Obtaining leadership commitment

A German manufacturing organization with offices in Pune and Bangalore has unique problem. Their highly talented engineers don’t want to move the management ladder and transition from developers to managers. With limited next line of leadership, and challenges on culture fit of resources from market the company was challenged to scale up quickly.  Management realized the crux of the resistance lied in transforming the technical staff to imbibe and practice a sense of outcomes, urgency and above all review and direct peers and colleagues. The technical staff hated to move out of the comforts of the comradery position which did not require ownership of others. Despite abundant availability of individuals with experience and managerial capabilities the company found its leadership development floundering. The company had tried push of an employee early into a leadership position when he/she was not sure and the haul has been a failure.  It was not the capabilities or the administrative support that mattered, but simply the change commitment of the employee to transform from an individual role to team management role that required planning, directing, reviewing and owning others that determined the success of internal leadership development.  Here we are not talking about the Meyer and Allen models of organizational commitment of the individual and its major components (affective, continuous and normative).   What we are addressing is the emotional commitment an employee invests to implement a new strategy. Passion, excitement, pride and energy are the signs of a committed employee.  To attain this dramatic change of attitude to occur, people must not only accept and agree with the strategy, they must buy into it. Without emotional commitment, even the most brilliant strategies will fail. Growing leaders internally is a process that requires planning, high intensity of follow through, and freedom to emerge from failures What is the best approach to gain acceptance, support and commitment of an associate?.

Based on our experience we propose a six stage model for employee commitment buying process. The process includes: identification, goal enumeration, assessment, alignment, reiteration, and formalization.

First and foremost, one should assess an employee’s interest and passion towards his/her work. As the famous saying states, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life, but celebrate each moment”. Identify and develop them early: Most successful internal leadership programs quickly identify leadership potentials and others very quickly. Look for obvious signs of quality of work, sense of ownership of team, quality of feedbacks to colleagues, initiative for breaks with team, etc

Once the employee is identified her manager may provide bird eye view of the organization’s goals, and immediate concerns, and different team members strengths that are required to reach the goals. The objective of the session is to enumerate the immediate future, how the individual can contribute to the cause and what would be the impact at organizational, team and individual level.  The employee is involved in ideation of the goal, the impact it would create at different levels and what resources may be required at each level. At this stage, the objective is to create vibrant imagery of possible state and acceptance by recipient similar to “to broaden and build theory” of Fredrickson. Manager’s only focuses on strength, latent potential and how fuel it. Communication is selective, articulation is directed laden with vibrant imagery. Positive emotion and sense of excitation changes the individual’s conscious and unconscious drives for better long-term outcomes.

Next step is role visualization and capability assessment. The manager and the associate dwell deeper into the roles. The manager innocuously steers the discussions towards individual’s assessment  of her strengths, capabilities and gaps. Manager directs the flow based on a certain frame that of allows for self-evaluation without the burden of guilt and incapability. Communications are deliberate, are “frame” based thus allowing ruminations in a collaborative environment.  Evaluations are deliberated towards role rather than a person centric.

Next stage is alignment, wherein the manager discusses how the individual can contribute to the organizational goal and fitment of the job and capabilities.. Manager emphasizes the latent capabilities of the employee, reposes confidence in the ability to catch up and expands the role horizon of the employee. The discussion would be open, and transparent to discuss the role expectations, how the role dimensions would impact the short term and medium term, what may be the training and skills sets and sharing of apprehension and experiences. External validation and internal acceptance by the associate is the main objective of this stage. Manager, in this stage, leads the associate with directions towards organizational, team and individual goals as well as supports him in moving forward to achieve the goals. Manager proposes a deliberate break of days to allow the employee to do introspection, carry out minor changes towards the goals and receive internal and external validation of the transformation.

Manager and the employee meet up to recapture the goals, the activities that may be required at organizational, and team level to drive the performance and the individual contributions. Manager digs deeper into the change attempts made by the associate, and appreciates all achievements, however minor they may be. Manager’s focus would be to emphasize the value the associate can bring to the goals and what would be the changes the role mandates.   He also makes the employee reassess oneself to own possibilities of attaining the desired goals and activities. He repaints employee’s motivation to own and drive the desired goal. Once the associate is convinced, the duo need to revisit the drawing board to evaluate the fitment of schemas, assets, roles and acts. In this stage, manager refines and repaints organizational, team and individual goals and describes the best suitable approach for the individual.

The final stage is commitment formalization stage where, goals at various levels are tied, action plans are discussed and detailed, training and support are documented, platforms for information sharing and support are detailed and review mechanisms are accepted. Formalization stage must ensure while the outcomes are important, the pace and tactics are owned by the associate, there is plenty of room for failures and learn without stigma so that continuity commitment is not affected. Formalization stage must also detail informal self-review mechanisms where the individual can elicit the feedback, discuss and digest and push the agenda of improvement by themselves.

Ashwini K. S

Attracting and retaining talent in manufacturing SME’s: challenges and how to overcome them…

I was speaking to a CEO of a family owned manufacturing business. Her biggest bottleneck for growth was not investment, but the resources. Their plants they are located in non-metro, their products are well received by both domestic and international markets. However the most exacerbating challenge has been finding and retaining the right talent. Even if they have been successful in hiring a good candidate, spousal considerations would see the resource walking away to denser pastures. For those running their businesses in metros the challenges remain same.  A defence technology company with their plants in Electronics city Bangalore finds attracting shop floor and dirty your hand innovation oriented engineers come hard by when deluged with offers from software counterparts. If they have been successful in hiring, guiding and training them, just when they are turning to be valuable they find the resources moving onto higher pay pockets and join larger brands including MNC’s.  In short, many of the manufacturing SME end up being the training shops for larger companies to poach industry prepared resources. Major challenge is not just to attract junior resources, but also middle and senior management. Unlike IT and other industries, crossover to manufacturing is limited because of perception and other issues.

Manufacturing SME face several challenges in hiring entry level resources. Biggest hurdle is expectation mismatch.  For the theoretical knowledge most possess and limited practical experience, meeting their expectations on pay front is a challenge. Second is locational flexibility. Many of them would love to work in Metros and better equipped areas.  Third is the employee growth prospect, especially exposure to foreign markets, an incentive their counterparts in IT and other services industries have an access to.

On the middle and senior management front, paucity of next line of leadership is a major issue. While many companies have various types of employee development programs, very few of them help in creating a pool of leaders. A challenge grapple is how to turn career “managers” from short-haul oriented, self-centred individuals to leaders.

Entry level hiring and retention is best addressed by adopting one of the following. Create a 2 or 3 year fellowship to attract students from challenged backgrounds and less endowed college campuses.  Design fellowship program to include induction, in class training, cross function training and on the job training. Incentivize junior resources with adequate compensation during the fellowship period. Move the resources after one quarter of fellowship training to design and shop floor and place them under the guidance of a committed senior professional. This is a proven strategy to attract and reduce attrition at lower levels. The complete program has to be conceptualized and positioned above the Apprenticeship Program, Ministry of Labour to reduce management cost of administering the program, gain flexibility and attract right resources. In parallel, offer short-term projects to graduate and undergraduate from nearby institutes as a part of their regular curriculum and for their long-term projects.  Ideally choose a less endowed institution that is yet to make a mark and is finding placements records difficult to achieve.   Success of these programs depends on planning ahead what courses to engage with and what specific projects would have higher ROI. This is not just an effective strategy to engage junior resources, but would prove quite useful in exploiting open innovation. Identify key areas of technology challenge and offer them as a contest where faculty and the students from various institutions can participate. Smarter manufacturing SME can align their requirements within the ambit of several government programs on innovation and industry-institute interactions. Such an approach can also yield higher branding opportunities for the company at no cost and succeed in attracting the right talent.

Middle and senior management capabilities can be best served by growing leaders internally or using other platforms such as “Faculty immersion”, or “interim Manager” programs. Attitude to learn and own are the key elements when selecting internal resources for leadership development. Growing internal resources requires thorough planning, and high intensity of follow through. Identify and develop potential leaders, look for obvious signs of quality of work, sense of ownership of team, quality of feedbacks to colleagues, penchant to DIM (do it myself), initiative for breaks with team, etc.   Assess their skills and capabilities, and identify right intervention strategies. Support them with mentors (either internal or external). Alternately, move them to different functions and expose them to other markets or Executive programs.

Many institutes and colleges goad their faculty to gain valuable practical experience and enliven their class room with rich industry knowledge. Faculty immersion programs works best in quality, scheduling, materials, and supply chain and marketing areas. Offer willing faculty appropriate fee to incentivize them to learn and transfer the skill internally.  Explore opportunities to get federal and state funds for plant and quality improvement programs such as ISO certifications and others so that cost for the company can minimized and faculty involved is better incentivized. Externally funded programs also offer the additional advantage of no cost marketing.

Many qualified and able professionals may have retired from active duty, but can be extremely valuable sources of leadership and capability development for SME. Devise programs to on board willing and able experienced professionals as “interim general managers” or “Interim leaders”.  Define explicitly the hand holding they would do for your internal resources, prioritize maximum 2-3 areas where they would be involved and outcomes that may be achieved. Celebrate the milestones achieved, involve them in capability development and expansion. In the end, attracting and retaining resources in manufacturing SME requires the company to be creative in its recruitment methods and flexible in the immersion and exploitation of the skills.  Rejig your HR from a passive support organization to proactive outcome driven function. Enable mechanisms to engage and exploit open innovation.

Dr T R Madan Mohan

Coaching employees in small and medium (SME) companies

“A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are” goes the popular adage. Every company needs good coaches. Coaches can be internal or external. Coaching and mentoring is often confused to be one and the same. A coach is usually a subject matter expert who engages with a person or group of persons for a specific task. A mentor on the other hand works with the mentee with no specific outcomes but for long term transformational change. Coaching sessions happen in a structured manner with a dedicated amount of time set aside for coaching. Mentoring on the other hand does not have fixed time or agenda. Coaching happens for a specific purpose and done in an official or formal manner as assigned to both the coach and to the people assigned to the coach. Mentoring is more informal and done at a personal level. The purpose of coaching is developing people for a specific task and the timeframe for coaching may end post successful completion of the task. Mentoring happens more from the angle of personal development. It could go on for longer than a year.

Coaching of employees in SME companies is important because of two prime reasons. Given the limited resources and remunerations, if not VC funded, most of the companies have limitations in attracting the top notch resources. Unlike their larger counterparts, SME have unique challenges of growing talent and control attrition. For many SME growing and investing in a loyal employees has more bottom line impact that hiring from market. An employee with long term associations would have imbibed the organizational culture, and hence the transaction costs of bonding, and monitoring as they move to newer roles would be insignificant. Coaching in the context of small and medium companies especially can work wonders in creating star performing leaders and employees. Coaching works in stretching the leadership base in the company and create a pool of second and third level ownership.

Like all organizational interventions, coaching must follow the process of select, sieve, invest, support and disengage stages. In the first stages, SME management select the individuals who show promise not just on technical stuff, but are prepare to the long haul the company is envisaging them in the newer roles. Selection should be based on 360 feedback and psychometric tests to arrive at a smaller set of potential candidates.  Rolling out a coaching program must be done with an aim of making it helpful for the participant employees in their practical situations at work. Since a coaching program is task specific it is important that the program tackles all the identified improvement areas is necessary. It is essential to make the coaching program activity based and include role plays, simulations, etc. A coach may come across several instances where an employee performs well during activities like simulations, real life situation cases, etc but when it comes to execution in the actual situation, they may fumble. Their ability to sense and respond may be not be at best in real life situations. This is where the coach must intervene, develop situation specific frameworks the employee can relate too, ask them to maintain a learning dairy so that they could monitor their progress to various stimuli.

Coaching is a process change. A coach has to plan for the initial engagement, winning of trust and acceptance and plan for disengagement.  Coach should move from how to stage to when and why of response and stimuli so that the transfer of skills and experience is sustainable and long term impacting. The trust, empathy and personal touch are key factors that play an important role in coaching outcomes. Lastly, both coaches and management must be prepared for less than 100% outcomes and setbacks.  Employee attrition, their inability to own and walk the long haul or organizational changes lead to less than expected outcomes. From a SME perspective, investing in a coaching program rather than splurging $$ on generic training programs help in motivating employees, and identify new layers of leadership.

Sindhu Raviraj

Growing leaders internally: what works and what does not

One common challenge in organizations of all colours and size is paucity of next line of leadership. While many companies have various types of employee development programs, very few of them help in creating a pool of leaders.  A recent survey of employee engagement spend indicates less than 10% of companies find returns from the employee engagement and development significant. A challenge grapple is how to turn career “managers” from short-haul oriented, self-centred individuals to leaders. Leadership is all about imbibing and living with sense of ownership, intense commitment for outcomes not just results and sense of urgency in reaching the outcomes.

Examples of failed leadership development experiences in many companies indicate three common challenges. Early push of an employee into a leadership position when he/she was not sure about the haul is the first cause of failure.  While the management may have identified the potential of the individual to be leader and pushed him/her to the pedestal the individual may have certain apprehension.  Capability or commitment required for the long haul of company’s growth, or utility of the job itself may inhibit the individual from embracing the new role. If the employee happens to come with an expiry date (an euphemism for an employee who stays in a job to a particular period so as to meet certain pre-requisites for a certification or industry experience), thrusting her/him with the leadership may not work.   Leadership experiments fail if they clear assessments are not carried out. Before even thrusting an individual to a leadership role, identify her/his strengths, values, positive orientation towards the future and overall satisfaction with the job and organization. Second area leadership development programs fail is insufficient exposure to challenges and associated experiences.  By placing the  individuals in cocoon and not allowing them to struggle in the new role limits their learning on the job. Finally, leadership development fails if continuous assessment of current skills and capabilities and gaps are not done.

Growing leaders internally is a process that requires planning, high intensity of follow through, and freedom to emerge from failures. Leadership engine can be sustained by adopting following principles.

  1. Identify and develop them early: Most successful internal leadership programs quickly identify leadership potentials and others very quickly. Look for obvious signs of quality of work, sense of ownership of team, quality of feedbacks to colleagues, penchant to DIM (do it myself), initiative for breaks with team, etc.
  2.  Leadership at all levels: Internal leadership program must not restrict to a certain layer of organization, but rather be pursued as a common program across the organization. Internal leaders can emerge at various levels and the program must be flexible enough to identify and sustain leaderships of various forms. Leadership at some level may be highly task oriented, structured, process oriented, while leadership at another level may be one of managing unstructured, complex and volatile environment.
  3.  Assess their skills and capabilities, and identify right intervention strategies: Identify their life goals, self-esteem, creativity, optimism, happiness, personal strengths and motivation of the individual. Identify their natural leadership styles and design appropriate intervention strategies.
  4.  Support them with mentors: Internal leaders require mentors who could be from the company or outside. They act as sounding boards, motivational support and dogma sinks.
  5.  Rotate: Nothing works like a comprehensive view of the organization for would be leaders. Job rotation or a new geography broadens the work experience.
  6.  Push them to network smarter: Internal leadership program can be successful only if strong network outcomes are defined and orchestrated.  Goad the identified individuals to connect with their peers in professional forums, industry events, seminars and think tanks. Encourage them to express and reach out in the social media, by curating and directing their content appropriately.
  7.  Expose them to experience, and allow them to struggle:  Internal leadership development must have 3 quarter plans that help the individual gain practical experience of leading and managing at the newer plane.  If failures or setback happens, allow the individuals to mull over and gain from the experience. While setting them to win is important, the win must be cherished as self-gained.
  8.  Help them to do self-review: Internal leadership program thrive if platforms and process to self-review without the stigma of failures or low outcomes are encouraged. Create a informal self-review mechanisms where the individual can elicit the feedback, discuss and digest and push the agenda of improvement by themselves.

How to attract and manage women professionals re-entry to office

Women contribute majorly to a nation’s GDP by participating in informal and formal sectors. According to Census 2001, Indian workforce is about 400 million of which 275 million are men and 127 million are women. Women not only actively contribute in formal economic activities, but they are also significant contributors in informal sectors too. According to a recent report SHEROES- Women at Work, India 2014, about 23% of women professionals with significant experience, skill and adaptability have stopped working. The reasons for quitting their jobs include marriage and childbirth, additional responsibilities of care-giving roles in the family or spousal associated displacement. Various life events that characterize a woman’s life are responsible for the social factors that lead her to a career break. Some of these key life events are marriage, spouse relocation, pregnancy, child care, elder care, pursuing higher studies or under unfortunate circumstances chronic illnesses. Even if women overcame these barriers, structural barriers like poor day care, crèche and nursing facilities, limited reliable childcare infrastructure access, longer distance between workplace and their homes, and higher costs are reasons which force women professionals to take a break from their work and manage the chores themselves. Increasing atrocities on children and elders aggravate the concerns of depending on outside help and consequently many women professionals trade-off their career prospects. Job related factors such as night shifts, frequent travel, etc also discourage a woman professional from continuing her job.

The economic loss of women quitting jobs has significant social and economic impact. A study of Korean women workforce estimated that the departure of female workforce led to about 14.2 % of loss to Korea’s GDP.  A 2012 report by Booz and Co., estimated that India loses a quarter of its GDP because of female workforce exits. With India facing an estimated shortage of 5 million skilled workforce exits from labour markets is a major concern.

Towards addressing this issue, many companies have initiated several initiatives to attract women professionals to return to work. GE India has a program to recruit women, whether they are an ex-employee or who are on a career break. Tata SCIP is a flagship program that offers opportunities for women professionals who have been on leave for at least six months with a minimum of two year experience in their field. Godrej runs GROW (Godrej Revival of Opportunities for Women), which enables qualified women professionals to join the workforce after a break. Mahindra runs Start over – a return to work program for who have taken a mid-career break for personal reasons. Browne & Mohan has run a program titled, returning falcons from January 2009 to attract women professionals who have taken a break.

From an organization perspective there are several decisions that need to be made before embarking upon such a program. First HR and line management must be clear on what areas and at what levels would they like to attract the talent.  While social media is certainly a good platform to attract the talent, some companies have discovered fliers at high end beauty saloons and well run Crèche as ideal place to reach out to prospective candidates. One company has successfully run fliers at key bus stops of reputed school bus route to reach out to candidates.

While middle management is a safe bet, companies need to consider the work group dynamics and work content implications also. Next, companies must prepare a comprehensive induction, quarter-wise assessment and involvement plan. It is important to design a comprehensive induction covering not just the job areas, but also across functional areas. Companies must plan to have at least a month long induction to help prepare the individual cope up with new work environment. A senior mentor must be involved in supporting and guiding the new associate. Smart companies use induction period to assess the capabilities of the individual and mould required support structure in tandem. Our experience has been to offer non-critical tasks in functional areas to bring back the confidence and expertise to fore in the initial quarter. It is important to have monthly feedback to the re-entrant with respect to how they are coping up with the company culture, tasks and so on. Mentor and HR must discuss with the new associate what has been the expectations, how they have done and elicit any challenges that are facing in adjusting to the new demands. Many a re-entrant leave due to the conflicts of work life balances. It is imperative to take a three quarter perspective of immersion and outcome whenever re-entry programs are designed.

A crucial aspect of running an re-entry program is to have a systematic plan to expand the role and responsibilities. Companies must have a comprehensive plan of what responsibilities can be added without compromising the work-life balance, and role expansion that would meet the aspirations of the individuals. One of the biggest challenges of pursuing re-entry programs is the ability to expand and retain the associate. Many companies face a challenge when the associate does not wish to expand role and responsibilities. It is not uncommon to see many of them refusing promotions and responsibilities after couple of years. Companies pursuing re-entry program, especially SMB, must be prepared to short or medium term view of the programs. In our experience, while the long term impact of returns may not accrue for most companies, yet there are certain short term advantages. Senior women professionals re-entering the job brings loads of experience and commitment to their job. Many companies have witnessed their unique ability to connect across generations and can do attitude a huge rub off on the floors. Client engagement is an area where many companies witness a perceptible change with re-entry of women professionals. Credibility, experience sharing and solution selling capabilities are gains that companies benefit with women professional re-entry.

Successful Succession in Middle East Family business…………

80% of businesses in Middle East are family-run or family based. According to Middle Eastern Business Insights, over 41% of the business plan to pass the mantle to next generation. More than $1 trillion is expected to be handed down to next generation. However, less than 40% of business have shareholder agreements in place and about 40% have no plan to deal with conflict that may arise between Faraid’s, Asaba and Arham claimants under Shari’s succession laws. What is distressing is that if business history of other families is any indication, just about 1/7th of business will survive intergenerational transfer and other family business may just perish.

Even though Middle Eastern companies are different in size and governance areas, one central element common is the overlapping role of family, ownership and management. The family firms have brought few competent outsiders to lead and manage their business and resolve the issue around succession. In many cases, in-laws and relatives are appointed as leaders or key executives. Hence, succession for many of these companies is not about family persons but also other positions.

How must the Middle Eastern businesses plan and execute succession. Few common elements of successful succession plans across the world can be pointers.

  1. Nurturing and mentoring are essential to sustain and extend founder’s entrepreneurial values
  2. Heirs well-prepared in terms of educational background and experience and having spent couple of years at different levels are better prepared
  3. Family must plan current owner characteristics and leadership style, current company situation, leadership development and successor characteristics and post-succession company structure and process
  4. Discuss the succession management within family and with Board
  5. Plan the role adjustment process for the founder and the next generation family member
  6. Exposure to various aspects of business at early age is important
  7. Training (formal or on the job) has certain advantages
  8. While mentoring from father is a must, complement with outside professionals
  9. Succession should be encouraged to build their own performance assessment system
  10. Gaining experience outside the system is a must for diversified groups
  11. Attempt transition when the business is health and markets are near normal

Creating and sustaining Ownership-driven outcome-based organizational culture

Organization culture is an amalgamation of knowledge, beliefs, rituals, customs, values, hierarchy and social behaviour. A common grouse most CEO’s voice is their HR is unable to build and sustain the “intended culture”. Their intention of creating a thriving organization where every action has purpose, employees own the roles and responsibility and collectively the organization excel in their activities may not be happening seamlessly. The reason could be the HR is too caught up in mundane transactional activities or naïve and inexperienced to understand what exactly to do.  Many inexperienced HR seldom understand why the company celebrates diverse festivals or post host of photos on Facebook and other social media. The challenge is more pronounced in professional organizations wherein junior employees need to learn the rigours of the profession and ropes of vocation by observing, practicing and imbibing the values.  Limitations of collegiate education with rudimentary exposure to practice and real-life professional requirement add to the woes.

Another major challenge is when organizations undergo restructuring and a newer CTO or business leader may pursue short-term actions that impair the organizations existing culture. In a large IT organization well known for process driven and quality adherence, a newly minted CTO brought in drastic changes that expedited software development but at a huge cost to the quality and reliability of the development. Favouritism, lack of documentation, and poor process ownership resulted in otherwise well-knit unit fragmented and ineffective. So how does one go about building an organizational culture where outcome quality matters, customer delivery, professional ownership and development is the norm.

 Culture needs to be defined, practiced, communicated and reinforced.  First define the elements of culture you want to create. In a professional service firm environment the elements could be how would seniors review and guide the juniors?. How open and periodic would be the feedback.? How would incompetence and low quality work be tolerated?. How would job rotation be used to identify the hidden and right talents of the employee?. How would you handle wrong hire?. Would there be an automatic Performance improvement plan (PIP) pursued even when the employee is known to be ineffective?. Define what would be the right initiative taking behaviour? Would you want inexperienced employee to take decisions and react to customers without knowing the implications?. Loads of apologies and sorry may not bring back the customer lost or brand compromise.

One the cultural elements are broadly defined, roll out and practice with highest intensity. Do not take short cuts. If the objective is to create “quality outcome” driven culture’ do not promote “Chalta Hai” attitude. Curb it right away. Provide the feedback instantly rather than waiting for a formal review period.

While action speaks louder than words, communicating the results of actions is a must. Communicate positive results and behaviour. If an employee happens to be late always while reporting to work but prompt at checking out, communicate it rightly. If an employee’s quality of work is poor and does not meet client requirement, provide the feedback directly so that employee knows about it. If an employee is unable to justify the role he/she has been hired, communicate the alignment issues, and address the issue by allocating the employee based on their interest and competence.

Finally, a culture can only be sustained by continuous reinforcement in terms of its application and follow up. Handle transgressions with care, educate employees why adherence to rituals, participation in festivals and posting in Facebook is important.  If an employee is disgruntled for want of adherence educate him.  Remember the pain of discipline hurts far less than pain of regret.