‘You should not stop being people’s advocate! The day you end being one is the day the HR dies’.
These words which I happened to randomly listen to while working at Oracle as an Engineer, later became the cornerstone of my HR career. While I believe that any job has its own merits and fashions, there are certain jobs that have the capability to make impacts of higher gravities. HR is one, nevertheless, it goes a thankless job in some organisations.
HR, like any other job, is like a two-sided coin. You will have happy days; and then there will be days that give you a headache. Interestingly, the primitives on which the functions of an HR are based invariably embrace the ‘headaches’. What’s fun if things go as in the books; HRs come into play when things are not in line or if there’s no line at all. Thus, the headaches become opportunities. We cannot really see these as binaries—either yes or no—but grey. Let’s have a closer look:
Leaders with People Mindset
HR team’s vision will only be successful when your company has a management that believes in people. Forget your company’s revenue, business strategy and everything else; it’s the faith of the management in the people business and their mindset of treating people as the largest investment that drives the success of any HR team.
Starting from the CEO, every C-level and VPs should have a clear understanding and buy-in to the policies that the HR team parks on. This is the biggest factor of all which decide if an HR’s life is hell or heaven. This article on HBR says that during 2008 recession, only a third of HR departments were consulted when layoffs happened, pointing to lesser influence HRs had in strategic business/people decisions—this is fast changing now.
It’s imperative for the modern day HR to work closely with the line managers as well, to make sure that the ‘people mindset’ envisaged at the top level trickled down appropriately at the length and breadth of the organisation. The organisation’s profitability comes only through the growth; and growth comes only through its employees and culture—not the C-officers alone! HR is certainly a partner in strategy execution, and hence they should have business acumen and understanding as well as the people mindset. 33% of execs believe that there’s ineffective HR leadership that drives their organisation to the unsolicited directions as per this HBR report. This can be tricky and painful for some of us, but definitely the need of the hour; it has always been, but clearer in the recent years.
Data and Opportunities for Analytics
With the advance of technology, data has come to play a major role for the HR as well. This has helped establish data-driven strategies. Since most HR operations have gone digital, HR gets instant access to the data and can run an analysis on it to reach faster and effective conclusions. Analytics has resulted in the greater impact of HR activities starting with talent acquisition through engagement to exit.
Gen X is fast coming to the top of the ladders, and most ‘workforce’ now comprises of Gen Y and Z. The millennials tend to pose and trigger a change in the way most HR teams function. The factors that excited Gen X may no longer be valid/needed for the Gen Y/Z. This needs a larger discussion in all organisations, where HR takes the lead role.
Starting from how your recruit talent to keeping them engaged should change due to this workforce change. Your ‘food coupons’ or ‘telephone reimbursement’ may not be an attractive benefit as it used to be. Your vacation plans, office timings, attire requirements and health initiatives may need a thorough change keeping in mind the interest of the new workforce. This is one place where HR gets into agonies or ecstasies. This also points to changing your HR practices and policies to accommodate the new-styled workforce who love things to happen faster and easier.
Pay Gaps and Diversity
Gone are those days HR recruited the ‘protagonists’ alone. Ideologies and societal factors keep changing, and Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) has become another opportunity for HR. While this is seen as an ecstasy from a philosophical standpoint, various reports suggest that the pay gaps and men:women employee ratios are still really bad in numbers. The report from WeForum suggests that in 82 out of 142 countries, pay gaps based on gender is still increasing. This is alarming, and agonising for the HRs, for they have been trying to establish a reverse scenario through D&I and localisation initiatives.
KPMG reports that HRs around the world struggle to keep in line with the global workforce, which turns out to be an agony for the HR fraternity, yet. With globalisation, teams become more and more integrated and agile, which HRs must run fast to cope with. Increasing number of remote, and arguably virtual, employees demand that the HRs tighten their belts.
Attraction, Training and Retention
Organisations today want not job-seekers, but talents. For example, in IT, with the massive ‘attack’ of automation over the services sector has diminished the glitter of the old glossy, silky texture of the industry to a great extent. Companies today want to find talents (“attraction”) rather than applicants finding them for jobs (“acquisition”). The onus is on the HR team.
The new organisation have a diverse workforce that constantly looks for enhancing their skill set. The old school training curriculum is undergoing a thorough revamp, which is, yet again, equally agonizing and ecstatic for HRs. Starting from the training modes—virtual to gamification to anytime anywhere learning platforms—to the training content, organisations are thoroughly revamping their L&D strategies with the Gen Z in mind.
Another area of concern for the HR is retention. It’s way beyond creating a good brand; stories float about youngsters rejecting offers from big brands to choose what they want to do in small companies. Retention plans of the new age is another agony for HRs, planning of which needs a thorough analysis of their workforce as well as the industry trends. People don’t just stay back for money.
HR Tech: the future
As it goes without saying, HR Tech is already here. Yesteryears’ Personnel Manager changed to HR, and then got transformed into People Enablers over a period of time. The new role of HRs will be that of technology and business leaders enabling people functions with the help of cutting edge tech. Coming of tech into HR will certainly reduce the job opportunities of the existing HR workforce, but wait! It’s a two-sided coin again. While this is seen as an ‘oh-my-god-am-I-gonna-lose-it’ scenario, why don’t we look at the brighter side of it? It gives us room for learning technology and pouring it into what we have been doing, thereby making a yet greater, happier, better workplace! Ain’t it ecstatic?!
India is riding an optimistic wave of becoming a global superpower. The country is set to achieve this on the wings of its burgeoning human capital that is predicted to reach 116 million, with the majority of the new workers to be in the 20 to 24 age bracket. But there is one small problem, a very simple and straightforward problem – only a very small percentage of this workforce is considered employable by the industry. Internships are being touted as the panacea for this problem of unemployability.
The nation as a whole seems to be laying the responsibility of creating and executing internships at the doorsteps of the corporate world. While smarting under the unfairness of this, corporate India, with the inherited arrogance of capitalism tends to shrug it off as an inconvenience that does not add value, thereby accentuating the reputation of callousness.
Thanks to my role as the co-founder of an Ed-tech startup – Fourth Ambit, I find myself equipped with some unique insights into this ecosystem inhabited by three organisms: (A) The Industry (B) The Student body and (C ) The College. While I do not believe that internships are a one-stop solution to all problems related to employability, I am optimistic that they can indeed be used as a tool for bringing about lasting change.
Before we proceed, for the purpose of discussion allow me to define “internship”.
“Internship is a brief period of engagement, with or without pay, between the student and the organisation so that the student may gain experience in a particular field of study. This term of engagement may be conducted during the course of the college education or when the student has just graduated. An ideal time frame would be between 2 to 6 months”
The Industry and Internships
There are a handful of organizations across India that have internships as part of their recruitment agenda and therefore have the attention of top management. This translates to an allocation of resources for this endeavour. However, most of these organizations offer internships only to the premier B-Schools and a few Tier 1 Engineering colleges of India.
For the rest of the lot internships are at best, a bullet point in the annual report and at worst, a knee-jerk reaction to young students who suddenly turn up at their office like an unexpected and often unwanted guest.
Please note that I am not even acknowledging the companies that take money from the students under the guise of internships and end up issuing a certificate at the end of the period.
If you are part of a team or the sole voice for propagating the virtues of internships in your organization, I hope you will find this to be a handy guide for instituting an internship programme.
Groundwork within the organization
- Plan for internships should be created and approved with the annual resource budget plan. This will ensure that there is buy-in from the top management and accountability at the lower levels.
- Once approvals are in, the departments that have opted for interns should be mandatorily required to submit clearly defined projects with timelines and expected deliverables from the interns.
- There should be a mentor for each project. This should not be a force fit as the mentors can create or destroy a good internship programme. Never assume that the mentor is automatically equipped to handle interns.
- Please ensure mentors are “educated” to guide and mentor the students. Very often you hear mentors making snide remarks such as “What do they teach you at college?”. This is completely counter-productive. A certain amount of sensitizing would be required for the mentors.
- The mentors should conduct weekly reviews for the interns ( not more than 2 sessions a week of 30 minutes each)
The Intern and the Internship
If you are the anchor for the internship programme in your company, remind yourself that the interns are young and certain things need to be spelled out clearly to them.
- Create a detailed orientation plan for the student intern. Understanding their project and its implication for the whole organization will ensure their buy-in. ( This should also include company policies, especially on “anti-harassment” and privacy issues. )
- Spell out the benefits that the students gain from this programme – especially if they are not paid a stipend.
- One of the key skills not taught at college is time management and creating processes. Ensure that both the anchor and the mentor stresses on this and guides the intern effectively.
- Create networking opportunities for the interns – either an executive lunch hosted by a CxO or a “Hi-Tea”
- Ensure that you collect detailed and anonymous feedback from the interns at the end of the programme. This will help with future improvements.
A seamless execution of these would ensure that your interns go back to college as your brand ambassadors.
The College and the Internship
At no point in history has there been a stronger trend of colleges and industries working at cross purposes than in the last one decade. The aim of the colleges is to beat the maximum pass percentage out of the student population. If that means teaching by rote, then so be it.
To expect people with limited resources and unlimited restrictions (I mean the teachers, of course) to manufacture employable graduates may be a utopian dream, but there are measures that the industry can put in place to assist them on this journey.
- Identify partner colleges where you can make recommendations on the skills that the students need to be equipped with when they appear for internships.
- Extend “Learning and Development” within the company to the faculty of the colleges on a pro bono basis. Teach the teachers how to teach so that ultimately you do not spend a lot of time retraining the students who enter the workforce.
- Give candid feedback after the internship is completed, not just to the students but to college authorities. A constructive feedback mechanism will help colleges help their students.
It may not be possible to implement all the suggestions given here in the very first attempt. As with any project intended to make lasting change, internships should also be looked at with a long-term plan for the company. Beyond creating a recruitment pipeline for the organization, internships in the truest sense is experiential learning and a certain amount of preparation will go a long way in making this a meaningful journey for the students.
Co-Founder, Fourth Ambit Technologies Pvt Ltd
She can be found on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/rubypeethambaran/
The Kerala Chapter of NIPM, with more than 1200 Individual Members and 47 Institutional Members on rolls is one of the most vibrant Chapters of the www.nipm.in – NIPM Kerala Chapter has been regularly organising Workshops & Learning Programs as part of its core objectives towards enhancing capabilities of the HR fraternity.
Following are some of the popular activities:
- HR Con Kerala – a biennial HR Conclave
- Annual Legal Update – Flagship annual workshop providing relevant employment law related updates.
- Chapter Level Business Quiz for Management students
- HRM Skills Workshops for practicing professionals – HR & Non HR
- Labour Law skills workshops for practicing professionals – HR & Non HR
- Enhanced Employability Certification programs for job seekers and for final year Students at various B-Schools – on periodic as well as upon request by institutes.
- Young Managers’ Contest on “Innovative Employee Engagement Practices” for Practicing HR professionals etc.
- Quarterly Magazine – Kerala Personnel to share knowledge snippets relevant to members.
- Annual gathering of members and family – which occurs after the Annual General meeting.
The chapter had initiated blogging some time back and the Old blog posts can be found on www.nipmkerala.wordpress.com.
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