The thing that I find fascinating about HR Practices in emerging markets is that they tend to be very innovative and creative in the ways of dealing with situations
The temptation has always been to believe that if there is a best practice that is available globally, it will add value to the Indian context
In an exclusive interaction with SHRM Global and Indian Management team, People Matters explores the learning from HR Management practices across the world and the uniqueness of the Indian context.
Excerpts from conversation with Laurence (Lon) O’Neil - President and CEO, SHRM; G. Ravindran (Ravi) - MD and CEO, SHRM India; Robb E. Van Cleave, SPHR, IPMA-CP - Chair, SHRM; Jose A. Berrios - Chair Designate, SHRM
What are the differences in the HR practices in the western countries and in the developing economies?
Lon: From our research, we have found that many companies transport models used in western countries like US or Europe to emerging countries like India for example. This approach has been proven inaccurate, we have seen this especially during the global crisis last year. We need to assess the level of transportability of practices both ways, from developed to developing countries and vice versa. Over and above that, the focus on cultural nuances needs to be taken into consideration to make that transportability successful. HR Practices must be focussed on the specific country and its culture. When a country like India is growing at originally 6.5 to 7%, now approaching 7.9% and upward, there is a very different set of HR issues that we need to focus on. There are also many learnings from western countries to emerging countries, as there are many innovative and creative practices arising in countries like India that can be leveraged in the west.
Ravi: I believe that in the western world most HR Processes have evolved to tested and proven models when it comes to quality and delivery. This has led to a standardization level that makes them replicable in similar contexts. On the other hand, in emerging markets, including the case of India, these practices are still evolving. The temptation has always been to believe that if there is a best practice that is available globally, it will add value to the Indian context. From my experience, what is happening today is that Indian companies are exploring best practices available and building on them, in their context of application. The result is a set of new and next practices that are emerging in developing countries, building from standardized best practices in developed countries.
Jose Berrios: The thing that I find fascinating about HR Practices in emerging markets is that they tend to be very innovative and creative in the ways of dealing with situations. Developed nations need to pay attention to the learnings from the emerging and developing economies like India for example.
How are the HR Challenges different in India from those in the western world?
Ravi: HR can be seen at three levels: transactional, transitional and transformational. All these three levels exist in most organizations. Transactional HR happens at the early practitioner level. Transitional practices normally rest somewhere between middle and senior management. But when we look at transformational initiatives, these tend to evolve from senior management and get executed by middle level. In India, this is not just true for the Human Resources Function but for all functional domains in an industry.
Lon: I think each of those three levels is necessary. Companies cannot leave out any one of the three. An interesting aspect that is unique about India is the sense of urgency that you feel when interacting with different stakeholders. Everything is real time, right now, right here, because the opportunity is now and must be taken.
SHRM has done extensive research work on employability and workforce readiness since its inception; how has this mission evolved? What does this mission mean in the context of India?
Lon: SHRM has been at the core of the most advanced human resource research which exists. SHRM has been focused on certain areas that were seen as critically important like employability, workforce readiness, etc. When we use these terms and apply it to India, they are specific to the cultural needs in India, both rural, government and corporate, but they apply in many ways the same in the United States where there are different demographic issues. Our focus is on the co-ordination of a seminal research study in collaboration with the Government, armed forces, corporations and academic institutions. So we frame the research in a way that is replicable, that you can use immediately upon its completion, it is practical and it is also longitudinal. So on the one hand, it deals with what we can do today, and on the other, it also deals with what we will need to do in the coming 25 years.
Ravi: I would like to add here the key findings from the SHRM conference survey held globally on workforce readiness. It showed that workforce readiness is about many things, it can be about school reforms, about remedial training for new entrants, it can be about re-training and skill development. But when we look at the Indian context, we don’t have any surveys to substantiate what is required here in specific. We are working in collaboration with other bodies, other industry associations to initiate this India specific research. At the top of the mind are corporate readiness programmes.
Focusing specifically on the Indian labor situation, skill shortage and readily available talent is one of the biggest challenges for the industry. How can SHRM contribute to finding solutions for this problem?
Ravi: There are a lot of organizations like National Skills Development Commission (NSDC), which are working closely with organizations like CII on employability issues. But first, we must need to understand the dimensions of this issue: 500 million people will be entering the workforce over the next 10 years. Our expertise is in the realm of human resource management. This means that as HR practitioners we know what the industry needs from these new entrants. These new joinees come from universities and colleges but they will require additional skills to be employable. Our competency is to build educational programmes, which can be taught even in these educational institutes, so that the output of graduates and under-graduates is skill-ready for corporates. We have initiated a few case studies which involved organizations like the Indian railways, the LIC of India; thereby indicating our readiness, willingness and our desire to be in the public sector space. PSUs are very large employers in the country. They have a huge body of knowledge which they rely on and are doing extremely well. ONGC, for example, competes at par with the best in the world. We feel that these are the practices that can be researched, chronicled, showcased and made available to others who can benefit from them. That’s the kind of research we would be indulging in, with particular focus on the public sector.
Lon: What is so exciting for us is the opportunity to work with these 500 million new entrants. Our approach to this initiative is such that it is replicable to other countries too, regardless of the numbers in consideration.
SHRM’s Annual Conference in June focuses on the theme of “A new time for growth, a new focus on HR”, what are the challenges that HR will face in this new growth phase?
Robb: We have focused on the critical areas of HR that we have already mentioned (transactional, transitional and transformational). The SHRM Annual Conference is the largest human resource conference in the world focusing on each of those three. The aim of the conference is to reflect on ‘What is now and what is next’. Both focus on solving problems that are the most pressing people issues around the world; and focus on the predictive nature of what is next for us. Al Gore, Former Vice President of USA/ Co-Founder and Chairman of Generation Investment Management will be a keynote speaker at this conference. The world’s most influential leaders like Al Gore, Steve Forbes, Dave Ulrich, Marcus Buckingham and Dr. Fons Trompenaars are some of the eminent speakers at the event. This conference gives us a chance to bring people from all over the world together to share their HR best practices. It is an absolutely exciting time. This is going to be a borderless conference where professionals from around the world will come together to enhance their capabilities on leading people the best way we know.
For more Information on SHRM World HR conference, from 27th to 30th of June in San Diego, USA visit http://annual.shrm.org