A satellite view of the Human Resource Organisation

imageRecently, I was questioned about the role of Human Resources function, in a vibrant organisation. This blog relates a satellite view of a balanced human resource function.

The purpose of the HR function is to build an organisation, which delivers the Vision, through a culture based on a defined set of Values. The culture should be one desired by the system, including shareholders, BOD, management, employees and even related business parties.

The Values are chosen after consideration of the Vision, the preferences of the system, and applicability to ethics, morality and environment of the resident society.

HRs purpose is not to create the Vision, but to ensure the capability and culture which delivers it. Once the Values are set, the broad HR roles are:-

A) Recruitment of employees who fit within this Value system. If we ignore ‘the right fit’ and hire willy nilly, we will never deliver the desired culture nor the Vision. Open the gate only to suitable people. So, there has to be a defined profile to hire, which is strictly adhered to.

B) HR ensures employees are dealt with even-handedly. Compensation & Benefits should never be a reason, for an employees failure. This means compensation benchmarking to comparator companies and an agreement on a percentile versus the market. So, if we target mid quadrant, then the company will sit around 50 percentile of compensation levels. If it is the top quadrant, it will be 75 percentile. At 100 percentile, it would be the top payer in the comparator basket.

C) While ensuring day to day functionality through C&B, the strategic work of HR is in Talent & Organisational Development.

Annual evaluation
Developing talent
Developing the organisation
Employer branding

Annual Evaluation

If merit is the culture, then evaluation of employees performance becomes the crux. A fair, well orchestrated and deep rooted evaluation (at least on an annual basis) is an essential. A development plan for each employee will be a subset of this evaluation. Compensation, promotions and career building are the end result of this evaluation. The company Vision, Values and culture will sustain or fail on the back of this process.

Developing talent

The talent recruited is modelled to suit the company culture . HR builds their capacity to ensure delivery of employee potential. This includes initial orientation, creating a development plan (based on annual and a 360 degree evaluation); later, executing that development plan. Development could be on the job, through in-house training, counselling (mentoring) or outside training. Sometimes a short term work assignment could be another method of development.

High potential (HiPo) employees are a special breed and this career development route is popular. Employees assessed with high potential are developed on a fast track. They are visibly treated better. It does not go against the culture of merit, since HiPo are evaluated through a transparent system. Nevertheless, the jury is out on this HiPo system and time will tell if it is successful.

Developing the organisation

Organisational development is built around the tool of engagement. An evaluation tool could be an engagement index or an organisational health report. We gauge the health of the organisation, based on the criterion of values and culture implemented. Structures, level changes, shape of organisation and employee engagement activities are based on these reports. Through these actions the company develops its organisation to achieve its Vision.

Engagement activites are many fold. Sports events; birthday bashes; lunch talks; magazines; employees interactivity; town hall talks; homogenous privileges; management walking corridors for better engagement; an open door/communications policy.

In the end, both company and employee should benefit from this development. It is value addition to the organisation and the individual. Even if the individual moves on to another organisation, it adds value to society.

Employer branding

This is taking a leaf out of our brand knowledge in Marketing. Through HR strategy, positioning, its imagery and execution, we create a visible icon, which then represents the employers brand. It is recognised internally and also externally in industry, public and universities. It becomes the main driver of the encapsulation of our HR culture, strategy and the execution centres around this employer brand. Just as we create brands for consumers, so we create a brand for our people and the world of employment.

D) HR plays business partner for CEO. They are the culture and people pulse for the organisation. HR should be the first to feel any vibration, inform the organisation and take action accordingly. Therefore, be a shadow behind the CEO, stepping into the brain whenever required or appropriate.

E) HR being the owner of culture is also the owner of policies, history, and the purveyor of the company story. It establishes an appreciation and awards culture; institutionalises the history; and celebrates its heroes. Once you achieve this institutionalisation, a company would very rarely disappear. There is just too much foundation for that to happen.

F) Technology and its role is already like an extra skin of HR. A reasonable size organisation just has to use technology for efficiency and ensuring data capture. But it should not de-humanise the face of HR. In the coming decades, with huge digitalisation, cognitive artificial intelligence and 3D printers (robotics), I expect this to be the greatest challenge which HR will face. Maybe the greatest challenge which the human race will face.

* thanking Kanwer Anwer Saeed for his critique
** picture is from Dreamstime.com

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My road-stops to fulfillment

imageRemember how in Star Trek, the older Mr Spock visits his younger version and advises him? That is a luxury not afforded us humans, but if it were, I would go back to myself, maybe forty years, and give a list of ideals. Maybe I might have applied them. Anyway, here they are, for the benefit of those who are curious about such a list.

1. Vision, have a personal goal

If you get in a car and drive without knowing where you are going, you will waste a lot of fuel and time. Know the lighthouse in the far distance, see it, desire it and then let Allah guide you there. Who knows, you might even get there.

2. A value system, be honest to yourself

There is no point in living your one and only life, being someone else. Why exactly are you acting your way through life? So, when you are yourself, then you must have a set of values. Apply them. They are driven by your belief, which then drives your vision. To get to that vision, you need your value system. Hopefully, you will be an optimistic person and have a great value system.

3. Stand by your principles, but it does not have to be a hydrogen bomb decision

Through life you will have to stand behind your principles, which are set by your value system. But, here is a secret. It does not mean that you are forever fighting and beating people. Use the art of persuasion, a sweet mind and tongue. A hydrogen bomb decision is very rare. It should not happen, Allah provides an honest way out, if you desire it.

4. Opportunities are few! Take risks, but don’t need to be rash

Every now and then an opportunity will come whistling by. Do not avoid them. Look them in the eye. Be calm and do not rush. If you absolutely cannot, then let them go. There will be others. But mostly, you will prevail and you should look at it as an adventure and take the risk. A hit rate of 50 per cent is a good figure for a benchmark.

image5. Have fun

This is an absolute must. Life will be very boring and serious otherwise. Even take tough assignments as an adventure and laugh your way through. You can always move on to your next opportunity and its not the end of the world.

6. Have some passions

Definitely! Otherwise one becomes a boring fuddy-duddy. Like your sports, or music or outdoors. Have something to discuss with people other than your work. Please!

7. Don’t take yourself too seriously, better still laugh at yourself

As we become senior, we begin to believe we are a gift to mankind. You are just one breath away from extinction. So chill and laugh. Be human to everyone, they will actually like you. Otherwise in their secret chamber, everytime they see you, they will see an evil looking gorilla. You are better looking than that, so just laugh.

8. Life is not about yourself, think of others

Always think of the effects of your actions. There are people connected to your decisions. They are human. So behave like a human and look after them. Do not be a machine, especially a corporate one.

9. Give time to family and friends, before its too late

My own biggest failure and not surprisingly many CEOs say the same. Travel is the biggest culprit. When your children have stepped out of the door and gone to live life, then its too late to reverse the decision. Travel less; leave work behind when you come home. You can pick it up tomorrow again.

10. Give back as much as you can, you will be happy and content

In the end this world does not belong to us. Its leant to us, to carry to the next generation. Leave much of yourself in this world. Especially in the hearts and minds of people. You will be happier and life will be better fulfilled, based on the goodwill of others.

We all experiment and make errors, but I do wish someone, somewhere had taken a younger me and told me these things. Life would have been easier. In the end we all eventually find our path and culmination, regardless.

*the pictures are from dreamstime.com

Of Wings and Visions

Of Wings and Visions

When the Pilgrim Fathers migrated to North America, they landed their ship, the Mayflower, in present day Massachusetts, sometime in late 1620. This band of dedicated Puritans, who had taken the extreme step of a migration to protect their way of life, set about building a colony. They faced endless difficulties and enemies, but they prevailed. In just a years’ time, when their colony was suitably protected, they sat down and celebrated Thanksgiving. This colony eventually became the present day Boston.

The world of 2012, some 400 years later, still reels from the significance of these events. The vision, to which the Pilgrim Fathers aspired and then lived, was that they were good people intent on living their way of life; and that the big bad enemy was lurking outside, trying to prevent them from living their values.

Down the ages in the folds of time and history, this story has survived, matured and still shapes the USA and, therefore the world, of today. The powerful vision of the first Americans, surfaced when the fight for independence occurred in 1776 and matured during the fight with the Indians in the 19th century. It continued to strengthen at the Alamo in 1836 and in the words and actions of Woodrow Wilson in 1917. It lived on when Roosevelt went to war in 1941, when MacArthur went to Korea in 1950, when Kennedy stood up to Khrushchev in 1962, and when Johnson sent armies to Vietnam and to the present day Gulf Wars and Afghanistan. It was always the good American facing the big bad enemy outside – one that needed to be defeated for the American way of life to survive and continue.

That, in essence, is the importance of vision. Time and again, history has seen visions changing its course. When Attila picked up the sword of Solomon from the steppes of Asia, waved it and promised to become ruler of the world, it unleashed a 30 year hiatus, and the world was rocked to its core. When the Bedouin Arabs swept all from China to Spain, it was with a vision to change the world. Similarly, when Rome issued forth to conquest, it was with a powerful vision to rule the world, a Pax Roma. In a softer manner, when Jonas Salk did not patent the Polio vaccine, his vision was the safety of the human race. Today, some 7 billion humans owe him a debt of gratitude, not measurable in any currency or bullion; a most powerful delivery of a vision.

In 1947, Pakistan too started with a powerful vision. It was to be a beacon of light to the downtrodden and to the Muslims of this world. Pakistan would stand firm, on its own legs, against wrong, for good and be a homeland to the helpless. So where did we lose this vision?

My personal thought is that this vision had two fundamental flaws to start with. Firstly more than half of the population in the East did not quite subscribe to it. The Bengali nation had always been fiercely independent, inward looking and with no history of interest in the world outside. It was bound to trouble them when this vision and its implied rule from West Pakistan was thrust upon them; they could not even have their own language to speak and write, in a country where they were the majority. Secondly, our own rulers post the Quaid-e-Azam, and to some extent Liaquat Ali, did not subscribe to this vision.

Visions are to be disseminated and lived in warm flesh and blood. When your own rulers sign the Baghdad Pact and enter SEATO and CENTO, those watching can see the frailty of your vision. You have already subjugated your authority and independence and become a pawn in someone’s game. There is then, no vision to sustain. To fly high, you must be independent and have self respect.

Our wings were clipped in the very early days and our people saw this and understood. When 1971 happened, the last shreds of belief in our vision were gone. Puppeteers like Zia, who tried to create a perception of this vision by fighting the Russians in Afghanistan, simply were not supported by the population at large.

Our tragedy is that we have no believable story to tell our people. When they do not have a story, what do they live for? The next best thing – themselves!

So we now have millions of small visions, all working in every-which direction. And then we wonder why we are not getting anywhere!

For me the solution to Pakistan’s problems might be slow, but it is very simple. We need someone who is respected by the people to stand up and give them a vision. If this someone is credible and the dissemination of the vision is good, the people of Pakistan will believe once again. As the plan to implement this vision becomes clear, teams will form and success will be road-mapped. People will have something to do, rather than break into myriads of belief systems. We will get action, results, patriotism and self respect.

One who acquires self respect can reach for the stars. Our clipped wings will be returned to us when we trust ourselves to fly high. We will return to being a nation.

“Naheen tera nasheman qasr-e-sultani kay gumbad par

Tu shaheen hai basera kar paharun ki chatano par”.

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