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Monday, May 06, 2019

Catalyst for HR Talent in Kerala -

Five years into my first ever entrepreneurial venture ( has given me a lot of opportunities to ponder over the state of HR profession in my country. For those wondering how someone based out of a small corner of the diverse country that India is, can claim this – read on to know more about me via my LinkedIn profile.  Since Jan 2015, I've been to have been called upon by IT SME / Techie CXO's across Kerala, starting with Technopark, Thiruvananthapuram to Cyberpark(s) (UL and Govt.) and most recently the Malabar Innovation Zone, which my Co-founder almost silently set up last year. 

It was serendipity that got me connected to the HR profession back in 1996-97.  However, I had not imagined then that life and career events will help me refine those serendipitous moments into what looks to be closing in on a purpose journey. 
From 2008, I was responsible for building and scaling HR teams and this meant that I will need to be taking decisions which will have longer term career impacts on HR professionals.  I realised that none of the hiring experience, which I gathered in the past, made me confident around that risk – and hence it was not a surprise that the first two hiring decisions, which I had made, ended up as disasters in my own definition. As I look back to those misses and learnings it gave me, I feel confident to write this post and dedicate this to all young HR professionals who I’m sure will be seeking to learn from chartered paths as they go about designing their own HR career paths. 

Having spent over a decade in Kerala, I’m very optimistic about the opportunities for HR folks in my home state.  I’m also glad that I’ve been getting to play pivotal roles in crafting HR careers for many professionals - not just ones with HR qualifications.  Heres what a very special person who I found from Rajagiri MHRM batch (aka the Symbiosis of Kerala) wrote this in her blog some years back

Having spent over 8 years outside Kerala working for 4 companies in HR roles that took me to many parts of my diverse country.  I’m a huge fan of diversity of roles as a determinant of the level of refinement in any HR professional.  The more diverse the roles get, the more deeper the professional gets to traverse in HR / People / Behaviour related concepts – especially for the business needs of a diverse (and dynamic) country like India. 

So when time is scarce and I’m required to find an HR role player for my retainer clients in Kerala, I rely on the following criteria:
1.     Referrals from friends who know me and have followed my HR career as friends, colleagues, class/batch mates, business owners who I added value to / coached without the title.
2.     Seek out professionals who have worked outside Kerala in a diverse company or sector. Diversity increases the challenges that they would have faced.
3.     Seek out professionals including beginners who are curious about exploring possibilities around business and people enablement as expressed by their questions social media or internet in general – This I consider unique as my interests as a volunteer to SHRM, NIPM and NHRDN help me connect to a wide spectrum of professionals from all over the globe. This has been giving me a an opportunity to get a closer look into HR Talent ecosystem.
Select HR whatsapp groups from among the many that have mushroomed from 2013 onwards. 
Such connections have always helped me connect to a very different kind of people in general and HR folks in particular. 

Signing off with this Fast Company article about HR profession itself by my friend Lars - pasting the part which connects best to this post of mine - below: 
These 21st-century HR teams bring a much broader skill set to their role. People leading these functions possess business acumen on par with their peers across the C-suite. Their teams leverage data that inform their strategy and allow them to address people challenges before they become a crisis. They’re embedded in the business and embraced as part of the teams they support. Rather than striving for ownership with centralized command and control structures, their decentralized business partner models focus on empowering and enabling.

If you know an HR professional who is seeking to connect to IT SME Ecosystem and you feel they fits the above description – do connect them with me for initiating a conversation.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Retention; A Panacea? - A February 2001 Version

Context: This is a digitised version of the print article which I wrote for the TQM Newsletter of Century Rayon, my first employer. This was published as Volume 1 in Feb 2001 by the then B.K Birla Group company.

In today's dynamic business environment, Retention is perhaps one thought that is foremost in the minds of HR Managers in any organisation. In this article, an attempt is being made to analyse some aspects relating to retention of employees with special reference to manufacturing organisations.

At the outset, I would like to state that what follows is not, as the title may seem to suggest an elixir to this pressing problem, but some thoughts which naturally are consequent to exposure to environmental stimuli, to be precise.

Understanding the Manufacturing Psyche  

Manufacturing setups are the offshoots of the Licence / permit raj, which is under threat with the advent of liberalisation. Needless to say, traditional job enablers like Job Security and Location are still believed to be the Job motivators in such organisations. It is here that we require a paradigm shift.
The Neo graduates consider job content, reputation of the company, learning offered by the job as well as the company, opportunities for growth and Compensation itself to be the motivators than the traditional life time employment / Secure job concept on which the manufacturing organisations thrived. This rather radical difference in the thought process develops into another generation gap for the fresh recruits of these manufacturing companies where majority of the employees are in the 45-48 year age group.

Neo Recruit Psyche

Let us devote some time to understand the aspirations of the fresh recruits. A thorough understanding of these will go a long way in developing strategies towards retention.
Job Content has become the most important motivating factor for the young generation. The hierarchies in a traditional organisation and the resultant lead-time before decisions taken are implemented makes a heavy toll on the job content itself. This can lead to frustration.

Action plan

This is where the proactive measures from HR managers are called for. Efforts should be made to:

  • Set clear career paths for the recruits based on role based competencies rather than grade based competencies 
  • Take specific measures to make the job itself appealing to the employees; like empowering them and making them feel that their contribution is sizable. 
  • Setting clear career goals which align with the organisational goals. These naturally are specific to companies. 
  • Efforts aimed at enhancing the self image of new recruits. Eg. Inserting a photograph of newly recruited employees in the company magazine with a brief personal profile can be a start. 
  • On a more personal level, a mentor can be identified for each individual to provide guidance, facilitation and inputs to the new employee. Selection of the mentor can be done preferably after a month's stay with the organisation so that it allows the employee to develop a personal chemistry with the mentor rather than the HR dept assigning one for each employee. However this is also very specific. 
The new recruit tries to make himself more capable of better employment; i.e the more a person feels that he is 'employable' elsewhere by amassing competencies in the present employment, the more likely is he / she to stay on. A clear understanding of this can be used to the present organisations advantage. Here, if the individual can be given responsibilities, which go above the traditional methods of work, and which are more in line with the contemporary practices in his selected field so that the person feels the he is contributing towards bringing change to the organisation, it can be a great motivator. 

It is to be noted that the environment in which the person has grown up, (the post liberalisation era) itself has given him / her so many insights into managing change and this can be tapped by the company which itself is struggling to cope against the dynamic business environment and required radical changes. Hence there is convergence of the individual and organisational goals in a way. 

Recognition is another factor, which the new recruits crave for.  Joining an organisation is like being thrown into an ocean and expecting to see the person to swim. Mind you, the person may already be a good 'fresh-water' swimmer, but an ocean has its own surprises.  Any feat well accomplished must be given adequate publicity within the organisation.  These boost the self-image of the person, which in turn makes him strive harder.  Indirectly, it acts as an "ice-breaker" in the social circles by making other colleagues have something to relate the person with.  Often in the brick and mortar (Geek jargon) organisations, new recruits are faced with the reality shock (stepping out into that rat race of corporate world) and coping with the senior colleagues simultaneously.  Imagine yourself working with people whose experience in that particular company alone is higher than your age.  To have such people reporting to the later (on confirmation of the job), is a still tougher proposition.  Now, it is here that the job content, responsibilities and all those finer things that the new recruit considers important to his career can become a casualty.  More often than not, the supervisor is not receptive to the new ideas that the person brings in, not because the idea or proposition is inferior but due to the supervisor's resistance to change from the way the department has been functioning.  It is here that the HR role player has to step in.  The new recruit has himself a lot to gain from the experience of the superiors and the superiors in turn can add vigour to their own career goals with some valuable inputs, surprisingly enough, from the new recruit. 

To make this crystal clear, lets take the case of computer skills / training. We cannot deny that this has become of primary importance for enhancing job roles today.  It is a tough proposition for the trainers to guide his people who are not computer literate, into the ever-changing world of computers.  Now the new recruit is already equipped with this very kind of training by virtue of his being brought up in the new economy and also during his curriculum (Graduate / Post Graduate).  Such people can impact the required training even to superiors who will whole heartedly accept both the training method and the trainer.  This indirectly builds an informal relationship between the two parties, which will affect the superior-subordinate relations in other areas of work also.  I have seen (In Century Rayon itself) that such 'interventions' are more effective than a formal training program.  If access to computer is provided and such trainers are identified for each department, the goal can be met with ease.  Conversely, the new recruit can take important tips from his superiors on the cultural feelers of the company, the attitude of the colleagues and any other special information which is of vital importance to on the job performance / contribution, and which will help in overcoming the 'surprises of the ocean' referred to earlier. 

Besides such activities, specific programs aimed at improving the ability to pick up and expand new ideas (on an informal level) of supervisors can go a long way in making them more acceptable to new recruits.  This when coupled with a customised mentoring program can create a Win-Win situation for the organisation and the newbie. 

I am sure that such Win-Win situations can be identified in such other areas of work as well.  Such proactive measures will make the job more enjoyable to all the employees and will go a long way in building a sense of belongingness in the employees. Such bonds, I am sure can stand strong for a considerable length of time. 

Anish Aravind
Officer, HRD 
Century Rayon, Shahad (1990-2002)


I came upon the print version this article yesterday while doing a cleanup of documents which I had kept from my corporate stints starting from June 1999. I realised that this version had been written much before I started blogging / tweeting my thoughts. That happened very slowly from 2006 onwards - almost 5 years after I wrote this one and another piece on 'Mindsets' for the TQM Magazine. 

For the new entrants and HR students reading this - I wish to update that, the 3.5 year stint at Century Rayon formed the foundation for my Human Resources career. I have personally benefitted from many Win-Wins which when coupled with Serendipity helped me become more connected to possibilities that existed for enabling business results with people.  You may connect to career path across 5 companies via my Linkedin profile. 

After over 16 years working for a salary, serendipity got me down a different path- that of an HR entrepreneur, from January 2015. I have blogged about some snippets of that exciting journey last year. 

Monday, April 01, 2019

Leadership musings from Kerala's Small &Medium Enterprise Ecosystem

I have to say I loved reading this article by The Economist about Leadership and the way it' s perceived by majority of followers - you can ready the article here
Ever since I commenced my own entrepreneurship stint with SS Consulting, I have had the opportunity to watch leadership role players who were Founders / Co-founders from close quarters. These leaders come from the companies which came to us (we take referred clients mostly) to enable their organisation's growth journey. So I could relate quickly to the examples referred in this article. Here's what I learned from past 4 years of interactions with leadership role players in Kerala.
  1. Assessment of Quality remains a challenge - Oratory skills, Charisma, Position, Caste and background comes in the way of relevant metrics for assessing leadership skills.
  2. Miss realising that Leadership is 'different' by itself - Most leadership role players get elevated to their roles due to pre-disposition or proven Technical strengths and hence miss connecting to the basic tenet that Leadership is about beyond 'self' and more about influencing others.
  3. Leaders miss upgrading their own skills - most feel that they have learned what it takes to lead based on past experiences or by following another individuals. These can be Parents, Relatives, Friends with Charisma / oratory skills. This prevents connection to the context of their current organisation / Startup and ends up alienating employees / followers.
  4. Role of a leader is misunderstood by Investing community - Kerala startup scene is reasonably well funded by a variety of investors. These investors, having made their mark in an era which was very different from current scenario are highly likely to miss the nuances that a leadership role player will face in today's entrepreneurship environment. Such investors therefore, are prone to making hasty decisions about placement of Talent to leadership roles.
Signing off with a video about a result oriented style of leadership as practiced by Richardo Semler, whose approaches helped his family owned company, Semco stand out. He did this over 25 years ago.

Honoured to be invited to the #SHRM18Bloggers Squad

It was back in 2012 that I was lucky enough to sign up for being a blogger with SHRM - I had blogged about that excitement back then.  Over the years, I ended up attending SHRM's annual national conference 5 times upto 2018 of which two more have been as member of the elite bloggers squad.  Frankly, I tweet more than I blog as I found that twitter, although not that intuitive to many, gave me the opportunity to simplify text and think deeper in an attempt to get the message to 144 characters.  No prizes for guessing the connection I found to the Title and the reason for my blog.

So it is with special excitement that I am sharing to my blog readers that I will playing an active part in SHRM's Annual conference and Exposition  this year at Las Vegas, Nevada - as a #shrm19Blogger once again. 

I shall be posting another blog about stuff I'm planning to do at #shrm19 around the them building better work places.

So long..
Leaving you all with a link to some of my old tweets from 2012 - Yes, I tweeted these.