Thursday, July 31, 2014

What's an HR interview


Our first encounter with the word HR happens at campus interview time. Sometimes earlier if you went for an interview at internship time. It really was difficult for me to figure out 'how does an HR person look like, what an HR person would like to look at? What will he/she ask me and how should I answer that?

They are normal human beings, they look, feel, believe and think as any other human being. They also interview for jobs, they also meet HR people at interview.
Now normal? Good.
One more thing, HR people, who are those in HR function/role. They may be HR people by qualification. What does that mean? That means, they have a degree or a diploma or a certificate course in HR. They may have read some HRM books, lots of articles, some HR concepts and therefore, they become qualified by learning HR books, theory, concepts, case-studies, research papers, would have participated in many projects in HR and would have learnt ropes of the HR business and how an HR evangelist, specialist, Catalyst for change/change agent, talent spotter, talent manager thinks, acts and behaves. Though there may be many people in HR, without such degree, background. Remember Mohandas Pai, who headed HR at Infosys when he was a Chartered Account and a CFO of Infosys, before he took mantle of HR. Even Shalini Pillai, a CA and earlier Business Partner at KPMG, heads KPMG, India HR. Santrupt Misra, who heads Aditya Birla Groups, HR and OD was a plant manager. 
So not to fear, you will meet people who , let's assume currently manage HR function and you are interviewing with her/him. You do not need to know their background. That won't help much, unless you are interviewing for an HR position.

HR interview is a sanitizing  interview. It reiterates the position, role, description of role and responsibilities to a candidate. It fist ensures that candidate has sufficient information about the role/position, expectations, other factors related to job like, location, type of job, terms and conditions associated, basic eligibility and ongoing needs on the job. Once they have ensured candidate knows this, they start conversation where they expect candidate to give them an overview of who they are and what education, skills and experiences they have that they talk about in context of the job. What behavioral attributes they have that would make them become successful on the job. They try to gaze candidates interest in the role, company. They also try to check if candidate has certain constraints and aspirations that may come in the way of his or company's decision making on him/her for the role. 
What aspects of the job candidate understands well and how does he want to apply his experience and skills in the new role? What support he needs on the job to be able to meet expectations from him.

HR interviewer wants to know how and why the candidate has taken key decisions in life , studies and career and what is his thinking and decision making skill like. What are his motivators/drives and what personal attributes does he think are his strengths and weaknesses. How does he consider role and contribution of his manager, seniors, team members, juniors, others in his work environment. What are his natural and preferred work-style, leadership style, how strong are his problem solving and decision making skills, how good he is in his communication, in terms of articulation, structure , focus, assertiveness and balance.
How does he handle conflicts and differences of opinion, How he works in a structured and organised workplace. HR people watch you as much as they listen to you, but in any case, you need to be yourself and do not assume anything. Listen carefully, sound taking interest, allow them to complete their questions, sometimes they may mix two or more questions in one question. Take time, segregate questions and tell them which question you are answering first.
They will ask about your short-term, long-term goals. Tell them how you see yourself learning and growing in the organisation, how do you think you will add skills. Do not give fancy goals. They just want to know if you are thinking in the direction of being more useful to the organisation by adding skills and taking up higher responsibilities. Do not sound too ambitious by telling that you would like to be a VP or CEO if they are on very long-term horizon, they sound amusing but carry no value. If you say, how you would like to lead a group and function that takes care of say digital marketing, product development, anything that is relevant and adds liner value to the company or if it is an inventive company and pays high regards for research and development, them express your interest in working in that direction in your role and grab an opportunity to work, support new product line, etc,

Though companies believe in diversity but they certainly look for certain character in each candidate they interview to hire. HR looks for those few characteristics and they can be as simple as, Honesty. accept what you do not know, accept what you did not notice, read or understood, tell the truth! Confidence and maturity, here they look for abilities to work independently, unguided, unassisted. Can they manage communication with business with people they have met for first time and with those, who are placed higher in position in the organisation, with ease. Humility; This is important and shows in body language, smile, appearances, demeanor. 
Enjoy, it is fun!

Pic courtesy: Glasbergen!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

You actually do not need a real HR: Facade works, use them

HR does orientation and training and they help new folks learn how to get to speed and performance in any organisation.  They help people know what makes them successful and how they can expedite their learning and contribute at their peak performance. HR folks help people feel great about the workplace by creating a lively and welcoming environment that promotes learning, excellence and culture of reward.
All that looks like the management book dream expectations from HR and we find  them not playing such roles in words, spirit and passion. Why? Because they most of the times struggle to make sense to people as people know what is there in the policy books and all such information which HR used to master as they were written and interpreted out of secret HR books and vaguely written HR policy books. Now all this information is available and people manage all their needs on HR side easily. Now HR feels like, what to do, as people hardly need anything from these super specialty people. Of course employees approach HR when they find their employment data wrongly presented on HR systems, appointment letter has mistakes, bills are not reimbursed in time and correctly and accounts guys tell that , they do not have information from HR on such payments. I got 2 and half month's salary on my first month's salary at an MNC which hires people from top B and T schools only. Same is not true for people in HR. My joining date of 5 Jul was interpreted as 7 May.

I have heard from many employees that their appraisal letters, bonus letters, had several mistakes , several times. This may be individual characteristic but overall HR being considered a parking place, is such an ugly joke to people they serve, such a regressive thought! 
Richard Rekhey, CEO, KPMG India rightly positioned his most successful Partner from business role to head HR function. This truly defines that if HR has to take directions, vision and everyday instructions on people matters, from their masters in business, then why not people in business run HR themselves as they may not like to lose transmission loss or divergence from their vision of HR, which is mostly derived from the business, right? If business people define business success and strategy, they can manage HR better than anyone else. If only an HR degree is a reason to position someone in HR roles, which is related to living things (humans), who have brains, emotions, aspirations, and can be unpredictable too, needs someone very intuitive and refined and evolved. Time to re-think on HR as Ram Charan wrote in HBR in Jul-Aug, HR shall split into HR-A and HR-LO . A for Admin and LO for Leadership Organisation. Welcome move. 

I think much of HR's plight is due to its image as being Management's agent. Since HR gets most of directions from business and many employees who maintain relations with management directly, actually find all decisions are driven by business and so HR is just a tool! Puppet, right?
Time to change from tool to solution to business enabler, an SME who can bring business insights from people (resources, talent, leadership, risks, Capability, Aspirations, etc) into business planning and strategy. How many HRBPs to HR VPs ever do it? How many of them have even gone above the Admin of HR? This HR does not do as this is very high capability/risk area for HR to enter unless HR leader has free hand and CEO is a powerful leader. Most of the times HR's interventions in matters like,  Resources, Talent, Leadership, Risks, Capability, Aspirations, etc, make HR sound like trade union leader, anti-management or anti-some business leaders, tech heads, who in turn wage a war against HR guy and finally that HR leader is pushed outside the discussion room and at times fired! 
Why should an HR guy take HR leads that are written in the dream books of HR? Why would HR person take such risks and destabilize her life, EMIs and then go job hunting? 
Remember, big shifts, turnarounds happen only in 1% places, other places HR programs are emotionless copy-paste boring facade! Blame business not HR!  

10 signs HR is dead in your organisation

1.   When your top leaders shy away from talking about HR. 
2.   When no one cares what the hell HR is doing these days.
3.   When your top performers tell you they do not remember, when was their last talk with HR.
4.   When your vendors tell you that it is very difficult to reach and get response from your HR.
5.   When your new employee is too hesitant to ask HR about something as small as, when would I get my NEO plan?
6.   When your HR guy talks at employee gatherings, as a speaker and people dig into phones or food.
7.   When HR is just a 'dropbox' which sucks questions of significance and cannot give solutions on the fly.
8.   When your HR managers and senior positions talk 80% time about admin stuff.
9.   When your HR gets to know of people issues from employee's managers as escalation.
10.  When it does not matter when HR people come and go to office and what they do through the day.

Interesting read below when you know what Richard Rekhy, CEO, KPMG India, told in an interview to 'People Matters', May 2011.

I have kept something I once heard very close to heart. When I met the CEO of a large consulting firm in New York some time ago, he said something that just stayed with me – “Pick your highest performing business partner and make that person the Head of HR”. People are the most critical asset in a consulting firm, so you need to put your best person in charge of your people. It made absolute sense.
------Richard Rekhy, CEO, KPMG India in an interview to 'People Matters', May 2011----

I personally believe that if we care for people the result will be high performance. So, when I became the CEO, I took the opportunity to ask one of our best performing partners – Shalini Pillay - to take on the reins of managing HR and ensure that we give our people the best. I chose her because I wanted someone who was a high performer as well as passionate about people . In fact, I’ve had such a keen interest in people that I had offered myself for this role to my earlier CEO, so that I could make a difference and transform KPMG India to be on of the best places to work. I believe it’s the most critical role, because you would be responsible for the most expensive asset in the business – our people.
------Richard Rekhy, CEO, KPMG India----

Friday, July 25, 2014

Workplace rules!

In one of the exit interviews, someone told me that, initially in his career, he used to feel like he is working with friends, but later he realized that he actually worked with 'colleagues'. This statement has shaken me up, as a truth that most of us do not realize. While friends can be your colleagues, all colleagues , not your friends!
As Gallup employee engagement survey also asks out of 12 important questions, one which asks, "do you have a friend at work?'. Would this not mean that you may have colleagues but they may not be your friend.
Also heard of collegiate work culture. We keep reading and listening about  'friendly' work place, etc. They all mean that, though humans have an emotional need to have a friend, colleagues are social relations only.

Things like these do not erupt all of a sudden when one hits the workplace. They actually exist even in schools and colleges. I have found many of my schools horrible in terms of emotional value. I saw lots of morons in schools but yes, met many friends, who were so open to discuss our mind. At work place things change and  we become careful about anything we say, anyone we talk to, go around with, etc. You are watched and you never know you become friend with someone who may not have a good perception based value. Things were not different even in childhood, when we got warning if we were seen with people who did not carry a good image and reputation. Does not matter , how good they were with me and I may not have experienced anything bad with that guy.
I have heard a great sermon for workplace, "here you come to work". Find your life, friends, fun and all that outside. World is too big.
It is always good to have a rich and engaging personal life, full of relationships, passion, hobbies, charity, whatever. There is risk if you are 100% at work and want to give 100% and you are not with people, who find you a pain to work with as you do follow ups, you escalate matters, you express unhappiness when things do not go professionally well. Chuck this habit.
Who told you that only you care about work, client, etc? Start believing in others and then allow them to behave the way they do. Emotional intelligence tells us to know about our emotional states and how to manage them while being aware and watchful of other's emotional states and managing other's emotional state too.
Chill out.
No one wants you to be a 100% professional. No one can become 100% professional. No one is. Do not become 'odd-man-out'. If you are not like others, you are just not an alien, you are against the group and maybe a threat to others. You create disharmony and unrest. Individually people may like you, appreciate you but in group setting you are painted as a 'pain in ass'. You cannot kill the group mind-set, group can kill you with the speed and surprise, you would never have imagined.
Never attach emotions to work. They are disease and only you die, others joke at you and call you a jerk!, a fool and an assh***!

Take work like work! Be professional but follow the rules of the land. It is like being aware of all traffic rules in the US and then drive. It does not matter if you are a seasoned driver in India. Rules are different and follow them. Manage the workplace and then you fit the culture and you will have a long haul.
Watch the workplace shape you and you get shaped. If you are a square peg, round yourself up to fit the round hole there.
I have made mistakes in my career by considering that I can change workplace culture and failed after initial success as no one likes to follow codes of work ethics, professional values. They are good for the walls!

If you are a change agent, you will be crushed. Look what happened to Steve Jobs to Baba Ramdev to Durga Shakti!
Seek life and values in personal space please! I have learnt it and now if one calls me inhuman, devoid of sentiments, selfish, spineless, I will be unfazed as I am not here to interfere in the law of land and destiny that God has fixed for anyone. When I came in the way, God told me, "do not interfere in my decisions". You are not law! You are not an agent of God! Even if you think you are, see what happened to Jesus!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Relationship between a desired attrition and incidental attrition.

When I look at how attrition has been categorized, I see two ways, if not more; voluntary vs. involuntary and functional vs. dysfunctional.
Up or out philosophy vs. life-time employment firms, rare skills and hard to build competencies to average operations skills, what suits your business and structure can be very different. Company A's top performer joins company B and here he becomes a poor performer and then he moves out or is shown the door. Puzzling to categorize this attrition. Attrition driven by culture and business and people values? Lot many companies wish, their identified laggards and petered out (On whom Peter Principle has applied) leave but they remain there, creating glass ceiling for a performer and then he quits looking for a place that provides growth opportunities. Here I see a relationship between a desired attrition and incidental attrition. All companies would agree that their desired attrition shall be 'x' percentage, identified by stack ranking people and then planning a counsel out approach for them. Look at how Microsoft has planned for 18,000 people over span of 2 years. This gives a clear idea that companies have a 'Desired' rate of attrition that is expected and worst comes that when this does not happen 'Incidental' attrition takes place where people who want to move up and want to work with smarter set of people, move to a smarter and progressive company that follows 'meritocratic' culture. Incidental attrition sometimes takes place within weeks of joining. I have normally categorized attrition into 2 brackets; Induced by internal factors vs. triggered by external factors. Simply put, "to get out of here' vs. 'to get in there'. There will always be companies for good people. Good people need good people. Other type of attrition is 'aspiration-led' attrition. Here I have seen employees jump 3 companies in 2 years or less. Market inequality creates attrition due to its own brand value that simply means, better standing in society, better pay and benefits, lots of other privileges. Can we blame any company for being so rich and fancy causing attrition at other places? Can we blame a company for been less rich and not providing high-end benefits and social/corporate standing or ‘prestige’ as Vault.com says is a reason for ranking consulting organizations by employees or candidates.
Voluntary attrition highlights what is ‘ignored’ in the organization as well as what is made available by competitors. All a matter of choice and decision of leadership.



Sunday, July 6, 2014

Employee mindset and all you desire and deserve!

Reward is what anyone looks for, for a job done well! What if we are all move to incentive compensation model for salaries and the ratio of fixed to variable (performance linked) hinges heavily on the variable side? 

It will be a nightmare, chaos, as this would mean, everyone is measured and paid for performance. 
Performance and results evaluated closely/objectively and may be brutally honestly, against set goals.  

But you know you cannot do this now. Why? Because an employee will not come for a high variable structure as you propose. An employee is not a commission agent. He deserves consistent and guaranteed income. Everyone looks for a fixed pay guaranteed and therefore they prefer to work for a company which can pay them well irrespective of whether they are profitable or not. Nothing wrong as employee mind-set will be different from owner mindset. And if owner has to see business through thick and thin and only he should take risks and invest based on business prudence and face unpredictable situations and lose sleep, why should he give all freedom to employees? Why would he create a welfare organization? Why should he invite participative decision making? Why should he allow others to take decisions? 
Accept the fact and when you work for someone else, simply follow instructions and do not question decisions as they are not your territory and you are not hired to worry about owner's decisions. 
That also means a distinctive divide between builders of business and supporters of business. 

Suppose you are in marketing, branding, HR or finance or even in R&D and your job has been outsourced, do you think employer will have a vendor favorable terms with the outsourcing company? Will it care about their happiness, job satisfaction, motivation and learning into the process of meeting services expectations? Not at all. And that means that hiring is the trickiest decision that an owner makes. Compare a physical human with emotions, aspirations, strengths and weaknesses, etc versus SLA and TAT signed with a services organization, you would see what matters is meeting SLA and TAT and employer is free from all those intangible drama! 
To much People-thinking can be at times become the biggest bottleneck in company's growth and in way of meeting goals that are so critical for business.  

It is not unheard "you are paid to do what you have been asked to do", "I will ask you for your ideas and suggestions or complains if I need any of them." This is so true! Some companies just do it with or without saying and we all have faced it.

But many a times, you bet on people and people give you that edge over services model and you run on their unique skills, insights and make huge margins and keep winning new clients. 

It is all cyclical and mind-set changes with each cycle and that is how business prioritizes and changes its focus and attention.
Employees, who read that change well, make good adjustments and do good with the system.
Organizations may not do a good job of communicating their strategy to people and therefore disillusionment takes place and people find positions value less, but that is all temporary and people have to make balances as they do on a roller coaster. 
As is said, you learn more on a roller coaster, it is all about reading trends and getting ready for adjustments, sometimes with accelerated growth and sometimes with being driven to become 'no one' for some time. 
Attention of companies changes, attitude changes, focus on people changes, people under limelight change, some look like going out of attention map, but all that happens temporarily. Worst case, a few get hit by layoffs but most likely I have seen people survive the test of time and they remain there for ages, passing though moments of glory to obscurity!

If you are not having your own engine, you just piggyback. Don't whine as you won't do anything that you may do if you dare to take that risk, but remember, risk-taking is owner's job not yours and you need a fixed regular income. Have fun!