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Reflections From Past Year In Talent Acquisition

2018 was quite an interesting stretch year for me working deep in APAC talent acquisition (TA) world, and I thought of putting down some reflections.  Unlike my 2015 reflection, this post focuses on the core TA work mostly.

So, here we go:

  • Talent acquisition is very much a team sport. To close a strong new hire, having a great recruiter is just not sufficient. It is equally important to have a highly engaged hiring manager, aligned interview panel, recruiter and coordinator who work together in synch.
  • TA exists to deliver value for the business. When the focus moves heavily to costs and metrics, it is easy to lose sight of what the stakeholder values.  Many times, working closely with a business stakeholder requires a deeper understanding of their context beyond the process/numbers, and flexibility to change views or approaches.  Vice versa, it may also require the leaders/hiring managers to stay flexible to change past views.
  • From a process perspective, aligning an interview panel at the beginning of an interview process on key assessment areas, clarity on each member’s expected area(s) of assessment saves a lot of time in the end during the debrief to get to a hiring decision.
  • Stakeholders in general prefer transparency, proactive communication, sense of urgency, commitment to close roles and visibility on progress from TA.
  • Sometimes, activity on a requisition goes slow for a while and at other times, it picks up at short notice with high urgency, depending on stakeholder engagement or organizational dynamics.  Candidates may notice this change in pace as well and it helps for TA partner to manage expectations on timeline proactively and continuously.
  • One of the key actions for a TA leader is to continuously influence key stakeholders to explore different approaches, ways of working and establish a constant, trusting feedback loop.
  • It is very difficult, almost impossible to keep all stakeholders happy always as the demand cycles, priorities and markets shift.
  • Internal and external networks of contacts are always very helpful, especially for sharing learning/experiences and, to connect with new candidates and partners.  Internal referrals can make a big difference.
  • How a TA team or hiring panel interacts (or don’t) with candidates or external partners reflects the company’s true employer brand/culture and the individual brand as well.
  • Candidate drop offs after offer acceptance are part of TA partner’s life (bigger than initially expected) and therefore managing the risk also becomes relevant.  It was surprising to note how some experienced candidates in India disappeared after accepting an offer and became unreachable afterwards.  Shortsightedness is surprisingly common.  Most criticisms on social media are about recruiters or companies but there is another side to the discussion with many unprofessional candidates.
  • It is always relevant to keep candidate pipelines active. Also from a candidate’s perspective, important for final round candidates to remember that the TA team can always reach out to them sooner than expected, when someone drops out or the same role may open up few months later.
  • Many candidates try to reach out/connect with recruiters on LinkedIn.  For this approach to be more effective and workable (especially for an unknown connection), it would help the candidate to proactively do background research on open roles listed by the organization and specify interest and role.
  • While exploring partners or agencies, it’s not enough to see the big staffing brand, rather the experiences relevant to area of work and attitude to support.  Great partners are flexible, exhibit strong ownership and partnering abilities on the requisitions they work on. They also respond well to improvement feedback and suggestions, thereby building trust.
  • Piloting a new approach is a great way to explore a new approach before institutionalizing.  We piloted a new AI tool with a partner who was willing to flex outside their norm and we ended up extending the contract.
  • Workforce planning is not just about headcount and financial planning.  If we lose the perspective on type of skills, criticality and labor market dynamics, it is equivalent to running half blind.
  • If there is no ongoing hiring/development program for young talent, it will be more expensive for an organization in the long run to pay premium for hiring lateral talent.
  • As with any other function, there are always different styles and preferences at play – within the team, outside with stakeholders and partners.  One needs to continuously learn and adapt to the different styles at play to make the most and work through the difficult ones.
  • Team members tend to respond better if they feel their inputs are heard, trusted, supported and if they have autonomy, growth and learning.
  • When there is a mistake on your/team’s side, it helps to discuss with the team in a safe environment, own it and initiate corrective actions to avoid them in future (rather try to hide or mask it).  There is something to improve continuously.
  • As operational as talent acquisition may seem to be, there is always a strategic perspective to ensuring a credible TA function.

Best wishes for a great 2019…

Reflections On Fifty Years Of Leadership – from Bill George

I’ve found Bill George’s writings on leadership to be deeply thought provoking – based on his personal experiences, as corporate leader (CEO-Medtronic, EVP-Honeywell), board member, mentor and teacher (Harvard).

The following selected notes are from his article, ‘Reflections On Fifty Years Of Leadership’ (available in the free ebook, Lead True -link shared below). These apply to developing organizations and leaders in all environments.

  • As I reflect on the past half-century, enormous changes have taken place in organizations, their leaders and our expectations of these leaders. Many formerly great organizations have fallen by the wayside, as new ones have sprung up to replace them. Economists often attribute this phenomenon to rapid changes in technology and markets, using phrases like “creative destruction.” I beg to differ with them. If there is one thing of which I am certain, it is that the difference between successful, enduring organizations and those that disappear is the caliber of their leaders – at the top and throughout the organization. Among the most important qualities for leaders, these two stand out: adaptability and courage.
  • All of us will experience great crucibles in our lives from which we can discover what is real for us: our True North. Sometimes in life bad things happen to good people. There is deep learning in these experiences if we take the time to discern their meaning and reframe them to make our lives richer and more meaningful.
  • By choosing leaders for charisma, image and style – subjects often taught by business schools and leadership experts in the 20th century – we were overlooking far better leaders with character, integrity and substance.
  • The defining quality of today’s leaders is their authenticity – their ability to know themselves and discern their True North. Authentic leaders are secure within themselves. They do not need external validation to prop up internal insecurity. Instead, they have worked hard to develop the self-awareness to lead with clarity of purpose, practice their values every day, discern the “sweet spot” where their motivations merge with their strengths, build enduring relationships, and inspire and empower others to rise to the challenge. They know what it means to LEAD TRUE: to have the courage to adapt to any challenge while still being true to themselves.

There are many more valuable notes for reflection and learning throughout the book.  I would highly recommend to read and reflect.

Source: Reflections On Fifty Years Of Leadership, Lead True, Bill George, eBook; http://www.billgeorge.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Bill-George-Lead-True-eBook.pdf

What Does It Mean – To Be An Effective Leader?

Many current and aspiring leaders across the world grapple with a basic question:
What areas of competencies are needed to become an effective leader?

My first podcast focuses on the required awareness of fundamental leadership capabilities and the four competency areas for leadership success in any environment.

Developing Skills For The Future – Influencing Behaviors And The Learning Environment

This is a video of my recent talk for engineering students and educators at an International Conclave, organized by the ICT Academy of Kerala, India.  The key points covered here were shared earlier in a related blog post,

Prepare Students For Future World Of Work – 3 Behavioral Elements

 

 

Notes from Nasscom HR Summit 2017

I thought of sharing some of my consolidated notes from this year’s Nasscom HR Summit 2017 in Chennai (July 20-21, 2017).

“HR is not an agenda item. It is the agenda”. – Jeffrey Immelt, GE

LEADERSHIP

  • Next big leadership focus may be on leading differences and harnessing diversity.
  • Differentiated organization needs for “future fit”: 1. Adaptive Intelligence. 2. Culture fit – DNA (Very difficult to replicate organizational culture) and Curiosity Conversations (Really important to ask multiple “Why” questions and encourage them in your culture).
  • Leaders are brokers of hope. There is a thin line between hope and despair.

FUTURE DIGITAL WORLD

  • A key challenge today while thinking about change and future: In 2008, 73% of business ideas were Continuations. 12% were Novelties. Now, 71% of ideas are Novelites and 14% are Continuations.
  • A useful idea about the future needs to be ridiculous. What ridiculous idea are you entertaining about the future in your organization?
  • We will see more of Digitally Autonomous Organizations (DAO) – that involve very few to no management layers. That could be termed as technology enabled holocracy.
  • In a future digital world, there is a need to approach metrics differently. eg. Mahindra is moving from measuring number of cars sold to number of miles driven. There will also be a need to look at different business models that may challenge existing revenue and business models. Mahindra launched a separate tractor company called Trringo, that is similar to Uber for tractors (while maintaining their traditional tractor business).
  • The role of HR in a digital organization has to be more customer facing and focussed. e.g., AirBnB community interaction sessions are facilitated by HR.

WORK

  • We cannot ignore the social elements of disruption in our work environment. All sectors, especially government will have to rethink and implement a strong support umbrella for those losing jobs and effective re-skilling.
  • Approximately, 30% of India labour is on temporary or contract labor. Most of it seem to be not out of choice. A key question is how this will evolve in coming years, related impact on society and how our systems and support will need to evolve accordingly. Organizations will need to figure out more effective ways to manage a flexible talent pool. Government will again need to play a key role in thinking and establishing related public policies when the dynamics of employment relationships change.
  • The delivery of work in future will change significantly. Open business models are redefining value and leads to the emergence of new roles. Robotics and analytics will drive higher productivity. As a result, the employer employee relationship will also continue to evolve.

LEARNING

  • Continuous education aspect that involves learning beyond formal education throughout one’s career is growing in importance. There seems to be at least three key cycles of learning today in our lives – formal education years, the first few years at work and around mid career.
  • Companies need multiple learning interventions and re-skilling initiatives for the future. Some companies have trained employees on agile ways of working.
  • To enable behavioral change, it helps to do multiple small pilot projects.
  • Effective learning should be accessible Anytime, Anyway, Anywhere.

HR TECHNOLOGY

  • The focus of HR systems and tools is moving to “Interaction” from “Information”.
  • Majority of employee interaction on HR systems are moving to chat and voice. There will be no need for an employee to see the HR Management System.
  • Internal employee experiences need to mimic external customer experiences.
  • For technology to be effective, it must support story telling and connection.
  • YES Bank uses Facebook At Work for communication and collaboration. It seems to be working well for them.

HR PRACTICES

  • Citi sends all their graduates to NGOs and villages for one week, to get first hand experiences. HR folks spent 9 months taking on line responsibilities.
  • HR needs to think like the Marketing function and all solutions have to be simplified.
  • Career relationship managers or mentors will play an increasingly important role in organizations in future.
  • Google seems to have a Googler To Googler Guru Program Tool or Platform that connects experts in the organization to other employees, involving mentoring support.

PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT IN GE

Many folks still continue to refer to the GE bell curve distribution approach in performance management. GE no longer follows that approach. They have completely revamped their famous performance management system and removed the bell curve distribution approach. Some key elements of their new system include:

  • No annual goals, only priorities that are updated through the year.
  • No ratings. Focus is on “real-time” inputs for development and improvement. Feedback has been renamed to ‘Insights’ and anyone in the organization can share with the individual through a smart device application (This is based on neuroscience studies that the term feedback results in defensiveness that also blocks proper processing of feedback).
  • Related areas that still seem to require continued focus and work in this revamp are improving clarity for employees and communication around rewards distribution.

Hope these notes have provided at least couple of useful ideas.

Best wishes to you for the week ahead.

For HR professionals – Making Your Voice Heard

We recently saw in the press about an employee situation in a leading IT organization in India. HR was blamed by many. There will be many occasions in organizations that involve difficult situations to execute and the pressure seems high. One of the most common reasons cited in such situations is financial pressure.

Many times, a different contradicting view is not raised by HR because of the fear for their own jobs, to avoid conflict with the leaders who are more powerful, whose support is needed and to avoid personal issues. Business leaders play a key role in making their HR teams comfortable and confident for such discussions.

An important lesson for HR professional here is to clearly listen to oneself, think from multiple perspectives and highlight one’s point of view, when experience and conscience clearly tells something is amiss. You have to take responsibility for a decision that you are involved in and highlight concerns at the time of review. When a delicate situation goes out of control later, you will most probably see others pointing towards you, though you were not the only person in that room. Sometimes, these may involve ethical scenarios that can come back and haunt the organization in a major way (eg. recent harassment claims in a prominent U.S. organization). The situation may require you to take a clear stand that sometimes creates tension.

For any professional, it is also important to build your credibility by constantly interacting with all key leaders regarding your points of view. One needs to develop trust, skill, knowledge and credibility to initiate and influence such discussions.

Poor leadership is seen when business or organizational leaders hide behind HR teams for decisions made and don’t feel comfortable communicating themselves. The best business leaders take responsibility for leading their organizations, initiate discussions through leadership channels and actively partner with their HR teams. They form a great partnership to build an engaged culture and everyone wins in the process, especially the organization. As an HR professional, it is important to realize you are ultimately safeguarding the organization and key stakeholder interest when you bring different and sometimes contradicting perspectives to a complex discussion.

I once interacted with a headhunter team who were sourcing for a HR Head in a startup. They seemed to become upset and dismissive on being asked related questions and ended up responding quite unprofessionally. It made me wonder that if they could not tolerate detailed questions about the organization while searching for an HR leader, what sort of HR professional and team would be hired.

We see this aspect become increasingly relevant for organizations to acknowledge. Many times, issues and scenarios go out of control because of the “How”, not the “What”. In today’s world, where everyone has access to both channels and sources of information, the professional and balanced HR perspective internally or externally, becomes critical for every professional and organization to develop, succeed and thrive.

Prepare Students For Future World Of Work – 3 Behavioral Elements

There is tremendous amount of discussion about the fast evolving future of work. While there are many assumptions about the future, many experts agree that it will be difficult to predict clearly and continue to evolve quickly. They also seem to agree that machine learning will become faster than human learning in near future. Some work may continue to be local in nature and highly valued. Some may get automated. One way to succeed or even survive in future could be to proactively develop an ability to continuously observe, reflect, learn and take adaptive actions at an individual and systemic level.

So, from an education or learning perspective, how do you prepare students for the future of work?

We can start with couple of basic premises.

  1. Success at work or life will continue to depend on a set of distinguishing abilities, behaviors or habits.
  2. The environment we are in can influence and impact them.

If educators can figure out ways to develop the following key behaviors for students through interventions and, if students can consciously develop them, readiness increases.

Three key behavioral elements for learning to inculcate early are:

  1. Curiosity, Continuing To Explore and Asking Questions
  2. Openness To Experimenting, Failure and Rework
  3. Achieving Independence Through Confident and Responsible Actions

Educators should consider various ways in which the above behavioral elements can be developed early in their students by designing their learning environments and related processes. As we know, habits once formed early are not easy to change.

Some examples on potential interventions – Classrooms should be include quality time for reflecting on the learning process, explore and develop multiple approaches and seeking out answers together in different ways. In a fast evolving and uncertain world, lack of curiosity in individuals or organizations leads to quick decline. Teachers should become facilitators of the learning process rather than aiming to become the database of answers. The process of figuring out answers should be encouraged and rewarded. Teachers should be open to exploring and learning together with their students. Labs should be places where students should enjoy experiments and figuring various approaches towards answers while becoming comfortable with working through failures. The focus there should not be on getting the right result but rather experimenting and figuring out. The “growth mindset” should be encouraged across the board. Teachers should encourage students to step up at every possible opportunity and experience the different aspects of taking actions with confidence and responsibility, inside and outside the classroom.

Educators have to themselves think deeper and modify their approaches to help prepare their students for a fast evolving future where the nature of work may evolve. Doing what made them and their students successful in the past may not apply for the future. There are of course various aspects to thinking through this. The fundamental point is to start looking at developing fundamental behaviors that enable students to navigate and adapt effectively in an unclear future, when the content itself may not matter as much as the context and behaviors. Start with and focus on one or two. Exploring these scenarios will also force you as educators to effectively contemplate and redesign your future of work.

Tensions Between The Elephant & Rider – Our Brains & Change

I recently completed reading a book, “Switch” that focuses on the topic of change and found the following concept/notes valuable. We see this play out everyday.

Conventional wisdom in psychology is that the brain has two independent systems at work all the times.

  1. the emotional side – part of you that is instinctive, that feels pain and pleasure.
  2. the rational side, also known as the reflective or conscious system – part of you that deliberates and analyzes, and looks into the future.

The duo’s tension is captured by an analogy in University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s The Happiness Hypothesis book.

Our emotional side is an Elephant and our rational side is its Rider.

Perched atop the Elephant, the Rider holds the reins and seems to be the leader. But the Rider’s control is precarious because the Rider is so small relative to the Elephant. Anytime, the Elephant and the Rider disagree abut which direction to go, the Rider is going to lose. He’s completely overmatched.

Most of us are familiar with situations in which our Elephant overpowers our Rider. The weakness of the Elephant, our emotional and instinctive side, is clear. It’s often looking for the quick pay-off (ice cream) over the long-term payoff (being thin).

When change efforts fail, it’s usually the Elephant’s fault, since the kinds of change we want typically involve short-term sacrifices for long term payoffs. The Rider simply can’t keep the Elephant on the road long enough to reach the destination.

The Elephant isn’t always the bad guy. Emotion is the Elephant’s turf – love and compassion and sympathy and loyalty. Making progress requires the energy and drive of the Elephant.

If you want to change things, you’ve got to appeal to both. The Rider provides the planning and direction. The Elephant provides the energy. So, if you reach the Riders of your team but not the Elephants, team members will will have understanding without motivation. If you reach their Elephants but not their Riders, they’ll have passion without direction. When Elephants and Riders move together, change can come easily. When they disagree, you’ve got a problem.

If you are working on changes at an individual or organizational level, how will you ensure you appeal to both the Elephant and Rider?

Source:

  • Switch, How To Change Things When Change Is Hard, Chip Heath & Dan Heath; 2010
  • Website – heathbrothers.com/resources/

When Hardship Comes Calling

When everything seems to be going right, you feel nothing can stop you.

You’re on a roll. Life is busy and everything seems to be happening as you would like it to be, or even better. You’re in the middle of things, and people constantly seem to be around you. You can sense the increase in status, success and the feeling of being wanted and valued.

Then inevitably sooner or later, hardship comes calling in some format. It may be in the form of unexpected health, job issues or other other personal disruptions.

Everything seems to shift and become challenging during that phase. Life seems to bring forth lot more questions and uncertainty. Connections and friends don’t call you or connect as they used to earlier. They just don’t seem to have time. Some disappear. In this phase, you can feel most things not progressing as you would like them to and your internal graph continues to fall.

For the totally unprepared, these scenarios can be debilitating and shocking.

Life throws up surprises with all possibilities of good and bad. Most experienced and wise beings would share the opinion that life is a mix of ups and downs – nothing is constant.

On a more practical level, the question about hardships is not whether they will appear. It is about how you will respond when they appear and how much resilience you have to tide over them. Difficult phases seem to last longer and happier moments seem to pass by quicker.

When you work through hardships in a focused manner without finding reasons to blame others or circumstances and focus on things that you can control, your probability of getting out of these “holes” increases. Your energy levels normally become low during such situations and you need to find ways to find sources of higher energy levels – physically, mentally and spiritually. Everything ties into each other. Physical momentum seems to impact mental momentum.

When the going gets really tough, normally your closest friends, family or connections will be the ones to give you their valuable listening ears, guidances, helping hands and shoulders. It is also a time when you need to remember to ask and stay open for help from any quarter without judgment. The ones who care about you will ensure you are on their agenda.

Your hardships provide strong opportunities for learning to cope and rebound from frustration and despair. Hardships lead to the discovery/confirmation of your core beliefs, values, and what defines and matters most for you. There are always things that you can do something about and it helps to focus on them, however small they may seem.

In the end, it is not about how the world sees or defines you. It is about how you see yourself and your life. Your life and search for meaning are unique experiences that only you can experience and complete. When we look back at our hardships, we realize that those hardships helped define us more than our good times.

The wiser, mature beings are those who have worked their way through hardships and understand the depth of such scenarios. Their magnanimity, abundance mindset and gratitude are also influenced by those experiences. The depth of their hardships (especially if life/death situations are involved) faced and their journeys can be observed in the way they interact with the world. Our society needs more wiser beings.

Our lives perhaps facilitate the evolution of our souls.

Best wishes…

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“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”, Anne Bradstreet, The Works of Anne Bradstreet (GoodReads)

Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference…

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Easiest Way To Be Visible On LinkedIn And Add Value

I know many connections who are hesitant and uncertain about how to be visible on LinkedIn. They also doubt if there is anything valuable to offer.

Here’s the simplest way to be visible and add value for yourself, your organization and your LinkedIn network.

“Like”, “Share” or “Comment” on helpful updates, posts and articles from your network or people you follow.

These updates don’t need to be about you or your organization alone. When you “Like”, “Share” or “Comment” on an update from someone in your network, it appears on the LinkedIn feed of your network (many times, they go even beyond your first degree connections).

You may decide to act only on certain topics and from individuals you feel totally comfortable with.

These may be:

  • Job opening updates (not just limited to your area of work or organization, think about your network)
  • Key updates about your organization and others as well
  • Interesting, helpful articles or posts that you come across
  • Points of view or observations, including your own

It may help to know your network better. You also don’t need to go overboard – just one or two actions per week may be a good start.

It is also important to keep in mind always – “What you choose to share says something about you.” 

As you do this more and more, and consistently, it not only makes you more visible to your network but also brings value in terms of useful information, learning or awareness from your sphere (however small it may seem). Your name/brand also becomes more familiar to your network (sometimes, even beyond your first degree connections) over time. You also attract other connections who may share similar interests from different parts of the world. I’ve noticed and experienced this firsthand.

Overall in any network, it is important to not just be consumers. Think about contributing as well, in your own way. Start small. That will make you and your network richer, more aware and wiser. When there are more consumers and contributors in a network, the end result is a “win” for everyone.

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