Lead-Wise

MEANINGFUL & IMPACTFUL RESULTS

Month: August 2014

Fundamental Thinking For Healthcare Providers

How many of us have been to a hospital during the past year, for ourselves or others? Healthcare providers play a vital role in our lives.  The frequency of our visits go up over time and very few of us go to a hospital with total peace of mind.  It is important for healthcare providers to recognize this, as they play a huge role in the patient’s and family’s wellbeing.  There is more to patient care.

In India, it seems that the healthcare infrastructure has developed admirably in many places with the latest equipments, medicines and many technical services (and fees) but the quality of interactions, interfaces and emotional intelligence skills leave a lot to be desired.  On the other side, customer/patient experience and satisfaction haven’t kept up.  People are constantly on the lookout for the next best service provider and willing to pay more for better services.  We seem to have many skilled experts who have low emotional intelligence/social skills and caring approach with their patients.  Medical schools, hospitals and clinics can progress a long way by developing these skills consciously from the early school training phase and revising every ‘touch-point’ with their customers/patients across their systems.  These aspects have to be revisited constantly but first there needs to be a clear intent to change.

Emotional Intelligence (EI) can be defined as a set of abilities (verbal and non-verbal) that enable a person to generate, recognize, express, understand and evaluate their own and others’ emotions in order to guide thinking and action.  It includes two key perspectives – interpersonal (insight into others) and intrapersonal (self awareness).

So, what could we learn from related studies and research around the world?

Patients who feel that their physicians treat them with respect and fairness, communicate well and engage with them outside of the office setting are more active in their own health care.  The researchers looked at four factors: the quality of the patient-physician relationship, including how well patients felt their doctors communicated with them; how much respect and fairness patients felt they received; the involvement of the patient in setting treatment goals; and the frequency of any patient-physician communications outside of the office setting, such as email or phone calls. Each of these factors was associated with greater patient engagement, with the exception of involvement in the setting of treatment goals.  Getting patients to be more active in their own care is important and this can be decreased by a power differential in the relationship between physician and patient.

Physicians often underestimate patients’ desire for information. In one study – in 65% of the encounters doctors underestimated patients’ desire for information, in 6% they overestimated, and in 29% they estimated correctly.  Doctors’ information-giving, was significantly related to patient satisfaction.  Affective behavior (especially non-verbal behavior: eye contact, shown interest) appeared to be very important in determining patients’ satisfaction.

Low physician emotional intelligence is associated with greater illness and health care utilization.  Empathy may be the most important component of emotional intelligence in the healthcare setting.  Given the importance, even centrality, of empathy to the doctor–patient relationship, testing for empathy in medical student applications or development deserves more attention. Issues within the system, e.g.. among doctors, nurses and other staff members also affect patients.  

The results of the 2009 Doctor-Nurse Behavior Survey (American College of Physician Executives) indicated that nearly 98 percent of the survey respondents reported witnessing behavior problems between doctors and nurses in the past year.  While disruptive behavior is terrible, no matter whom the target, the problem becomes especially worrisome when it affects innocent third parties – patients and their families. It is also important to acknowledge that healthcare providers themselves need support, while having to work with very difficult environments and emotions.

A recent study in Kerala indicated that patience, care and concern of doctors and nurses, doctors’ interest in patients and the comfort provided by them were vital factors impacting patients’ satisfaction.  This seems to be aligned with the above studies.

A pivotal study shows that when the brain fires up the network of neurons that allows us to empathize, it suppresses the network used for analysis.  It is important to be aware that when the analytic network is engaged, our ability to appreciate the human cost of our action is repressed.  In short, we have a built-in neural constraint on our ability to be both empathetic and analytical at the same time.

If you work in healthcare, it would be very worthwhile to review your own self awareness, emotional intelligence and conscious development, at an individual and systemic level.  Deep expertise in medical science might lead to a heavy reliance on the analytic brain network – we need both analytical and social.

I leave you with one important question for reflection:

How would it feel if you and your family were on the receiving side of your own service?

“As healthcare professionals, sometimes we fail to see the whole picture.  We don’t see the patient, the person, the human being, the mother who had brought up a family who were desperately worried about her condition.” – Dr. Penny Sartori


References/Resources:

Emotional intelligence and patient-centred care, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1939962/

Doctor-Patient Relationship Influences Patient Engagement, November 29, 2011, Valerie DeBenedette, http://www.cfah.org/hbns/2011/doctor-patient-relationship-influences-patient-engagement

Doctor-patient interaction, patients’ health behavior and effects of treatment, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6474225

Emotional intelligence and empathy: its relevance in the clinical encounter, Paul Burcher , Dove Press Journal, May 2011

Bad Blood: Doctor-Nurse Behavior Problems Impact Patient Care, Carrie Johnson, https://www.ache.org/policy/doctornursebehavior.pdf

DOCTOR-PATIENT COMMUNICATION: A REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE, L.M.L.ONG, J.C.J.M.DEHAES, A.M.Hoos, and F.B.LAMMES, http://tusk.tufts.edu/auth/pdf/529179.pdf

Role of Empathy In Ensuring Patient Satisfaction At Government Hospitals In Kerala: An Investigation, Rehin.K.R, Dr. Raveendran. P.T.

Empathy represses analytic thought, and vice versa, http://blog.case.edu/think/2012/10/30/empathy_represses_analytic_thought_and_vice_versa

Evolving Self – Transitioning Back

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward….” – Lao Tzu

As I was saying good byes to friends and ex-colleagues in Finland earlier this year, many encouraged me to write about my experiences of transitioning back to India, after more than a decade of living in the U.S. and Finland.  In addition to personal experiences, some were also curious to hear more about India through the eyes of someone they could relate to.

For other readers, in a personal development context, may I suggest the self awareness question for your thinking – “What defines you?”

Considering that Finland and India are worlds apart in many respects, this transition involved big readjustments.

The early stages of moving back involved feelings of fuzziness.  It was a feeling of being in different places at the same time.  There was a mix of sadness and happiness, thinking about what would be missed and gained.  It involved letting go of personal comfort zones, habits and relationships built over the years.

There were early readjustments.  After having gotten used to the silent environment in Helsinki, even adjusting to the general noise levels was a change.  I live in a smaller city in the south of India (Trivandrum, Kerala) which is more laid back and easier to navigate compared to many other larger cities.  Life brought a difficult turning point, when my mother passed away after a month of my arrival.  Pain and challenges tend to lead to a yearning for spiritual advancement.  My efforts during previous years to understand spirituality deeper helped to focus on life from a larger wisdom and perspective.

I’ve wondered – Does wisdom find you or do you find wisdom?  What leads you or vice versa to you, certain things, people or circumstances that seem to be outside the predictable flow of things in life?

On the professional side, I had decided to move in an independent path of consulting and coaching.  This involved figuring out new ways of working.  Working from home on my own was an interesting adjustment process.  Trying to build connections in a place that I had not spend much time during the past decade was another.  In many ways, it felt like starting from scratch.  There was a sense of frustration and impatience creeping in and a need to manage that.  I traveled to Delhi and Chennai to meet with contacts and attend a national HR conference.  Those experiences were helpful to get a wider view on some cultural and professional aspects.  Some ex colleagues and friends were gracious in meeting and responding.  There were disappointments in my mind with few others – I realized it was due to my own expectations mostly of others without thinking about or knowing their perspective.  Life seems to become a lot easier and less complicated when we let go of judgment and expectation of wanting others and things to be our way.  Learning to deal with that was important personal progress.

It also gave me an impetus to write more and channel positive energy.  A high school friend who is currently working on a book and involved with the publishing world, helped create new blog page.  In around three months, there have been close to1000 unique views from 45 countries.  I am grateful for the many encouraging responses and feedback.

On the personal exercise front, after enjoying squash (learning to lose painfully 🙂 a lot before starting to win) for the last four years personally, I am yet to pick up a new game and get back to the active exercise mode.  Squash courts are hard to find.  Some of that relates to me trying to find my new enjoyable zone.

Regarding general experiences in India:

The process flows and government interfaces are improving slowly and surely for citizens.  Another positive aspect I experienced personally is meeting more grounded individuals in positions of power in the public and private spaces, who are aware of the intelligent use of power and want to make a positive change and impact.  Experiences in India can vary considerably depending on where one is located.

Readjustments also involved getting used to how things work.  Many things (public or private sector) did not seem to work smoothly and to the expected or communicated timeframes.  It also seemed to take multiple follow-ups until something got unnecessarily complicated.  Time still seems to be a flexible concept and delays are normal.  Communication styles are still mostly top down and hierarchical and the frontline staff in most places are not empowered to make changes for customers.  Small business owners say that they still can’t trust work to get done if they’re not micromanaging their staff.  Many things get completed faster depending on where, who and how the request comes.  Social status and networks plays a major role.

India continues to develop.  Infrastructure is much better but there is a long way to go before getting to world class.  The progress may be in bits and pieces.  It is encouraging to see the new central government emphasize major infrastructure development and change in attitudes and habits.  Connectivity, accessibility and ease of travel are much better.  The impact of information technology is widespread, with many process being connected to the internet.  Unlimited internet at home is not unlimited at the same speed – the access speeds reduce dramatically after a certain data transfer amount depending on the type of connection packages you take.  The cars on the roads have changed and the numbers have increased dramatically with most global car brands being present but the quality of many roads and traffic management need attention.  Maintaining the current roads without potholes seem to be a challenge.  One of my rough first hand experiences was a six hour journey in the last row of a state transport bus, which felt like sitting on a jumping ball.  There seems to be lesser queue disruption than in the past.  Public transport system is overcrowded during peak hours but provides much more options and comfort than earlier.  Mass transport systems are still few in number.  Basic utilities like energy and drinking water seem to be under stress and require a lot more planning for the future.

Some services are as good or better than anywhere in the world.  I can order a cab sitting at home, for any time of the day or night.  There are also apps now in many parts of India that even track our ordered taxi through gps, after we order.  The Delhi metro seemed as good as any other metro system in the world but the rush hour traffic may become or already is over capacity.  Global startup names like Uber seem to be building up in India quickly.  I can also book bus, train or plane tickets seamlessly using apps or through the internet anytime – this was not easy even few years back.  I could travel on the train by just showing my photo id and online ticket booking.  Most major brand names are visible on the local store shelves and everywhere .  The latest mobile devices and electronic equipments are quite visible.

Even though many things have improved tremendously, it is obvious that India is still difficult for foreigners or tourists to navigate practically on their own.

Back to my own experiences – Memories, recollections and emotions still remind me about my previous world, people and experiences.  There are still days in which I distinctly picture internally my favorite walking path around the waterfront in Helsinki.  What I miss most is my diverse conversations with my small group of friends and connections.  Physical distance results in mental distances and grabbing a coffee together is no longer an easy option.  As time passes, the distance grows.  Close friends will remain close and the reconnection will be seamless but the nature of closeness shifts when the frequency of interactions drop.  On the other side, old friends in India are still friends, but they have evolved as well and we are all in different phases.  That needs rebuilding.  Very few stay the same.

All this serves as means to deeper learning, wisdom, new paths, connections and a more evolved future.  I am learning and unlearning without letting go of the valuable knowledge and wisdom acquired.  With every new direction, life has led to unexpected new paths, people and experiences.

Feeling lost seems to be a familiar feeling before discovering myself in an evolving self.  It has led me to a place of hope, belief and confidence to progress through new experiences stronger.

To my global friends, I hope and wish our paths cross again… There is some sadness in thinking that it may not happen sometimes but glad that destiny helped cross our paths.  It may not have been total coincidence.  I am a result of my experiences.

A special ‘Thank You’ to my good friends for your inspiration and encouragement, to share my experiences.

“We are travelers on a cosmic journey, stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity.  Life is eternal.  We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share.  This is a precious moment.  It is a little parenthesis in eternity.”- Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

 

Learning to Learn Differently – Thoughts For Students (& Teachers as well)

There’s a huge emphasis on education and learning in many parts of the world.  People recognize the importance, tangible benefits and positive impact it could bring to one’s life, society and the future.  While the importance and acknowledgement is visible, many aspects and approaches related to learning seem to require a rethink.

In India, the value of application of education to life seems to be less important than the rank or scores in an examination.  Without doubt, exam scores do matter but everyone needs to think seriously about the value of learning to life beyond schools or university.

Earlier this June, I had shared few suggestions for primarily educators regarding employability of their students.  This post is more focused on the individual learning perspective, mainly for students but may help teachers as well.  Having been through multiple learning experiences in different levels, subjects and countries (including losing a year due to low marks in school), I thought it would be useful to share from multiple experiences.

1. Build self awareness on one’s own learning preferences and styles
Most people have different learning styles, preferences and paces.  It is important to identify one’s own learning style.  At least understanding your learning preference (visual, auditory, reading-writing, kinesthetic) can improve the experience and effectiveness.  It is also important to build self discipline into any learning process.  Similar to building physical muscles by exercising constantly, it is important to build mental muscles and focus through a disciplined process.  Without discipline and direction, it is easy to get lost in various distractions.

2. Learn something that you’re passionate about and is aligned to your strengths
A starting point of any learning process is to answer for oneself, “Why I am learning this, why is this important for me?”.  If your answer is aligned to your own interests, values and priorities, the probability of a successful learning experience is high. The only time when I personally truly enjoyed learning and did really well was when I learned something I badly wanted to, and felt very interested about.  I went much beyond the requirements of the program to learn and absorb as much as possible.  It is very unfortunate and a huge waste of your and others’  time, if you spend most of your life learning or doing something you don’t like or want to do.  Many students choose a profession because it seems glamorous from outside or due to external pressure.  I’ve heard from professors and teachers that it is very difficult for any worthwhile learning to happen if someone is unmotivated or uninterested.  If you don’t have your own specific answer, it is fine to experiment and listen to other’s (someone you respect) inputs.  Unfortunately, many parents in India force their children to streams that they absolutely don’t want to be in.

3. Reap the benefits of social learning
Learning becomes deeper and much richer when one is exposed to multiple perspectives.  Having a peer discussion group to discuss your learning topics can be valuable exposure.  Start with a common purpose for the whole team – what are we trying to achieve?  Being able to synthesize from various inputs is a highly appreciated skill in today’s world.  It helps to have positive peer pressure to keep moving forward, and work with one’s negative emotions as they creep in.  This is also a valuable way to learn to work with contradictory opinions.  Awareness of the potential of one’s ego to disrupt and to work on it early is extremely important.  Extra curricular activities like sports or arts that involves teamwork serve as great learning experiences.  Working effectively in teams, including those you disagree with or don’t like is a major requirement for any organization.

4. Use multiple sources and media
It is a huge opportunity missed in today’s world to not enrich one’s learning using multiple, available knowledge sources.  Please do not wait for the university or professors to give you content.  There so much of it available today, with a mobile device and internet connectivity.  In addition to using your faculty, laboratories, peer groups, and libraries that may be accessible locally, there’s so much content, online courses and global resources accessible through the internet today.  The opportunity to stay updated on the latest developments in any area and learn from the best sitting in any part of the world is tremendous.  Keeping industry interaction active also always gives you the employment perspective.  Try to find people in your own first or second degree network who can share their valuable first-hand experiences from workplaces – culture, ways of working, what it takes to be effective etc.

5. Make the environment attractive
Last but not least, it is important to feel good about learning.  Neuroscience studies show that the brain functions much better when it is in a ‘reward’ state, not a ‘threat’ state.  Even if learning may involve difficult work, an enjoyable collegial, fun, open physical and social environment, refreshing variety of methods used, great people around are factors that contribute to an enjoyable learning experience.  Each one of you can contribute to that in the way you turn up.

For teachers, they key question to ask is how you can play a key role in facilitating the learning process, thinking, acting and guiding students to find answers for themselves through multiple knowledge sources.  In India, we  have long held the notion that a teacher should have the answer for almost everything.  As the popular Chinese proverb tells us, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”  A good practical start would be to spend time in your class just discussing about creating an effective and impactful learning experience together.

Success comes when the students and teachers work together – with a common purpose or vision.

Deep learning involves learning beyond the prescribed boundaries by a school or university.  One feels personal growth, a sense of achievement and confidence to take on the world.

What has worked very well for you? Your input or shared experience could influence a life in a major way.

Best wishes…

I dedicate this post to my father on his death anniversary today, for allowing me to choose my own learning direction.

Feeling Stuck In The “Middle”? Life In Middle Management…

Middle managers are a very interesting group for study in any organization.  From various conversations and experiences, I’ve observed multiple challenges and frustrations faced by this group.  They seem to hold a lot of power, influence and operational responsibility in the organization but there are frustrations from different directions.

Many experts in recent years have called for a radical rethink of how organizations are structured, doing away with traditional corporate hierarchies and suggest that middle management is not helping and holding organizations back.  Some have even advocated doing away with middle management.  During many reorganizations or restructuring programs in organizations, ‘delayering’ the organization is one of the top principles adopted.

There have been discussions on “Is It Time To Abolish Middle Management?”, “Are Middle Managers Becoming Obsolete?”, and “The End of Middle Managers”.  In India, there have been concerns about creation of a mid-level that don’t possess the required competencies because of lack of experience, improper skill-building and almost negligible grooming by seniors.  A 2014 report by the Australian Institute of Management indicated that middle managers are underperforming and organizations have promoted technical specialists to middle management ranks without investing sufficiently in developing the leadership and management skills.  An Accenture post earlier this year stated that If IT has displaced middle managers in the information flow, digital obliterates the hierarchy they call home.  According to them, there is a silent crisis in most organizations – too many administrators and not enough real managers.  In short, middle managers are in the limelight and their activities and value to organizations are under the microscope.

A 2010 Boston Consulting Group & World Federation of People Management Associations paper reported that middle managers are critical to improving overall employee engagement and corporate performance.  They act as a bridge between top managers and team members.  Though they see the vision at the top of the organization and the pain at the bottom, they frequently do not have the support of senior management or effective levers to do their jobs and provide assistance to their employees.

Who are middle managers?
A logical way of defining middle managers is to identify the group between senior and front-line managers in the organisational hierarchy.  Middleness can have several dimensions: middle of a command hierarchy; middle in terms of time-scale and scope of decision between strategic and routine supervision; middle in terms of organizational impact.

How could we address some of these issues, at the individual and organizational level?

At the organizational level:

The BCG/WFPM study advocated:

  •  Delayering the organization and creating larger exciting roles for middle managers, in order to remove the barriers that frustrate them and encourage initiative.
  • Empowering managers to act by giving them levers and authority to succeed, but making sure they understand what is required of them.
  • Accelerating leadership skill development.

Managing time and priorities are normally the most difficult aspects for this group.  As a result of round the clock operational and team responsibilities, they find very little time for their own development which holds valuable impact for their stakeholders.

Becoming a middle manager often involves a significant shift in mindset from personal achievement to gauging success based on the accomplishments of a team (Refer recent post on “Transitions“).  Experts have suggested that the biggest leadership training impact may come from blending experiential on-the-job learning, coaching and feedback with formal classroom training.  This group could benefit a lot from coaching and mentoring – due to the thinking space that is normally hard to come by due to constant operational pressures, multiple topics that they may feel insecure or uncertain to discuss with their leaders and high stress in juggling multiple responsibilities professionally and personally.  The need for active dialogue, support and empowerment from senior leadership is high.  Senior leaders can also help build clarity in expectations.  HR teams can also play a key role in facilitating development and communication channels.

Mastering the art and science of managing talent needs to include a combination of multiple structured learning/development modes and cycles.  One may say this is not rocket science.  I heard a rocket scientist remark recently that rocket science was easier compared to managing people.  It is extremely important to not underestimate this aspect.

At the individual level:

If you’re a middle manager, you have to take the responsibility for your own development and success.

In between all these discussions of streamlining, restructuring and even doing away with middle managers, it is quite obvious that middle managers hold the potential to add a lot of value to organizations.  Even Google found with the help of analytics that middle managers do matter.

What could be some development targets, irrespective of the organization or technical nature of one’s role?

It is advisable to start working on developing one’s own leadership skills, mindset and behaviors in the early stages, utilizing multiple avenues.  The earlier one can build self awareness and emotional intelligence capabilities, the better.  The journey to leadership maturity has to start early (Check out References- video of Dr. Dave Ulrich defining the Leadership Code).  Getting selected to a leadership position would be excellent but an unprepared and immature leader can create a lot of damage to his or her reputation, an organization, careers and lives of many capable individuals.

The BCG/WFPM paper states that middle managers must be effective communicators, implementors and trust builders.  They will focus on outcomes, not overmanaging.  Middle managers need to be able to understand the corporate vision and strategy.  They must know how to develop and motivate their staff.  Related skills that seem to stand out are communication skills, ability to build trust, credibility, empowerment, execution/implementation, high performing teams and organizations.

Lynn Isabella, an associate professor at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business writes that the role of translator is a new leadership paradigm for middle managers. Being a translator means being an interpreter.  A huge advantage of being a middle manager is access to those in the organizational trenches.  They need to speak the language of top management as well as that of others lower down in the company. They need to understand strategic thinking and the language of finance, accounting, marketing, operations and human resources.

Periodic conversations with individuals from various backgrounds and different stakeholders will help a lot.  How many middle managers do we normally see so busy and caught up with their work, that they have no time for any conversation outside their own delivery? Building a diverse network could also result in a healthy support group.

According to Accenture, a middle manager of the future will know how the company wins at a conceptual and customer level. Making money is one thing, knowing how and why you make money gives you the ability to make even more. There will be recognition regarding the difference between critical and commodity capabilities.

Prioritizing and right judgment/decision making become very important skills to develop.  Middle managers play an important role in developing future talent, leadership and in determining the quality of the work environment through their behaviors and practices.  How would you want to feel during most of your time awake in life – at work with your colleagues or stakeholders?

It may also be a time in the career when comfort zones may look very attractive and there is a reluctance to take on risks or different assignments.  In today’s changing world, if you are not taking on challenges of different nature and complexity levels, the risk of becoming a ‘sitting duck’ for future reorganization/restructuring efforts is high.  Worse still, would be to look back and think where or how my uneventful last ten years of life went?

The writing on the wall seems to be clear.  There will be fewer middle managers in the future and they will have more challenging requirements, competencies and responsibilities.  Some organizations may experiment successfully with none, which may depend on factors like size, scope, type of work, industry etc.

Hopefully, reading this will trigger ideas on focus areas for your development as a middle manager.

I wish you meaningful growth and success.

References:

  • The contingent role of management and leadership development for middle managers, Patrick McGurk, London School of Economics – http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/277/1/McGurk_The%20contingent%20role%20of%20.pdf
  • Is It Time To Abolish Middle Management? – http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201403/is-it-time-abolish-middle-management
  • Are Middle Managers Becoming Obsolete? – http://business.financialpost.com/2014/03/09/are-middle-managers-becoming-obsolete/?__federated=1
  • The End of Middle Managers – http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidkwilliams/2012/07/10/the-end-of-middle-managers-and-why-theyll-never-be-missed/
  • How the middle management became India Inc’s biggest headache…. – http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2013-04-12/news/38464091_1_ms-unnikrishnan-skill-gap-india-inc
  • Middle Managers – Evaluating Australia’s Biggest Management Resource – http://www.aim.com.au/sites/default/files/AIM_MiddleManagementSurveyReport.pdf
  • Creating A New Deal For Middle Managers – BCG/WFPMA – http://www.bcgindia.com/documents/file52425.pdf
  • Redefining middle management in a digital world – http://www.accenture.com/us-en/blogs/digital-business/archive/2014/02/11/redefining-middle-management-digital-world.aspx
  • 5 Ways To Save Your Middle Managers From Burnout – http://www.fastcompany.com/3028674/leadership-now/5-ways-to-save-your-middle-managers-from-burnout
  • The Happiness Machine – How Google Became Such A Great Place To Work – http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2013/01/google_people_operations_the_secrets_of_the_world_s_most_scientific_human.single.html
  • Video – Dave Ulrich – Defining the Leadership Code – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FC6p9yXdOjE
  • For Middle Managers, The Power Is In Translation – http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/for-middle-managers-the-power-is-in-translation/2014/01/10/53bde1b6-610b-11e3-bf45-61f69f54fc5f_story.html

 

Hate HR? Time To Split HR? Basic things to think about…

There is something about HR that always seems to attract active attention, in any discussion.  In recent years, we’ve seen articles with titles, ‘Why We Hate HR’, ‘Why We No Longer Need HR Departments’, and recently ‘It’s Time To Split HR’.

Many individuals I speak with don’t seem to think highly of HR in their organizations.  At the same time, HR professionals feel the pain on many aspects as well, including feeling that they are criticized unfairly many times.  In most places, they work hard like counterparts in other functions.

The good aspect of all this is, it shows us most people still care and have strong expectations from the HR function.

Looking at many articles, even nowadays, it looks like there is confusion regarding what the HR function exists for.  Having had the opportunity to interact and learn from many thought leaders in the consulting, academic and business worlds, the answer is simple and clear in my mind – HR ensures successful and sustainable businesses, with the right organizational capabilities.  Strategies, practices, processes, behaviors, tools and  technologies need to follow that link.

Sorry to disappoint anyone who still thinks that all of HR’s key job should be to keep all employees happy and answer all queries and requests as quickly as possible.  Some HR teams’ roles might be just that but it is important to be aware of the difference.  Overall for any HR professional, it is neither intelligent nor helpful at any level to repel employees through unprofessional behaviors.

There are some basic questions in my mind.

  • Do employees have a higher expectation from HR as it is the one function that interfaces and represents the organization (beyond their leaders) from start to end of employment?
  • Is there a higher expectation for ‘H’ from the Human Resources function but at the same time business leadership demands more and more cost based decisions?  How do HR professionals feel about ‘H’ from their stakeholders?
  • Is there a feeling that HR work at all levels is comparatively easier?  Is there deficiency of right competencies and professionals for more complex levels of HR work, that have led the HR function to be perceived as ineffective or just administrative or process centric?
  • Do HR professionals feel like they are caught in the ‘middle’? Does that lead to a general lowering of employee trust in HR professionals?

As HR professionals and leaders, it is extremely important to build clarity on the vision, outcomes and the structure/governance to deliver them, while managing expectations with key stakeholders on priorities and communicating constantly.

Leaders also have to be realistic on expectations from HR.  Many times, there is a big disconnect internally among what the leaders expect, what employees think HR needs to do and what HR thinks they have to do.  In addition to this, investments in HR development do not reflect the high expectations from leaders to support successful strategy execution.  HR sometimes appears among the last ones in the line for development.

Many times, HR professionals are frustrated that they are not listened to by their own HR leaders.  Also, here’s a humble request to please stop using the HR function as ‘holding place’ for incompetent employees that you can’t send elsewhere or don’t want to ‘let go’.  HR also should not be seen as ‘glorified assistants’ (a term heard from conversations).  There is space within HR for administrative roles but that difference has to be understood.

Spending time, understanding, influencing views and having an open dialogue with all key stakeholders is probably the first step towards addressing some of these topics with a wider audience.

The untapped potential can be realized only through support from all stakeholders, with a collaborative attitude and approach.  It goes both ways…

“Remember teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.” – Patrick Lencioni

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

 

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