Recent Trends in Human Resource Management

Monday, April 28, 2008

Selection Error

There are two types of selection error. In the "false positive error," a decision is made to hire an applicant based on predicted success, but failure results. In the "false negative error," an applicant who would have succeeded is rejected based on predictions of failure.
The False Positive Error
An organization that makes a false positive error incurs three types of costs. The first type of costs are those incurred while the person is employed. These can be the result of production or profit losses, damaged public relations or company reputation, accidents due to ineptitude or negligence, absenteeism, etc. The second type of costs are those associated with training, transfer, or terminating the employee. Costs of replacing the employee, the third type of cost, include costs of recruiting, selecting, and training a replacement. Generally, the more important the job, the greater the costs of the selection error.
The False Negative Error
In the case of false negative error, an applicant who would have succeeded is rejected because failure was predicted. Most false negative selection errors go unnoticed, except when the applicant is a member of a protected class and files a discrimination charge. Costs associated with this type of error are generally difficult to estimate. A situation in which the impact of both false positive and false negative selection errors can be detected and measured, however, is in professional sports such as football and basketball. Here, coaches and scouts analyze game films, physical statistics, scouting reports, and other data and decide whether they wish to draft a particular player. If they draft the player and his performance fails to meet expectations, a false positive selection error has occurred. Suppose, however, a team decides against drafting a player and another team chooses the individual. If the player subsequently turns out to be a star, the first team's rejection represents a false negative selection error.
Factors Affecting the Importance of Selection

Effective selection methods and procedures can result in fewer selection errors and their associated costs, and increased levels of performance and productivity due to hiring highly qualified applicants. The selection function takes on increased importance:
(1) when a job's base rate of success is low;
(2) when a job has greater importance to an organization; and
(3) when the selection ratio for a job is low.

Base Rate of Success.
Generally, the selection function is more important when a job's base rate of success is low. A low base rate of success indicates that relatively few employees reach an acceptable level of performance in a job. Improved selection procedures can raise base rates of success, thereby reducing costs associated with selection errors.
Job's Value to the Organization
The more important a job is to organizational effectiveness, the more important the selection function is. Selection errors are far more costly for important jobs than for jobs of lesser importance. One measure of a job's value to the organization is the standard deviation of job performance for a job (SDe). The SDe of job performance is a measure of the potential range, or variation, of the dollar value of job performance. For some jobs, differences in performance extremes (excellent to incompetent) have little effect in terms of dollar value to an organization. For example, variability in performance for a clerk/typist job is relatively insignificant compared with the effects of performance variability for the job of marketing manager.

Selection Ratios
A selection ratio is the proportion of applicants selected and placed to the number of job applicants for a job. The selection function increases in importance when the selection ratio is low enough so that meaningful differentiations can be made between job applicants. However, since there are costs associated with processing applicants, very low selection ratios may not be cost-effective for an organization.
Ref: Thomas.H.Stone

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Building A Competitive Talent Organization

To build a competitive talent organization, the talent leader needs to be closely aligned with other senior managers in organization. Here are five ways that senior managers can contribute to your organization's talent goals:

Plan vigorously.
Senior managers should partner with the talent leader and hiring managers in their division to create a written plan for how they will meet your current and long-term talent needs. Planning for the talent agenda should be as thorough and as vigorous as any other planning in the company (for instance, strategic, annual operating, material, and financial planning).

Be accessible.
Senior managers should schedule regular meetings with their talent organization counterpart and be available and responsive when the talent leader contacts them. All senior managers should be accessible to meet prospective talent anywhere and anytime.

With a plan in place, senior managers are responsible for "selling" the plan within their division. How will the talent plan help the division succeed? How should people participate? How will they be measured and rewarded for their participation? Senior managers need to emphasize the importance of Key Talent and back up their words with concrete plans and metrics. They also need to always wear their "selling shoes" when talking and meeting with prospective talent. If a hiring manager or other employee cannot sell his own company to a candidate, then leave that person off of the interview or meeting schedule.

Know how effective your talent efforts are today and continue to measure these efforts using the metrics outlined next to gauge your efforts over time. Are they working? Also, continuously benchmark internal and external talent. The grass is hardly as green on the other side as you want to believe. Still, knowing who is out there, what they are doing, and how your internal talent stacks up is an essential element of strategic talent planning.

Make movement happen.
Don't let open positions stagnate while hiring managers churn through reams of resumes from unqualified candidates. The framework provided in this book shows you how to be proactive in assessing and meeting your talent needs. Put the time and resources behind this framework to make it happen in your organization. And be willing to open up positions and make churn happen within the organization to accommodate new candidates and grow existing talent. Keeping the place moving will add the extra adrenaline needed for all talent to see a future in front of them in the current organization.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Validity of Appraisal Instrument

Regardless of an organization's specific needs for performance appraisal, five general requirements must be met by an appraisal system if it is to accomplish its objectives: reliability, validity, practicality, fairness, and impact.
Reliability is the consistency of a measure over time and across different raters. Consistency over time means that at any two points in time, an instrument should yield the same findings or results. This form of reliability is not too appropriate to performance appraisal since one would expect to see changes in performance across time. Consistency between raters is a more important requirement of same employee. Generally, research shows that well-trained raters become quite consistent in their ratings. Highest degrees of consistency should occur when raters are in the same position to observe a given employee. It is generally believed that an immediate superior is in the best position to evaluate the performance of a subordinate, though in practice this is not always the case. Reasonably high reliability is necessary for validity.

Validity is the degree to which a measure measures what it is supposed to measure. The major aspect of validity in performance appraisal is content validity. An appraisal instrument has content validity to the extent that it includes most of the important job behaviors and/or results of the job.
In order to meet the practicality requirement, an appraisal system must be acceptable to both evaluators and evaluatees. If an appraisal system is unacceptable, its use will be resisted, and resultant appraisals or appraisal decisions will be discounted. Practicality also means that an appraisal system must be able to measure something that is significant to individuals and to the organization's goals, or it will have little utility to employees or to the organization.

Employees must feel that appraisals are conducted fairly and that the consequences of appraisals (raises, promotions, etc.) are fair. A system perceived to be unfair will likely prove unacceptable to employees.

An appraisal system must have significant impact. Without it, the system loses its credibility. If a system is able to measure something significant to individuals and to organizational goals, then it stands a better chance of having impact.

Ref: Thomas H. Stone

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Realistic Job Preview (RJP)

The realistic job preview (RJP), a new concept in recruiting and selection, is a method of communicating to an applicant or new employee what it will be like to actually perform a certain job. RJPs perform a valuable function in employee orientation, reducing reality shock and thus speeding the socialization process.

Realistic job previews can be developed in a number of ways. The most common method is to interview current employees, asking them to state actual experiences (good and bad), and attitudes toward the job. Another way is to film or videotape employees at work and ask them for comments. Information provided in an RJP should not be all positive; employees are encouraged to state some of their problems and frustrations. This information is presented to applicants or new employees verbally or in films, videotapes, or booklets.

Research shows that RJPs lower job expectations without completely "turning off" applicants to jobs. Additionally, RJP advocates argue that previews will create more positive job attitudes and contribute to reduced turnover. From a cost/benefit standpoint, it is advantageous for employers to provide applicants with realistic job previews as early in the employment process as possible. If applicants have a realistic perception of the job they are applying for, they are in a better position to determine if they are a good match for the job. An organization can save selection, hiring, and start-up costs if an applicant discovers that a poor match exists early in the process.
The currently limited use of RJPs in the recruiting and selection process stems from management's concern that too many applicants will reject job offers if they are provided with a true picture of the job. However, empirical study found that realism of job previews did not "drive away" applicants or cause candidates to reject job offers. RJPs need not be used exclusively before hiring; using them after hiring, as part of the orientation process, provides benefits as well.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Validity of Selection Method

If selection methods are invalid, employee selection decisions are no more accurate than decisions based on a toss of a coin. Validity is the degree to which a measure accurately predicts job performance. Selection methods are valid to the extent that predictors measure or are significantly related to work behavior, job products, or outcomes. The process of demonstrating that a predictor is significantly related to a measure of work behavior, job products, or outcomes is validation.

The validation process demonstrates that a significant statistical relationship exists between a predictor and a criterion measure of successful performance on a job. A predictor is any piece of information that can be used to screen applicants. Predictors include information from application blanks (education level, experience, and so on) and reference checks; scores on tests of skill, ability, or aptitude; data from interest and personality inventories; and interviewer ratings of an applicant. Criterion measures are any measures of work behavior, job products, or outcomes that have value to an employer. Job success is an abstract concept that means different things to different employers.

Major Types of Validation

There are three major types of validation used to validate predictors. They are

(1) criterion-related validity;

(2) construct validity; and

(3) content validity.

Criterion-related validity.

A predictor has criterion-related validity if a statistically significant relationship can be demonstrated between the predictor and some measure of work behavior or performance. Examples of performance measures are production rates, error rates, tardiness, absences, length of service, and supervisor's ratings. Suppose a department store uses as a predictor for its sales personnel one year of sales experience. To validate this predictor, the employer would have to demonstrate that a statistically significant relationship exists between one year of sales experience and some measure or measures of work behavior or job products, perhaps number of sales and/or low percentage of errors in ringing up purchases.

Construct validity.

Instead of directly testing or using other information to predict job success, some selection methods seek to measure the degree to which an applicant possesses psychological traits called constructs. Constructs include intelligence, leadership ability, verbal ability, mechanical ability, manual dexterity, etc.

Constructs deemed necessary for successful performance of jobs are inferred from job behaviors and activities as summarized in job descriptions. They are the job specifications part of job descriptions. Construct validity requires demonstrating that a statistically significant relationship exists between a selection procedure or test and the job construct it seeks to measure. For example, does a reading comprehension test reliably measure how well people can read and understand what they read?

Content validity.

A selection procedure has content validity if it representatively samples significant parts of a job, such as a filing test for a file clerk or a test of cash register operation for a grocery checker. Selection tests that approximate significant aspects of a job are called job sample tests. Job sample tests require applicants to perform certain aspects of a job's major activities, thus demonstrating competence at tasks which are an actual and important part of the job. Significant aspects of a job are determined through job analysis and set forth in job descriptions of jobs. Job sample tests should approximate aspects of the job as closely as possible, since this increases content validity.

Recruitment and Job Analysis

Recruitment and Job Analysis

Job analysis provides important inputs to the recruiting function in two ways. First, job analysis provides job specifications, the personal requirements deemed necessary to perform each job in an organization. This tells planners and recruiters exactly what skills, abilities, experience, and other physical characteristics will be needed for certain jobs. Second, complete and accurate job descriptions are essential for the preparation of recruiting materials, which convey information to potential applicants about the nature of the job.

A recruiting message must portray the job accurately. When the recruiting message misrepresents the true nature of a job, well-suited applicants will not apply. On the other hand, those who do apply have a false impression of what the job actually involves. This can result in employees being mismatched for the job and eventually disillusioned. Mismatches prove costly to organizations if dissatisfied workers perform poorly or decide to quit shortly after being hired. Early terminations create unexpected job vacancies and the need for further recruiting.

Recruitment and Compensation

The compensation function also provides inputs to the recruiting function. In order to attract people to various jobs, an organization must offer wages and salaries that are competitive with those of other organizations in the labor market. A labor market is the geographic area in which forces of supply and demand operate to determine the price, or "going rate," of a certain type of labor. As a rule, labor prices are lower when supply is great, and higher when supply is scarce. Wage and salary surveys provide data useful in determining competitive wage and salary levels for certain types of employees in certain labor markets.

Recruitment and Benefits

Many organizations provide attractive benefit packages to help attract job applicants. The benefit package is often included in the recruiting message. Increasingly, opportunities for career planning and development are being viewed as benefits and used to attract potential employees. While there is little research evidence regarding the usefulness of benefits in attracting job applicants, employers realize that they must offer competitive benefit packages if they are to be successful in recruiting qualified applicants.

Recruitment and Selection

The recruiting function leads directly to the selection function. The selection function chooses and hires-the best qualified applicant(s) from the group of applicants attracted to job vacancies by the recruiting function. Recruiting and selection are both parts of the employment process.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Human Resource Audit

The HRMA (Human Resource Management Audit) uses this framework to try to answer such questions as these:

1. Are the mission and strategy of the human resource organization designed to match the business strategy of the organization?

2. Does the design of the human resource organization enhance its ability to accomplish its strategy?

3. Are the kinds of people who run the human resource function good choices for the ongoing tasks?

The primary sources of data are:

1. Interviews with Senior Management.Focus on strategy and a definition of the current state of the organization and the desired future state.

2. Interviews and Questionnaires with Line Management.Focus on their interactions with the HR function, their human resource problems, and the role they envision for the HR organization.

3. In-Depth Questionnaires from the Human Resource Staff. Diagnose the jobs, activities, conflicts, and internal strengths and weaknesses of the function.

4. Archival Information and Documents. Describe job histories, past evaluations, formal structures, and general background on the organization as a whole and the HR function in particular.

An HRMA is a major organizational intervention. It raises expectations that something will be done in response to its findings. Therefore, careful consideration should be given to the organization's responsiveness to change. In particular, the following issues should be addressed.

1. Focus of Audit. What unit is to be analyzed? In large corporations, the focus of the audit can be the total corporate personnel/human resource management function, or it can be the divisional or subsidiary level. Whatever the focus, the audit's boundaries must be specified from the start.

2. Resources. What resources are available for conducting the audit? Staff time as well as money are key resources that must be available. In addition, line management's involvement should be given particular consideration. Pressures for change could well result from an HRMA. If the audit is likely to uncover areas requiring major policy changes but senior line management is not ready or willing to address these issues, it might be appropriate to delay or abort the audit. Line management's commitment, understanding, and involvement with the HRMA is essential if it is to be of real value to the organization.

3. Diagnostic Plan. The audit should begin with the development of a diagnostic work plan that specifically takes into account the data to be collected, the methods to be used in data collection, the individuals who will do the data collection, and the individuals responsible for analyzing the data.

4. Managing the HRMA. There are alternative methods for managing, overseeing, and carrying out an HRMA. The basic methods are (1) having an external consultant manage it, (2) having internal staff and an external consultant manage it jointly, and (3) having line management join internal staff and an external consultant in managing it.

Sample Questions

The list below presents some of the specific questions that might be asked of interviewers to diagnose the degree of integration of the human resource systems in the HR cycle around a dominant value of performance.

1. How effective is the selection process in ensuring that people are placed in appropriate positions? Explain.
2. How effective is the appraisal process in accurately assessing performance? Explain.
3. How effective are rewards (financial and nonfinancial) in driving performance? Explain.
4. How effective are the training, development, and career planning activities in driving performance? Explain.
5. How effective is the appraisal process in differentiating performance levels for justifying reward allocation decisions? Explain.
6. How effective is the appraisal process in identifying developmental needs of individuals to guide training, development, and career planning? Explain.
7. How effective are the training, development, and career planning activities in preparing people for selection and placement into new positions in the organization? Explain.
8. Overall, how effectively are the five components integrated and mutually supportive? Explain.
Ref: Charles J. Fombrun, Noel M. Tichy, and Mary Anne Devanna

Monday, April 14, 2008

Role of HR in the Six Sigma Initiative

Six Sigma is not the latest buzzword in management circles. It has been here for quite a long time and companies have been raining accolades for this merit-worthy process. Six Sigma is a quality-oriented measure that aims to reduce management wastes, and improve internal efficiency through quantifiable tools. It is not only for product-based industries; six sigma can be applied to process-driven or service sector companies too. Six sigma process model consists the following methodology: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control. The process is executed by Six Sigma Green Belts and Six Sigma Black Belts, who are overseen by Six Sigma Master Black Belts.

Six Sigma overhauls existing processes of a company. Naturally, line and staff have to put in coordinated efforts to meet the Six Sigma objectives. As far as the HR department is concerned, the key deliverables for meeting six sigma requirements would be some of the following:

Recruitment and Retention
Six Sigma has several designated roles for key players. Hence HR has to ensure that members for each role are carefully selected. Of these, the black belts are the key to the success of the Six Sigma program. It is the responsibility of HR to make sure that assessment tools identify the potential candidates for the black belt level. These candidates are usually picked from a resource of promising candidates. To keep the black belts well entrenched in the Six Sigma program, the HR team has to:

1. develop a comprehensive competency framework to tap existing and latent talents
2. build and execute training models that cover the requirements of the six sigma process
3. create a retention strategy to ensure that the black belts remain in their positions till the completion of the six sigma initiative

Compensation and Rewards
Rewarding team players of the six sigma process can be quite complicated. This is because the people selected for the six sigma are from every rank and order of the organization. Hence the rewarding scale cannot be flat. At the same time, it becomes a sensitive issue to compensate individuals on the basis of their level of expertise within the six sigma program. HR has to deal with this touchy issue with great care and consideration. Compensation must be on the basis of fairness, in addition to merit. Also, compensation and rewards should be designed to ensure that team players are motivated to take on further six sigma projects. This compensation structure should be in sync with the overall objective of the six sigma project.

Knowledge management
HR can play a pivotal role in the knowledge management aspect of six sigma projects. There is immense learning in the six sigma process. During the implementation of the project, business processes are examined on a microscopic level, and their productivity is analyzed on a numerical basis. Valuable information about the company's core competencies would be lost if there is no data management. The learning process needs to be collated and disseminated within the organization. The Hr team can be the knowledge resource center that can enhance business capabilities.

Change Management
During the implementation of the six sigma project, many management procedures would be overhauled. This would obviously lead to change in management thinking, working pattern and attitudes. Change of any type meets with a lot of organizational resistance. Here, it is important for HR to play the 'change agent' role and become the catalyst of change from old to new business processes. This can be achieved by establishing a proper communication network across the organization. For the six sigma project to succeed, HR has to propagate the benefits of the project to all reluctant managers.

This article covers most of the 'visible' functions of HR in the Six Sigma project. However, there could be many more dynamic roles that emerge during the six sigma process. HR hence has to be prepared to play multi-skilled role and adapt to the requirements of the six sigma project.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Job Interview Tips

In a job interview, an employer evaluates a potential employee to establish how suitable he or she is to serve within the company. Such an interview always takes place in some form of the other before the employer makes a decision to hire. Before an interview, the employer scans resumes sent by various aspiring employees to shortlist the likeliest candidates. These resumes will reflect the minimum qualifications and experience that the employer requires for the post.

Interviewing as a method for selecting an ideal candidate is an inherently flawed process. This is because it is almost impossible to judge a candidate’s true aptitude and experience in a job interview. However, job interviews allow the employer to decide with which candidate he or she is most comfortable. A lot depends on personal insight and good judgment on the part of the interviewer. Unfortunately, modern HR procedures concern themselves with hiring candidates as quickly as possible. This is because HR personnel usually have a monetary stake in fast hiring.

A well-structured job interview process takes place at multiple levels. A telephonic screening round will usually precede an actual face-to-face interview. This allows the employer of human resources expert to establish the candidate’s overall capabilities and motivation. If a candidate passes this round, he or she may attend a personal interview with the HR personnel. The candidate may face a single interviewer or an interviewing board, consisting of two or more company representatives. These will question the candidate on various different aspects of his or her professional life, career aspirations and overall ability.

The gravity, complexity and difficulty of a job interview depend largely on the job for which the candidate has applied. ‘Blue collar’ or functional job interviews are generally less demanding than ‘white collar’ or executive job interviews. Accordingly, everything from dress code and the candidate’s overall presentation have different bearings on the job interview’s outcome.

In certain artistically oriented professions, job interviews can also include a form of audition. The candidate is required to display physically his or her skills in that particular profession. Apart from that, the candidate will also have to prove sufficient professional training in the field.

Often, parts of the interview may seem to have little or no bearing on the job in question. The behavioral aspects of a job interview seek to establish the candidate’s ability to tackle difficult situations. They also focus on the candidate’s ability to take personal decisions, shoulder responsibility, handle or interact with a team and effectively represent the employer’s company.

Nowadays, there is increased emphasis on pre-interview preparation. This is especially true in the case of selection procedures in business schools and high-end business jobs. By studying the requirements of such interviews beforehand, a candidate can greatly increase his or her chances of selection.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Keep employees' morale up in difficult times

Motivating employees is always important, but inspiring your team takes on increased significance during challenging economic times. When business results are less than promising, emotions, such as fear and anxiety, can bring employee performance to a standstill.

Here are some suggestions from the Tennessee Society of Certified Public Accountants (TSCPA) to help foster productivity, high morale and loyalty in your work force during the best and worst of times.

Give them vision.
To keep up morale, make sure employees know and understand the organization's mission, vision, values and goals. These concepts represent the organization's reason for being and, as such, help workers focus their efforts in the right direction and see that their contributions matter. Be sure they know who benefits from the work of your organization.

Don't hide the target.
Setting clear expectations is a great way to motivate employees and keep them on track. Clearly establish goals with each employee. Indicate the results you expect and how those results contribute to the overall performance of your business. To confirm their understanding, ask employees if they have any questions or need any resources to complete the tasks you assign. Finally, make sure if the organization's goals change, you let your employees know how these changes impact their roles.

Provide regular feedback.
Conducting an annual employee performance review is important, but it's not enough. Employees need to know, on an ongoing basis, when they have done a job well and when you expect better or different results. Keep in mind that the more immediate the feedback, the more effective it is. Try to catch people in the act of doing what you want and acknowledge their performance immediately.

Make employees part of the solution.
Employees need to be involved. Empowering employees to make decisions about their work and to solve day-to-day problems demonstrates your confidence in them and motivates them to live up to your expectations. Another bonus: When you make employees part of the solution, it is easier to get their buy-in and commitment for the long term.

Focus on people development.
Since most people thrive when skill building and learning are part of their daily experiences, investing in your staff's development should remain a priority. Training, career development and other learning opportunities don't have to cost a lot, particularly when you use internal resources. The best way to ensure the growth of your team is to create an individual development plan for each employee and work with them to carry out the plan.

Communicate, communicate, communicate.
You cannot overcommunicate, particularly in uncertain or difficult times. Sharing information and building your staff's understanding of what's happening in the business and in the industry is key to engaging them and to aligning their efforts and performance with the organization's objectives.

What's more, sharing information with employees sets a good example and encourages them to do the same with one another. Since not everyone processes information the same way, it's helpful to use multiple forms of communication, particularly when the information is critical.

For example, you might follow up an e-mail message with a voice-mail reminder. And don't assume that, just because a communication has gone out, that it has been understood and accepted. Instead, ask questions to confirm comprehension.

1. Don't overlook the power of praise. Recognizing and rewarding workers is one of the best ways to impact morale. Acknowledge good effort, not just results. Keep in mind that different things motivate people, whether it is money, travel, training, promotions or a flexible work schedule. The best way to find out what motivates your staff is to ask them.

2. Build fun. There are important milestones in the life of every business. Be sure to mark them. Throw a party and celebrate your workers' accomplishments. Don't ever allow yourself to get so caught up in the daily routine that you fail to see the good work being done.

3. Be positive. Every day millions of people arrive at their workplace ready to contribute their best. The attitude of business leaders can greatly impact employees. Be positive and supportive and your employees are more likely to act similarly.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Managing Employees with Flexible Rules

Observe any organization and you will find that each organization has a diverse workforce. It makes all kinds of employees to create an organization. To be a good manager, you need to understand the diversity of your workforce. If you acknowledge that all employees are not the same, and adopt flexibility in policies, you will find that rules motivate people for higher performance.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Managing employees within a rigid framework of rules brings about friction. Organizations create rules to even out work inefficiencies. When rules are laid and blindly followed, problems can brew within the organization.

Managing Employees with Rigid Rules: A Case Study

One organization I knew was in the process of expansion. Recruitment figures were bulging and manpower needs were urgent. Hence, the management decided to multi-task certain staff functions and high performance employees were to be put on a 'fast track' management training program. This rule was applied for every function within the organization. Some employees found it difficult to cope with the new organizational challenges. They found themselves ill-equipped to handle more responsibilities. Soon chaos reigned. Work pressure mounted and many employees quit the company. This outcome significantly affected the recruitment process.

One could argue that multi-tasking was a bad idea. Or that management should have provided adequate training to the 'slow learners.' But the essence of the problem lies in the application of the blanket-rule. There was no effort made by the management to understand that people differ from each other. Hence, what looks like a brilliant opportunity to one employee, looks like an unwanted challenge to another. The only way to convert a pessimistic employee is by empathizing with his/her situation and trying to work out a feasible solution within the given constraints. It would require an extra effort from the manager to ease out the work pressure and encourage participation of the disgruntled employees.

Managing Employees with Flexibility

Generally speaking, people share common interests, ideologies, principles, and practices. When rules adhere to generic issues, managing employees becomes easy. To an extent, it is important to have standard rules to bring everybody under the same corporate philosophy. However, each individual has unique background, habits, talents, and preferences. Managing employees with a uniform rule that brushes aside individual requirements is not desirable. Rigid rules fail to recognize unique qualities of people. The outcome of a 'blanket rule' would be: conservative thinking, stagnant creativity, and lower employee morale.

Principles are just that -- principles. They serve as a guiding force to streamline and equalize operations. However, if rules cannot be bent at all, they become unbearable. More importantly, when people become mere puppets of the organization, managers cannot tap the vast potential hidden within employees. Remember, a sturdy tree cannot withstand a strong wind; but a blade of grass can.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Talent Acquisition Killer App

In the past, the candidate intake process consisted of collecting existing information (via applications and resumes), generating new information (via assessments and interviews) and confirming information (via reference and background checks). Each step of that process generated different documents (application forms and paper resumes, printed test scores and interview notes, and background reports). And this information was all centralized in that old standby, the paper file folder.

As the process evolved, the paper folder was replaced with a subdirectory on a computer’s hard disk. Paper applications were replaced by online forms, paper resumes by scanned images, printed test scores by database records, etc., yet each of these components still existed separately from one another. While some efficiencies were gained by “going paperless”, the move from paper documents in paper file folders to scanned images on a hard disk hardly represented a re-engineering of the hiring process.

The integration of online assessments and Internet-delivered applicant tracking systems (ATS) created the opportunity to transform, rather than simply automate, candidate screening and hiring. This is because an ATS system provides more than just a centralized database of candidate records. It provides candidates and recruiters with portals into a variety of data sources including application and resume data, job interests, references, etc. Recruiters can view this information by individual candidate or in aggregate, enabling recruiters to rank candidates before choosing whom to interview. Modern ATS systems can also manage all of the steps in the recruiting and hiring process, right through employee onboarding.

Assessment is one of the few talent acquisition tools employers can use to generate new, unique data about a candidate that is not available to every other employer. And when skills and behavioral testing is integrated into automated applicant tracking, applicant tracking moves from a tool for increasing efficiency and compliance, to a platform for strategic re-engineering of the hiring process.

To begin with, simple “knock out” assessments can be used to gate the entire process, removing candidates who would be disqualified due to inexperience, legal status or some other factor before anyone wastes any time on their application. When behavioral and skills assessments are integrated later in the ATS-driven application process, recruiters can consistently compare all candidates against a job-based set of standards. Resume formats and language can vary, interviews can be subjective, and reference checks can be generic. But assessment is the one element of the talent acquisition process that creates new information related to job fit in a consistent way, through testing instruments designed to be fair and free from bias or subjectivity.

In a single platform, modern applicant tracking systems can integrate assessments, background checks, requests for substance abuse screening, even a window into whether a company can obtain tax credits by hiring a particular candidate. These capabilities do not simply increase efficiency, they transform what were once discrete processes into the “Killer Application” of talent acquisition.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Empowerment at Work

"An empowered organization is one in which individuals have the knowledge, skill, desire, and opportunity to personally succeed in a way that leads to collective organizational success." — Stephen R. Covey

The word "empower" has potency and strength. It's used frequently these days — some say, "Overused." It's also often misused. Similar to the concept of "motivation," the most common misuse of the idea of empowerment is that one person can empower another. Empowerment, as I use the word, is an inner-to-outer dynamic, most useful when preceded by silence and awareness of inner guidance. Empowerment is not simply another way to "get" something; it's a condition that supports you in living life fully.

Empowered Persons

Empowered persons are balanced, confident, aware, vital, caring, and ready. Those who are empowered are not depressed, confused, aggressive, divisive, or wishy-washy. Of course, even empowered persons have days or moments of confusion or frustration or doubt, but the predominant expression is one of confidence and strength and consideration of themselves and others. Also, empowerment can be situational, that is to say, you may feel and be empowered in one situation but not another.

Most people, though certainly not all, like to be in the presence of those who are truly empowered because the energy in and around them is contagious and healing. Empowered persons are eager to laugh and experience the moment in a way that helps others to find their own power. When empowered persons shine their light, others can more easily find their own light. The behavior of empowered persons is often imitated, but empowerment is not just a set of actions and behavior. Actions aligned with inner knowingness and strength are necessary for true empowerment. Enlightened consciousness is the source of empowered actions rather than the other way around. Since empowered persons are powered from the inside, they carry their power with them.

As I've mentioned above in a positive way, let me be clear here what empowered persons don't do: empowered persons don't get their power from other persons. Empowered persons don't hit or overpower or trample on others' rights, make malicious remarks, put others down, use derogatory humor, dominate meetings, or suppress others. Empowered persons don't give their power away to others — nor do they let others take their power (which is simply a variation on "giving away power).

To be empowered, you must release outdated beliefs, dense vibrations, repressed fears and resentments. To be empowered, you must replace disempowering beliefs with those that are empowering. To be empowered, you must be conscious of the focus of your attention, your thoughts, and your feelings. To be empowered, consider your own desires and beliefs and feelings as well as others' desires and beliefs and feelings. To be empowered, start where you are right now without feeling wrong or believing you need to be "fixed."

Empowered Organizations

Empowered organizations are composed of empowered persons, although it's not necessarily true that a group of empowered persons automatically creates an empowered organization. Organizations that are truly empowered have moved out of the old paradigm of negative competition and beliefs in limitation and scarcity. Many persons — including me — like to consider the empowered organization is one that is moving or has moved into a "new paradigm."
Empowered organizations in the new paradigm have transformed themselves so that they're able to demonstrate such characteristics as: clear and honest communications, collaboration within and between work units (usually called teams), shared responsibility in all aspects of task and process, and delivery of high quality products and services driven by customer/client needs.
Persons in empowered organizations are likely to talk about the "joy" of work and feeling "love" for their teammates, although such words may not be expressed nor are the expression of such words proof of empowerment.

Moving from There to Here

Most individuals agree with the desirability of concepts like "open communications," "collaboration," and "customer-driven" goals. However, established norms often prevent embodying the actions that bring these concepts into fruition. Distrust still prevails in many organizations, especially those faced with downsizing efforts that have been or are being carried out with brutal methods. Belief that an organization is in business for the sole purpose of earning money keeps organizations stuck in dysfunctional patterns.

It's important to respect where an individual or organization is right now. Simply pushing a new paradigm on an old one doesn't work. Lasting change happens from the inside out. The organizational structure of the old paradigm is linear and vertical: top-down and bottom-up. Ignoring the chain of command is an offense in many traditional organizations, reinforcing this linear approach.

As organizations downsize or otherwise change their structure, the linear and vertical movement tends to change to horizontal and circular. The old approach of looking to see what the one at the top of the organization wants shifts to looking inside to discern what serves the highest good with the help of intuition. Some of the popular names for the new organizations that are in alignment with this horizontal-circular-inward formation are: "team," "cluster," "learning organization," "circles," and "networks."

With my window of looking at energy fields and working with energetic principles, I find the "flattening" of organizations to be exciting and forward-moving. The flattening (eliminating layers of management and other realignments) may not feel very positive when it's happening, but the end results can be extremely positive. Out of the chaos grow the new forms and patterns of working and being together to do business. Chaos theory that has emerged over the last few years can help you to understand this act of discovery and creation of all kinds of systems.

Chaos theory also helps you to understand paradigms: old, new, and emerging. A new form or pattern or paradigm emerges when the old one no longer works. For those of you who find my definition of paradigms too simplistic, I encourage you to read one or more of the following books.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Employee Engagement: Doing It vs. Measuring It

It seems today that employee engagement is in vogue. Everywhere I look I hear about balanced score cards that include a placeholder for employee engagement, and I learn about organizations making their living out of measuring engagement and trying to explain it to their clients. I like the idea, but I worry about it.
I worry that this is what employees would call “another HR thing.” Let’s face it – we have lots of “HR things.” They are called fads. These are the bandwagons upon which we hop.
Perhaps it’s time to evaluate whether employee engagement is a fad or a new knowledge domain from which HR executives can help make their companies a better place to work. One key difference between an HR fad and a real intervention is who owns the new process. Therefore, in this article I would like to evaluate who owns employee engagement with the goal of deriving ways in which we can make employee engagement a useful process and not just one more fad. But before going further, I want to define employee engagement.

Defining Employee Engagement

I like to define engagement in terms of what people do at work. I use something called role theory to elaborate on that definition. Role theory reviews different roles that people engage in at work, and it explains reasons why people engage in certain roles and not in others. My colleagues and I have been able to use role theory to understand conditions under which employees are either engaged or disengaged and examine what happens under both conditions. In particular, we uncovered five work-related roles that exist in any company. These roles are:
1. Job holder role – employees come to work and do the job that is listed in their job description.
2. Team member role – employees go “above and beyond” to help members of their team work toward common goals.
3. Entrepreneur role – employees come up with new ideas and processes and try to get those ideas implemented

4. Career role – employees do things to enhance their career in the organization; they learn, they adapt new skills, and more.
5. Organization member role – employees do things that promote and help the company even if it’s not part of their jobs or their team’s duties.

Employees are in a highly engaged state when they are doing the nonjob roles. In general, we find that most employees have a sense of fairness, and even if their employer treats them poorly, most will show up to work and do the job role. But having employees show up at work simply doing their jobs gets an employer nowhere in terms of long-term competitiveness. If all of your employees show up and only do their jobs, then you are not building organizational strength and long-term competitiveness through people because anyone can hire those same employees and duplicate what you are doing.

It’s the synergy that comes from people working together and gathering creative ideas that leads to long-term organization wealth creation. That synergy and “above and beyond” behavior is evidence of employee engagement.

The question that we must ask ourselves is: “what are we doing to engage employees?” I’ve seen some approaches that involve using magical survey questions (the super 15, 30, 100, or more questions) to investigate and understand what you have to do in order to transform your workforce from disengaged to engaged. This means the process of engagement is dictated by the specific questions that one chooses to measure engagement. This approach worries me because it seems that we are trying to MEASURE engagement without necessarily helping individual managers really AFFECT engagement in their day-to-day work.

Real Employee Engagement Rules

Engagement cannot be a corporate initiative. Employee engagement happens only when you remove barriers to work, and those barriers are unique to every work group. We often think that super important corporate initiatives will transform our organizations into places where everyone will come to work and want to be more engaged. Corporate initiatives can’t make the magic. That’s why all those other HR fads did not work in the past. That’s why employees wait for the latest fads to be over. Corporate initiatives live out their life and then go away. The people who deliver the corporate initiatives have to make engagement happen, and those people must be your managers.

We are good at providing managers with engagement scores, but we are not quite so good at giving them things that they can use to change engagement. In order for engagement to be something other than a fad, we need to be specific in helping managers, and our solutions have to be customized to help each individual manager.

Let’s get back to one of my earlier statements in this article. In order to know whether engagement is a fad or a long-term management intervention, we must examine who owns the initiative. When we don’t give managers something specific to do about engagement that is within their own control, then the owners of the engagement process are corporate HR. If corporate HR owns employee engagement, it will be a fad. If you tie engagement to day-to-day management work, then managers and employees themselves own engagement. Only when managers own engagement will it not be a fad.

How do you move ownership to managers and employees?

In order to move the employee engagement process from ownership by corporate HR to ownership by managers and employees, several things must happen.

1. Engagement does need to be measured, but you have to conduct measurement more frequently than once a year, and magic “engagement” metrics are not enough. You need multiple ways to assess engagement, and those metrics must include performance measures. When you
understand what “above and beyond” behavior is, then you can measure engagement and the outcomes of engagement.

2. You can’t have engaged employees without super engaged managers. Engagement improving efforts must start at the top and work their way down. The most senior executives must be assured that they are engaging their senior team, and that team has to work on creating a high engagement environment for its direct reports, and so on and so on. The process of engagement must start at the top, but I don’t mean via a mandate from the top. I want the CEO to really understand the degree of engagement of his/her direct reports, find out what’s in the way of their becoming more engaged, and then DO something with his/her data. Those direct reports to the CEO should then repeat the engagement “doing” process with their own direct reports. Engagement must be done by “leadership through example.” Because this process of top-down engagement is owned by each level of management, each managers him/herself benefits from the process, and then they share the benefits with their own employees. In this learning process, managers “own” employee engagement.

3. Engagement is about getting rid of things that block productivity. We think that we can magically motivate people, but what we primarily do in business is create lots of ways to demotivate people. We bring people to work, ask them to do something, then put lots of obstacles in the way of their being able to succeed. We excel at demotivation – not motivation. Creating an engaged workforce means getting barriers out of the way for your employees to be effective. I don’t know what the blocks to productivity are for every employee. I cannot create a magic set of 20, 40, 80, or 300 survey questions that will assess the things that are getting in the way of productivity and performance. These things can be “lumped” into categories, but they differ from company to company, department to department, and employee to employee. These productivity blockers and demotivators are not taught in a basic introduction to management book. They are not going to disappear with the purchase of some new technology or from hiring the latest management guru. Engagement will happen when each individual manager learns what’s getting in the way of his/her employees’ performance, and each manager
chooses to take action.

4. The process of engagement is a process; you can’t get it right at year end. You have to create a continuous learning, continuous improvement, continuous measurement, and continuous action process to maximize productivity.
Key Challenges

It’s fairly easy to run a point-in-time employee engagement survey and then show scores to managers. When you do this, employee engagement is an “event.” You can get lots of attention and spend significant amounts of money, but to what end?

It’s much more difficult to make engagement a way of life in your organization. It is much easier to join in with the newest fad than it is to create something lasting. But creating lasting change drives improved firm performance, and isn’t that the real goal of employee engagement?

Thus, taking the time to engage yourself and your managers in the engagement process may be worth the effort for truly strategic HR executives. You will find that this is not the easiest path, but it may be the one that leads you away from fads to something very real.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


How sure are you about a new recruit’s work capabilities? Quite sure, did you say? After all, one picks a candidate after many rounds of written tests, interviews and a third-party background check.
But these are not foolproof aids to determine the candidate’s credibility, says Ken Georgie Mathew.

An HR manager for 10 years, Mathew was in charge of recruitments for an IT major. “I found there was no way to evaluate a person’s background, including his work experience. After a point, you can only trust a candidate’s word and your judgement,” he says

Mathew has since been working on a way to make data verification a foolproof process. About 18 months ago, he filed a patent with the Indian Patents Office for his data verification tool called Authentic Track Record (ATR). Currently in the ‘pre-grant’ stage, the patent application has not received any objection. He spoke to eWorld on the invention and its applications.

What is the authentic track record (ATR)?

It is software that works online and can be integrated with the existing HR or other databases across organisations. It will facilitate data verification and can be used by individuals/organisations for maintaining a clean background record. Currently the beta version of the software is available for use at

How does it work and what will an ATR contain?

Let me explain with an example. Your organisation asks you to get an ATR and e-mails you the link of my Web site. Once you enter the site, there is a list of data that your organisation wants you to authenticate — such as name, address, qualification, previous work experience, etc. These fields can vary, depending on how stringent a company’s HR policy is and to what depths they want authentication.

To authenticate your date of birth, you enter some details in a customised link on my Web site and send an e-mail to the municipality of the city you were born in. The officer in charge receives this e-mail and looks through his database. If the information you have sent is false, he shall click on the ‘reject’ option in the e-mail, specifying the reason for not authenticating your data. You can then correct the data and re-send it for authentication.

If the data is true, the officer will choose the ‘approve’ option and the e-mail automatically updates your ATR.

Now if you were to get a physical copy of your birth certificate it would take much time, money and effort. But responding to the ATR e-mail takes only 30 seconds.

This process is replicated for all other information one needs to authenticate.

To authenticate one’s work experience, one can list the projects one has worked on and send an authentication request to one’s manager.

Is that not uncomfortable for the employee? Usually we tend to highlight our achievements in our resume and authenticating that may make people uncomfortable.

No, it need not be. A resume contains one’s background data plus what one thinks one’s skills/achievements are. An ATR contains only verified data/facts such as one’s name, address, graduation details and the certifications he claims to have.

Now, you may claim your communication skills are excellent. That can be easily verified in an interview.

However, I cannot verify your claim of having a SAP certification by merely looking at your certificate. This is what the ATR verifies and not subjective information such as soft skills.
One can have five versions of a resume depending on which kind of job profile one wants. But only one ATR can exist for every individual.

Can an ATR be applied beyond a corporate perspective?

Yes. I can use it to track my child’s performance from kindergarten to post-graduation. If I initiate an ATR to verify her skills in LKG, I will get feedback from her LKG teachers on her strong/weak points. Teachers who handle her in UKG can see this data and ascertain in which areas of the curriculum she needs extra attention.

For governments, this can be used as a tool for tracing criminals. If a man has committed a crime in Delhi and runs away to Chennai seeking a job there, the organisation will ask the local police station for his background check.

But they have no information, as he is new to Chennai. In other words, he has a clean record and hence gets hired.

But when his ATR number is available, the police station can see his former employment details. Any gaps in the ATR will indicate suspicious behaviour that they can check for.

This is somewhat like a social security number used in the US. Do you think it is possible to commercialise an idea like ATR in India?

Yes, though it may be difficult, given our computer penetration rate. At this point in time, I have a business model where I will own the Web site and issue ATR numbers to users.

I will own servers that contain the ATR information, including e-mails sent between users and their points of contact. Organisations can hold a franchisee to access my Web site and seek to design company-specific ATRs.

The National Innovation Foundation, which works with IIM-Ahmedabad, has read my patent application and may be willing to help me incubate this project.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

When Employees leave

People are people and so despite every motivator they will leave! They carry an enormous burden of perceptions, assumptions and self-esteem that combine to create a psychological carrying capacity. When the threshold capacity for psychological injuries is crossed, a tectonic shift occurs within the mindscape. The result is very often a precipitate decision: The decision to move on. A minor spark could be the proverbial straw which breaks the camel’s back; lo and beho ld, the resignation is on your desk!

Trust, sensitivity factors

It’s always a wrenching feeling when people leave; the feeling is intensified when top talent or long-time team members resign. If mutual trust exists, the person will share her thought process and keep you informed of the progress of her search for alternative employment. If trust does not exist, you’ll find out only on the eve of the person’s departure. That’s because somehow she wasn’t confident that you wouldn’t interfere with her prospects outside.

So if you didn’t know about your colleague’s impending departure you’d better introspective and ask whether you did in fact damage your relationship in a manner that compromised the other person’s trust in you. As a leader it’s your job to understand and sense changes in the mindscape of people around you. If you are blissfully unaware of the impact you leave on their psyche, you’re like a bull in a china shop! You don’t belong at the top unless you develop a deep sensitivity to people. Without that sensitivity you don’t have a hope of getting the best results from your team and your organisations.

Reasons are many

Sometimes, people leave when they feel suffocated. At other times they’ll leave because they don’t see where their careers are going. They’ll quit if they feel they are being taken for granted or humiliated, or hurt….the reasons are many and often unfathomable. It’s important to understand and respect that people have their own reasons for making major personal decisions.
You cannot demand a ringside seat at the mental drama that culminates in big decisions. And just because they decide without your input you can’t assume that they have made the wrong decision. Worse, you cannot cast aspersions on the new employer! That’s the surest way to reinforce the correctness of your colleague’s decision to quit! As a leader you have to stop expecting everyone to accept you as the fountain of all knowledge. You simply have to respect individual choices and priorities. What you can do is to provide an organisational environment that offers congruence with those choices and priorities.

How do you treat a person who has decided to leave? Assuming that he’s informed you adequately and clearly in advance and has cleaned up properly and that there’s not even a whiff of dishonesty, do you still convey trust and respect?

Or do you simply cut him off from routine information, meetings and activities? Do you disable his email id without notice? Do you ignore him? Do you organise a proper farewell? The answers to these questions can be quite revealing.

Psychological carrying capacity

Remember, the entire organisation is watching, with bated breath, how a person is being treated after he decides to leave. While nobody is willing to discuss it openly with you, be sure that everyone is drawing their own conclusions. They are all learning lessons and altering their own perceptions and assumptions. These are vital ingredients in that go into the making of individual psychological carrying capacities. Organisational motivation and, consequently, the capability to achieve results is critically dependant on the aggregate psychological carrying capacity.

If you’re the CEO or are in some other position of leadership, it’s imperative to get your internal balance right. You have to resist the temptation to control and manipulate everything. And you need to take a somewhat philosophical approach when people choose to leave. What better way than to surrender to Krishna’s cosmic truth when he says in the Gita : “agamapayino anityastham…titikshasva bharata….everything (and everyone) that arrives has to leave since it’s all impermanent anyway, therefore, O Arjuna, tolerate!”

Developing Feedback Skills

The purposes of this article are to show you the importance of providing both positive and negative feedback and to identify specific techniques to help make your feedback more effective.

Positive Versus Negative Feedback
Positive feedback is more readily and accurately perceived than negative feedback. Furthermore, while positive feedback is almost always accepted, negative feedback often meets resistance. Why? The logical answer seems to be that people want to hear good news and block out the bad. Positive feedback fits what most people wish to hear and already believe about themselves.

Does this mean that you should avoid giving negative feedback? No! What it means is that you need to be aware of potential resistance and learn to use negative feedback in situations in which it's most likely to be accepted. What are those situations? Research indicates that negative feedback is most likely to be accepted when it comes from a credible source or if it's objective in form.

Subjective impressions carry weight only when they come from a person with high status and credibility. This suggests that negative feedback that's supported by hard data?numbers, specific examples, and the like?is more likely to be accepted. Negative feedback that's subjective can be a meaningful tool for experienced managers, particularly those in upper levels of the organization who've earned the respect of their employees. From less-experienced managers, those in the lower ranks of the organization, and those whose reputations haven't yet been established, negative feedback that's subjective in nature is not likely to be well received.

Developing Effective Feedback Skills

There are six specific suggestions that we can make to help you be more effective in providing feedback.

Focus on Specific Behaviors. Feedback should be specific rather than general. Avoid such statements as "You have a bad attitude" or "I'm really impressed with the good job you did," They're vague and while they provide information, they don't tell the recipient enough to correct the "bad attitude" or on what basis you concluded that a "good job" had been done so the person knows what behaviors to repeat.

Keep Feedback Impersonal. Feedback, particularly the negative kind, should be descriptive rather than judgmental or evaluative. No matter how upset you are, keep the feedback focused on job-related behaviors and never criticize someone personally because of an inappropriate action. Telling people they're "incompetent," or "lazy," or the like is almost always counterproductive. It provokes such an emotional reaction that the performance deviation itself is apt to be overlooked. When you're criticizing, remember that you're censuring a job-related behavior, not the person.

Keep Feedback Goal Oriented. Feedback should not be given primarily to "dump" or "unload" on another person. If you have to say something negative, make sure it's directed toward the recipient's goals. Ask yourself whom the feedback is supposed to help.

Make Feedback Well Timed. Feedback is most meaningful to a recipient when there's a very short interval between his or her behavior and the receipt of feedback about that behavior.

Ensure Understanding. Is your feedback concise and complete enough that the recipient clearly and fully understands your communication? Remember that every successful communication requires both transference and understanding of meaning. If feedback is to be effective, you need to ensure that the recipient understands it.

Direct Negative Feedback Toward Behavior That the Recipient Can Control. There's little value in reminding a person of some shortcoming over which he or she has no control. Negative feedback should be directed toward behavior the recipient can do something about.