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