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]