Is HR value-adding to your business – A quick check?

According to Dave Ulrich, the HR Guru – “ HR SHOULD NOT BE DEFINED BY WHAT IT DOES, BUT WHAT IT DELIVERS – RESULTS THAT ENRICH THE ORGANISATION’S VALUE TO CUSTOMERS, INVESTORS AND EMPLOYEES”. Is HR value-adding to your business?for a quick check, contact us at

We at People Performance Practitioners are currently helping organizations to enhance the performance of their employees at work. Our interventions are primarily aimed around 3 important areas – 1) Enhancing Employee Value Proposition; 2) Leadership Development; and 3) Change Management. We believe in creating sustainable value-add to business through simple yet effective transformation efforts which, though facilitated by HR, are owned by the business managers. In short, we work with organizations to help them identify, create, re-engineer and reinforce sustainable HR, leadership and change management processes and practices which adds considerable value to the business and justifies the ROI on people resources.

To know more about us, please click on  People Performance Practitioners_1

Soumitra Das.



As we step into 2013, managers across the world continue to grapple with the growing trend of employees preferring to ‘work from home’. ‘Work from home’ is an alternative form of work arrangement typically applicable in certain IT and ITES organizations, that involves ‘home-based’ employees (HBEs) who work primarily from home and not in a typical traditional office environment. (For the purpose of this discussion, HBEs also include independent home-based contractors or consultants, who are usually part-timers).

Interestingly, more and more organizations have started to realize some of the positive aspects of nurturing this trend which can provide considerable benefits to an organization in terms of –

1)    Cost savings in real estate and office overhead expenses;

2)    Improved work-life balance leading to lower attrition and improved employee morale;

3)    Ability to retain talent who would otherwise be lost due to relocations or personal exigencies which require them to spend more time at home; and

4)    Access to a bigger and diverse talent pool of prospective employees who are not within the same city or even the country where the office(s) are located; and

5)    Business Continuity when the office has to be closed down due to political unrest, natural calamities, etc.

Of course, there are other related advantages like lesser stress for employees due to minimal ‘commuter woes’, reduced travel costs and an overall positive impact on the environment.

When an organization has a mix of office-based employees (OBEs) and HBEs, it is essential to have good managers who are able to manage both the OBEs and HBEs effectively and build a great cohesive team. However, managing HBEs may prove to be challenging to a manager who is usually used to managing a team of OBEs. As it is, managing OBEs face-to-face in the workplace is most often than not challenging enough for most managers …. managing remote HBEs adds further complexity and thus, requires additional managerial skills and competencies and a completely different managerial mindset.

So let’s discuss how managers can overcome some of the challenges of managing HBEs by developing a different mindset and acquiring skills and competencies that are necessary to create a high-performing team that has a mix of both OBEs and HBEs.

At the outset, let me start with the ‘broad brush’ premise that managers are usually focused on the following aspects of day-to-day management –

1)    Resource management – ensuring the optimal number of employees are available and are allocated, according to their skills and competencies to the right assignments through appropriate scheduling.

2)    Productivity and performance management – making sure that the employees are optimally utilized and their performance is appraised objectively to ensure that they are fully productive.

3)    Employee engagement – creating and nurturing a work culture based on trust and effective communication to ensure that the employees are strongly ‘connected’ to the organization in a collaborative and high-performing work environment leading to superior customer value propositions.

4)    Employee development and Talent management – ensuring that employees develop the requisite skills and competencies to achieve success in their current and future assignments and making sure that a process of meritocracy is used to differentiate performance and potential to create a talent management program to ensure individual career success.

5)    Adherence to compliance – establishing processes and procedures to ensure compliance to organization and customer data security and confidentiality requirements.

6)    Employment Laws – adhering to local and global legal statutory requirements that govern the employment ‘contract’ between the employee and the organization.

Of course, one can add a few more aspects of managerial work to the above, but for the purpose of this discussion, I would like to limit the scope to the above few major activities.

Based on the above, I propose a few guidelines which I consider, are essential for managing HBEs –

1)    The first and foremost important thing that a manager must realise is that managing HBEs requires a completely different mindset than managing OBEs. It is often seen (and I have spoken to quite a few managers who manage HBEs) that there is an inherent tendency amongst managers and co-workers to perceive that HBEs do not put in a ‘honest day’s work’ or are often ‘slacking’ as compared to the OBEs who can be observed to be ‘slogging’ at their workplaces for more than 8 hours each day. This I believe, is an erroneous perception which is deep rooted in our cultural and social environment and managers who manage HBEs must struggle to come out of it. The hypothesis here is that ‘visibility’ to OBEs ensures monitoring and control and managers are often found to be ‘micro-managing’ their team members at the workplace.

The key word here is TRUST. The fundamental element of any workplace relationship between a manager and an employee (whether OBE or HBE) is Trust. Managers of HBEs should reorient their mindsets to this fact.

Three important principles apply here –

i. The manager has to change his/her mindset to measure ‘output’ in terms of the mutually agreed deliverables rather than the hours spent at the desk. This applies to both OBEs and HBEs. Manage by ‘results’ and not by ‘presence’ is the fundamental key to managing HBEs.

ii. Further, the manager has to trust the HBEs to manage their time and workloads and work independently at different time intervals. This means that the manager must learn to empower the HBEs and move towards more ‘hands off’ style of management and yet make sure that the HBE is an integral part of the team’s contribution to the organization. Fundamentally, we are talking about shifting the mindset of the manager and the HBE from close supervision to empowering and self-monitoring.

iii. Finally, trust and results are fine, but reinforce it with objective productivity and performance data. It is important for the manager to keep track of the HBEs progress on a daily basis so that he is able to monitor his productivity and performance and decide when to intervene if things do not go as planned.

2)    ‘Out of sight … out of mind’. This is a common phenomena that occurs among managers who manage HBEs. Managers with more visibility to OBEs often ignore communicating adequately with the HBEs. However, It is important for the manager to be able to maintain a high level of contact with the HBEs on a daily basis by acquiring the skills and competencies of going beyond the usual facets of ‘face-to-face’ communication and make sure that they adopt appropriate communication strategies (both formal and informal) for HBEs. The manager must realize that it’s very easy for a HBE to feel ‘unconnected’ or ‘disengaged’ due to lack of proper communication and must therefore maintain a high level of contact through several mutually agreed ‘touch points’ to ensure that the HBEs are integrated within the organization and the team in terms of its vision, mission, strategic objectives and culture.

3)    Further, managers of HBEs are often challenged in terms of appraising their productivity and performance remotely. I would like to stress here that the same performance and productivity norms should apply to both OBEs and HBEs. Regular use of technology to track output and continuous interactions to monitor progress and deliverables is essential. Productivity and performance standards should be same for OBEs and HBEs so that there are no perceived inequities amongst both the employee groups.

4)    The issue of integrating HBEs within the organization’s employee development and talent management framework is also an important aspect that needs to be managed. Though they work from home, HBEs have always expressed a desire to be part of the organization mainstream and one way to have them integrate within the organization is to have them as part of the overall organizational talent management grid. Some HBEs choose the ‘work from home’ option temporarily to tide over certain personal exigencies and are often keen to convert to OBEs at a later date and thus look forward to be active participants in the organization’s talent management scheme. With more and more organization moving towards the 70-20-10 framework of employee development, HBEs should form an integral part of the organization’s learning and development initiatives. A robust induction program (recommended face-to-face) and continuous developmental initiatives, both technical and soft skills through eLearning, webinars, podcasts, etc. Helps the HBE to remain current with the technical, managerial and organizational aspects of the job.

5)    While working from home, HBEs are often privy to confidential and proprietary customer and organizational information. Managers must work very closely with the HBEs to make sure that they understand the issues related to compliance and adhere to the organization’s policies governing information security. Issues like clear desk policy, password policy, customer information confidentiality must apply equally to both OBEs and HBEs and may be difficult to monitor at the HBE level. Nevertheless, using technology and personal interventions, the manager must ensure that these compliances and thoroughly understood and adhered to by the HBEs.

6)    Finally, managers must be conversant with the various nuances of the legal statutes that govern HBEs. A thorough knowledge of disciplinary procedures, terminations and statutory payments as applicable to HBEs is essential for the manager to acquire.

So, in conclusion, the HBE managers should have adequate skills and competencies to –

1)    Motivate remote employees;

2)    Handle conflicts in virtual settings;

3)    Communicate convincingly from afar;

4)    Create a tightly-knit team that stays loose; and

5)    Provide continuous coaching and mentoring to HBEs to help them be self-motivated  by clearly outlining their goals, making them responsible for results, and generating individual accountability plans with a self-monitoring system;

HR plays a crucial role in this aspect and I will discuss this aspect in a later post.

We at People Performance Practitioners are currently engaged with a few organizations to help restructure and reorganize the way that HBEs are being managed for optimal business results.

I would love to have your comments on this post!

Thank you and Cheers!

“What you say are what you are ….. ”

Hi All,

It’s often said that what you say are what you are! In this context, I wish to draw your attention to an article by Alexandra Petri which appeared in the Washington Post Opinion section as a discussion on another article by Jessica Hagy in Forbes magazine entitled “40 Things To Say Before You Die”. Links to both the articles are given below. Enjoy the weekend!

Thanks & Cheers.

31 Questions about Leadership by Dr. Ed Brenegar

Dear All,

Here’s an interesting article on Leadership by Dr Ed Brenegar ( A must for all Leaders. I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I did!

Do leave a comment on some of questions he posed to start a healthy discussion on this topic.

Thanks and Cheers!

31 Management questions


The Performance Differentiation Conundrum!

Hello Everyone,

In just a few weeks from now, scores of HR professionals across the world will get busy with their spreadsheets, ‘bell curves’ and performance appraisal templates as they prepare for another annual performance review across the organization in the months of September/ October. Countless presentations would be made to the business heads, calibrations and normalizations would be done and appropriate ‘bell curves’ would be debated upon as the organization readies itself for another round of DIFFERENTIATING its employees based on performance and/ or potential.

Performance differentiation has been a constant fixture in our lives, be it in academics or sports and it’s no wonder that we have to deal with it every day in our work lives, specially the annual performance appraisal process. From the organizational perspective, performance differentiation leads to employees being categorized into the usual 3 bins – the ‘High’ performers, the ‘average’ performers and those who perform ‘below expectation’ or ‘Low’ performers. The ‘bell curve’ aptly illustrates this differentiation. Consequently, organizational resources are allocated and organizational processes are aligned to manage these 3 categories of employees; the fundamental idea being, retain and engage the high and average performer (they have the potential to become high performers with appropriate developmental interventions) and ‘release’ the low performers (cost ineffecive) with a view to creating a high performing organization.

Theoretically, therefore, if the organization undergoes the annual differentiation cycle over a 3-4 year period, it can easily transform itself into a truly high performing organization, but unfortunately, this is not the case!

So let’s explore and debate a few interesting points related to performance differentiation in this post.

1)    What is the fundamental reason for differentiating? Is directly related to compensation decisions or is it a way to build a culture of meritocracy and continually raise the performance bar, thereby increasing a company’s competitive advantage through high performing talent? Both have their ‘pros and cons’ but I have, as a HR professional, always maintained and advised business to keep performance and compensation decisions separate. It’s always advisable to differentiate pragmatically based on performance and then decide based on various factors, the compensation for individual candidates. Unfortunately, in most organizations, managers tend to contaminate this process by first deciding on the compensation levels, promtions, etc. and then differentiate based on performance and as a result, meritocracy is the immediate casualty.

2)    An interesting phenomenon related to differentiation occurs as ‘Low’ performers are steadily pushed out of the organization. With the increasing freeze on external hiring and the lack of infusion of ‘fresh blood’ in the organization, the bell curve starts to get more and more ‘compressed’ and as the organization shrinks, it forces some of the earlier high performers (compared to the external market) to the average performer category leading to their being dissatisfied and demotivated. Attrition is the natural result and the organization loses some really good performers to competition. A pity, isn’t it?

3)    Another dysfunctional aspect of performance differentiation is the constant pressure to perform (which we commonly term as ‘raising the bar’) and excel. However, the stress associated with this kind of high performance culture usually leads to a dysfunctional organization culture which in turn demoralizes the employees leading to unprecedented attrition. If you look around, you can easily identify a few organizations who subject their employees to such high pressure environments and subsequently deal with close to 40-50% attrition which no amount if R&R or incentives can reverse!

4)    Let’s also take a look at performance differentiation from a different perspective. The compressed bell curve and the shrinking organization may also force managers to elevate the average performers (compared to the external market) to the high performer category. With minimal L&D investments these days on the ‘average’ performer, the high performer pipeline continues to remain dry perpetually! Though this is done primarily to reward and retain critical resources in an already depleting workforce, it spawns mediocrity instead of meritocracy.

5)    The performance differentiation issue is further complicated by the managers attitude towards it. Favoritism, resorting to central tendency while rating, not encouraging collaborative team efforts or practicing a ‘one size fits all’ R&R policies defeats the very purpose of performance differentiation!

6)    Finally, performance differentiation should result in an objective and optimal resource pyramid which defines the critical positions and critical people in an organization. It should help us determine whether critical positions are manned by high performers or there are gaps that exist. Accordingly, it should guide business decisions on resource management in terms of productivity, chargeability and utilization. It should guide the workforce strategy of an organization by directing appropriate HR investments in high-return positions and high-return individuals.

And so the performance differentiation conundrum continues!! And organizations keep striving for the ever elusive ‘objectively differentiated’ status which provides business critical results!

Let me know your thoughts on this post. Your perspectives are most welcome!

Thanks and Cheers.

Business Coaching Certification – Fundamental or Ornamental?

Hello Everyone,

In this post, I wish to discuss a very controversial topic – is it necessary to have a certification to be a successful business coach or can a person leverage his/her innate behavioral competencies and diverse experience to become a successful coach without a coaching certification?

As I debate this point, I do not mean to undermine the business coaching certification courses nor the efforts of all those who have acquired or are pursuing such a certification. In fact, I humbly admit the fact that as I am not certified as a business coach, I should probably refrain from commenting on this topic. However, as I meet more and more business coaches, some very good and some with questionable capabilities, I wonder whether it’s high time that we as senior L&D professionals focus our attention to the way business coaches are being certified today and their effectiveness from an organizational perspective.

In this post, I have put forth some of my views on business coaching primarily to elicit a healthy discussion from those successful business coaches who are certified and those who are not certified and yet successful coaches!

Business/ Corporate/ Executive/ Leadership coaching is an essentially a supportive process which helps an individual to succeed in a specific personal or professional goal and thereby impacting the effectiveness of the organization. The WABC (Worldwide Association of Business Coaches) defines it “as the process of engaging in regular, structured conversation with a “client”: an individual or team who is within a business, profit or nonprofit organization, institution or government and who is the recipient of business coaching. The goal is to enhance the client’s awareness and behavior so as to achieve business objectives for both the client and their organization”.

With the increasing trend in business coaching and the lucrative coaching assignments that usually result after a business coaching certification, we have seen the mushrooming of many business coaching institutes which offer “instant” coaching certifications to whoever is ready to spend anywhere between INR 1.5 to 3 lakhs. Without a central governing body, nor any standard certification methodology, hundreds of business coaching certificates are being granted freely every year –  some based on competencies, some based on minimal classroom theoretical inputs, some through distant learning and while some can be obtained without even coaching a client.

A simple Google search will tell us how various business coaching institutes are busy churning out ‘packaged’ business coaching certification courses which are based on the same genre of models, tools & techniques and methodologies (e.g. Personality tests, 360-degree surveys, GROW model) that are often ‘pattern based’ and lead to a predictable set of sterile ‘if-then, or-else’ inferences. Thus, it’s often common to find people from diverse backgrounds (like Sales, Procurement, Finance, Medicine, Defense), retired professionals, middle level managers who are currently facing a mid-career crisis and wish to reinvent their careers, young HR professionals who imagine they have ‘seen it all, done it all’, resort to the easy path to a lucrative money spinning profession called business coaching. Armed with a vanilla ‘coaching package’ these business coaches are exploiting the current ‘coaching’ fad that has gripped most organizations by engaging in a series of ‘repetitive’ coaching assignments where they charge clients on an hourly basis and not on the results they achieve nor on the ROI to the client/ organization.

In this context, let’s take a look at some of the common issues associated with a business coaching certification from various perspectives –

1) Coaching certifications are available in various formats – ‘distant learning’ or ‘limited contact’ option. In the first option, candidates ‘learn’ through audio lectures and reading material and are supported by remote educational counselors. At the end of the course which lasts 6 months, they pass a test to become certified business coach. In the second option, candidates attend classroom sessions for a period of about 7 days and then undergo ‘supervised’ internship for an average of 10-15 hours before they earn their certification.

Contemplate: Coaching is an intense ‘interpersonal’ process. Are the above formats relevant and sufficient to create ‘certified’ coaches with adequate interpersonal skills and competencies?

2) Most institutes do not have any pre-requisite for a coaching certification. Thus, people who are ‘low’ on interpersonal skills or individual contributors who have never managed people actively and probably lack the behavioral skills and competencies to engage in a intense relationship that is required of a coach, can choose to undergo a three to six month certification and become a ‘certified’ business coach.

Contemplate: The ‘personality’ of the business coach and his/her behavioral capabilities determine the effectiveness of a coaching engagement. The absence of any pre-requisite personality testing to ascertain whether a candidate can train to be a business coach leads to candidates with dysfunctional behaviors obtaining a valid coaching certification. It’s like a blind person being sanctioned a driving license. Also, I wonder if there is enough focus on introspection and self development support to correct dysfunctional behavior in a prospective candidate during the short span of the certification course. Therefore, it’s no wonder that lots of business coaches themselves need to be coached seriously.

3) The certification process seems to be arbitrary and confusing. Typically, a certification consists of 3 steps – a) Pre-classroom preparation, b) Classroom sessions, and c) Supervised internship.

Contemplate:A business coach needs to understand the theory and practice of psychology, sociology and fundamental interpersonal processes like communication, conflict, assertiveness, counseling, change and leadership. I wonder whether what we learned about organizational behavior over a period of 4-6 months in a business school can be compressed in a period of 7-10 days as part of the certification process. If the fundamentals are not strong the ensuing coaching engagement is bound to be faulty and ineffective!

4) There is no standardization of the process, tools, techniques and models that apply to business coaching certifications. In short, a well researched, standardized coaching framework with a ‘core’ curriculum that ought to be adopted by all institutes for a business coaching certification does not exist.

Contemplate: We have no way of evaluating the efficacy of different certification parameters adopted by various business coaching institutes. Questions like, whether a candidate who has done 20 hours of ‘supervised’ coaching in one institute is better than one who has done only 10 hours in another, whether a particular model being used by an institute is better than the one used by another, whether a 7 day classroom session provides a robust foundation on which the coaching certification is built, etc.

5) What’s most interesting is the fact that I have yet to meet a person who, after registering for a business coaching certification has been denied the certification.

Contemplate: It seems to me that the business coaching institutes are more focused on the marketing their ‘certificate’ and their revenue generation. Once the hefty certification fee is paid, it becomes the onus of the institute to certify a person as denying a certificate is often bad for business.

6) The certification is used to create an artificial barrier to intimidate prospective business coaches to believe that without a valid certification, one cannot be successful in the field of coaching. It’s also used as an important tool to exploit the inexperienced especially those who are from a non-HR background or those who have had absolutely no exposure to management or managing people!

In conclusion, I wish to emphasize the fact that with the boom in the business coaching business in recent years, a variety of business coaching institutes have emerged, primarily to take advantage of the impending market opportunity rather than their ability to effectively equip prospective coaches with the requisite skills and competencies. Thus, choosing a business coach purely based on a certification may be a myopic way to determine coaching competencies and capabilities. I would therefore urge people and organizations to use their own discretion and judgment in their choice of an effective coach rather than relying blindly on half-baked certification from self-styled business coaching certifying ‘authorities”.

As usual, your comments on this post is always welcome.

Thank you and Cheers!


Are your Managers driving away the Top Talents of your organization?

Dear All,

I was recently discussing the issue of retaining top talent with a senior leader of a MNC which has recently lost a few critical people to competition. This post is based on my discussion with several managers of that MNC and a precursor to a project that I may undertake to reinforce their top talent retention program. Read on and leave your valuable comments.

As organizations struggle to retain their top talent through various HR initiatives, it’s the manager who actually plays a significant role in creating conditions which ensures their continued commitment and retention. Studies have shown that losing top talents has 5-10 times more impact on the business than losing average performers. Studies have also pointed to the fact that “people leave managers, not companies”, yet most managers blame external reasons for top talent attrition and do not acknowledge the fact that a large number of factors that contribute to top talent retention are actually within their “sphere of control”.

Without much guidance on how to manage top talent, most managers display dysfunction “manager retention practices” which alienates and drives away top talent. Here are some such dysfunctional practices –

1) Inability or reluctance to differentiate. Managers who fail to differentiate their top talents and club them in the same basket as others in spite of their superior performance and potential and treat them as ‘part of the crowd’ are probably guilty of the most significant reason that leads to top talent attrition. By trying to maintain a ‘harmonious’ culture which will not upset the average performers in the team, they successfully alienate and drive away the top talent by propagating a culture of ‘entitlement’. Top talents need to be formally identified and managed differently through specially designed organizational processes.

2) Failing to provide enough challenges. Top talents relish challenging assignments and the rewards and recognition that is usually associated with achieving those tough goals. This is how they differentiate themselves from others and also get a sense of pride in contributing positively to the organization’s success. Managers who fail to create such opportunities for top talents provide a sure-shot reason for top talents to exit the organization quickly.

3) Not offering any career development opportunity. High performance organizations recognize the need for top talents to have a ‘line of sight’ to their career progression and accordingly receive accelerated personal and professional development inputs on a regular basis. Managers who ignore these needs are surely successful in driving top talent away!

4) Micromanage. Top talents thrive in a culture of empowerment. However, some managers may feel threatened by the top talents in their team and thus resort to micromanaging them in a culture of mistrust and strict control. Micro-management limits communication, promotes bureaucracy, breeds frustration, wastes time and kills morale. What better way to drive away the top talents than this?

5) Kill creativity and innovation. High on potential and performance, top talents are often experimenting with new ideas and innovative approaches to routine issues. However, a manager who does not encourage risk-taking, does not provide adequate resources to support creative pursuits, promotes mediocrity and opposes healthy conflict will definitely drive away top talents.

6) Lack of reward and recognition. In addition to the monetary incentives associated with high performance and extra efforts, top talents desire a fair dose of recognition from the organization, in fact, placing more importance to the recognition than the monetary reward. Apart from the usual organizational recognition methods, top talents desire a special personal and professional experience which involves regular feedback on their performance from their managers, interactions with senior organizational leaders and an opportunity to represent the organization in different seminars, workshops and professional forums. Managers who fail to recognize the contributions made by the top talent and appropriately reward and recognize them for their efforts are only making it easy for the top talents to walk out of the door without a backward look!

Finally, in addition to the above points, top talents don’t want to work for lousy managers who are insecure, uninspiring, do not respect work life and personal life balance and behave badly with people. Managers who are not able to “engage” top talents in an organization lack the critical leadership capabilites needed to manage top talents and must be eased out of their people management role immediately. Top talent retention is a MUST in a manager’s KRA. Even though managers play a crucial role in managing top talent, the senior leaders of the organization must treat the top talent program as a corporate asset and manage it accordingly.

So go down to the ‘shop floor’ and identify those managers who are driving out your precious top talents today before it’s too late!


Soumitra Das

Recuperating ……..

Dear All,

I had to be hospitalised last week for an emergency gall bladder surgery. The offending gall bladder was removed last weekend through ‘key hole’ surgery, popularly termed clinically as Laparoscopic cholecystectomy. I’m back home and recuperating and wondering when I’ll be back to ‘normal’. My doctor says I should be ‘fit and fine’ by this weekend.

For me, getting hospitalized was a profound experience, like for many others! It was also a great learning experience …. you get to see the doctors, the nursing staff, the support staff …. all striving to achieve the the right balance of the ‘head and heart’!

I think it’s a good time for me to introspect and also to think about all my learnings last week at the hospital and try to relate it to different aspects of HR and Leadership at the workplace!

Thanks and Cheers!

Managing the X and Y of your Organizational DNA*

Hello Everyone,

This post is inspired by a Jethro Tull number from their album with the same name – Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die! (1976).

Issues in managing Gen X and Gen Y (Generation X and Generation Y) seem to be getting a lot of attention these days. In fact, I have been often asked by organizations to design and develop L&D initiatives for their managers which build awareness and understanding of issues involved in managing across generations.

The term Generation X was first used in the novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture (1991) by Douglas Coupland. Simply put, Gen X are typically people who were born approximately between 1960 and 1976, and are now in the prime of their careers and from the organizational perspective, usually senior SMEs or Senior leaders in an organization.

The term Generation Y first appeared in an August 1993 Ad Age editorial to describe the attitudes of the teenage generation then aged 13–19. Gen Y are those who were born approximately between 1976 and 2000 and are, for all practical problems, still ‘freshers’ in an organization. With the boom in IT and ITES industry and its associated cost arbitrage focus, we find more and more Gen Y in today’s organizations.

Other than Gen X and Y, various other generations have been recognized including the ‘Baby Boomers’, Generation Z, Millennials, etc.

It’s evident therefore that the generalizations about the various generations is fundamentally age-based and that as a resultant of having been born during different times the incumbents of the various generations have been influenced by the prevalent culture, economic conditions, societal norms, educational system and the political environment. This has led to different wants, needs and desires amongst the different generations, which in turn, gets reflected in their attitudes and behavior at the workplace with serious implications on managerial and leadership styles.

Finding ways to bridge the gaps within this new multigenerational workforce requires a new set of behavioral skills and competencies from the managers. It’s important for managers who manage both Gen X (older) and Gen Y (younger) employees in their teams to understand that they need to use different ‘levers’ for each set. This is compounded by the fact that the generations are mixed at all levels. Often young graduates will be managing people older than them, and senior managers managing several teams of very young ‘freshers’. However, most often, teams are not homogeneous from the generation perspective and managers have to cope with differing expectations related to authority, bureaucracy, work life balance, learning and interpersonal issues like communication, conflict resolution, feedback, etc.

So how does an organization address the issue of managing generational differences at work? How does an organization create a unified culture when there are such fundamental generational differences amongst the employees? How does an organization standardize its processes to balance the differences that arise due to generational gaps? How do organizational leaders acquire the diverse skills and competencies required to effective engage employees across different generations? How do managers align the different expectations and aspirations of different generations towards a larger organization goal and purpose?

Your ability to transcend the generation issue will decide the continued success of your organization. The question is – are you geared up for that?

(* Organizational DNA is a metaphor for the underlying factors that together define an organization’s “personality “and help explain its performance. The distillation of years of experience studying how companies organize and execute, the Organizational DNA framework was developed by Booz & Company to give organizations an easy, accessible way to identify and remedy the roadblocks that impede results).

Friendship at work …. Does it promote collaboration in your organization?

Fundamentally, collaboration is about working with one or more people to achieve a goal. It is essentially a group phenomenon and involves individual and group behavior, trust, openness, work habits, organization culture and leadership. It requires a positive, well-defined relationship, trust between the partners, a mutually defined vision, effective interpersonal communication and shared power. Modern day collaborative tools facilitate the process of collaboration. Collaboration from an organization perceptive may mean working together with someone from your own team or division or with a stranger from another team, division or even from another organization.

The point that I wish to debate in this post today is – Whether friendship affects collaboration at work i.e. do you can collaborate better with a friend and whether collaboration between stranger fosters friendship and enhances the quality of collaboration? This leads to another aspect of our discussion – if we agree that friendship and collaboration is correlated, what can an organization do to promote friendship at work?

Let’s start of by stating that both friendship and collaboration are fundamentally interpersonal processes. It’s people who collaborate, not technology or organizations! Though collaboration is more intensely linked with technology these days, one can never question its cognitive basis. A million technology platforms promoting collaboration cannot enhance collaborative processes if the interpersonal connection is not made within the collaborating partners or groups. A Collaborative culture develops when there is interpersonal trust and individuals are free to express themselves with without the fear of judgment. Those of you who familiar with the Gallup Q12 survey know that “I have a best friend at work” was one of the important workplace traits which led to high productivity and profitability in organizations. Some of the findings from the Gallup workplace study are as follows:

  • Without a best friend at work, the chances of being engaged in your job are 1 in 12.
  • People with at least three close friends at work were 96 percent more likely to be extremely satisfied with their life.
  • Only 18 percent of people work for organizations that provide opportunities to develop friendships on the job.
  • Employees who have a close friendship with their manager are more than 2.5 times as likely to be satisfied with their job.
  • Just 17 percent of employees report that their manager has made “an investment in our relationship” in the past three months

Since people spend so much of their lives at work, it is only natural to develop close personal relationships with one’s colleagues. Workplace friendships develop naturally from our desires to belong and feel close to others (peers, subordinates and superiors) in the organization. However, we must also be aware of the fact that there are a few negative issues that result from workplace friendships and, as managers, we have to be aware of them and must guard against them.

Friendship involves, like collaboration, trust, empathy, mutual understanding, compassion and positive reciprocity. In 1997, Karen A. John, a professor of Management at Wharton Business School, told Harvard Business Review, “Although friends working together do socialize, their interaction process greases the wheels for better work related communication as long as they are dedicated to the task at hand or to the company’s overarching goals.”

Most studies which delve into the issue of friendship and collaboration highlight the fact that employees who work together often build up close and meaningful relationships that transcends organizational hierarchies. Physical and emotion support amongst friends at work help reduce the stress that is induced due to work related pressures. People who work in friendly, welcoming work environments are more productive and better able to cope with day-to-day stressors like working for an unsupportive manager, heavy workloads or short deadlines.

Thus, given that the fundamental interpersonal structure of friendship and collaboration being same, it’s easier for friends to collaborate better and faster because –

  • As friends interact without any inhibitions, their “Free Area” (refer to Johari Window) expands and they establish a      common and broad frame of reference which reduces ambiguity and misunderstandings and promotes transparency and openness in their interaction. This is one of the fundamental requirements of collaboration and knowledge sharing which requires that all team members want to work together towards a common goal;
  • Friends can be brutally honest with each other without the fear of being judgmental. This results in objective decision-making without the usual ‘I scratch your back and you scratch my back’ and thus the conflict resolution strategy focuses on a ‘Win-Win’ perspective. This in turn supports collaboration which requires trust and a sense of shared responsibility;
  • Since friends care and empathize with each other, distribution of responsibilities and accountability are more or less fair and equitable with each member ready to volunteer to go the ‘extra mile’ and extend help should others need it. This leads to ‘synergy’ – an important aspect of collaboration which is based on the sharing of resources, risk and rewards;
  • Working with friends in a fun-filled, supportive environment is less stressful and enjoyable and enhances collaboration in an apolitical environment;
  • Friends at work are usually aware of each others’ strengths and weaknesses. Thus, they encourage each other to try to      experiment and go beyond their self-imposed boundaries and a safe environment and in doing everyone learn new skills and grow both personally and professionally. Being able to embrace the unique perspectives of all team members is one of the key outcomes desired in a collaborative process; and finally,
  • Compared to an unsupportive, alien and hostile environment where one is left to fend for oneself against all odds, having friends at work often leads to a feeling of safety and security amongst employees and they feel more engaged and ‘embedded’ within the organization. This leads to lower attrition and a strong Employee Value Proposition!

It’s therefore amply clear that collaboration and friendship are deeply intertwined and in an organization context cannot exist without each other. Collaborating should come easy to friends and strangers who collaborate soon become friends. So, instead of trying to stifle social interaction among their employees, managers and supervisors should try, instead, to encourage their employees to inculcate genuine friendship at the workplace so that the organization collaboration process is enhanced and facilitated.

On the flip side, some organizations do see risks in promoting workplace friendships as they fear the growth of gossip, favoritism, blurring of professional boundaries or creating conflicts of interest.  Friendship at work may also reduce productivity or performance, reduce constructive feedback/criticism or reduce productivity.

Thus, the management challenge is to create strategies to improve friendship at the workplace (e.g. Buddy program, Mentorship, etc.) to promote collaboration and at the same time minimize its negative impacts. Is your organization using ‘friendship’ as an important lever to promote collaboration? Are issues like trust, openness and empathy, which are fundamental to both friendship and collaboration through L&D programs? Are your senior leaders promoting friendship as a means to improve collaboration? Your answers will decide on the type of culture that is currently present in your organization – one that fosters collaboration by leveraging friendship at the workplace or one that discourages friendship at the workplace and is therefore, detrimental to the collaborative process!

So, do have a good friend at work? If not, find one today!

I await your comments on my perspective.

Thanks and Cheers!

Why do some managers make organizational exits painful?

Hello Everyone,

In my opinion, most senior leaders and HR do not give cognizance to the fact that one of the most valuable opportunities to brand a strong employee value proposition is when an employee leaves the organization! The way in which an organization treats an employee who is leaving the organization is a definitive indicator of the organization’s intrinsic culture and character. Yet, we come across many employees for whom the ‘exit experience’ has been traumatic. Is it the manager’s personality or the organization culture which causes this pain? Read on ……..

Why do some managers make organizational exits painful?

I’d love to have your comments on this post.

Thanks and Cheers!


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