Saturday, October 28, 2017


Management was conceived as an art of getting things done through people. People were considered as one of the most important resource and their efforts as most important asset. Management of People or Personnel Management as traditionally followed in organizations focused on the processes of managing recruitment and training apart from maintaining labor relations. This continued till the importance of all functional areas became crucial and emphasis on responding to competing environment became a crucial challenge. Employees or the work force were considered as one of the converting force in the organizations and it was believed that one can learn all kind of generic work while on job and the organizations are obliging their employees by giving them opportunity to work for which they are compensated periodically. This later was recognized as a time which dominated traditional treatment of employees to primarily relate work or effort with compensation or salary. Now when we look back we may term that era as HR version 1.0.

As industries were growing, organizations were evolving their work culture and they started putting up labor policies in such a way that they are able to retain talent and reduce their movement to other competing firms. The business schools were providing specialized courses and were also designing programs for industry needs for better job suitability and for assurance of improved work quality. It was also realized that if organizations treat their employees better, they would treat clients and customers better and it would positively culminate in better organizational results. Training and development of employees started getting importance in organizational processes so that the quality of products and services is improved to compete with other available options in the market. Psychologists were consulted by business organizations to develop modules for employees so that their sense of belonging, commitment and satisfaction improves. Treatment of employees was not merely transactional, rather it was viewed as transformational. It was not just for establishing relation between organization, salary and product, rather it was to have everlasting relation with employees which looked into long term perspective. Work places started becoming fun places and employees did not mind spending more time at workplaces if needed.

In brief this was the result of Human Resource Management where employees were not merely considered personnel but a resource which required its effective management looking at their skill sets, requirement of the organization and efforts to bridge the gap. It could be termed as an era which in HR literature has predominantly surrounded organizational policies for better employee management and to have focus of strategy in its composition. It was during this time when a realization became quite popular that every manager is a HR manager. The organizational heads began to converse with HR managers when it came to some strategical decisions. Organizations started creating a position as Chief Human Resource Officer. At many organizations HR was brought on the table. And that is HR 2.0.

The working age that is dominating, across sectors and organizations, is of employees below the age of forty five and it is expected that in the coming decade it is going to go down further. This generation took birth around the time technology driven companies were taking birth. The time is viewed as the time when movement from industry to services and to technology driven services became prominent. The solutions became more technology driven, the practices became more machine centered, the processes became more integrated, expectations became more instant and market as such got redefined. Market spaces got created in the virtual world and resultantly it got reflected in the kinds of products and services that were offered and the opportunities available got capitalized. This marked the emergence of an era that drove organizations to think in a lean way and to effectively leverage technology to their advantage in designing the products and services. Not only this backward and forward integration with the use of technology and the business processes management (beyond just outsourcing) got explored, experimented and accepted by the corporate houses which wanted their timeless presence in the market.

All the levers involved in the process of the value chain were energized and were warned of their bleak future if they did not respond to the call of time. For employees in the organizations at different levels of management, this was a clarion call to imbibe change and to respond to the use of technology in the processes that affected their performance. The top management oriented their employees on use of technology and the advantages it offered at all levels of the value chain, starting with back-end support to the delivery to the end user. HR practices starting from man-power planning till after severance services got integrated using appropriate technology services for better decision making.

As corporate houses got busier with valuations than profitability, HR got more performance oriented than process oriented. The solutions of all kinds using artificial intelligence had results on the click of the mouse. The job of HR became more challenging and treatment of employees became more transparent and technology driven. Performance of employees got measured on real time basis and HR started facing the brunt. Employees were on the front and customers became secondary. This got termed as emergence of HR 3.0 version. It is only the time which shall vouch whether this transformation and paradigm shift in thinking and practice shall sustain its existence and how far it is going to last.

Technology is no doubt a big disruptor in all kinds of organizational functions. But can it replace humans that is a big question. Objectivity is good and helps decision making better, but can it be allowed to dominate over all kinds of decisions when one is dealing with humans and their intangible emotions.

HP way, J&J credo, GE’s remarkable transformation, Infosys’s rise, Google’s innovative practices, IBM’s future plan, TATA’s mass appeal, and many other such visionary organizations would prove through their actions and practices whether HR 3.0 has really arrived. We shall wait and watch as today become history tomorrow.

[Jigyasa 2017 – HR in 4th Industrial Revolution, MBA (HRD) Deptt of Commerce, DSE, Univ of Delhi, p 38-39]

Sunday, August 27, 2017

On Doctorates and Research

Recently, the Global Network of Doctorates organized its 5th International Conference on Issues and Challenges in Doctoral Research to mark its 5th anniversary on 25th August 2017 at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. This network celebrates 25th August as World Doctorates Day as informed by its founder, Prof KK Dwivedi, Vice Chancellor, ITM University, Gwalior. It was a great opportunity attending its inaugural session and listening to Dr BB Kumar (Chairman, ICSSR), Prof Ashutosh Sharma (Secretary, Department of Science and Technology, Government of India), and Prof Jagadish Kumar (Vice Chancellor, JNU). The whole conception of this annual event is to brainstorm on the issues related to doctoral research and work towards developing ways through which the quality of research can be improved. The network has more than 4,200 members from across 60 nations. It has developed strong discussion forums to deliberate on the issues concerning research quality and doctoral programs using LinkedIn platform.

There is no second thought that when we talk of higher education and weigh India’s relative position as compared to other domains, the condition is gloomy. The quality of doctoral work is deteriorating and is not able to cope with the pace with other countries. It is learnt during the conference that India produces somewhere around 24,000 doctorates annually as against around 52,000 that China produces. Doctoral program is roughly around a century old in India whereas for China it is half a century old. Prof Sharma was of the view that we do not really need to focus on quantity rather our focus should be on improving quality. I too feel that even if the size of doctorates that we produce is maintained at this level, if we are able to work on quality it would be produce better results. At a time when Ph Ds are for sale, improving quality is a greater challenge. The number of doctorates that we produce a year are more than enough if they culminate into real research which is good for society and which can be translated into real products, policies and services.

Public money gets spent on research projects yet the degree of accountability is almost absent. Mafias of education are hand in gloves with teachers, scholars and publishers to make money and provide short term returns. The whole culture of research and the motivation is weak. Students want to pursue research because they think it is much easier than qualifying UGC net exam. It is general perception of doctoral students that after doctorate their employability becomes better. But they forget that in the state of UP for the post of peon 255 doctorates applied two years back. More than obtaining the degree, holding the degree is important.

When it comes to support from the government to pursue research there are excellent schemes and enough provisions, scholarships and fellowships which facilitate their subsistence. If we leave aside top class institutions (IITs, IIMs, IISc, TIFR, Central Universities etc) primarily focus of doing research is to get a teaching job in an undergraduate college. In most cases there is lack of awareness regarding research potential and opportunities especially in the off urban campuses. It is more a problem of a mentor than of a mentee. The teachers of today have not exposed themselves to the new methods of research and they are ill informed, complacent and laid back type in most of the colleges and universities.

Prof Jagdish Kumar shared his own story of getting selected for doctorate at IISc and for masters at IIT Madras. Initially he chose to pursue doctorate from IISc Bangalore. When he went there and met his prospective research guide, he was disheartened as this professor was hostile, egotistical and arrogant. Prof Kumar says that since he came from a rural background, he was skeptical as to how would he gel with such a person in his pursuit for Ph D. Instead, he went to IIT Madras where he met a professor who was polite, humble and down to earth. He tried to first make him comfortable by asking about his family, village and other concerning issues. This is how he preferred masters at IIT Madras over doctoral program at IISc. His masters professor later became his research supervisor and mentored him which helped him reach at the place he is today.

So the personality, attitude and behavior of mentor plays very important role in shaping research aptitude in the mentee. As Abdul Kalam said – Teaching is a very noble profession that shapes the character, caliber, and future of an individual. If the people remember me as a good teacher, that will be the biggest honor for me. Teachers as supervisors have to provide wings to the scholars and not to use them as their personal slaves. There are many cases where scholars report of misbehavior on the part of the research guide. This is also one of the reasons why the image of teachers in the eyes of society has deteriorated. At times students face humiliation and mental torture by their supervisors and still continue as they are left with no choice.

Proper guidance and serious mentorship does not necessarily require excellent academic but a good human being. Discussions on multidisciplinary approach of research and use for common people should form base between mentor and mentee. Many times it is observed that the thesis just occupies space in the library. Many times it is seen that the thesis has good potential of publication but because of lack of awareness and understanding it does not find a place in good quality journal. The whole work comes to a standstill after the award of degree. In the present times with the mandatory requirement of API for promotion, teachers get to publish papers in the journals which are much faster in their response and many a times they fall prey for predatory publishing.

When it comes to the field of science and technology, research publications from India we stand at 5th position in quantity of publications whereas when it comes to the quality of publications, it is somewhere 12-13th position, informs Prof Sharma. This gap has to be reduced and all the guns should target to hit that point. Quality has to be emphasized by inculcating a sense of quality publishing culture. He also informs that the government is aiming to improve its position from 5th to 3rd in coming 5 years which should ideally culminate into 6th or 7th position when it comes to quality.

Condition in social science and humanity domain is in a shape where less is said better it is. It is not that good quality research is not happening but the issue is that the motivation to do research is very different. Publishing in good quality journals is not targeted by the scholars and many a times research supervisors are not aware of quality outlets available for their work. We need to develop a culture of doing serious research culminating in creation of new knowledge and communicating it to the stakeholders. I know many researches in the domain which are excellent in rigor, methodology and contribution, yet they are not communicated with good quality journals. Much of what gets published is because of the force for career advancement and the kind of API system UGC has at present. What I have observed over the years that there is strong need of improving expression ability among youth. Their ability to express both orally as well as in written form is weak.

So after listening to the speakers and getting into some thinking I feel it would be more important for us to make teaching and research for young graduates a priority over other professions, especially for those who are full of energy, enthusiasm and passion to do something unique. Avenues are aplenty for them but getting a good mentor is a challenge. Hence we need to own up our responsibility to commit ourselves and make good teachers, researchers and scholars for the next generation. Otherwise generations would not mind cursing us for not showing them the right path. It is not students of today who need to be blamed, but it is the teachers of today who need to commit themselves with introspection, intellect and humility for the cause of improving the quality of doctorates.

It would be a real tribute on this World Doctorates Day if the doctorates of today pledge that come what may they would keep holding their degree with pride by not getting involved in compromising the quality.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Digital Disruption and Human Well-being - a step towards positive politics

Technology is a big disruptor. For not just businesses but for state as well. The governments have learnt lessons from businesses and have started using technology to devise policies and to deliver them efficiently to the end users. Digital disruption is one such initiative and Digital India is one such mission which is targeted to provide seamless services in an open environment assuring transparency, security and speed. Public policy is an area which needs to embrace technology to strategize and develop appropriate policies to improve quality of life of people viz a viz their well-being.

For state to visualise better growth and development there are two approaches which are visible. First is to push the policies whereby driving people to learn and develop an attitude of adapting to change. This pushes the people to change without much choice. By some it is viewed as an imposition whereas some consider it to be the need of time. Whatever be the case broadly it is considered as an approach which may lead to better tomorrow. Second is to empower citizens through providing good education so that they can make better choices and take wise decisions. This approach also focuses on building better social infrastructure in order to assure better future in the long term. In this approach the citizens feel free and are driven from within to take initiatives, to develop the state and to contribute positively for better well-being of people. First approach gives short term result whereas the second approach provides long term returns.

As a state one has to have a mix of these two approaches so that balanced growth takes place with political compulsions and aspirations. And to that the present government deserves lot of appreciation for its policy push to create an environment of forced learning and to drive people to get into digital literacy. There are many schemes to make India digital literate and develop skills to do transactions with convenience and care.

Few months back I attended 10th International conference on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance hosted by the National E-governance Division under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India and United Nations University in collaboration with UNESCO. The keynote speaker for the inaugural session was Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Minister of Electronics and Information Technology. He articulated the link between rich Indian Ethos and Transparency and Tolerance. The larger vision of the Government and the initiatives taken up in order to reach out to all citizens of the country for digitalisation and transparent government were nicely placed before the audience which had participants from around 60 countries. The success stories of people involved in the delivery and dissemination were applauded and an apt case of women empowerment was made as all top bureaucrats involved in the making of the conference from India were primarily women.

Digital disruption has opened opportunities of all kinds for business and with that new employment platforms are generated. ICT has played key role in empowering people whereby committing resources for improving human well being. Digital divide is getting improved and converted into Digital dividend and resultantly is driving digital disruption to leverage excellent new technology to connect with the stakeholders in more efficient manner. It is certainly heading towards building rich knowledge society and as stipulated would help human well-being through digital empowerment.

The state collects revenue and tax and uses digital technology for speed, scale and adherence. It further uses technology tools to know the defaulters and to get them the notifications of that effect. It is excellently done and followed however what is lacking is that there is no tool available for the citizens who would like to know about the use of the tax revenue. Technology needs to facilitate this process which would help the governments to transform themselves into good governments and that would certainly fall within the premise of positive politics. Surprisingly in no country such a mechanism is developed which somewhere reflects poor on their intention.

Bhutan has successfully concentrated on using eGovernance platforms to develop and deliver services to its citizens. This small yet important nation which follows development philosophy termed GNH has shown its commitment for the cause of human well-being and has responded to it with appropriate initiatives using technology and digitalisation for assuring transparency at all levels. Internet penetration and mobile use is remarkable, education and health parameters are improving; physical infrastructure is improving leaps and bounds. This nation is spearheading the movement demanding an alternative measure to gauge and compare human progress which is posed against well accepted and preached term – GDP.

While improving digital penetration and realizing the dream for digital India, we need to follow certain cautions so that it does not boomerang. Digital distraction has to be handled with care and digital wellness has to be assured. Overdose of provisioning digital platforms in a country like India, where education standards are low would be a much greater challenge for all the people involved in designing and delivering digital products and services. It also needs to be taken care that such a move does not negatively affect basic social fabric of the nation. We need to strengthen execution and effective implementation which would be possible only when digital literacy reaches to the nooks and corners of the country.

Nations have to commit themselves for improving quality of life of its people and has to look beyond economic measures. Use of technology should be to provide better and faster solutions which would help citizens to built trust in their elected Governments. India is on a path towards better days in all domains of human well-being and Digital Disruption is playing a key role which is expected to guarantee equity and equality as human intervention is minimized in this kind of thought of eco-system.

[published in SME World, Sept 2017 issue]

Monday, July 03, 2017

Basics to Lead in Any Career: 4 Cs Model

[picture credit: https://d3ttu1mwmobba5(dot)cloudfront(dot)net/content/uploads/2015/01/Question-Marks-Confusion-puzzle(dot)jpg]

Many of my students keep asking me - 'How can we improve ourselves; how can we lead in our career; how can we communicate better'. I have grown with similar such questions and found the answer from within. I am sure many of the students pursuing studies and looking for opportunities, many of them in the first phase of their employment and many who toil hard to grow with the organization, might be facing similar such questions. For all of them this small piece might be helpful.

I keep telling the students – ‘You need to concentrate on 4 Cs, viz., Communication, Content, Clarity and Confidence.’ And then we get into some conversation about all these 4 Cs in detail. I have experimented with many of my students over the years. In around three decades of my career and around a decade of growing in school, college and university, I have lived with these 4 Cs and expanded them for the benefit of larger and specific audience as the case may be - for business leaders, teachers and students, entrepreneurs, government officers and civil servants.

First C is Communication. Communication is becoming more and more important these days as workplaces are getting transformed and work behavior is fast changing. Competition is driving expectations and so are the competency challenges. Indira Neoyi of PepsiCo believes in strong power of communication and says that in order to lead a successful life one needs to learn how to communicate well.

It is very important that one is able to communicate what one knows. It is of no use if one is not able to tell others or share one's understanding of issues with others. It is not necessary that one has to be great in verbal communication, one could choose to develop oneself in writing and share what one feels about issues. But it is an advantage if one is good in oral communication as well. Command over language, diction and delivery makes communication effective. Not necessarily that one has to know many languages, but what is important is command of at least one language in which expression is smooth, clear and convincing. People need to love listening to you. Your sense of articulation and comprehension in the best known language must be able to communicate the message that you intent to send to the other person.

Whatever be the case outlet is important, expression is important and that cannot happen until one is good in communication. There are many ways that one can develop good communication skill.
Speaking can never happen in isolation of listening. So the first important step is to lend an ear to others. Listen to people to whom you like listening. Start reading aloud for at least 15 minutes a day. Record what you speak and then play the recording and try finding gaps for improvement. If possible speak in front of a mirror. These are few ways that one can follow to develop better communication skill but it cannot happen in isolation of Content. That is second C.

So in order to communicate well as well as to focus on one's career and life goals, one has to have content. And for having content, one has to invest in the habit of reading, thinking and retaining. As Virginia Wolf correctly said - read thousand books and see the words would flow like river.

Content is primarily knowledge about what one intends, what one has employed oneself in, what one wants to communicate. As Francis Bacon wrote – knowledge is power, one has to develop interest in knowing more and thinking about it and may be if required to make proper notes about it so that one is able to retain what one has learnt. One has to enjoy the power of knowledge by rich and relevant content. I keep telling my young friends that you must develop good friendships so that you can share what you read. By sharing you would be able to retain what you have read. It would hit your cognitive space and get saved in your hard disc with proper encoding. By sharing you make several copies of the message and whenever you need it, it comes handy, your memory drive gets prompted and feeds you.

Content also can come through experiences and notes, discussions and discourses. Make a proper reading list and keep preparing handy notes in order to provide you ready feed. Rich content can be developed through getting little deeper into the issue through research that one is trying to get to know about.

Better content leads you to enjoy confidence and clarity which is must in order to get the message communicated effectively as well as to lead better in career. It is observed at many workplaces that when a particular issue comes, one is referred to a specific person in the organization. It is because of his communication and articulation about his knowledge related to that particular issue in which he/she specializes, in which he/she has developed overtime by acquiring related knowledge and expertise. Can we at least develop ourselves in one such domain that we have edge over others, so that whenever any issue concerning that particular domain comes forward for resolve, all eyes of expectations are directed towards you. It is important as it provides a sense of positivity and being helpful to others.

No career can push you up until you possess good content which could be based on knowledge or skill. One needs to keep working on learning new skills as well as to keep acquiring new knowledge. It is also expected of people to develop new knowledge. I get reminded of what Gary Hamel mentioned in his book entitled - The Leading Revolution, he wrote - you cannot find a new place on an old map. So we need to keep creating new places on the map. We need to create new knowledge for tomorrow.
Organizations always prefer people who have strong sense of learning and are new to new knowledge. Satya Nadella of Microsoft says that he has learned many new things as well as developed better perspectives through attending Coursera. There are companies which ask - what have you learnt in last six months. So having learning attitude and developing content is very important in order to excel in career vis-à-vis life.

Next C is Clarity. Clarity is a very important component for leading better career goals. At times we are faced with a situation when we have lot of information and knowledge but we are not able to package it perfectly. We are full of content but we lack the art of organizing that knowledge or information and do not possess the art of condensing it for a particular use. That is a real challenge.
Packaging is a skill not many concentrate on. But it is very important as it makes the audience or receivers develop interest in what one is intending to share or communicate. Packaging the content is such a way that it connects with the audience and convinces them. It works as a link between content and intent. As mentioned earlier it is not important to know everything, what is important it to be able to communicate what one knows. That is where clarity helps.

Organizing the thoughts with appropriate choice of content makes you a confident communicator. In order to have clarity one has to plan what one is going to speak or write about. It is always better to look and relook at the intent of communication, the nature and background of audience, and the message that needs to be communicated. This planning shall help one to get organized better and to have clarity of thought. Many a times we come across people having lot of data and information but they fail to communicate what they intent because of lack of clarity in intent and expected outcome. So apart from getting clear idea as to what is the emphasis of message, one has to also comprehend expected outcome at the end of the expression which would further strengthen clarity and boost the confidence of communicator.

When one is planning one’s career, one has to have fair idea of what one intends to pursue. One has to look at one’s long term life goal and accordingly has to plan course of action accordingly. Clarity helps in marrying career goal with life goal. Clarity of purpose combined with the meaningfulness of efforts has to move together in order to drive the process further. Many a times the nature of work and physical stress builds pressure and results in creating confusion which disturbs clarity; many a time unnecessary interventions and external engagements distract focus. This is where one has to have some system of getting prompted through warning signal so that conscious decision may be taken to build clarity and dust out confusion. Taking a pause from work and spending time with near and dear ones might provide freshness. Spending time with oneself, may be through some small meditation sessions might help build clarity better.

After one is able to know the language in which one shall express oneself, the concentration would be on content and clarity as mentioned above. But the communication shall not be effective if it is not put forth confidently. Also it is important to be confident about oneself, about what one speaks, what one does and what one aspires. So the next and the forth C which needs to be concentrated is Confidence.

One builds confidence through language command, proper backup of content and clarity of message and intent. However it is also seen many a times that one lacks confidence when it comes to body language and the way one carries oneself. It is much to do with the comfort level of the person. Just one small spot in your dress that only you are aware of, shall pull you down when it comes to interacting with others. So wear the best suitable and comfortable dress that you possess, carry yourself in a very easy and composed way. It does not matter whether you are wearing the costliest and most fashionable brand or a local brand, what is important is how comfortable you feel in what way you are carrying yourself.

The way you walk, the way you talk, the way you smile, the way you laugh, the way you respond, the way you articulate, everything contributes to your communication of confidence. You should be confident about yourself and about the content that you are going to get across to others. Your comfort level with audience shall also determine your confidence level. Your knowledge about audience and their knowledge about you shall help you build a connection with them. Talking eye to eye is considered best when talking one on one but when the size of audience is larger it is equally important that one is able to involve through the movement of the eyeballs with people sitting at different places. It portrays your confidence about what you are communicating.

Confidence is the key for building one's career and achieving greater heights. Content is the prime driver of confidence and your personality is the secondary factor to build confidence. As they say - personality is the sum total of habits. One needs to work on developing good habits which provide you positive energy and help you build confidence. It is better to spend time on nurturing at least a hobby which provides positivity and helps in building confidence. In order to be confident one has to practice, rehearse and do mock tests. One must avoid interacting with negative people and should develop art of controlling emotions. At times it so happens that by just one small intervention, one loses confidence and spoils the whole show. One has to be very careful about it. That is where it becomes important that one is thorough with the content and has fair idea about the action that he/she is going to take. One has to believe that there is no shortcut and opportunities do not knock always. It is the practice which makes the man perfect.
So young friends next time when you are faced with trouble in dealing with yourself, look around and see whether you are able to communicate better. Work on these 4 Cs and experiment for some time and see whether you are able to move ahead in life and career or not.

Thursday, March 30, 2017


One of my students' Facebook status read: 
Its often said that nothing fails like success. But I believe nothing is as permanent as failure. Once it gets inside you, it stays there for quite a long time and in this process it destroys everything.
I am sure many of us, especially when we pass through the age he is passing, tend to feel this way. Many times we don’t share it with others. Once I saw this post I responded quickly (well within 6 hrs):
It depends on the frequency of its occurrence... And one's attitude... Positive people take lesson from that and move forward with caution, care and commitment... Negative people curse it and kill their efforts, enthusiasm and energy. Ultimately choice is with the individual... One must not handover his/her remote to others be it individuals or objects.
It did not just end there. It took me back to my own experiences and interactions. It drove me to the lessons that I learnt all the while. It has been really interesting when I go into nostalgia and count - how many times did I fail. I land up having many more failures than successes, if at all I call it success.

He is not alone. I am sure there are many to whom this feel comes and their coping technique helps them overcome such failure and to come on track with tight shoe laces and the socks up. This spirit is important; it works as fresh fuel to energise and to put efforts in a more focused and better way. Grudging about failure brings negativity and one falls prey to that self in a way that all kinds of perceptions get formed about others, situations, events, happening and objects. On the contrary, when one takes it sportingly and start believing in the fact that all successful people have failed once or more before getting the coveted place and position, one gets the inspiration and moves forward for better tomorrow.

Many times we get into illusionary feeling while looking at the success of others and get lured by the glamour attached. Ironically we fail to look through their hard work, failures, adjustments, and compromises made in the journey. Many times we do not get to see the pain this person hides behind the glory of the crown.

Abdul Kalam, the former president of India used to say – it is more important to read about people who failed rather than reading about people who succeed. Failures teach us much more in volume and experience as compared to what success teaches us. Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it – says Maya Angelou, an American poet who faced lot of ups and down in her journey. A successful Bollywood actor Manoj Bajpayee responds to a question put up before him on how he deals with failures. He says –
If you let failure determine your course of action, you are living in a fool’s paradise. It will suck you in further and you are too good for that. Yes, at such times, the one worry is how to keep the kitchen fires burning, but that too, gets managed somehow by doting one big role. And also I have never increased my needs and that has helped me.
What is common in all successful people is the spirit of not giving up and holding on to the pulls and pressures to keep pursuing the ultimate till it is achieve. Surrendering after failure displays weakness in standing with one’s conviction. I read it somewhere – failure proves that the efforts for attaining success were not put with full determination. FAIL means First Attempt In Learning as Kalam puts it. It builds us from within and prepares us to face the challenge with more rigor. While we learn about our failure, we must ask a question ourselves – Why I failed. One needs to work on that reason in order to overcome failure.

Failure is not final and success is not permanent. For that matter nothing in this world is permanent. We are all travelers without knowing the destination. We are just putting efforts and trying to know what is written on the ticket where destination is mentioned. So why complain about failure. We need to enjoy it more than the success. In 2016 Olympics it was reported through research by psychologists that the players who got bronze were more satisfied and happy than their counterparts who got silver. The failure of losing hit the silver winner and the achievement of getting at least bronze made him/her happier.

So it all depends how we look at failure and how long we allow it to hang on our mind. How long and how deep we allow it to get inside us and to touch which part of our inner soul – the one which is home to the cold and green inside us or the one which houses hot and red. Can we afford to handover our remote to individuals, objects, events and happenings and destroy ourselves or we hold our remote with ourselves and we take the call what we need to do once we feel low. Yes we need to use caution, care and commitment to pursue our dreams and we just can’t afford to compromise on our efforts, energy and enthusiasm.

So it all begins with you – the man in the mirror. Get up, take a deep breath, open the door of possibilities and window of fresh air, respond to the call of opportunity and press the lever and keep moving ahead. Enjoy what you do and be sure only good would happen to you.

Believe me, failure is part of success. Learn to enjoy it.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Inclusivity of Business and Well-Being

BUSINESS operates on the basic premise of interdependence between enterprise and society.  Their isolation kills the very foundational spirit of business. State plays a role of facilitator in order to assure that the interdependence is well respected and maintained.  Even when we follow laissez faire or operate in free trade environment, exploitation of users of products and services has to be monitored and controlled.  Irrespective of model of development and geographies of operation, this has been the hallmark in sustaining business growth and building great enterprises.

At individual level, well-being is a state in which a person feels good about one’s life.  It is a reflection on past experience observed through satisfaction, on having good conditions of life at present and having positive outlook towards future. At larger level, human well-being reflects on general satisfaction of all individuals with their health, education, relationships, environment, governance, and products and services they use.

Business which is run by and for the individuals has to think about the well-being of people involved at all levels.  Internally it is for employees and externally it is customers and society.  The conditions of work within the organization have to be developed in such a way that work itself becomes fun and the morale of employees is boosted through different initiatives for incentivizing their performance.  Monetary as well as non-monetary rewards have to be linked with work efforts and performance in such a way that the employees derive sense of satisfaction at the work place.  The popular belief that only satisfied employees can get satisfied customers has to be practiced for better well-being of employees from all work related activities. In the current times retaining better talent has become much greater challenge than acquiring talent. So strategies have to be designed in such a way that attrition is reduced and loyalty is maintained or improved.

Respect for individual creativity and an environment of fostering innovation within the organization should be developed and maintained to stay relevant and to avoid sense of monotony and obsolescence. Sense of complacency among employees should not be allowed to be developed and challenging work through putting achievable targets should be encouraged.  This creates positivity among the employees which gets its reflection through new and innovative products and services. Organizations like Google, MakeMyTrip, Jubilant Foodworks, Flipkart, etc have demonstrated unique practices to manage their workforce.

It is generally observed that great business organizations have survived all ups and downs in market, policy, polity and in customer expectations. Their inclusive thinking has made them achieve greater heights through excellent performances.  Business groups like Tata, Birla, Mahindra and organizations like Infosys, Wipro, L&T, HCL, HUL, ITC, etc have responded to the call of well-being through their products and services apart from sharing social responsibility with the state. Their allocations and expenditure for improving quality of life of people in general is remarkable. Multinational corporations like Merck, Johnson & Johnson, IBM, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, etc are spending hugely on improving human well-being through their business models.

So how can a business isolate it from thinking about human well-being. That is where we need to project business and well-being as inclusive entities. This has to be the made part of organizational thinking and accordingly strategies have to be designed to stay focused for sustaining its existence by being relevant in all times.  State policies for creation and distribution of wealth have to guarantee improvement in the well-being of people. Organizations have to organize their business activities around the greater cause of creation of wealth and providing satisfaction to the users of products and services.

The products and services have to be designed, developed and delivered in such a way that the general human well-being is assured. Improving conditions of quality of life of all people involved in the process from inception to its operation, from production to its ultimate use has to be prioritized for developing a successful business model which can help organizations to look beyond just financial returns.

Business and well-being have to coexist for better future of our nation. We are an inclusive society and business is run not just to earn profits but to play proactive role in sharing responsibilities of the state as well.  More so when we are part of collectivist society where pluralistic values are respected.  So the business of running the business cannot be just to create profitable ventures but it has to be to focus on well-being of people involved at all levels as well.

Happiness Matters! It really does.

ORGANIZATIONS strive for better firm performance. In competitive environment it becomes a greater challenge to compete with their previous performance viz-a-viz the performance of the rivals. In all these efforts employees play key role. Employees work in organizations to achieve their individual goals.  They put efforts to attain organizational objectives and goals which indirectly helps them achieve their goals. This healthy and complementary relationship keeps adding value to the organizational efforts and achievements. The prominence of human relations school has proven that satisfied and happy employees would be more productive and result oriented. However many times organizations have focused more on customers and clients than employees which has its own wells and ills. But for visioning sustainable competitive advantage and to be a successful player in the long run, organizations have to start believing in prioritizing the focus on employees rather than customers.

Recently, Robert Half, an organization known for its regular presence in Best Places to Work surveys and one of the World’s Most Admired Corporations, brought out a study based on online responses of 12,000 workers spread across United States and Canada (data collected in the last quarter of 2016).  The study was conducted in collaboration with Happiness Works and had 30 questions about how happy employees feel at work and to what they attribute this feeling.

Across nations, gender and age a sense of pride in belonging to their respective organization was considered to be the prime factor which drove their happiness with an exception of young employees (aged between 18-34 years) for whom a sense of accomplishment from their work was found to be more important than pride. Pride in belonging to their organization was primary for the employees working in the area of financial services, administration, technology, and HR.  An acknowledgement of the contribution made by employees is reflected through the feel of appreciation which was considered second most important drive for employees above the age of 34 years and for all men and all employees from US and Canada but for women it was the feel of fairness and respect which was more important than feeling appreciated. Overall when we look at the driving forces it amounts to four major factors – sense of pride in belonging to the organization, feeling appreciated for their work, being treated with fairness and respect, and sense of accomplishment.

Employees at the senior level were ranked highest in level of happiness and interest in their job and lowest in stress levels. When we look at the industry-wise responses, marketing and creative professionals reported highest level of happiness and interest in their job and employees working in technology sector had lowest level of stress.  The employees above the age of 55 years were found to be happiest as individual employees set. The companies where 10 or less employees were working were found to be happiest companies and when one looks at tenure, it was the first one year of joining that was the happiest time for most of the employees.

While studying these findings one can feel lot of connection with well-established theories and that validates the takeaways of this commendable work. Need for affiliation, power and achievement as propounded by David McClelland are clearly reflected as the driving force for happiness.  These are inherent needs which drive an employee to seek employment, perform one’s job and stay with the organization.  Employees recognize strong sense of belonging (pride) and that needs to be honored and nurtured through employee-oriented work schemes and development of friendly working conditions.

Happiness is not just a onetime response or feel, rather it is a sustainable feel resulting in satisfaction which guides further efforts. Happiness depends on individual’s priorities and tastes, so it is basically an individual experience and is relative in nature. The challenge before the organizations is to work on providing favorable working environment which helps the employees to sustain the feel of happiness even after initial one year tenure. Appropriate engagements should be developed with employees for their involvement, recognition and morale building which could help them sustain the feel of happiness beyond one year and still if employees do not find it worth staying with the organization, positive exit routes could be created for them. Like many other studies where it was found that during mid-career employees reflect least job satisfaction as compared to when they join or retire from the organization, this study also endorses the same view as employees between the age group of 35-55 years were found to be least happy.

The match between organizational goal and individual goal creates magic for achievement of firm’s objectives and develops positive vibes in the organization. The employees who feel that there is mismatch between these goals, are most likely to leave the organization as found in the study.  The study suggests that the organizations need to focus on fairness, work-life balance, and team building apart from periodic celebrations of achievements of the employees.

Senior Executive Director of Robert Half, Paul McDonald says:

For businesses struggling to attract and retain workers with in-demand skills, the report provides a roadmap for forging deeper engagement and commitment levels among staff.

Nic Marks (to whom I have known for last 13 years), who heads Happiness Works, suggests:

Work can be difficult and demanding, but if employees feel proud of what their organization does, respected as a person and appreciated for what they do, then they tend to be happy and do better work as a result. Happiness at work is a genuine win-win, great for employees and great for employers.

The study reports that happy employees are more resilient and loyal. They stay for long term resulting in reduced turnover which helps in cutting cost on hiring and training so it leads to the satisfaction of both the key stakeholders - employees and employers. As happy employees have better sense of attachment with the organization, they voice out their concern and play proactive role in building better organizational value through their positive work behavior which influences employer branding as an offshoot.

When employees are not satisfied with their jobs they tend to be absent from job, they tend to produce less, and at times increase in poor quality products. On the contrary satisfied and happy employees use their creativity and produce better, portray better sense of commitment and responsibility and express their willingness to own up.  The sense of meaningful work has to be created in the minds of employees which can guide them to put their best effort. Happy employees portray better sense of innovativeness, openness, togetherness and team spirit resulting in developing newer ways to solve difficult problems. Health and happiness has been found very closely associated as happy employees are found to be healthier, allowing them to deal with their stress level in a better way. And such employees are rarely absent from work.

Ever since employees are considered prime resource and positive psychology gained prominence, research studies have shown that happiness has positive effect on work behavior, productivity, and quality of work. In Oct 2015, Daniel Sgroi along with Andrew Oswald and Eugenio Proto published their work which observed - happy employees (experiment group) have approximately 12 per cent greater productivity as compared to the control group. Gallup has conducted several surveys proving the point that highly engaged employees are more productive than others.

The interaction point in the organization is crucial as it depends with whom a prospective customer or client interacts, whether there is positive conversion into real customer. If the employee is happy and has strong sense of belonging to the organization, the conversion rate is better. In a study by the Disney Institute it was found that in two thirds of the cases, the reason why people stopped using the services of a business was down to the attitude of the people they came into contact with. Only 14% of the reasons were down to the product and around 8% because of a competitor.

Employees need to come prior to customers in the strategy formulation so that strategies can be drawn to improve their well-being and happiness levels. Investment in employees for improving their satisfaction level is a step which should ideally reap good fruits in long run. Only satisfied and happy employees can bring satisfied and happy customers. The experiment of Employees First, Customers Second at HCL Technologies, by Vineet Nayar is an evidence of this fact.

So happiness really matters. It matters for achieving your individual goal. It matters in attaining organizational objectives. It matters in creating magic and driving passion among the individuals working for the ultimate interest of the organization.  Though happiness is primary concern of individual, organizations have to put in place effective mechanism of treating their employees better so that they are able to derive better levels of satisfaction viz-a-viz happiness.

Happiness matters, it really does.

[published in Business Manager - HR Magazine, Vol 19(9) March 2017, 37-39]