Article: An Opportunity and a Great Responsibility


An Opportunity and a Great Responsibility

As India achieves increasing global visibility, companies will have both immense business opportunities ahead of them and equally large responsibilities towards their employees

The global economic scenario has undergone a radical change and India is at the epicenter of this transformation


The biggest challenge is that we have a global workforce to manage – a workforce that despite being Indian, knows how global markets function


As India achieves increasing global visibility, companies will have both immense business opportunities ahead of them and equally large responsibilities towards their employees

The world economy has certainly undergone a big change. Until few years back, Indian companies and multi-nationals alike were in one of the many markets that the world saw. But today’s India is different with all its highways laced with concrete pillared ramps, dual carriageways, busy top hotels full of people networking and doing business, et al. The very composition of business-makers has changed. There are people who have had extensive working experience outside India returning back to their roots; business people from all across the world are negotiating deals and increasing business with our very own home-grown Indians. Whatever the physical exterior might look like, the biggest change is a psychological one. India is viewed differently today, and that’s for certain!
There are many factors that have increased India’s global market visibility among all that is visible today. A pro-business, market minded government is corollary to the expansion of India’s middle-class and India’s opening to boost trade, investment and tourism has been a big draw. The very statement of India being the harbinger locomotive for pulling the world out of its recession was perhaps answered very well by the recent visit of United States President Barack Obama, who brought deals with him worth some US $10 billion – and all of this just over one weekend! India today places itself in a very pivotal role of assisting so many world economies in coming out of their bad times. This is a great opportunity and a responsibility.
When New York Times columnist Thomas L. Freidman began his peroration by asking if striking French workers and students knew what world they were in – how globalization was making the societies of Europe look worn and weary and actually saying “what if, for all the hype about China, India and globalization – they’re actually under-hyped?” – he meant that countries have initiated (and just that for now) their growth on technological and infrastructural fronts and are on their path to becoming fantastic innovation centers; a large part of this change is something that the world hasn’t seen yet!
Surely, the world has changed. Surely, the way employees are available today in the market has changed. Surely, the employment market has changed altogether. And hence surely, the HR response to such changes needs to be different today. Economic and business changes have been so massive that the very fabric and structure of the Indian employment scene has changed.
So what is the impact of all of this on Human Resources outlook for the coming year? Do we function the same way we have functioned in the last two years battling with the downturn as in India and then with the aftermath and challenges thrown in by coming back on track? Probably not. Today, HR strategies are far more short term and strongly dynamic. The biggest challenge today is that we have a global workforce to manage – a workforce that despite being Indian knows how the world market functions, trots around the globe, is aware of diverse geographic cultures, understands the impact of what happens to India in the wake of global changes, is aware of “employability” and the changing career paradigms and understands the pros and cons of roles, job changes or any other changes in the employment structures.
Are we prepared to reciprocate HR challenges in the complexity of the various changes that India and the world are part of? Employees today recognize good companies – who care for them and attract loyalty and we as HR professionals have to ensure that we are in sync with the global changes and all our strategies towards employee attraction, engagement and retention are full of such changes.

What are the key areas where HR should focus, given all the enormous and radical changes that have prepared employees towards changing employment scenes?
1. Provide for employability rather than employment
An employee’s life may have training and development initiatives in terms of programs that run like a machine throughout the year. However, it’s now time to move on and build real organizational development and effectiveness initiatives that solidify the basic platforms, attack behavior and mind-set changes and give back the employee a sense of increased skill base, functional strength and behavioral agility in tougher situations. The key word is employability and not employment. Each employment has to increase employability of its employees as they stand to contribute towards their organizations.

2. Line of sight is a great aspect to lean on
Fast track careers are a great way to align employees with the organizational priorities. Line of sight has to be in sync with the way organizational strategies shape up. The linkage has to be very clear. These careers need to be a zig-zag, giving a complete overview of the business value chain, even for functional specialists.
Succession planning questions today start at the hiring stage itself. A good succession plan is a great attractor for any employee and it shows an organization’s maturity towards its people as well as clarity on its strategic sense. It’s a great motivator for any employee to know what is offered say two years down the line.

3. Compensation is important today
Indian companies are becoming equally or more attractive today than even multi-nationals in paying employees. When The Economic Times publishes a double digit increase in salary expectations for employees across many sectors, it’s really speaking about pay packets that are much higher than the increase in inflationary cost of living and of course in line with meeting demands of rising middle-class aspirations of wanting to spend more. Compensation is important today for employees and at all levels and it’s a fact today, at least for us in India.

4. Meatier roles are in; if you don’t have one, don’t hire
Hiring for the sake of hiring in the last two years has back-fired in a big way. Today’s case is about hiring well and intelligently. Head-count is about productivity and increased focus on top-line as much as, or probably more, on ensuring rationalization of bottom-lines. Consolidation of roles and structures and streamlining of structures, processes and systems needs to be the norm today. HR needs to ensure it’s in sync with all these changes and does not hire unless it’s about a great role being offered to an employee, even if it’s at an operational level. Everyone would want to increase head-count in India but being careful is important.

5. Global exposure is important because the world is no longer just India
Exposure to the world-market is imperative. India is no longer an island and each and every employee needs to know what is on with a market near or far off to India – how a Thailand or Indonesia or Africa or China is growing and what impact it would have on us and our employment conditions? Career development needs to have a world focus today.

6. Innovation is important and has to be fostered
Probably one can call this an extension of employability concept. Innovation is important from an employee perspective – everything today rests on doing something new, something different all the time, every-time. It’s a great value addition to companies as much as to employees who are part of such changes. HR must ensure that strategic changes are translated into innovative ways of doing business.

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Topics: Leadership, Strategic HR

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