Increasingly, any management seminar or workshop begins and ends with an exhortation that people are the real assets of a company and attracting and retaining good quality manpower is the need of the hour.
While nobody can dispute this exhortation and, indeed nobody does, the fact remains that only lip service is paid to the idea. Let us take up the first issue of attracting the right people. The first thing to note is that in the new lexicon of HR Managers, people are no longer people, rather, they are “talent” ; not unnaturally, they are taken to be and, therefore, treated like any other “input commodity or object,”. So today you hear phrases like “talent acquisition”, “talent retention and “talent development” ; the use of the word “people or employee” has become an anathema – how stupid and old-fashioned it sounds. Rather, today’s champion HR Managers are busy cutting their teeth on something much more superior and ethereal – talent !
Thus, the manager charged with attracting “talent” address (and treats) the people as inanimate objects rather than as the complex, interesting an challenging human beings that they are. This itself will explain a lot of the disinterested, dehydrated and aloof approach that HR managers take today towards incoming people in the organisation.
What exactly are the H.R. Managers are doing about attracting talent ? They are increasingly outsourcing the whole process. Consultants for recruitment are growing by the month, if not by the day. Everybody is inundated with “urgent requests” (barring the recent recession when there is a virtual bar on recruitment). So, in the very first step of “attracting” people, nay, talent, HR Managers are washing their hands off, because they want to bring efficiency and cost saving by outsourcing the functions to those who do it best viz. the recruitment expert. In some exceptional cases, HR Managers deign to look at people “themselves” by going to job sites. Of course, they do not do it personally (god forbid), ; it is done by the latest management trainee or junior-most employee who are given a skeletal requirement and a couple of keywords to carry out the search.
There is clearly no serious effort applied in making this first short list. You can well imagine that if this is the method for drawing up the list of recruits, no matter what the subsequent selection process is, one will still end up with suboptimal choices. This is increasingly borne out by the rapidly growing number of cases of people leaving or being asked to leave within a year of their being selected for a new job.
Recruitment experts are given recruitment assignments – because they are experts in their area. Undeniably true. However, it is also true that every recruitment expert does not know the intricacies and the culture of the organisation that requisition their services. In any case, he is given very little information about the organisation, its culture and work dynamics. Most enquiries are made by organisations through E-Mail and telephone and the person speaking from the office side is a junior HR executive or the secretary of the HR Manager ; can one really expect the “flavour of the organisation” to be conveyed by such people?
If any question is asked beyond the basic specifications (age, qualifications, designation, salary etc.), the standard answer is they are looking for “good candidates”. How original, and, indeed, how explanatory !
There is so much hullaballoo today about the retention of managers. How exactly should this be done ? While all and sundry argue, ad nauseum, at various public forums that retention is not merely a function of the salary level, the only issue that HR Managers address, discuss and plead for is “realistic salary levels” in line with market realities. What exactly is the expertise involved in attracting persons at a higher salary than the current salary level, is unfathomable.
Right from the time a person joins an organisation he/she starts judging it. How was he received ? Was he recognised or he did he have to explain that he is a new person joining ? Was his boss ready to receive him or did he ask him to wait till his important morning meeting is finished ? Was his table kept ready for him with all required standard paraphernalia? Did he get any briefing from the HR Department regarding joining formalities ? Did the Accounts Department brief him regarding salary/money matters? Was he introduced to his immediate colleagues? Was the circular issued prior to his joining about his coming? Was there any welcome note put up for him at the entrance or in his department? Did someone guide him as to where he will be served tea (or where he has to fetch it from), where the washroom is, where can he have lunch ?
Most readers will recognise that a large number of the above steps are not happening. The poor employee has to mostly fend for himself or, if he is lucky, a friendly colleague helps him out in this matter.
Is there any induction programme for him? We regularly ask companies about their induction programme. Everybody confirms that they have one. When we ask how long is the induction programme for, the answer ranges from a casual “one” to a proud “three days.” When we probe further as to what is done in the induction programme, we discover that essentially it is nothing but an introduction programme.
A newcomer is introduced to various people/functions, where the introduction does not go beyond mentioning the name and informing the designation/department in which the new comer is to join. The manager to whom he is introduced (particularly those that are senior to him), treat this activity as an interruption in their work, rarely look up from the desk while the introduction is being done, never ask the new comer to sit down for having a chat and display their widest smile when he is about to leave the room ! How inspired and comfortable should a newcomer feel at this ceremony !
In our consulting assignments where we a drawing up the organisation’s “Personnel Policy Manual” whenever, we have tried to introduce a detailed and sufficiently long induction programme, we have faced tremendous resistance, the argument being – we cannot afford to “waste” so much time on “induction” programmes – the employee must be put to work immediately.
Having thus dispensed with induction/introduction, the new employee is put to work – the only difficulty is that he is rarely told “what his work is.” “What is there to tell ?” is the first reaction we get from most HR Managers ; “if he is a sales manager, he is supposed to sell, if he is a production manage he is supposed to produce,” and so on.
In other words, designation becomes a substitute for Job Responsibilities ! So for the first few days, the new employee is totally lost as to how he has to spend all eight hours. Thereafter, as the tasks are assigned to him and he starts carrying them out, he discovers that “the way of working” here is quite different from that of his previous organisation. But nobody specifically guides him on “the way of working here”; as a result he bumbles along, making some lucky guesses, but mostly fouling up till he realises himself or somebody instructs him – don’t you know how this is done? Gradually, this person settles down and learns the ropes, but clearly since nobody has told him or guided him, he does not know every twist and turn of the rope and naturally, therefore, many times, gets entangled in it. Very soon he discovers that he has mastered (reasonably well, the way of working here). He is now comfortable and more assured and finds that he is doing well what he is supposed to do since he is experienced in this area, which is why he was selected for the first place and further learns how to do these things as per the new organisation’s style.
It is only after some time that the realisation dawns on him that he is only doing more of the same – the same that he was doing earlier. The organisation could be least bothered because it only wanted him to do the same thing which was done by the previous incumbent. So much for “talent” development !
In such circumstances, youngsters get impatient quickly and if they do not find that they are learning something new, they immediately start thinking of leaving and eventually do. Older employees cannot leave so easily, primarily because of lack of economic mobility and family constraints and, hence, start getting bored, frustrated and eventually depressed. What exactly is the HR Manager doing all this while ?
He does not do recruitment because he has efficiently outsourced it. He does not do management development because there is no need for it. He does not do counselling or grievance redressal because it is best not to ask people what are their difficulties as they will make an endless list. With these mundane matters of attracting, retaining and developing people (o, sorry, talent) disposed, off the HR Manager is free to build his own empire. He dangles carrots and also threatens employees with the performance redressal system and continuously interacts with professional colleagues in other companies regarding salary levels and tax saving perquisites. Whenever he is free from this, which really takes up very little time, he continuously searches for a new job for himself !. Is it any surprise, therefore, that the HR Manager is not exactly a popular person in his organisation?
It is for HR Managers to honestly and conscientiously reflect about what they are really doing to develop Human Resources in their organisation and see that they discharge this responsibility in their organisation by making a change of priority in the work “that they actually do” vis-à-vis “what they are supposed to do.”
I would therefore urge the HR Managers to carry out an honest introspection and address this issue, since it is axiomatic that people (not talent) are the true assets of any organisation. It is necessary that we consider them as such and act accordingly.