Sunday, 28 October 2012

The Jon Puri and Darbari of our HRM

Over the last few months through the virtue of my employers I had the opportunity to meet companies nationwide, along with other observations the most dominant concern seemed to be of employee retention. Employees just cant seem to be tamed, they keep quitting. I was amazed to find out that even some of the brightest entrepreneurs and senior managers went on to advocate a black listing mechanism where employees who leave their company can no longer get a job anywhere else.

In my career I have had the opportunity to work for the most amazing companies and the worst possible ones, within the spectrum of multinational corporations to national giants, family owned businesses, small start-up companies to private entities. With all these flavours I just wanted to address the Human Resource Management and Employee Retention issue being widely faced by our businesses today; and from a different perspective.

I believe the reason behind low employee retention is in 6 areas, these are

1. Respect

Employees are not slaves; they have values and egos which should be respected at all times. No superior can scold his subordinates just because he has a bad tamper; the employees are not hired to tolerate your Schizophrenia. Everyone has bad bosses but the chain of command needs to be monitored and constantly reminded about respecting their subordinates. If your company can hire and fire people with no policy or procedure then do not be a fool to expect that your employees are going to follow a procedure to leave you.  

In fact the respect should extend to all the employees needs things such as security, prayer areas, parking spots, cafeterias etc are solely the employer’s responsibility. I have witnessed companies allocating billions of rupees worth of company property to be used as free employee parking spaces whereas I have also experienced company owners using every inch of their property to be used for profit maximisation.
2. Equality

All employees are to be treated equally once they become a part of your team, you cannot practice discrimination of any sort based on the university they studied in, the company they are coming from, their religious beliefs, gender or ethnicity. You also cannot stereotype employees based on absurd associations e.g. employees with beards who offer prayers five times a day are good employees and the ones who smoke are bad ones. This is one of the most ridiculous practices which has nothing to do with employee productivity. Gauging performance is described next but when I say you need to practice equality you need to ensure that you have no double standards defined in your organisation, no favouritism and no biased judgements. You cannot treat employees differently; the same rules should be applied to all.  If you practice inequality then you have deliberately alienated a particular group or individual and its going to switch on the next best offer.

3. Performance Metrics and Measurement

It is said that you cannot manage what you cannot measure; you need to have realistic quantifiable well defined parameters for performance measurement. Never use subjective associations like above or any ones personal judgement to measure performance. There are numerous tools and literature available for measuring performance but the key is to always set clear parameters, targets which have been broken down to a monthly or even a weekly level ensuring frequent calculations. Both you and the employee should know exactly where he stands on the performance scale, you should be able to track performance and identify deviations as frequently as possible.

With the results you will be able to identify high achievers, spot individuals who need training and practice a fair reward based system.    

4. Training

No employee is perfect not even Harvard Barkley Brown or Yale graduates. Everyone needs to continue learning and improving their skills, so provide them opportunities to do so. These can be basic professional skills the immediate boss imparts or specific skills that an employee needs to perform his current job or general skills such as project management or contract writing. These trainings can be in-house or it can include local and international classroom sessions and they send a clear indication to the employees that the company is investing in them and preparing them for future leadership positions.

This training is also in form of specific assignments where for a predefined duration employees are rotated between various job functions, this creates a better understanding of the company and eliminates monotony which sometimes employees face who have been involved in the same function/ market for too long.

Your employees are your ambassadors so even if your well trained employee leaves he carries the acumen with him and the new employer develops the respect for your organisation who trained him creating a positive image. On the other hand employees who are not trained are an embarrassment for you especially if they have spent a lot of time with you.

So don’t look for employees from reputable companies who have created amazing individuals, try to become the institution yourself.   

5. Growth

Everyone needs to keep growing in their personal capacities and climbing the corporate ladder; the pace of this growth is determined by the performance measurement tools you have adopted. In the earliest phases of the career an employee feels he’s growing with monetary gains only but as he progresses he needs more authority and control, so make sure your employees keep growing. 

In certain types of businesses there is no room for growth, in such cases the next point might help and in family businesses the top management places are reserved for family so please do not be alarmed if your senior management quits or decides to start their own ventures.

6. Ownership

All employees need to feel a strong bond with the company this can be achieved by offering them a share in the company equity. Sometimes bonuses or benefits such as paid leisure trips try to accomplish this but when you make your employees a partner in your business the bond is strengthened. This sense of belonging has a positive impact of productivity and retention, if you realise that you have someone valuable there is no harm in offering them a small percentage of company shares.

Darbari is a raag and Jon Puri is a raagni, both consist of the same notes but have a different style of delivery; this difference completely changes the music’s meaning and application. Our HRM practices are also comparable on a similar scale, our companies know these six elements and even practice them but the difference is of the style of delivery or the “chaal” as the legendary Mehdi Hasan once described the two at a live performance. He said that if you even slightly deviate from the specific style of delivery you’ll ruin the raag, extreme care is to be practiced.

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