Friday, January 25, 2013

“Corporate Confidential: 50 secrets your Company doesn't want you to know – and what to do about them” by Cynthia Shapiro

An increasingly regulated rights environment means HR departments have become more likely to resort to obtuse methods but critics say employees see through the ruses which staff are exposed to regularly through an increased frequency of redundancies while a surge in the publication of "HR revealed" books like Cynthia Shapiro's 'Corporate Confidential' have also made staff more suspicious of HR.
Writers like Shapiro, herself a former HR manager, allege that some HR departments may be doing more damage than good for their employers.

 "You must assume all your e-mails are being read. Companies regularly do it because it provides a window into the employee's world: personal e-mails to friends about how much you've slacked off today and can't wait till 5 pm, inside jokes about management, even angry complaints about management policy."

All companies have blacklists
One of an HR department's secret objectives is to remove unwanted employees while legally protecting the company. And most are very good at it. Companies try to "manage out" these employees, by giving them impossible tasks with unrealistic deadlines.
How else to know if you're on the list? You're feeling ignored, overworked, underpaid, or set up to be unsuccessful. Your boss doesn't seem to like you or pay attention to you the way he does to others.

HR executives are instructed for years not to tell you what you've done wrong
The hard truth is, many companies would rather incur bad feelings than be faced with the possibility of a lawsuit.
Rather than being corrected, employees are quietly sidelined, or placed on the next layoff list.

Your company will tell you to keep a work/life balance, and then fire you if you do it
While most businesses promote a "healthy work/life balance" to improve its public image, employees who work 50-hour work weeks are the ones being rewarded.
Each company has its own unique value system and agenda for you to discover. If they feel like you value your money more than theirs, you'll be gone in no time

Your company won't tell you're too old, or too young, but they will promote you or fire you depending upon it
But it's how old your appear that matters. Age doesn't have to impact your career unless you do something to reinforce the fears that your company associates with it.
Companies perceive younger employees as flighty, so you should show an extra effort to be consistently responsible: show up to work 15 minutes early, and leave 15 minutes late, and get projects done on time.
Older employees are valued for their experience, but their lack of flexibility and health issues are scary for businesses. Don't take sick days unless you absolutely have to and stay current in both business and technology

Companies don't want your smarts unless you've shown respect first
It doesn't matter if you have good intentions. Correcting your boss in meeting and offering ways to make things better are not always perceived positively.
Only provide opinions when asked and make sure to show appreciation for the efforts than have been done before you. Also, if you make suggestions, be ready for your boss to take full credit. He'll be secretly in your debt -- a good place to be.

How do you ask for a promotion? You don't
Telling management you think you're ready for a promotion before they offer one will make them nervous. You have to prove yourself by working above your current level instead of telling management you're ready for the responsibility.
Truth is, internal promotions are usually locked up and decided long before they're offered publicly to the employees.

Companies may not be able to remove you while on pregnancy or medical leave, but they can include you in a layoff, downsizing, or reorganization while you're away
They're also only required to return you to your "same or similar position" when you come back.
To protect yourself, tell your boss before anyone else. If he hears about it from anyone else, he can spare himself the inconvenience of an employee on leave and fire you before you know it

You might love wearing jeans to work, but you're getting fired for it
Many companies don't require a dress code anymore, but the judgments placed on dress haven't gone away. Companies look at how you dress as an indication of what kind of thinker you are.
At work, you should always dress conservatively. If you can, try to match the style of those at the top.

For more details visit Cynthia Shapiro's official website;

Source: Corporate Confidential

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pygmalion and Galatea: The power of 'BELIEF'!

Pygmalion was a very talented sculptor in ancient Greece who loved his work, and would spend hours carving beautiful ivory statues, immersing himself in his art. One day, he chose a large, beautiful piece of ivory, and worked diligently at it, chiseling and hammering until he finished. It was a statue of a beautiful lady. Pygmalion thought it was so beautiful, he clothed the figure, gave it jewels, and named it Galatea (sleeping love). Pygmalion went to the temple of 'Aphrodite' (Venus), the goddess of love and beauty to pray for a wife just like the statue in his home.
When Aphrodite heard him, she went to the home of he sculptor to see what all the fuss was about. She was delighted when she saw Galatea. She thought it looked a lot like herself, so she brought it to life. When the sculptor returned home, he found Galatea alive, and threw himself at her feet. Galatea smiled down at him. They soon got married, and Pygmalion didn't forget to thank Aphrodite for his good fortune. He and Galatea brought gifts to her altar as long as they lived. Aphrodite blessed them with happiness and love in return.

The Pygmalion effect, or Rosenthal effect, is the phenomenon in which the greater the expectation placed upon people, often children or students and employees, the better they perform. The effect is named after Pygmalion, a play by George Bernard Shaw.
The Pygmalion effect is a form of self-fulfilling prophecy, and, in this respect, people will internalize their positive labels, and those with positive labels succeed accordingly. Within sociology, the effect is often cited with regard to education and social class.
Your expectations of people and their expectations of themselves are the key factors in how well people perform at work. Known as the Pygmalion effect and the Galatea effect, respectively, the power of expectations cannot be overestimated. These are the fundamental principles you can apply to performance expectations and potential performance improvement at work.

The Pygmalion effect was described by J. Sterling Livingston in the September/October, 1988 Harvard Business Review. "The way managers treat their subordinates is subtly influenced by what they expect of them," Livingston said in his article, Pygmalion in Management.

So what do I do to harness the Pygmalion effect?
Things you can do are for example:
• Encourage your employees to set innovative goals
• Praise creative efforts, even if they weren’t successful
• Stress the importance of the sharing of ideas among colleagues
• Be creative yourself – serve as a role model
• ‘Stand up’ for your employees innovative efforts
• Take pride in your employees achievements
• Publicly recognize innovative work
• Reward creativity properly

Just believing that one has the capability to be creative, one might become more motivated to pursue more unique or original ideas and solve a problem in a more creative way. Furthermore, it is thought that individuals with high self-beliefs about their capabilities to be creative use their cognitive resources in a more focused and effective way

Salary Survey De-mystified

There are many global and local companies who do salary surveys for companies, industry and country/region.

I have used Hewitt, Mercer, Vencon and some others for surveys for companies I worked for.
While all of these collect data from primary market, you will not find any difference in what they mention as P50/Median or range within a title. Reason is simple, they go to the same market, either directly or through third party companies"Outsourced-foot soldiers" and collect primary data. The other way is, they already have done that survey in past years and this year, they will do a few tweaking here and there. The other reason for finding similarity in data is , that they all read other survey company reports and do not want to be/dare to be different or outrageous or simply insightful. They know simple recipes sell better. And if more insightful they make the report, how will the poor C&B guy or his old boss read that?

The silliest thing that I have noticed is that, while doing salary survey/mapping/plotting, these companies go by job families and "level descriptors", which are so generic and may have from 70% to 150% of variance in definition of the job, it's vertical and horizontal spread in terms of quality and quantity or magnitude and magnificence of responsibilities and accountability. Every Java Manager/PM does not have the same KRAs and KPIs and challenges, limitations and constraints and expectations and competencies, from large Indian IT services company to principal product companies, who work in R&D space to product innovations.

When I asked some of these salary survey companies to do a proper (in-depth) talent and skills/competencies and expectations (what employer expects from them) mapping, they never came back to me.I suspect they do serious comparative analysis of tasks, role, KRAs, KPIs, per title and role in specified job boundary.

I still believe, you learn more by researching your hiring and attrition dynamics, that have serious connotation to "what people expect and get in terms of salary and role". Besides, the above, I heavily use Job Boards salary date. They are primary market data for me.

I did not find salary meter of or, useful. Despite them asking for quite a lot of valuable details, the output is discouraging. Largely the reason could be that they do not have sufficiently large sample size. churns out much reliable data, if data cleansing is done well as they do for data warehousing before doing BI. Again, here the reliability is more because of huge sample size.

Companies ask for fresh salary survey data but they themselves mis-implement it to create disparity, as in an anxiety and desperation to get the appraisal cycle done (along with market correction), they create their own fractured grades and bands. And the winner is that average "B and C player".

I was at SiliconIndia's Strategic HR Summit and Mr.Mahalingam, ex-Head HR at Symphony India, made a satirical yet, so true comment, when he asked, Do you know, who is C&B Manager today?, and he answered after a silence that he observed, "It is someone who known Microsoft Excel and some functions, like V lookup, H lookup, Pivot table and as/if formula."  So unfortunate but that is what CEOs and Global Colonial HR heads and C&B heads expect the C&B guys to be like. They are like accountants who draft letters based on circular (annual salary survey reports).

Long live HR!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Met lazy HR guys and got a job

I was reading an article in Financial Express, online, quite dated one, from 2005, in fact.
R Satya Narayana is the chairman of Career Launcher India. (IIM-B,batch of 1993) talked about what they do not teach at an IIM.

Though quite familiar euphemism, he mentioned, his words---

"Met lazy HR guys and got a job

Placement is the singular value that a top B-school offers. I also met some HR guys who came from a top corporate, saw me and promptly offered me a princely sum, in 1993, of Rs 5,200 per month. I did not know a single reason why I should be paid that kind of money. My father was drawing Rs 4,750 at that time after having worked for over three decades!
 Mind you, the word, 'lazy'! I wonder, the perception or understanding about HR folks has not changed in past 20 years (Read 2 decades, if that makes it appear sensational outrage)

Laziness in HR is such a dynastic lethargy, it holds like "royal blood" in its progeny.
 It is said, the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar II was caught by the english forces, as there was no one to put his shoes on and so he did not move.
Another interesting fact, caught my attention is that an IIM B grad got a campus offer of Rs.5,200 per month, some 20 years back. Annually it comes to Rs.62,400.
 In my previous article "Retain only the best", I talked about Pratik Kumar, Executive VP-HR, Wipro Ltd, and there Forbes published that he draws Rs.2 cr CTC a year.

If we calculate compound interest to see, what CTC R Satya Narayan would have reached at after 20 years, if his salary grew @10% annually. The CTC would have been in 2013, Rs.419, 796. (Less than what an Admin  Assistant draws after 2 to 3 years, with or without any special degree or qualification)

Assume, the annual raise was 20% (quite high, right!) R Satya would have reached in 2013 an annual CTC of Rs.23,92,226. This is around 10% of what Pratik Kumar, an HR guy draws today.
 I guess market forces defy all sensible calculations.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Retain only the 'best'!

I have heard Pratik's lectures while I was doing MBA at SIBM, Pune. 

I read about Pratik Kumar at Forbes website. You can check the same link as below-

The link says-
Pratik Kumar has served as our Executive Vice-President of Human Resources since April 2002, and has served with us in other positions since November 1991. Mr. Pratik Kumar holds a B.A. from Delhi University and an M.B.A. from Xavier Labour Relations Institute (XLRI), Jamshedpur, India.

I was glad to see on the same page details of his 2011 compensation. It reads like this-

Wipro, Ltd.
Compensation for 2011
All other compensation
Total Compensation

I wonder how many of XLRI graduates in 20 years of career (with Indian company) have reached to the level like this in terms of position, responsibilities and compensation. I believe, Pratik is based out of India and the compensation converted into rupee terms is Rs.2, 01, 17, 864. (2 Cr.) This is inspiring story and at the same time, it confirms the fact that HR people can become President and CEOs of businesses. It also confirms the fact that, if you stay with one organisation, longer, you get rewarded.

My next wonder is, if EVP-HR’s compensation can be made public, why companies treat compensation data such a top secret and sacrosanct to be kept under vaults.

I request all MNCs and large Indian companies to publish their compensation data of Senior Executives and they will hear great feedback from their people on many of them.

I was taking to my neighbor  who has his B.Tech from IIT Guwahati and for past 5 years, he is working with the same company, he joined from campus.
Today, some of his peers in his company, who come from unknown engineering colleges, get 30 to 50% more salary than him and all these guys have joined this company after shorter stints with 2 or 3 other companies.
I am really worried if my understanding of the above case of Pratik’s loyalty/stability with one company for past 20 years can give any assurance to such other loyal/stable guys at other companies.

I worked with some large US MNCs in India at their R&D centers and knew very closely some people on their skills and competencies, vision and dreams. In past 6 years, I see, many of those poor competency and skills and no vision and no dream guys have become Managers and Directors from IT support engineer role and Sr.Design Engineer roles. Trust me, reward is a very complex and and most misunderstood and misused/abused mechanism/function. 

Just not loyalty and stability can form the basis for rewards, there are other soft skills and soft and hard-wired values and dreams that produce great success stories, when they came out of sweat and blood. It seems, we have more "free coffee" in our blood than the oxygen that keeps life afloat.
Unfortunate fact is, people get rewarded and benefited out of STAGNATION, No-Competition, Managements’s Helplessness to promote the available average guy. Weak Managers play safe, and corporate is full of such B/C Managers; they recommend for promotion, harmless, easy to handle and spineless folks, who will never have a voice forget about challenging the manager.

‘A’ players hire ‘A’ players and ‘B’ players hire ‘B/C’ players. Is the same not true with promotions/career progression and succession planning?

How can a ‘B’ player promote an ‘A’ player? We all know, ‘B’ and ‘C’ players Frustrate ‘A’ players and they look for places with sensible and quality people, move out or kick that A**H**** company and people.

So, for retention and development, if CEOs and others have been able to retain ‘A’ players, they will certainly build more ‘A’ players.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Do you believe in the "First Act"

As Managers or interviewers many a times, we get impressed by the 'first act'. Some call it "first impression". I consciously call it the 'first act', as this makes a whole lot of difference, in building quick value, of what we got impressed by.
Be it excellent introduction to that metaphoric quote or an intended pun!, we usually get swayed by the 'first act.'

I remember a candidate talking too tall at his introduction session, on the New Hire Orientation day to bunch of joiners, where he mentioned that he has got 7 years of experience working in Mobile tech services sales, client engagement, huge experience in Employee Relations function and has his own plastic business running for past 7 years. Looks like very enterprising and to some accomplished and arrived in life.
Come day -2 or at expanse , week-2 and you will be surprised to see how quickly that enigma of the "first act" fizzles! The same came true with the above mentioned "cosmetic" profile.

Though do not get biased with every "first act"! It is anyways, an entertaining Game!

I have found many such "first acts" falling through in later appearances/encounters, especially, when that person hits the "brass-tacks" earlier than he/she thought, and here comes the wall!

Watch out for the "first act" to keep your acts (read plans) together!

How can you test the "first act"?
Remember, "first acts" are powerful and rehearsed tools!
Best way to handle is not to express surprise or express joy or glitter in your eyes, over what is claimed/said.

Surprise is a weak stand, as surprise is a state of confusion more than excitement!

Ideal way to manage the "first act" maker is, by putting her/him, in  polite yet, uncomfortable position, from the first response/question!
Play with your eyes! Keep posture straight and controlling, arms on the table or on your knees, firmly placed and no movement, look into person's eyes with intensity and keep looking (with serious interest) "emotion & expression less". Keep your interest intact!
Let that person complete what he/she has to say. Do not interrupt, even if the speech is too long! Keep your attention and eyes still firm with smallest smile through your lips (remember your smile shall shut faster than you blink). Take a good 5 Sec pause and ask your shortest question to her first sentence, she uttered to clarify. "First actors" normally, do not remember what they said, when they started.

For example, if he said, I have 12 years of experience selling Server solutions. Ask what was your first product/Service offering?
Keep asking small and quick questions, next one, which year was this?, DO NOT ALLOW TOO MUCH DETAILS. EXPECT ANSWERS AS QUICK AS YOUR QUESTIONS ARE. Next, who was your first client? Next,what was the deal value? Next, Who were your competitors for that account? Next,
How much time it took from first call to closure?, Next, What were your 3 apprehensions (deal breakers) on winning this account?, Next, where do you place this client in your account list (key/non-key) and why?...


"First actors" or fakers, who fake it to make it are never ready for rapid fire quick questions!

Conduct your testing and validation rounds of questions, like Karan Johar does in Coffee with Karan and Karan Thapar does in his show "Hard talk".

Remember, whether you uncover the first actor or discover a great guy, after your tough talks, you will take a better decision, than you ever thought.
Fakers fear tough guys and great guys love tough guys and want to work with!

All the best!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Engineering Degree Limits HR thinking

All degree courses not just build your thought process, they also build you. That is what they are there for. Law degree should build lawyers and Medicine degree, a medic. And all that in true sense and not just to churn out a market ready "product". Degrees may be a "commodity" today, people are not!

My question is, "Does engineering degree added by MBA in HR, make a complementing or condescending combination for an HR professional?"

My understanding is, "HR is more an art than a science". Mind you, if not more,  there are equal amount research and analysis done on all subjects of human significance, not just in science and technology."

 I am struggling with a thought for quite sometime and that is, "Does Engineering degree plus MBA in HR make a good combination, if one has chosen to work as an HR professional?
I believe, this is non-aligned and non-synchronized combination as I see, technical insight, at one hand makes one a great "solution thinker", on the other, it narrows down one's capacity of "broader" and "holistic" thinking. Refer to Bono's six thinking hats. HR is not always numbers. Even if you have many numbers in HR reports, they are just numbers. Key is insight out of numbers. That is a leadership function!

I saw a Job Posting on Linked in today for an MNC for http://Sr.HR Business Partner, which clearly mentioned that they are looking for non-technical/non-engineers with MBA/Masters in HR.
With this job posting today, I believe, there are many others who have thought over the issue in discussion here and have reached a conclusion.

Same as "nerds vs lerds", as Chetan Bhagat wrote sometime back, when he described that nerds are application guys, while lerds are policy, document and education guys.

While I know being technical helps in HR, when you have to validate and test HRIS tool, PMS tool or any other tool having easy to complex matrix on people productivity, effectiveness, quality, etc.
But we need to remember, that number in any stage, pre-analysis or post-analysis remain just 'numbers'. Building insight based on numbers and patters and trends that they create is "application". On top of data and application rests "insight", which is not 'algorithmic' function alone, it is rather more of "heuristic" brilliance to see beyond the obvious and view future through closed eyes.

I am of opinion that engineering and HR make a great combination, if you act as technical/functional consultant in building SuccessFactors or Peoplesoft application. Again more applied shall be technical skills and less of functional. Functional is again insight and application, as Chetan Bhagat believes in and I absolutely agree with.

Hope such great thoughts prevail! pool in folks!

HR is a funny profession

I am interviewing for Director HR for my company these days and meeting people form Bangalore and a few others from Chennai. A good mix of XLRI grads (yes, the PM&IR 2 years on-campus course) and other B-schools, known and unknown. I do not want to grade them as non-premier or low rung or C rung or non-ranked, etc as I am not a firm believer in grading system.

2004 pass out has done only recruiting and has only recruiting 'success story' to talk about. From Microsoft to Fidelity to O*** International. Now Heads HR. Great guy to talk to, good for coffee table discussion but hardly any tested competencies in L&D, C&B, OD, OE, change management or Succession planning. Draws 35L.

Another Head HR from an unknown MBA college, Heads HR form a leading global Healthcare software product company, manages 12 member team, reports to Head-HR, Global. Again has done only recruiting and has some bit of brush with PMS, reading Salary surveys, and conducting Open House meetings. Could not answer basic questions well on C&B, campus hiring. Has not heard of term, MBTI, Does that surprise you. He passed out MBA in 2002. Draws 20L base.

One more HR Director candidate, comes from a known MBA college in Mumbai (No, it is not SP Jain, of Shailesh J mehta or not even NITTIE). Claims to have done every thing in HR but recruitment. Interesting! Shallow answers to all questions that panel interviewers asked. All Business Heads interviewed. Could not get some questions, and answered what she understood. All english, no content. Greatest example came to the question of, 'How did you manage senior management conflict situation, when 2 senior management executives had a big conflicting situation?'. Example came from organising the "Beer bash" and conflict cited was, they were not agreeing to the event date the other guy proposed and they were debating.?
Huh! first of all, is a debate a conflict situation, which is so serious a blocker?
Draws 21 L base.

God only can save HR!
Long live HR.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Is HR Strategic

Add caption

Blessings-white 2011 employee engagement report says, the global engagement rate is 35% and within HR, it is 19%. We have more 'C' players in HR than in any other function. Reasons are obvious, it is not a profit center function, it is a parking place for lots of failed people, soft-launch for 'out of maternity employee', out of being thrown out of front-line business role, out of being wife or mother or girl-friend of the entrepreneur. What best can we expect from HR teams made out of losers like these.

Global report says, CEO's presentation slides have just 5% talk on people. Why blame only HR. We all know 'the business of business is people', but remember for many CEOs, people are just resources, numbers that add up to gross margin. Why blame only HR?

And why we are not asking the CEOs about making HR a board-room function and catalyst. How can a CEO lose site of HR function when people strategies build the DNA of the organisation and define their success and sustainability.
While on its own, HR must start using Business Intelligence tools and churn out great reports/insights on effectiveness of people processes and strategies and talent optimization dynamics, that affects business up to 250%.
As McKinsey report says, when they say, "In sales, top talent (A player) brings 250% more results, in services roles, 100% more and in assembly line, 20% more than an average performer (B player)". Add value by insights. Be a, productivity/effectiveness Consultant and Coach to your organisation. CEOs will seek your appointment.

Before you ask for an 'A' player HR, ask yourself, are you the inspirational, Level 5 leader of Jim Collins research? And, if you are an 'A' player organization, have 'zero-tolerance' for 'C' players, wherever they are, in HR or your board-room.

Why people block you on LinkedIn?