The Minimalist HR

The Minimalist HR

I have been practicing minimalism past 3 years and discovered many hidden treasures and gems along the way of minimalism. Minimalism is a conscious effort directed towards less. It is the practice of self- restraint, it is the practice of travelling light, it is a practice of owning less, doing less, reducing, recycling and simplicity. I deliberately inject the concept to all areas of my life and observe the unfolding of events. The results have been immensely gratifying.

Since I offer HR Advisory Services, I have now coined and promote the concept of Minimal HR Management. Minimal HR is bare bone practice of HR Management. It is stark, simple, based on compassion and is need based. There is an overwhelming amount of management literature, each one extolling values of a concept. Selecting any one methodology or approach can be taxing, intimidating and often confusing. It can turn out to be a never ending maze, that begins innocuously small, and eventually snowballs into a process that becomes time and resource consuming with aforesaid results nowhere in sight.

It is hard to forget my experience with a top class business house in my early days as a Management Trainee. The business house had engaged a big four consulting firm in order to develop an HR Strategy to stay competitive. I was over awed by the sheer presence of this Big Four Firm, and counted my blessings as I got an opportunity to work along with it. To say the least, a whopping fee was paid to ‘’The Consulting Firm”. The amount was a king’s ransom to my mind. As luck would have it, I was privy to the drafting of the HR strategy, its implementation and execution. I ran over and over again the reams of paper with flow charts and documentation of roll-out of the HR Plan. The final HR Plan flow was a time tested, simple and elegant piece of work. It surprised me that it was not “rocket science” and no complex jargon populated the HR Plan. I could not reconcile to the obscene amount of fee paid for an HR Plan that, I too could have very well come up with. Now, I would wish the reader to stay with this thought. I will address this oxymoron of high fee for simple solutions in my concluding para. For the best part of the roll-out of the plan I wholeheartedly threw myself into implementation and execution. It was an enjoyable stint, until I moved onto a new assignment.

In the next few years that I worked in HR Management, many a new processes and practices crossed my path. I learnt and picked up the best, implemented a few, some concepts saw the light of the day, some began with much gusto and ended up as wasted paper in the bin. In my 20 years, I can confidently share the secret of the greatest HR Strategies of all:

1)     Keep things Simple: Yes, keep it very simple. Just like “The Big Consulting Firm”. Any lay person in the organization should be able to understand and identify with what the Management is trying to achieve. Making it comprehensible makes it easier for people to adapt freely.

2)     Less is more: A thing or two at a time. Bombarding the organization with too many initiatives is just like giving a chemo for a sniffle. You don’t need to nuke your organization with all that the HR universe has to offer. The dosage needs to be just right for the organization. What works for a multi locational, large organization may not hold relevance for a small sized firm for instance. An organization of 100 people gets enough ‘face time” with its management/ Promoters and thus heavy HR intervention may not be required. Good eye contact, a pat on the back and an open dialogue may be all that is required. Self-restraint is the key while shopping and surfing for Management Concepts.

3)     Go slow and steady: There is a certain charm in slowness. The slowness offers us to dig deeper, build stronger foundation, take a measured approach and then march forward on a steady ground. Acceptance to any people’s initiative takes time. Unfreezing and then freezing mindsets isn’t overnight. Bring that comfort and ease in introducing a new process in the organization.

4)     Core Values: No process, no methodology or no HR Program can outdo the virtues to compassion, honesty, respect and trust. For any management to be successful the key ingredient to success is being consistent in their approach to people when it comes to respect, trust, compassion and honesty. Credibility of the Management plays a vital role in the progress of its Human resource.

5)     Having a time frame metric : A well- defined metric of progress within a time frame serves the purpose better of achieving the goal of bettering the HR Management.

6)     Knowing what is needed: This is both science and intuition. Too much analytics, numbers, data capture and jargon can be misleading. The trick is to read between the lines, and use the information to establish what your gut tells you.

7) Practice Detachment : Just throw out of the window that does not work. Never over invest and and attach yourself to anything that isn’t looking healthy. Never impose it on your people. It could work in the short term, but the long term prospects are questionable. Keep the good things going, make them stronger, reinforce what works best. The rest are just fillers, you might just do away with time fillers.

By now the reader, would be curious and even a bit skeptical, about two things. First, the reader might ask, so Doctor HR, why must I pay you a bombshell for the simplicity extolled by you. If it is this easy, we could do it ourselves. Well, you are correct, but let me answer this by going back to the Big Four Consulting Experience of mine. In my later years of experience I discovered that the likelihood of success was always with the simpler concepts which were easier to understand and execute. However, the trick was in the discerning, in what would be the correct diagnosis, then the correct prognosis and finally choosing the best possible approach to address the situation. And it is the choices in the approach that the price is paid for.

The second query, about the time frame, a good consultant is one that concludes in a defined time frame, enabling the internal HR Teams to execute successfully, and not depending on an external factor. I love to narrate a little story about my Grandfather a medical Doctor and Surgeon with the British Government, who retired pre- maturely due to blindness in both the eyes. Even as a blind person he ran a successful clinic in Ludhiana and always had a string of patients waiting for him. Should the patient ever err into asking him about his next appointment for a review, my Grandfather would fly off into a rage, and using choicest expletives ask the bewildered patient, “Do you not trust my treatment, that you need to visit me again?” A good HR Advisor need not return, unless the needs, the size and structure of the organization changes.

To the core of my kind HR practice is Minimal HR, it is Zen, it is compassionate, it is stress free, it is natural and yes it works 9 out of 10 times.

When a job is too expensive…let it go…

When a job is too expensive…let it go…

A whatsapp forward today morning started a train of thoughts. The forward is a wonderful quote “Anything that costs you your peace , is too expensive”. It clearly resonated my feelings about some business I was doing with a technology firm.I just ceased a relationship with a well- paying and well-meaning client. I worked for the organization for over a year, and finally we were getting to a point where I was feeling confident about the new culture that I was trying to imbibe into the organization.

Employees were now beginning to feel more confident about the competitiveness of their organization vis a vis the salaries and other benefits. They were happy that communication was clear and transparent. As an HR Advisor, my role was to build a robust sense of trust and credibility amongst the employees. Trust and confidence is never an overnight achievement, but takes effort and consistency over and over again by the Management/ Promoters. It is only repeated efforts that can lead to employees putting their faith in the management and then accept new initiatives.

I sensed two kinds of people who worked in the company, the indifferent ones and the ones who scuttled around like frightened mice. My real work was to get the indifferent ones engaged, and the frightened ones to be able to rid of their fears and speak their mind. In both these initiatives lay the organizations redemption, or else it could continue to hire and fire. Employees and I began to warm up and building a fine camaraderie. The more self- assured employees were, the better they performed. Some weeding out happened along the way, which is a good idea as cynicism and negativity can mar the best of intent.Unless a person does not feel competent enough, there is a tendency to shirk responsibility and accountability. This was my next challenge, I was now in the middle of setting the stage for building in responsibility and accountability in the slightly more confident staff. I urged the departmental heads to explore key resources and reinforce and reward desirable skills and outcomes.

Like an astral body, or an aura, which is only visible if you have eyes to see and the heart to sense, to look more deeply, and then the willingness and openness to accept, organizations too, have their own aura and an astral body, which is different from what meets you on the surface. I could sense and ‘see’ the brokenness being fixed. The organization was moving away from its pain body and baggage, and getting into its new, kinder more compassionate and creative form. My agenda and priorities with people is relatively more intuitive and sensing. At times I deliberately choose to ignore, lapses, or some evident gaps in personalities/ traits, for I know that some are auto corrected over a course of time. Make a person successful once, appreciate, and the employee will continue to surprise the organization with more.

This ‘invisible’ part of the organization, does get backed by employee engagement surveys and analytics of sorts. Hard data and analytics is comfort food for the logical mind. Nevertheless being the HR Advisor, I do it for as a part of my basic checklist. Employee Engagement data looked encouraging , until one fine day, I sensed the communication from the owner was based on distrust. It left me a bit disturbed, and slightly undermined, but I just let it go. In all fairness, much later I offered pro-bono services to the firm until they found a suitable replacement. The offer was turned down and I was required to continue on the existing arrangement.

It was not until, my little boy broke down one fine day, telling me how I was perpetually annoyed with him and yelled at him all the time. This tiny soul, pointed me to who I was becoming….a nasty parent. It took me a week to understand the pattern. The source of my stress was from a client whose stakes were high. The owner barely trusted anyone. Being at a distance, the owner was vulnerable, and more prone to pick up negative information on the employees, than look objectively. Vulnerabilities and distrust was imposed upon the organization. I was becoming a part of the vicious cycle. The owner had returned to hard to resist old habit of distrust and seeking negative inputs about staff.

My son’s meltdown was a strong enough signal for me to bid the assignment a hasty farewell. I was not going to allow some remote insecurities damage a growing child. I was not willing to build some terrible memories for a future adult to look back at. The goal is to be a loving parent. Being a loving self is non- negotiable.

Getting paid for your worth realistically speaking…..

Getting paid for your worth realistically speaking…..

The entire universe of people that I have ever interacted with, claim that they are underpaid. Yes, underpaid and overworked. I seldom meet someone who is happy with what a fair days work earns the person. The most engaging and yet stressful part of my job is to negotiate a compensation on behalf of the client. It is common sense what a person can expect monetarily, when making a change to a new organization, but this very common sense is the first casualty when negotiating a salary. To reduce heart burn while making a change, keep in mind these factors, and using this rationale take a considered decision, to move or not to move jobs:

a)     Your Current Package: No matter, what the others are telling you about the existing market rate with your knowledge skills and abilities, the first basic premises of what you can demand in your new job will be based on your current salary. Be sure to communicate to the last paisa that your current employer is spending on you. Going back for negotiations in bits and pieces does not leave a good taste on either side. No mixed signals please.

b)     Rate of inflation: Rate of inflation is something that you need to consider when negotiating. Say the rate of inflation is 10% for a particular year, in that case the current salary, plus the 10% hike in salary will only keep you at the same level of purchasing power as the previous year.

c)      Cost of living Index: Moving to a metro should fetch you a higher package as the cost of living index is higher. Just as relocating from US to India, will not translate into a higher package, neither should that be an expectation when moving from Mumbai to Jaipur. Simple, in India, one cannot be paid a 100,000 USD in Indian rupees. Rather one can expect an annual salary of thirty lacs at most when moving USA to India. And, moving from Mumbai to Jaipur, actually one should be happy at a lower pay scale than one is currently drawing in Mumbai.Having to much money to spend in a region where the averages are low, is in a way, great disservice to the community around. Interestingly, Switzerland was in deflation at one time, and therefore the employees were given an annual decrease of 2% so that there is no excess money in circulation.

d)     Market conditions, boom or bust: Consider the buoyancy of the markets in general. When things are upbeat, the employers are willing to pay more. Uncertain economic conditions also mean lesser being offered to you. 

e)     Internal parity: Any employer has an internal parity to maintain. A good organization is not only fair to those who are coming on board, but also wants to be fair for the existing employees. Seldom will a company out pay a new employee of similar knowledge, skills and abilities. A simple illustration is the house helps we engage ( I am not comparing a professional with one), we will pay the house help the going rate in the locality we live in, and not a penny more. The same applies to whatever the experience and skill a person carries. It is always an apple to apple comparison.

f)      Rarity of the skill: It depends what skills a person has. A rare, niche, super specialized skill can mean a highest paying job and on the flip side the risk of becoming redundant should the skills be no more required in the market. In an era when railways came to India, the rail drivers were highly paid, and then as the airlines made their way as a mode of transport, pilots became the highest paid drivers. Salaries are merely relative, basis need of the hour.

g)     A premium for a premium person: Organizations are willing to pay a premium for a person who has been with one organization for a long time. The premium is price being paid for the loyalty exhibited. It takes an effort to pull out an old faithful. Many readers can contest this point of view. My reference here is to world class high performance organizations. This is an unwritten and unspoken rule in hiring. There is respect for the one that stayed long enough. Delayed gratification is the best of sorts.

Having interviewed and negotiated for last twenty one years on behalf of organizations and my clients, I have become wary of people getting greedy when negotiating their future pay packet. What always has caught my attention is the person who has accepted a reasonable offer, where neither of the parties is short changing another. Short cuts, big bucks, false expectations, unreasonable comparisons are the pitfalls to robust hiring.

‘                                     “You pay me too less, sooner or later I shall leave,

                                         You pay me too much, and you shall let me go.

                                         Not less, not more, just let’s keep it fair”.

I am happy to advise professionals with what they can demand in the market place. Feel free to connect with me via Linkedin.

#HeToo ! Et Tu Brute

#HeToo ! Et Tu Brute

He is in news for the wrong reasons. These are men from hell as far as women are concerned. Handling a sexual harassment incident at workplace is like walking on a tight rope. Everyone is left second guessing. Doubt, more doubt and self –doubt on the sequence of events, if it ever happened ? Wishing that it never happened, wishing that it was never reported, wishing that one could go back in time to a space when all was comfortable, clean and nice.

It is a terrible space to be in to report such behavior and then having to stand up to it. It irks me no end, when I encounter and innocuous brush or a gaze drifting elsewhere than about my shoulders. I walk around with my antennas up all the time. Yes, all the time.

Did it or did it not, occur, there are innumerable shades of grey. Caught betwixt the twilight zone of how to capture an event , so subtle and yet so terrifying to a woman, it is hard for organizations and individuals to have an effective mechanism, despite a constant tightening of the framework and policies. A person of authority and power is probably the most challenging to deal with. My take on it is that all things being equal the onus lies with the woman as to how she wants to handle the situation. Does she want to be a victim, or does she have the courage to correct the person.

Two incidents in my own career in the corporate have left a deep impression on my mind. 

In the first instance I had just started my career as a Management Trainee. On a busy Tuesday 11 am a somewhat senior Manager whispered something inappropriate into my ear right in the middle of an open space area. I was furious as hell and on top of my voice yelled “Mr. ABC, if I ever hear anything like this again, I will slap you right here in front of everybody”, everyone jumped out of their workstations, to find a bewildered and visibly shaken Mr. ABC and a fuming tall woman towering over him, ready to tear him to bits. End of story, message given, received, and I had a smooth sailing in the company for the rest of my days there. I think I carried a 440 Volts sign, as everyone was at an arms length or simply jumped at my sight.

The next instance was in another job, where I worked with a Senior VP as his EA. A hearty yet colorful man, who had a thing for women, I was dismayed to learn of these traits post joining the organization. I kept to my work and tried to be extra cautious as we were the only two in the department and busy setting up the function. Two months into the job, when he was trying to get familiar, mind you just talking about random stuff, in anticipation of what was coming, I just looked into his eye, one on one and said it clearly “Look boss, do what you want with those who are willing, keep me out of it. If you have a problem, either you quit or I quit” .Period . I think he was stunned. He did turn around to chide me of casting aspersions. I simply held my ground by reminding him of series of trespasses, and I was no hard nut waiting to be cracked. I would not budge. He got the message. Happily for me he wasn’t the vindictive sorts, he let me be in my space. I let him be. We went our ways, kept in touch and wished each other well.

I can relate to every woman who has suffered this indignity. But if your response was not immediate, the matter gets diluted and leads to unpleasant speculation and lot of grief.

A hard slap, right there, then just like the way the woman’s modesty has been out raged in that split of a second, needs to happen. Venting anger real time, letting the guy know that he is a lech, will work much better for you, than running to mommy (organization/ law) and sulking and crying. Yes, you might not have a job tomorrow, and might not get one for a while. But I think this is what we signed up for in the first place, Independence ( read freedom). So long as you are constrained whether in the confines of four walls of your home or a work place, against your will, I think then women need to re-prioritize. True, the reader can turn around and say why should the woman be expected to quit, well certainly not, but that is the worst -case -scenario I am talking about.

You need to listen to yourself, than getting an audience to your woes on sexual harassment. You need to be your own crusader. I work for and support women causes. I mediate on Sexual Harassment cases, conduct gender sensitization, and awareness programs. There have been sensible and pro-active resolutions. But. First things first, Woman you needs to stand up real time, there and then, and not someone else come, brandishing a sword to fight for your cause and dignity. In my mind I wield a sharp glistening mean sword in one hand and a shield in the other. I have all the compassion in my heart, and yet I will slice the deserving neck when it comes to that.

Finally, the ex-bosses ( ex-lechers and all), forgiveness to them was also instant. I did not keep it to my heart. We bump into each other in conferences or public places, we greet each other warmly. When I put it in a perspective, that was another era, and we were different beings, our thoughts and desires ( their desires to be specific) were different. I stay hopeful that human beings evolve, and so do lechers J

10 Secrets That Your Employer Will Never Tell You

10 Secrets That Your Employer Will Never Tell You

Here I am talking about myself, as I see things as a business owner and a person who employs people. The last fifteen years of my own business gives me ample insight into the mind of an entrepreneur, the business owner or “the promoters” when it comes to their employees. Honestly, I might have got it wrong, but via my own experiential learning and constant cross exchange of thoughts with peers and successful veterans in the industry more or less we resonate similar sentiments and views when it comes to hiring employees:

1)     I am always hiring the nice human: Given an opportunity, I would any day hire the nice human. I would like the nicer human to jump through all the hoops. Chances are that the hired nicer human can also deliver with some patience and training. In short I am not interested in smart alecks at all, unless the Job Description is screaming for a Smart Aleck and my business will crumble if I did not hire Mr. Aleck.

2)     I want reassurance that my gut was right: It boils down to my gut feeling, and I hate to be proven wrong. I built up a business through hard work and sheer tenacity, so I have figured out what works in business and what does not. When I hire you I need reassurance that when it comes to humans, I am a good judge. Knowing otherwise, chips away a bit of my self image.

3)     I want to be able to trust you: I can write that in bold red letters. I want to trust you. I need to know that I can trust you. That you are loyal and have the best intent towards my organization. I need to know that your are a person high in integrity. All of this sounds old fashioned, but it holds true.

4)     I want you to trust me : I have travelled a long and arduous path, and I know the pitfalls and I know what economic cycles can be like. I think and plan much further than one, or two or five years. I am a long term person. What is apparent to you is based on my years of experience. I want you to trust me and my intent. I have your back covered. I will not let you down, but I want you to know that, when I say that, because I mean that.

5)     I don’t want you to disturb the applecart: I hired you for something I need a helping hand with, and not for an expose of your co-workers personalities, or professional inadequacies. I have a system in place, and in the end things will reach their logical conclusion.

6)     I am not up for drama : I hate to play judge. I don’t want to engage in the spats you are having with fellow colleagues. I hired a matured professional and not a hysterical drama queen. Go sort your differences and get along, let me handle my own stuff, I have a plateful too, even while you imagine that life is easy for me.

7)     When you leave a part of me still cringes : I might be a 10 employee company or a 10,000 employees organization, when you leave ( especially when I know you by face), I still cringe. I am only human and it still feels like personal rejection.

8)     I care about what you do outside the office time: Given todays time and age social media and smart phones inadvertently throw light upon who you are outside the place of work. I try to keep any social bias out of the way, but it does colour my opinion this way or that. Sometimes I wish I know you only as the person I hired – reliable, stable and mature.

9)     Don’t mess with my old favourites : I have my fav people dotted in the organization. They are there and reaping the rewards for the loyalty and trust reposed in me when I started out in the garage. They stood by me through thick and thin. They are my forever people. Don’t come between us. Their competence or intelligence has no relevance, go mind your own business. To my mind they are the best. Be thankful to them who helped me build this organization, or you would not be here at all.

10)  I choose to ignore most of the times, but when I wake up hell will break loose : I developed the virtue of patience because I learnt results take time. Even if in the know, I will ignore transgressions and act as if nothing happened ( even when angry), until one day I become the bull in the China shop. Don’t get me there.

As a sensitive and feeling human being for me classic sterling values of hard work, honesty and integrity hold good. I know no other way of doing good business.