offers are bad. Personally I hate them. Really! Both sides are at fault – companies that make counter offers & employees who accept them. Why did the company have to match an offer after you have resigned? If you believe your talent is high-worth, they should have given you a better role & salary before resigning. They have messed up with their planning and a counter-offer is only a temporary damage-control activity. You’ll have to continue work with a ‘high-risk-employee’ tag. What’s the guarantee it won’t happen again? Right? Second, the company is setting a dangerous precedent! If they give employees counter-offers, it’s like asking other employees to find a competitive offer to check their worth.

From your end, I believe you took up interviews because you were convinced that your current employer couldn’t help you move to the next level, both in terms of role & comp. If you were only offer-shopping to prove a point to your current employer – that’s very very bad. Also, you don’t want to spend the rest of the time under observation/surveillance with your current employer. Right? After all, you did it once & might repeat it. Remember being a high-risk employee? Eventually, they will expect you to do a lot more on the job and before you know it you’ll be applying for a new job within a year.

Save yourself the trouble and start afresh. Go join the new company.

All the best!

Monday, March 30, 2009

HR Field Sales Execuitve

Wondering what’s the connection between HR & Field Sales Executives? Well, there’s a fit.

The success of any product or service can hardly be judged in the lab or conference room where it first started. It has to be placed in the customer’s hands or in the open-market for end-users. Your engineers believe the product is the best solution for a problem that the customer or market either has currently or might encounter in the near future. The truth can only be determined once the field sales executive goes about selling the product/service. That in turn depends on how the executive represents your product/service.

So is the case with HR services too.

Quite often we get caught up in framing policies, implementing HRIS, monitoring performance appraisal process, all along forgetting that we have taken our hands off the employee’s pulse. All our work means nothing unless it improves the employee’s life at work. It’s time to get out of the desk and go meet employees on the floor. You would do better off by championing the positive effects, just like the field sales executive. Documents which you prepared spending sleepless nights mean nothing to an employee unless its essence is communicated. Right? That’s why the effectiveness of a company wide mass mail is low. Instead employees want to meet you.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cacophony in the next cubicle

I’ve have been asked a query by a reader: “How do I get a motor-mouth of a colleague in the next cubicle to stop talking 24/7 on the phone? Can I get help from HR?”

Really, I do understand your situation. But I have a couple of questions to ask before answering your query? “Is your next cubicle colleague (lets call him Joe) part of the company’s sales team?”, “Does Joe’s job require him to talk on the phone for long hours with clients, customers, other colleagues, etc.?” If yes, then I suggest you get yourself allotted to another cubicle really far from your colleague. Since you need complete ‘silence’ while working and asking Joe to stop talking is like asking him to not work! That could back-fire. If this is the situation, I’m not sure how your admin team allotted your cubicle there in the first place?

I’ll answer your query assuming your current situation doesn’t fall under the above category. Can you get help from HR? Off course you can. First, have you tried telling Joe about the discomfort you face while working, due to the excessive talking in his cubicle? If you haven’t, then it’s a first step to take. Go ahead & tell him. Sometimes, people need to be reminded of manners at a workplace. Talking loudly on the phone is one of them. Maybe burping is another one that comes to mind! Now, if the person doesn’t heed your request and continues to ramble on - you need help from either your manager or HR. Your work is getting affected and eventually will lower your productivity levels.

Honestly, it’s not like HR can frame an ‘Employee Noise Decibel Level Policy’. One that will tell you that an employee can’t produce noise above 30dB while sneezing or that talking on the phone should not produce noise above 50dB. Sounds ridiculous, right? Some people take more time than normal, to learn basic mannerisms. It never hurt to tell them when you get the chance.

If the next door talk-show continues, pack your bags and head to another cubicle. Else, get yourself a pair of ear plugs.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Another week of 'Caring & Learning'

Well, my mother had to undergo another surgery and I was back at the hospital to spend another week (in less than 3 months!), to look after her. She’s fine now & back home - needs loads to rest. As usual the HR in me couldn’t help but learn some vital lessons during my stay at the hospital. Now you may argue, what’s with this person and treating hospitals like some ‘Learning & Development Center’? I can’t help but learn from real life. I had already written about my earlier experience here.

We all make errors and hopefully correct them in due course. At the hospital, it is very different. An error can prove fatal. Imagine if a nurse didn’t follow instructions well and ended up giving a set of antibiotics at Ward #301 instead of Ward #302!! This could end up as a very costly mistake. Right? So really it’s just an ideal setting to learn - a place that doesn't have room for errors.

This time around I picked up lessons on: Trust, Patience & Team Work.

Meanwhile, I got to read a couple of books there which were on my ‘To-Be-Read’ list for a very long time. The books were worth every second spent reading it.

- John Grogan Marley & Me

- Robin Sharma’s The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I was WOW'ed!

Empowerment is a fave topic. It gives people across all levels, an opportunity to exercise the right option at the right moment.

Here’s what happened:

Last weekend, my wife & I went out for dinner at a restaurant. The food was good and the service was excellent! So, what made the service better than the food?!? While placing the order, we were given several options that were the restaurant’s specialty. We took sometime running through the menu and finally decided the type of food we would have. During the food-selection discussion, the waiter had scribbled our orders, taking some and cancelling some. So there. We had placed the order and waited for the food.

Ah! The food arrived and the waiter had started to place them on the table, when we realized that one of the dishes wasn’t what we ordered! Now you see, food is a picky subject, once you set your mind on eating a particular type of food, your wait gets anxious and hunger increases ten-fold. Sorry, I digress.

We (politely): Oh Oh! Excuse me; we had not placed an order for this dish. It was the other one on the menu that we had decided.

Waiter (thought for a second): Hmm…I’m really sorry.There must have been some mistake. I’ll get that dish ready and be right back. (takes the wrong order away to get the right one)

We (very impressed): Thanks a lot.

The waiter than comes back with the correct order and we enjoyed the meal.

You might notice that this incident wasn’t a very significant one. If you feel that way, you’re wrong. Really! This incident could have got out of hand, where the waiter might have:

a) Argued with us over the order (or)
b) Run away to call his manager to handle the situation

He didn’t do either! Instead, he politely apologized and got the dish we were waiting for – on time! This is a classic case of Empowerment. The restaurant needs to be appreciated for their efforts to let waiters handle situations on the spot. It gives the customers a WOW feeling, since their issue gets managed on-the-spot without escalations. They WILL tell their friends their experience. That in turn will generate more business.

We encounter similar situations at our own workplace. Managers tend to forget, when to intervene and when to let the employees manage the situation. Imagine a customer who has called your company for technical assistance for a product that had purchased. Your employee puts the customer on hold (customers hate that!), to check with the manager whether the situation demands a refund or to give the customer a replacement for the defective product. Customers act as a non-controllable marketing machine. They will talk, be it for the good or bad.

Train your managers. Let them choose the right candidates during the hiring process. Once hired, let the employees do their work.

By the way, we are going to be regulars at that restaurant. For sure.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Top 10 things That HR Loves (secretly)...

There could a thousand or more things that HR loves (secretly). Here’s a Top 10.

1. Giving Advice: We believe we have the answers to all queries. We’ll give it whether you want it or not!

2. Confidential Info: It’s bad. But can’t help it. We need to know everything that happens in the office.

3. Power: Everyone wants to have a friend in HR. That’s a heady feeling.

4. Controversy: Really! We want to be the ones handling the problem. Might not be the SME (subject matter expert), but then, who cares?

5. Background Checks: It can get dirty! But you never know if something ugly comes up like a criminal record. HR wants to the one who found out.

6. Policies: It can save HR from everything. Right from dress codes to legal lawsuits to ranting employees to office romance.

7. Gossip: How else would you know who is quitting? We need to be in the thick of things when it happens.

8. Training: It could be related to health, safety, benefits, appraisal process, policies (you know why!). Training helps make HR’s life simpler

9. Power Point (PPT): PPT’s are a life saving tool.

10. Top 10’s: We love preparing Top 10’s for everything we do. From daily priority lists to ranking managers!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Your Resume's Got Only 30 Seconds! Make It Count...

I hate to admit this! But that’s the truth.

Every recruiter around the world will deny this flatly, saying, “No! I spend about a couple of minutes or at times even more per resume”. Let’s face it, as much as we would love to, that much time isn’t available at the first go. With thousands of resumes flowing in daily, it’s hard for the recruiter to do 100% justice to every resume. I know that’s a reason and also the truth stated again. Do I see the brickbats flying thick and fast? I’ve heard recruiters give their best explanation and the end the result is the same 30 seconds.

Think about it this way, if you had 30 Seconds to introduce yourself personally to your prospective employer, what would you tell them? I’m sure you’ll leave all the riff-raff out and get straight to the point. Right? It’s harsh, but that’s the way it happens. Your resume is speaking for you. It’s just an introduction; you’ll get your chance for a detailed conversation later. Get to the table first.

There are numerous websites that tell you the order in which information must appear on the resume. Yes, there are standard templates available and can be used too. But will the standard template work for you? If not, you decide what goes first depending on the job you are applying for. That will in turn be decided by what the employer is asking for. See the connection? It’s simple. They are looking for a person with a certain skill-set and you are telling them in less than 30 seconds, that you are best qualified for that job!

Here’s what would help with breezing through the 30 seconds:s

- Please don’t write an essay! It’s the biggest turn-off for any recruiter. Make info available by using bullet pointed single line statement.

- If you are part of a team, then you must tell the recruiter your role & accomplishments in the team. Most often I get to read lines like, “The team accomplished the target a week ahead of the deadline”. It’s great! But what did you do to help the team achieve that goal? That’s what is important. Even if you are a manager, spill out the reasons on how the team succeeded by your actions.

- The resume is about you. Keep it that way. There’s a tendency to tell more about the current company, projects, etc. Mention your company website and elaborate about the project later on when you meet in-person. For now, a brief about the project should suffice.

- Ensure to read through the job requirements and priority that is given to certain skills. If you think you match that. Then your resume should match that list.

Make It Count!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Are Recruiters the face of your Company?

I know, I know. There are teams that are more client-facing in nature, such as, Sales, Marketing, Technologists, Human Resources, Corporate Communications, Public Relations, et al. Phew! The list can go on till you either run out of paper or space to type. Right from the doorman to chairman, everyone plays some role in projecting the company to the outside world, in their own style or manner.

However, the reason for such a question is that, the very people who form the company, people who define its culture and success are the employees. Most often than not, their first brush with the company is either with:

a) An External Hiring Firm (or)
b) Company’s Staffing Team, a.k.a, Recruiters

So, effectively a majority of the candidates get their first impression about the Company, revenue stats, growth plans, work culture, benefits and more, from these recruiters. Just how much will these interactions help or destroy your chances of hiring a top notch candidate? I can tell you honestly, your chances rest upon your recruiter’s capability to ‘address-the-right-things’ during their conversations. Obviously, you can’t get away with a lie, nor should you be telling one! It’s another person’s career at stake. On the contrary, addressing the right things include among other topics: The Company’s immediate and long-term plans to counter the economic downturn. If a company is hiring even in such an economic situation, they should have a plan they feel would work. Right? Highlight it, please.

This question is a lot more important in today’s situation. Good talented people will continue to retain their jobs (off course, with a bit of luck too). Now in case your company is hiring, then you want to hire the best too. The match is possible only when you are crystal clear in your discussions. Too much truth will hurt - Agreed.

As always, use some discretion. You are NOT an automated machine that’s programmed to answer queries!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Make Some Noise!

It’s About Time!

Recently, I had taken up a mission to come up with an attractive method to highlight the Company’s Employee Benefit Plan (EBP) – the target audience was to be both internal and external to the company. During the course of the mission, I was surprised by reactions when I shared benefits related information. I actually went in expecting to hear the standard response along the lines of ‘the-competitor-also-has-the-same-benefits’, but the reality was different. Benefits that didn’t sound great at first - actually ended up getting the audiences’ rapt attention. I did notice that benefits were previously highlighted keeping in mind the competitors. Now, here I was highlighting benefits keeping ONLY the target audience in mind. The benefits make sense only when they make a positive difference to YOUR audience. Competitors aren’t necessarily the only audience.

That’s a big change in paradigm and a tough one to implement. It’s a radical change in thinking and acceptance will take time.

I’ve repeatedly mentioned in my previous posts – Comparisons are a necessary evil. However, it's got a dark side to it. It can take your creativity to rock bottom levels, by aligning you to your competitor’s plans! Instead your focus should be on plans that take you and your company to the next level. It’s easier said than done. Agreed. The least you can do is to give it a positive try and the only way, will be forward.

HR isn’t just about preparing workflows, policies, processes, guidelines and every other document that may never see the light of day. It’s about making some noise about those very documents and getting the audience interested in using them. After all they are the end-users. Right? What use is a bunch of documents/systems that get either sent to the ‘Junk Folder’ or shot straight to the bin?

Think about that HRIS (Human Resource Information System) that was implemented to ease transactional activity, recruitment challenge that was met last quarter, employee relations having improved citing more transparency and credibility, customers (again both internal and external) noticing your improved services and experiencing that WOW factor – all these seem like part of your daily chores. Even if it is, it’s time to make some noise about these achievements.

Every product/service needs an endorsement, even if it’s the only one in the market with immense capabilities. Making some noise is essential to stay in business, to ensure that competitors sweat a lot more.

Go ahead, Make Some Noise!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Is HR Diplomacy Driving Away Top-Performers?

You must have noticed that most times when you direct a question to a HR professional (across hierarchy), you get a ‘vague’ reply/answer; an answer that needs your best grey-cells to be stretched to comprehend and decipher the coded language. The answer leaves you feeling even more doubtful. An alternate word for the situation is also called ‘Interpretation’. The very reason that problems get escalated and even complicated.

This leads us to ask the question aloud: Is HR Diplomacy Driving Away Top-Performers?

Wondering what’s happening? For the records, this IS a ‘HR Blog’ and YES! I’m a HR professional too. So you feel I’m betraying my clan by voicing an opinion. Not really. I’ve heard employees complain about the lack of clarity in answers that would have left even me really frustrated, angry, and helpless. So why does it happen? Why do HR folks get ‘Diplomacy’ ingrained into their DNA? Avoiding conflict could be a primary reason. Another could be to keep appearances, often by sugarcoating bad news. Often I wonder if that’s the reason HR has so much opposition and that seat-at-the-table jig doesn’t weigh a lot. The more we beat around the bush while answering questions, the farther we are driving away employees from the HR Room.

Especially in today’s market condition, HR plays a key role in maintaining transparency and fairness in actions that are taken. It gives the company better chances of retaining top-performers. They are the ones who will help the company to succeed in a bad market or otherwise. HR diplomacy should not be the very reason that employees use, to update their resumes and be the first ones out when the market returns to a healthy state. After all, no one wants to work for a company that guards everything like state-secret.

Actions like cost-cutting is a necessity in times of recession, you don’t need to show diplomacy when you tell that to the employees. They are aware it is needed; all they want to know is how it will affect day-to-day activities. Don’t leave it to their imagination to figure it out! That’s like asking them to dive into deep waters without the necessary gear. The repercussion of bad HR interactions are felt when you are left without your product architects. The reason for diplomacy could also be the fear of ‘telling more than necessary’ and eventually getting trapped in your own words. If you can’t discuss a certain topic, make it clear. You don’t need to say a thousand words to avoid the topic that will only further aggravate the hostile situation. On the contrary, you need to show diplomacy when you handle overly sensitive situations. Use discretion.

Employers that have a sensible HR team will survive the tough times, along with a set of top performers who will make the BIG difference.

You see ‘discretion’ is not just a word in the HR world, it’s a survival tool! The quicker you learn it - the better you will be valued by the employees.

- The HR Store