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.