Belated Happy International HR Day

I just came across a post in LinkedIn making a mention of International HR Day that provoked me to check google! I found out May 20th to be the designated day as International HR Day.

These special or designated days have remained an area of special interest and in the past I have written blogs on almost all special days – Fathers, Mothers, Children, Valentine’s Rose et al and I have always wondered about the thought, logic or history behind them! Post my superannuation, employees’ interest has been an area receiving my special focus and in that sense, International HR Day assumes special significance.

The rationale for which Personnel Departments (PD) of yore gave way to HR departments (HRD) was the need for overall development and satisfaction of the employee beyond the commonplace aspects of promotion, posting, transfer and increments. It’s for the experts and the heads of HR of various organisations to ponder over whether these objectives are being/ have been met after transition from PD to HRD. Some of the triggers that can help such mulling over are as under:

(1) How the conflict between employees and employers are resolved – in favour of employees or employers? 

(2) What special initiative do HRDs take beyond the aforesaid four commonplace items that were the primary focus of PDs? 

(3) Is there complete transparency around policies relating to  PMS, promotion, bonus and ESOPs? 

(4) Do the employees feel empowered, important and satisfied? 

(5) Are the organisations getting the best available talent? 

Certainly HR is amongst the most important aspects of any organisation as it handles the main fuel of growth – the manpower resources or employees and the position of HR Heads is no easy spot, being full of challenges requiring maintenance of fine balance between the interests of employees and employers that may not always be aligned! 

Happy international HR day – especially to incumbents working in HRDs!

Long live IPL

I was not a big fan of IPL. Though very opulently mounted and very high on entertainment quotient, I thought it to be the very antithesis of what the real cricket was all about – strategy, it’s relaxed execution, patience, demonstration of techniques, pitches that supported pacers on the first morning and spinners on the last two days et al. Then slowly I started seeing some merits in this gala festival. Lots of cricketers who were talented but unable to make it to the national team got a platform to showcase their talent. Presence of international cricketers of repute helped these players hone their skill by learning finer nuances of the game. And we were spoilt for choice of players- especially for the shorter version of the game.

And this year’s event, which is yet to come to its zenith, the finals being on Sunday the 28th of this month, has almost made me it’s diehard fan. On one hand, we have two boys from very humble backgrounds- Yashasvi and Rinku, making it right to the top, on the other we have seen the blossoming talent of already established lads like Shubhman, Ruturaj, and Devdutt Padikkal . And I really envy the selectors who are going to have hard time picking up the eleven for any of the three formats. Claimant for pacer’s position in team are Shami, Siraj, Umran, Arshdeep, Deepak Chahar, Thakur, Natarajan, not to speak of redoubtable Bhuvi and re-emergent Ishant. For spin department, apart from lead spinner Ashwin, we have Chahal, Chahar, Bishnoi, Brar and not to mention all rounders like Krunal Pandya. For wicket keeping, while Dhoni and Wridhiman Saha refuse to get old, Jitendra Sharma, Anuj Rawat and Sanju Samson only complicate selector’s job. And if I start making mention of batters here, the blog will become too lengthy!

The only concern is that overindulgence in this funfair should not dilute real cricketing skills of our players in any manner as I read somewhere that purists were expressing concern at the possible lack of adequate preparation for the World Series scheduled for the first week of June against redoubtable Australia. Hopefully, our worthy boys will get over the razzmatazz of IPL immediately to focus on the ensuing important tournament.

For about two months IPL provided unbridled joy in the evenings and this year matches were very closely fought. There’s a bit of emotional quotient also in the play around IPL’s hero Dhoni hanging his boots after this years event! Let’s hope he continues to provide delight to his fans for one more year, which seems eminently possible looking to his current form and fitness.

Bye bye Rs2000 note

While like most of the people of this country, I too have mixed feelings about the merits and demerits of demonetisation, here comes another news that Rs2000 note that has been out of print for almost 5 years needs to be either exchanged or deposited in the bank account before 30th September. It will no longer be a legal tender thereafter.

I am sure that those calling shots (government and RBI) have studied the scenario post demonetisation in depth, without biases or pre mind sets before arriving at this important decision! Were the objectives of previous demonstration that caused great agony to the mankind, but was supported by common citizen for its noble cause, fully realised and achieved? Could we account for all the black money and weed it out of the system? Is the black money or unaccounted for cash holding no longer an issue for the nation?

While it’s true that need for cash has come down drastically ( a kind of revolution seems to have happened post UPI and you just need to scan QR code on your mobile to effect any payment- forget even cards or registration of payees for making NEFT/RTGS payment) and we are hearing about CBDC ( central bank digital currency), common households always save some cash for emergency ( mostly housewives) and such recurrent demonetisation puts people to unnecessary hassle. On a lighter note, how many times will homemakers be exposed for their secret savings that they painstakingly accumulate over a period of time!

Let’s hope this time the discontinuation of Rs2000 note will not cause any woes to common man, be not politically controversial and achieve all the objectives without any pain to anyone. Government should also abstain for such moves looking to India’s vastness and associated complexity.

There’s no one like mother

Jane Goodall, who has spent decades in Africa as the world’s top authority on working with chimpanzees, attributes this remarkable achievement of hers to the freedom and encouragement given by her mother since her early childhood. Her mother resisted the advice of her friends and relatives to bar Jane from pursing her passion that seemed so untraditional and do something more “respectable” and career oriented.

Tony Bennett, once described by Frank Sinatra as the best singer in the business, describes how his quest for success began from his childhood by sitting by his mother’s side while she worked as a seamstress, during the depression. He remembers the constant hum of the machine and how her finger would frequently get caught beneath the sewing needle causing severe pain to her. He decided that he’d become successful so that his mother would never have to stitch clothes again.

The above real life stories assume special significance on the eve of Mothers Day falling tomorrow on the 14th of May. Aren’t all mothers similar to what Jane Goodall and Tony Bennett have described about their mothers? It’s a different story that all of us, the children, may not turn out to be super successful like them, but mothers are all similar- caring, tolerant, concerned, empathetic, sacrificing and selfless! All of them may not be necessarily stitching clothes to make the two ends meet or giving exceptional leeway to their children to indulge in any activity! But the underlying spirit is same – giving the best of life to their children, expecting nothing in return !

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers and their children for whatever they are today – they owe it to their mothers more than anyone else!

Airline should be flying in the sky not landed on the ground!

After long years of monopoly by Air India for overseas destinations and Indian Airlines for domestic sector ( along with Vayudoot in certain sectors), there came a period, when domestic flyers were really pampered and spoilt for choices. I more prominently recall two specific instances – first flying between Delhi and Mumbai in a Modiluft flight that served top quality scotch during the 2 odd hours that we were onboard and a 2.5 hours long flight from Mumbai to Kolkata in a Damania flight that kept us busy all the while with multi course dinner. Air Deccan brought in the novel concept of “ making flying possible for everyone” and it pioneered low cost flying. Later on Jet and Kingfisher took the flying experience to a different level. It’s another story that many of the above names stand consigned to annals of history. The general perception was that aviation companies had since managed to break the logjam and that in future we might not see a repeat of multiple failures witnessed in the past. Indigo led the way by its unique strategy of buy and leaseback and is currently managing a large fleet with more than 50% market share. Others, more pronouncedly SpiceJet and Go First seemed to be doing alright till Go First, owned by Wadia Group, referred itself voluntarily to NCLT. It has since suspended all its flight and stopped booking tickets for future flights.

In one of the previous blogs that dealt with failure of banks, I had suggested that Government should move in swiftly like it did in the case of Yes Bank to minimise the suffering to the common man. The fact remains that whether it’s a bank or airline that fails, sufferer is only the common man. While his hard earned money gets stuck up in the first instance, his hard planned travel plans go haywire in the second. Government cannot be expected to bail out every failed venture, but the regulating and monitoring agencies should preempt such a drastic eventuality, as such rot cannot be setting in overnight!

Just to digress a bit, there should be a thorough investigation and remedial action concerning faults in both – A320 Neo and Boring 737 Max aircrafts that have led a large number of aircrafts to be grounded causing losses to airlines and acute inconvenience to flyers. Whether fault lies in Pratt & Whitney engines or some other spare parts, the fact is that these supposedly new generation and fuel efficient aircrafts seemed to have fallen short of very high standards set up by Airbus and Boeing. If this issue is not fixed immediately and comprehensively, a few other not so financially strong airlines could be in troubled waters.

For the time being, let’s hope that house of Wadias support their dream venture and hand it over to another operator/ owner in a running condition and not as insolvent venture, if they are gonging this non viable to run. Let all the concerned stakeholders, including Aviation ministry, join hands to ensure early resumption of Go First’s operations as its grounding has already caused serious disruption in the market with fares on certain sectors covered by it being skyrocketed!

Good strategy

In general, most of the private sector banks have been reporting Q4 numbers on the expected lines. Axis Bank reported loss solely on account of an extraordinary item arising out of the purchase consideration paid to Citibank for acquiring their retail business that could have been amortised over a longer period but was fully charged to P&L account as a prudent measure.

However, the Bank that has posted extremely strong numbers is none other than IDFC First Bank. And its CEO responded to some hard questions with utmost confidence that ruled out any one time/ short term windfall but sustainable business being built on solid foundations.

My readers would recall that I had very enthusiastically lauded IDFC’s proactive initiative of waiving all kinds of charges for their retail customers. Many pundits were circumspect about the merits of this act, but the Bank seems to have reaped rich dividends from its farsightedness. In fact, to my mind, loss of income due to the aforesaid measure has been more than adequately made up by the Bank by improving its NIM to unexpectedly high levels of more than 6%. As I could make out from what the CEO was explaining, I think the Bank is no longer paying very fancy interest on SA deposits.

On a slightly different note, there was a major disruption when RBI freed interest on Saving deposits in the year 2011. Some of the smaller banks offered rates as high as 7% and beyond, though larger banks held on to the then existing rates. It was opined by the experts that customers were not influenced by interest rates in respect of check accounts ( as saving accounts are also known as) and therefore, over the years savings interest rates have more or less evened out. However, customers, especially the liability customers who place their deposits with banks, are definitely sensitive to whole lot of charges being applied by banks on various services used by them. It’s also true that though customer sign off is obtained on the schedule of charges, many of these are not adequately understood by the customer! IDFC’s strategy could be a way forward for companies that are trying to wean away a portion of the market share in a highly competitive and overcrowded market.

Good for organisation is good for all

Any organisation or corporate entity has several stakeholders attached to it. Here for the sake of simplicity, we shall stick to a banking entity, part of the industry that I have remained associated with for decades.

The first stakeholder is the promoter; while for PSBs, Government is the main shareholder and promoter in that sense, this stakeholder is more relevant for the likes of Indusind and Kotak, where an individual and a family clearly enjoy this position. ICICI, HDFC and Axis have always been institutionally promoted and currently widely held mainly by FIIs.

The second stakeholder are shareholders; for listed entities, retail investors are more vociferous and employees through ESOP routes also assume the status of being a shareholder. Institutional shareholders are more strategic and have a bit longer term perspective.

The next important stakeholder are the employees led by the CEO. While the top management provides vision and leadership, the middle and lower management actually manage day to day affairs. The top leadership is a major beneficiary of high salaries, perquisites, bonuses and ESOPs that’s justified given their larger responsibility in achieving corporate goal and vision.

The last stakeholder in this chain are the customers who provide the fodder to the bank by trusting it with their deposits and borrowing funds to start/expand their business.

In the sense of value or importance, the last stakeholder viz. Customer, assumes the most important position as the company survives to see another day till it has customers and their transactions to handle! Therefore, it’s important for any promoter, shareholder or management to do what’s ultimately right for the customer. And I am not talking anything new. When I joined banking industry four decades ago, the importance of customer and his satisfaction was never understated! And what started as customer service, gradually evolved into customer satisfaction and further into custom centricity. Now, some organisations are taking this into a different level calling it customer obsession.

And mind you, my above view is nothing new arising out of my current status, which is merely that of a customer of a bank. Customers trust banks with their life’s earning and it’s paramount upon all the stakeholders to keep customers’ interest uppermost. Everything else – promoter’s investment returns, shareholders’ value appreciation, employees’ remuneration should come after customers not necessarily in this pecking order.

The provocation for this post is the Q4 results announced by my erstwhile organisation that has reported losses due to upfront booking of total cost of acquiring Citi’s retail business as a good conservative policy. Obviously, this has earned the wrath of some retail investors who feel that this has been done to deprive them of higher dividends and also adversely affected their chances of exiting at a higher market price. My take if that if it’s a conservative measure aimed at the eventual good of the organisation ( and hence its customer) , let’s take it as an ultimately a good step rather than what could be a temporary aberration for other stakeholders. If something makes an organisation stronger, it’s for ultimate good of all concerned.

Jobs, business or startup ?

I think pressure at workplace is not quite a recent phenomenon but has all along been there. Recently came across an article in a popular periodical that regularly publishes articles from its previous editions that could be decades old. This article republished after two decades has a beautiful line that reads, “ Nagging boss, crabby clients, looming deadlines…. if unemployment didn’t pay so badly, you’d choose it as a career.” To this, if I may add the following two lines of my own – (1) If only starting a new business wouldn’t be so risky and expensive, I’d be rather my own boss and (2) It’s so disheartening that startups have a failure rate of 90% and I may not be lucky or brilliant enough to not to be burning my fingers there! And the above three scenarios loosely sum up the challenge before today’s youth. Jobs are highlighted by pressures from bosses, clients, targets and deadlines. A new business in one of the traditional industries can entail huge investments and competition from the established players. A start up converting a brilliant idea into a commercial proposition is prone to exceptionally high failure rates.

I am of the opinion  that all the above scenarios need to change. Jobs have to offer a more pleasant and lasting experience, existing players in the established industry have to be more open to new competition that helps them improve their own  efficiency and quality  and we probably need more of, now defunct, Silicon Valley Bank that understand the risks associated with startups promoting new technologies. 

Sent from my iPhone

I bow to you

Till the other day, nobody had heard the name of Dr C R Rao. Today, this centenarian is a household name and an inspiration for several new senior citizens like the author of this blog, who hitherto treated their retirement from job as end of the road! US Government’s decision to bestow upon this statistician/mathematician an award that’s considered at par with Nobel prize for his contribution to mathematics at his ripe age of 102 years, reads like a story straight out of the pages of a racy fiction thriller.

After superannuating from his job, Mr Rao decided to emigrate to US, acquired citizenship at the age of 75 years and is now felicitated by US Government for his contribution to mathematics.

Many of us, with children abroad, tend to think of relocating ourselves as loneliness sometimes can be excruciating. However, the objective of migrating to the country where our children are working is to continue with sedate life that’s being led in India and help our children with household jobs and babysitting our grandchildren. Seldom one does and achieve what Mr Rao has accomplished!

At least, I, who almost one year into retirement was almost reconciled to living a life of idleness and rest, feel immensely inspired by Mr Rao’s fairy tale achievement and am ready to wear my boots that I thought I had hung for good!

Mr Rao’s feat is a testimony to the fact that it’s never too late to pursue a dream or an objective and the life needs to be lived to the fullest by generously interspersing passions, hobbies, interests with active participation in societal and community development activities. This could also be a key to living a longer, healthier and more satisfying life.

Thank you Mr Rao for inspiring millions of new senior citizens like me, reconciled to living a life that’s sedentary, staid, unexciting and basking in the past glory and achievements. You have shown the way and it’s up to us now to walk this path. May you live longer and healthier and continue to inspire a whole generation of those who think life is just to be dragged along after a certain age!

Attrition- Employees leaving in distress

In the last article on attrition, in which I covered the other perspective viz. employee driven attrition, there was a suggestion that I also touched the aspect of the employees leaving in distress.

The reason for an employee getting distressed are as wide and varied as individual personalities! Some of us are hypersensitive and can take the extreme step of quitting the job at the slightest provocation caused by the boss’s displeasure at some act of ours! And mind you, it may not necessarily be humiliating firing by the boss, but just a subtle expression of displeasure! But on the contrary, extremely impersonal and curt attitude by the boss that leads to vitiation of office atmosphere, remains the single most important reason causing distress to employees and their ultimate attrition. And this I am writing from my personal experience! Many employees in my department sought to change jobs because of humiliation and suffocation caused by their immediate bosses, the team leaders! I used to tell such employees that this did not warrant such an extreme step, because bosses came and went and were not permanent. To the bosses, I used to advise them to be more patient, approachable and humane ( of course not telling them to emulate me as every boss considers himself/ herself to be unflawed). But we generally tend to blame organisations and their policies for high attrition rates, whereas the fact is that even in highly demanding professional organisations, good natured bosses can soothe the nerves by absorbing some of the top management pressure at his/her level. Many diktats from the top are for the consumption for senior managers not to be passed ad verbatim to the junior team members, who are already slogging hard on day to day basis.

PMS and year end appraisal are the next big causes of distress. After working hard for the entire year, employees expect, and rightfully so, good rating as all the year end benefits and promotions are a function of year end assessment and rating of the employee. While it’s true that performance based differentiation is a must for any organisation to encourage high performing employees, the fact is that several not at all bad employees fall victim to the forced bell curving that organisations indulge in to comply with certain prefixed metrics. We generally observe high distress, disappointment and attrition in the period immediately after year end assessment

Transfer to an undesired place or department, reduction in the scope of work or realm of responsibility, denial of leave or some other privilege and pressure of business targets and the ways and means of follow up thereof by the supervisors are a few of other reasons causing distress.

It’s important that employees overcome the instances of personal distress by learning and adopting stress management techniques and adapting to the prevalent conditions. Disappointments relating to rating, increment, bonus, promotion, boss’s behaviour should be taken as temporary aberration rather than as end of all. They should quit only for a better job.