Recent Trends in Human Resource Management

Friday, June 26, 2009

Integrity with Global Talent Management

Integrity with Global Talent Management

The enormous cultural diversity in today's global economy makes evaluating, assessing, recruiting and managing talent a challenge - perhaps the challenge - for transnational companies. There are several key steps companies and their talent leaders can take to meet that challenge and build a global workforce that delivers high performance with high integrity.

First, contemporary corporations must explicitly establish high performance with high integrity as the foundational goal of the enterprise, recognizing that it should indeed be the goal of global capitalism.

High performance means strong, sustained economic growth based on superior products and services that provides durable benefits to shareholders and other stakeholders.

High integrity means:

a) Tenaciously adhering to the spirit and the letter of formal rules, both financial and legal.
b) Adopting voluntary global standards that bind a company and its employees to act in its enlightened self-interest.

Living the core values of honesty, candor fairness, reliability and trustworthiness, which infuse the creation and delivery of products and services, and guide internal and external relationships.

Combining high performance with high integrity must counter strong pressures to cut corners to make the numbers. It isn't just about avoiding evils and the potentially catastrophic impact of an integrity miss. It is also about creating strong, affirmative benefits for the company, the marketplace and the broader society. Such trust is needed to sustain corporations' enormous power and freedom - even under current regulation - to allocate capital, to hire and fire people, to drive productivity, to invest in new geographies and communities, and to innovate with new products or services.

This is not a frill or a nice-to-have. It is not the initiative of the month. The fusion of high performance with high integrity should be the foundation of an organization. This is especially so for companies seeking beachheads in difficult markets.

During my time at General Electric, whenever I was asked what I lost sleep over, my answer was always the same: emerging mistakes. For understandable reasons, multinationals have embraced the potential of significant new growth in the developing world, touting it at analysts' meetings and in public speeches. At the same time, they are quietly aware of the significant integrity minefields that threaten to impair performance and destroy margins: limited rule of law, endemic corruption, rampant conflicts of interest, erratic enforcement, money laundering, unscrupulous local competitors and hard-to-assess economic and political risk. To meet their dramatic growth projections, transnational companies must navigate treacherous shoals.

Second, corporations must adopt a uniform, high performance with high integrity global culture. Culture is the shared principles and practices that influence how people think and behave. The right culture is not punitive but affirmative. Such a culture only can exist when it flows from top leadership - when aspirations are matched by actions. Integrity principles and practices should be driven deep into business operations, without compromises for tough markets.

An important dimension of such a culture is the adoption of global ethical standards. "Globalization through localization" is one of the mantras of transnational companies. Localization, of course, includes adherence to the financial or legal rules of the specific national jurisdiction. GE's code of conduct, for example, begins: "Obey the applicable laws and regulations governing our business conduct worldwide."

But that's not always enough. In some cases, the answer to questions such as, "Is it according to GAPP?" or "Is it legal?" may not be adequate because formal rules don't address the broad problems facing a company. A corporation may find the best answer is to go beyond required duties and voluntarily impose a higher global ethical standard on itself and its employees.

An organized, systematic process is needed to decide whether to adopt such global standards. Once adopted, these standards should have uniform application and implementation across business units, product markets and geographies as formal financial and legal rules. Examples include ethical sourcing and building Greenfield plants in emerging markets to world, not local, standards.

Another important dimension is hiring "A" players in key leadership positions throughout the company and recognizing that driving performance with integrity into business operations requires resources. In most corporations, there is a constant struggle to find the right people and allocate adequate resources. Unless both happen, the merger of integrity and business processes isn't possible.

Hiring experts inside the corporation is vital and cost-effective for risk assessment and abatement. Inside experts know the company far better than any outsider, and they can act quickly. For example, Jack Welch encouraged me to hire outstanding experts in taxes and environmental programs, who had developed world-class expertise both in government service and private practice. Beyond minimizing and mitigating integrity risks, they also proved extremely valuable to the CEO in transactions and financial planning and in offensive and defensive public policy.

Questions about paying for the integrity infrastructure need to be faced candidly and systematically. There's no way around it: Funds must be found and spent to establish the fundamentals. Unless the CEO makes this a clear performance metric for business leaders, these costs inevitably get shoved to the bottom of the list.

This is a forward commitment, as well: When the company engages in the next round of "10 percent across-the-board cost-cuts," the CEO and other business leaders must fight the temptation to wield the ax in this sensitive area, and instead scrutinize the actual impact of reductions.

Third, performance with integrity education and training must come alive. It must be given the same commitment as training in business skills such as finance, marketing, sales and IT, and employees must be given a voice to raise integrity concerns.

The largest challenge: finding the people, message, method and evaluations that collectively constitute a culturally sensitive, yet globally effective set of communications in each market. Face-to-face sessions with employees unschooled in the company's global culture are essential; Web or paper training are second-best.

For example, GE Healthcare developed a short training case about the now famous but fictitious Mr. Vu, who faced multiple tough scenarios, such as hiring third-party consultants, approving travel and living expenses, dealing with customers' demands for bribes and the use of the GE mark.

Such learning by example isn't easy. Talent leaders will need knowledgeable trainers to develop trust and get the most out of illuminating discussions. GE often found it hard, given the exponential growth in Asian employees, to deliver live, in-context training. Too often, we had to settle for an interactive Web-based approach. This challenge is mirrored in the difficulty of finding multilingual, multicultural leaders who can help the corporation act with local sensitivity and global discipline in emerging markets, while also anticipating contingencies, diversifying operations and finding top talent.

One of the most powerful principles in creating a high performance with high integrity culture, and for ensuring accountability up and down the corporation, is to give every employee a voice. This means encouraging, and indeed requiring, the reporting of concerns about possible violations of financial, legal and ethical standards.

One channel for such voice is a company "ombuds" system that encourages employees to express their concerns, addresses those concerns promptly with professionalism and respect, makes failure to report itself an integrity violation and, of course, sanctions those who engage in retaliation. A vibrant, fair, trusted ombuds system not only detects issues early, before they can metastasize into huge problems, it also deters improper acts inside the company right from the start.

Another channel for employee voice is through the finance, HR and legal functions. These key staff members must reconcile dual, conflicting roles. They must be partners to business leaders and help accomplish performance goals. But they also are corporation guardians and must report legal, financial, ethical and reputation concerns to corporate staff leaders if they have problems raising and addressing them in their business units.

Finally, corporations must develop compensation regimes that do not just pay for performance, but pay for performance with integrity. We can measure integrity by looking at whether leaders have adopted the core performance with integrity principles, are implementing the key practices to achieve them, have created the affirmative culture - through employee surveys and 360 degree assessments - compare favorably to peer companies and have achieved annual performance with integrity goals and objectives. Similarly, the management development process should be aimed, in part, at training future leaders in the principles and practices of high performance with high integrity, especially in international markets.

[About the Author: Ben W. Heineman Jr. is senior fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and Harvard Law School and senior counsel to the law firm of WilmerHale. This article is adapted from his book, High Performance with High Integrity.]

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Smart Interviewing Techniques - Recruitment & Retention

Smart Interviewing Techniques - Recruitment & Retention

Graphology is widely used by large corporations in Europe during interviews to detect personality traits as varied as ego drive and risk aversion. Within the United States, risk-taking entrepreneurs use handwriting analysis to identify the best candidates for sales jobs. Tom Payette, for one, hires a graphologist to help him ferret out winners for his $30-million Jaguar and Suzuki dealership in Louisville. He claims that technique has significantly reduced his annual sales-force turnover rate, which at 36% is nearly half the industry average.

A successful interview should determine if there is a match between a candidate and the job. Furthermore, a good interview process allows HR to understand the job seeker's behaviour, values, motivations, and qualifications. Time and time again HR has seen candidates hired for sales jobs that don't like calling people or customer service employees who can't look into the customer's eyes and say, "Hello." Then there are good employees promoted into management positions having no clue of how to lead and manage others.

Why interviewing techniques fail:

Lack of preparation - First impressions last long! Before conducting an interview HR should make sure that they understand the key elements of the job. They should develop a simple outline that covers general job duties. Working with the incumbent to get a better idea of what the job is about is essential

Lack of purpose - Not only should HR determine the best applicant, but they also convince the applicant that this is the best place to work in.

Lack of clearly defined job competencies - Each job can have anywhere from 6-14 job competencies. Identify the behaviours; knowledge, motivations and qualities incumbents need to be successful in the job.

Lack of structure - The best interview follows a structured process. This doesn't mean that the entire process is inflexible without spontaneity. It means that each applicant is asked the same questions and is scored with a consistent rating process. A structured approach helps avoid bias and gives all applicants a fair chance. This can be accomplished by using behaviour-based questions, role-plays and situational questions.

Sample role-plays are effective ways to learn and practice new skills. They can also be used during the interview process to determine the skills and personal charisma of people during stress.

Traditional interviews are never completely reliable. Yes, a structured approach will improve the HR's chances, but it is essential to go a step further. Pre-employment screening is an important aspect of the hiring process for most employers. By using various assessments and profiles, organisations have been able to help clients reduce turnover and improve the quality of their workforce.

Ref: TheManageMentor

HR practices- Customer Satisfaction and HR

HR practices- Customer Satisfaction and HR

HR is crucial to improve customer satisfaction-surprising but true.

The adage 'customer is king ', signifies the importance and value of customers. Customers are crucial for a business and a customer friendly culture drives a company's profitability. No longer is the sales team alone expected to determine customer satisfaction. HR too plays a major part in ensuring customer satisfaction by hiring the best talent and training them to serve customers effectively. An analysis on 800 Sears Roebuck stores in 1999 revealed that an increase of 5% in employee attitudes increased customer satisfaction by 1.3%.

The Workforce Optimas Award winner, NCCI Holdings trained its customer service representatives in insurance data software products because a survey conducted by them revealed that its customers wanted assistance to use their products. Consequently, there was a significant increase of 33% in the customer satisfaction rating.

Customer satisfaction and loyalty can take the company ahead even during a downturn. Southwest Airlines boasted of profit in the fourth quarter of 2001 despite the sudden decrease in air traffic due to the September 11 attacks. Kmart on the contrary was declared bankrupt because it could not provide a customer friendly environment like Walmart.

According to Michael DeSanto, a consultant for Walker Information, the cost of acquiring a new customer is equal to 5 times the expenses incurred for serving an existing customer. All these instances reiterate the need to build a strong customer relationship.

HR's Initiative

In order to drive customer satisfaction to an enviable level HR should concentrate on smart hiring practices and employee development.

Hiring the budding star performers

To build a customer friendly culture HR should hire only such employees who are capable to reinforce customer satisfaction. According to Ron Zemke, president of Performance Research Associates, a consulting firm, a successful customer service representative is one who is an optimist, flexible and able to manage stress and criticism. He should be able to strike a balance between his interests and that of the company and the customer.

Scrutinising a potential candidate should begin from the time he appears for the interview. The candidate's body language and attitude before and during the interview might give some cues about his capabilities.

Probing situations the candidate may have encountered during his earlier work experience during the interview helps to identify the candidate's abilities and attitude. Patrick Wright director of the Centre suggested this probing technique for Advanced HR Studies at Cornell University to Whirlpool.

Talent+ Inc, another HR consulting firm helped Ritz-Carlton in restructuring their hiring system. Previously, their customer complaints reached an all time high of 27%. After the new system was introduced, the complaints dropped to an amazing 1% in the year 2000.

According to the company's managing director Lisa French, the new system appraises the prospective candidate's traits. This is done through open-ended questions in the interview and a comparison of their traits with those of well-known personalities in the same field.

Training the budding stars

On being recruited, a candidate should be trained to establish customer relationships. To serve the customer better one needs to understand his needs. For this the employee should be aware of the different personality traits and their behavioural patterns. The Meyers Briggs Type Indicator questionnaire is an effective tool in identifying personality types.

Effective communication skills need to be imparted. Further developing the voice tone of the employee and his body language take the lead here. Research shows that 55% of the total impact of an employee's interaction with the customers is by body language and 38% by his tone. In particular, employees serving customers telephonically need to improve their listening skills, as it is difficult to comprehend the same over the phone. Listening to the customer attentively and restating it concisely shows the kind of attention a customer is given.

The people at Rosenbluth differ here also. They insist that their employees speak in an amicable manner to customers. Words like 'certainly', 'it's been my pleasure' put the customer at ease and display the employee's zeal to serve.

Building customer loyalty through employee loyalty

Employee allegiance is crucial to build customer satisfaction and loyalty, because customer and employee satisfaction run parallel.

According to Michael DeSanto, new employees feel good about their company when they have the opportunity to acquire new skills and move up the corporate ladder. Once an employee stays with the company for about 3 years he gets restless if nothing new is happening.

Similarly, new customers feel thrilled by the attention showered on them by the company. Over the years, regular customers used to attention, however begin to feel neglected and explore new avenues.

An organisation that does not acquire the loyalty of the customer or employees might be left in lurch. The two are interdependent. If the employee is happy then the customer satisfaction is also high.

One touch solutions at Captain D's

Captain D's proves that HR's role is detrimental in the restaurant industry where customer service is crucial.The HR initiatives taken by Captain D's to lower their staff turnover, increase customer service and thereby increase their profitability is commendable. Shoney's Inc, started in 1947, provides family dining at Shoneys' and Captain D's chain of restaurants spread over 20 states with 550 franchises.

According to Matt Gloster, vice president of administration for Captain D's, around 8000 employees are trained in all the aspects of restaurant business every year. An uphill task because employees are spread over 20 states and training them from recipes to business operations is an arduous task. The wide geographical spread made a simple thing like communicating a change in the recipe of a dish a complicated process during training sessions. The problem was that the changes have to be communicated to all the branches and thereby requiring to reproduce the same data a number of times.

OneTouch solution, an application software that has a video and two way voice and data application was introduced to allow the employees to communicate with the trainer.

The solution can be applied to PC or non- PC environments so Captain D's and Shoneys used it at all places in the restaurant. This ensures that groups or individual employees attend the training sessions. The training programmes introduced the employees to different topics and a quiz ensured that the trainees comprehend the programme.

Top managements know the developments in the restaurants when they access the data stored by Matt Gloster. Moreover, they can easily update the training programmes by downloading them. OneTouch also helped the restaurants to maintain a productive workforce by training the employees to multitask.

Captain D's thus improved its productivity and customer satisfaction and decreased turnover. Glowing over the restaurant's success Matt Gloster recalls the phrase coined by the chairman 30 years ago, ' show and tell '. The approach states ' tell me, and I'll forget. Show me, and I'll try to remember. Do it with me, and I'll always know how '.

The case of Captain D's shows the importance of an effective training programme to improve customer satisfaction. It also establishes the need to hire potential employees, train them and keep them happy.

Reference:The ManageMentor

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Organizational Behaviour - Bowling Out The Oddballs

Organizational Behaviour - Bowling Out The Oddballs

Key learnings:

Impossible-to-get-along-with seniors are a top reason for attrition, But getting along with them is now becoming a professional requirement

Among the top reasons why employees leave organisations are impossible-to-get-along-with seniors. An effective way to address this issue is to inform seniors how their demeanour affects retention and employee morale. A practical way to deal with it is to equip employees with the art of dealing with tough bosses! The article outlines when equipped with a set of tactics, employees will find it easier to work with the toughies.

The art of getting along

A typical response when stuck with an eccentric boss is to quit. But given the economic low, job-hopping is a luxury few can afford. This however does not mean employees have to put up with poorly- behaved seniors. Moreover, organisations must and can avoid losing talent to poorly- behaved seniors. In short, if working with tough bosses is an occupational hazard then dealing with them is a professional skill! Here is how employees can be equipped with this skill.

As one behavioural expert says, "The first step to skills or competencies updation is awareness". Therefore, in dealing with tough seniors employees need to be aware of the different behavioural traits of the eccentric! Seniors can be categorised as under:

The lion: These seniors believe in roaring! Their modus operandi is based on a belief that much can be accomplished by shouting and creating a commotion. They also use intimidating non-verbal gestures such as staring and hand- on- hips to get their job done. A study reveals that such aggression manifests in those who are either impatient or like the spotlight to be on them for both right/ wrong reasons.

Effective ways of dealing with such seniors include:

. Listening to them without arguing
. Keeping one's ego aside. These seniors are likely to shout at their subordinates anywhere which can be embarrassing
. Following their instructions to the 't'. The best way to deal with impatient seniors is to give them few reasons to complain

The chameleon: Another impatient lot are seniors who want a number of jobs done simultaneously. Although they are not rude they have little tolerance for those who fail to execute their orders. But following too many instructions while ensuring quality is tough, at times even impossible and these seniors do not realise that. In passing instructions and orders they are seldom considerate about their subordinate grasping what and how things need to be done. These seniors are also a forgetful lot -a consequence of attempting to get much accomplished. So at times they will retort with, "When did I ask you to do this?

Effective ways of dealing with such seniors include:

. Making notes of all their instructions and sending them an e-mail about it
. Keeping them posted of the progress on tasks on a daily basis
. Taking them through the to-do list to reconfirm whether what is on it still needs to be done!
. Documenting any communication with them

The Peacock: These seniors hide their shortcomings in their feathers. They are too vain to admit that their position is not a result of hard work and the right competencies but sheer luck! Working with them becomes a challenge because they are poor decision- makers, talk a lot but do little and are least inspiring. The only advantage is, they are not harmful or conniving.

Effective ways of dealing with such seniors include:

. Fanning their false prestige by listening to all they have to say
. Talking to them about tasks and assignments in terms of deliverables and timelines
. Spelling out the benefits or consequences of decision -making at meetings and informal encounters

The fox: These seniors become difficult to deal with because they hit below the belt. Insecure in their positions they believe everyone is a threat and are plotting constantly to frame and fire people. Thankfully, they are a minority but unfortunately they are difficult to identify. Employees get to know of such seniors through others. When identified here is how one can manage around them:

. Documenting every piece of communication
. Keeping them posted of every move made
. Sharing ideas and suggestions only when an audience is around
. Talking about what happened at work with colleagues and other co-workers

Also, "being honest and acting with extreme care is the best policy when dealing with this type of boss," recommends an expert.

The serpent: The most dangerous of the lot are seniors who believe fear motivates employees best to perform optimally. Employees dread them because they:

. Fire people for invalid reasons
. Threaten employees constantly with punitive consequences
. Induce guilt in employees to get work done

According to experts, "The attrition rate of this boss is highest because of the fear and psychosis he creates" and the best way to deal with them is to leave before they can sully one's resume and reputation.

Working with seniors with eccentric behavioural traits is not easy but definitely easier than giving up without trying! Moreover when it comes to building and maintaining employee relationships a bit of their onus is an employee's too. In using the above-mentioned tactics to identify who their seniors are, employees can work around a strategy to work with them better.

Reference: TheManageMentor

Improving Returns on Talent

How should companies approach and formulate a talent strategy focused on better returns.

Organisations have worked over the years towards efficiently managing and monitoring returns on capital and assets. This has been an important role for the CEO and top management in years of boom and downturns.

However, there remains a great deal of ambiguity over the idea of managing talent as an asset. While organisations commit huge investments in talent and incur heavy costs on it, rarely do CEOs have visibility on the returns on talent employed (ROTE).

Investments in talent

An organisation makes multiple investments in acquiring and utilising its talent effectively. These are:

Time and effort: The man-hours spent by HR managers and others in an organisation in recruiting and managing talent adds up to quite a lot. And this has a cost attached to it.

Operating costs: The largest human resource costs in a company are in the areas of recruitment, training, staff welfare, travel for HR-related processes and so on.

Overall employee costs: This is an aggregation of cost to the company (compensation and benefits) of all employees. These costs are a part of the profit and loss statement of companies and normally tend to increase over time.

These spends directly hit the bottom line of the company. In times of downturns, organisations look at cutting down these spends to reduce costs. Although obvious and intuitive, this approach to improve ROTE has limited benefits and could prove counterproductive in the long run. Considering that any recessionary or slow growth phase is likely to be followed by a phase of rapid growth and expansion, a reduction in talent investment has to strike a balance between short-term pressures and long-term imperatives.

An alternative approach

Companies’ top management have always, knowingly or unknowingly, strived towards improving returns from talent. Their concern and need is to find more comprehensive ways of doing so. But what comes in the way is the absence of a common understanding of what constitutes talent, what kind of returns to expect and what levers must be used to improve ROTE.

Talent constitutes not merely employee numbers but also their capabilities. Hence, ROTE may be defined as the value gained in terms of contribution to business results through effective utilisation of talent and its capabilities while optimally managing talent costs.

The concept of "talent value chain" provides a comprehensive model to view the processes through which talent is employed and utilised

An organisation’s strategic goals along with a well-defined organisational structure are the starting point of the talent value chain. Each link in the talent value chain is a talent lever. Specific actions and initiatives under these talent levers are identified and planned leading to development of a "talent strategy".

Like business strategy, talent strategy addresses the key challenges a company is facing and hence, necessitates a careful examination of business challenges and objectives. It also needs to be adapted and changed to suit changing business environments and goals. Such a talent strategy ensures optimal and appropriate utilisation of talent and hence leads to an improved ROTE.

However, an appropriate and well-articulated talent strategy is rarely found to exist in organisations and hence improved returns on talent seem to constantly elude them. Let us examine three different business scenarios to illustrate the approach that an organisation can use to develop its talent strategy.

Downturn/low growth: An organisation struggling with a downturn or slow growth in its industry is faced with the challenge of optimally managing its assets and costs. Such an organisation should, therefore, employ its talent levers in a manner such that they address this strategic challenge.

In workforce planning, the organisation’s focus should be on optimal utilisation of talent through re-deployment or reducing existing manpower. Similarly, recruitment should either be frozen or highly selective. High performing, valuable employees should be identified from the less productive ones based on performance differentiation. This would help identify both talent which the company must strive to retain and manpower which can be released without a significant impact on company productivity.

Rewards too can be selective. Only those who contribute significantly should be rewarded. Policies should be reviewed to enhance centralisation, wherever possible. Potential development and retention should be geared towards the best-performing talent. Thus, this approach helps improve ROTE through managing costs, optimal utilisation of talent and high involvement of top management.

Rapid growth: Any organisation operating in an environment of rapid growth will look to capture a large share of business. This obviously translates into a key strategic challenge — talent acquisition and development.

In such a scenario, talent strategy is not so much focused on differentiation, as in a downturn/low growth situation, but on the speed of ramp-up for building employee numbers, their skill development and retention across levels.

Rewards and benefits are liberal and aimed at retaining a large mass of the employee base to maintain high productivity levels and build capacity. High degree of delegation for decision-making is dispersed across the management hierarchy to provide control and authority at key positions in the organisation to facilitate quick turnarounds.

ROTE is enhanced through improved skill base availability, development of skills in line with business requirements, and building and maintaining talent capacity. Hence, the talent strategy and initiatives are geared towards enabling the firm to successfully meet growth targets.

Global expansion: As organisations grow and evolve, they are likely to look at global expansion for higher growth. In such a scenario, strategic objectives change dramatically. This necessitates the redesign of the organisation structure and roles and also needs a drastic shift in talent strategy.

The talent strategy in such a scenario is focused on shifting from known practices to redefining talent practices to make them relevant to a global, geographically dispersed entity. Hence, it will focus on redefining recruitment practices to successfully recruit in new geographies, establishing a new employment brand and company identity, adoption of global practices, global standardisation of policies and practices and compliance. These become the key areas to improve ROTE in an international, multicultural context.

Formulating a talent strategy

A structured and sound methodology to formulate and deploy a talent strategy is described in figure 2. The initial phase is primarily to understand the strategic objectives and ensure that there is an appropriate organisation structure, with clearly-defined roles, to support the achievement of company goals.

This is followed by an assessment of the processes in each link of the talent value chain. During this phase, a company may discover a complete absence of a process or gaps in the processes. These constitute the areas of improvement or new initiatives which are necessary to achieve company objectives.

These improvement areas/new initiatives are then prioritised depending on the strategic challenges and goals of the company and the presence of supporting systems/processes. This leads to a talent strategy defining specific steps or initiatives along each link of the talent value chain (talent levers). Based on this, a detailed implementation schedule can be developed with specific initiatives and timelines.

This approach, while simple and easily implementable, can provide disproportionate returns on talent employed. It provides a framework that can be used to ensure that an organisation’s talent is aligned towards achieving its strategic objectives. With such alignment, companies can maximise their ROTE in any industry or economic scenario and gain an advantage over their competitors.

Reference: Business Standard ( Article by: Sona Rajesh & Amit Bajpayee)

Managing Rumors

Managing Rumors

HR leaders are reporting that economic fears are prompting more employees to eavesdrop and gossip about the impact on potential job losses. Transparency, communication efforts and decisive action are needed to ease uncertainty, experts say.

Eavesdropping and gossip are on the rise in U.S. workplaces as the recession continues to raise employee fears of potential job losses, a new study suggests.In a poll of 494 HR professionals, conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of respondents said they've had to deal with an increased number of eavesdropping incidents in the last 12 months as a result of the uncertainty about the U.S. economy.

Examples of such incidents include employees lingering outside conference rooms or near the HR leader's door to catch wind of possible layoffs or terminations.

Also in the survey, half (54 percent) of HR professionals reported an increase in gossip and rumors about downsizings and layoffs among their employees, and about the same percentage (53 percent) said they had to address those rumors in the year between October 2007 and October 2008, when the study was conducted.

"What this clearly tells us is that we need to step up good communications in organizations and that's where HR can really show its leadership," says Steve Williams, director of research for Alexandria, Va.-based SHRM. "The more transparent you are, the less likely you'll get gossip around the recession" and people lingering around other people's desks and offices, trying to hear something."

We're seeing these incidents across the board, in all industries and in companies of all sizes," he says. "No company is immune. Fear is fear and gossip is gossip. It's happening everywhere."

Striking though the increase in eavesdropping and rumors may be, "it's perfectly normal to expect employees to pay much more attention to what is happening, or may happen, with their employers in difficult economic times," says Mark Hyde, whose self-named consulting firm is located in Rochester, Minn.

"Of course there will be gossip and rumors; expect it," he says.Without supplying any statistics,

Dr. Richard A. Chaifetz, chairman and CEO of Chicago-based employee-assistance provider ComPsych, says his company has been getting significantly more calls in the last couple of months "from employers concerned about how employees are reacting" to the plunging market and economy.

"People are trying to get information in ways that are, shall we say, less than direct," says Chaifetz.

"We're hearing about people trying to get into closed-door meetings or people looking at other people's mail. Employers have to be very mindful, right now; very careful that they don't let information out prematurely.

"Make sure, if at all possible, any difficult decisions are not discussed in e-mails or written communications," he says.
"Leaks of information, especially at a time like this, could be cancerous in an organization."

Chaifetz also stresses the need to move quickly when making hard choices, such as whether to go through layoffs or a restructuring, and to "be direct, open and honest in your communications."

"Once you make that decision to lay people off, get that out there as a clear plan," he says. "If additional layoffs will be necessary down the road should the economy continue to worsen, communicate that as well. The best way to combat gossip in a company is to move decisively and quickly."

Sometimes, combating the problem with proper preparation, quick decisions and open and effective communication is easier said than done, says Megan Slabinski, executive director of Menlo Park, Calif.-based The Creative Group.

"Sharing information quickly and candidly can prevent employees from speculating, but there are times when confidential conversations among top officials are necessary," she says.

When private meetings must be held, "take those closed-door consultations away from public view to eliminate the buzz of what's happening. Go off-site if you can."

Chaifetz warns, however, that too many off-site meetings and out-of-the-ordinary gatherings by senior leaders can also give rise to fear and speculation. When announcements are made, Slabinski says, companywide conference calls, state-of-the- state meetings or brown-bag lunches are suggested. "HR really needs to pull people together at that point and open its door," she says.And while open communication "can't be possible for all things," says Williams, "it's the perception of communication that is important." The best way to create and convey that perception, he says, is to tell employees "why certain things can't be communicated at that particular time.""Be honest. Tell the truth. People tend to think those in management are evil, holding back information ... . In so many cases, that couldn't be further from the truth," Williams says.

"Often, management simply doesn't know why something is happening or how long it will last. Sometimes, simply saying you don't know something or the reason behind something, but are willing to address it," takes the sting off what could be perceived as malicious silence, he adds.By the same token, everyone from the top down should be on the same page when employees come asking, says Hyde."Many companies make the mistake of overlooking the front-line supervisors and only inform senior management about what is going on," he says.

"The front-line leaders need to know something since they ... have the best opportunity to stomp out any bad rumors."Even worse, when some of the front-line leaders inform their employees they have no idea what is happening with senior management, it makes things worse and fear heightens," Hyde says.Lastly, says Slabinski, companies shouldn't be afraid to discipline the "bad apples as soon as possible."

"Employees who are at the heart of gossip or who are caught eavesdropping and then spreading rumors need to be told to stop," she says. "If their behavior persists, it's perfectly acceptable for HR to address the problem in a punitive way," such as verbal or writing warnings, or worse.The spreading of bad information, however it's done, "stifles productivity and adds to stress in the workplace," Slabinski says. "HR leaders are completely in their rights" to discipline these culprits.

[About the Author: Kristen B. Frasch became the managing editor of Human Resource Executive in August of 2000 after more than 20 years of experience in business and consumer journalism, 14 spent as an editor and writer for various Philadelphia area newspapers.]

Importance of HR Outsourcing

Importance of HR Outsourcing

In today’s world of globalization, a new concept of Human resource outsourcing is coined so as to reduce the complexities of handling day to day human resource issues in more accurate and other hand it helps an organization can focus on its core business

Whatever your company's human resources requirements, there's an HR outsourcing firm out there to meet those needs. Some HR outsourcing firms are generalists, offering a wide variety of services, while others are specialists, focusing on specific areas such as payroll or recruiting. Depending on the size of your business and how much control you want to maintain over HR functions, you can either outsource all your HR tasks or contract for services a la carte.

The basic services offered by HR outsourcing firms may include:

· Overseeing organizational structure and staffing requirements
· Recruiting, training, and development
· Tracking department objectives, goals, and strategies
· Employee and manager training
· Benefits administration
· Employee orientation programs

Businesses that outsource HR are typically small-to-midsize firms with between 25 and 1,500 employees. These businesses view HR outsourcing as a strategic tool that relieves them of HR responsibilities and enables them to focus on what they do best. In addition to allowing you to concentrate on your core business activities, outsourcing provides some key benefits, including:

· Providing you with skilled professionals who are focused specifically on HR
· Helping you reduce and manage operating costs
· Improving employee relations

If you need to hand off the entire HR function, consider a professional employer organization (PEO). A PEO becomes the employer of record, handling employee relations, payroll, benefits, workers' compensation, and all the other areas that fall under the HR umbrella, while you manage the employee's everyday business responsibilities. In India the concept of Professional Employer Organization (PEO) is better known as Contract Staffing.

If you don't need the comprehensive services of a PEO, you can contract specific projects through an HR outsourcing firm to help you:

· Implement a human resource information system (HRIS)
· Create or update employee handbooks and policy manuals
· Develop and implement a compensation program
· Create or review a performance appraisal system
· Write and update affirmative action plans
· Provide sexual harassment training

In India, well known for the contract staffing is Laurent and Benon Management Consultant, as because of entire contract staffing works through software which enables the client to keep track on the day to day activities of the employee through the software.

Whether you're looking to outsource the entire HR function, a portion of it, or a specific project, it's good to know you've got options — lots of them.