Article: Gurcharan Das on ‘making a life’ vs ‘making a living’

Learning & Development

Gurcharan Das on ‘making a life’ vs ‘making a living’

As Gurcharan Das, Author, Commentator, Public Intellectual, Former VP & MD, P&G Worldwide, addressed a large group of HR and business professionals and leaders at People Matters L&D Conference 2019, he took a chapter from his life to explain what does “making a life’ mean and share what does it entail.
Gurcharan Das on ‘making a life’ vs ‘making a living’

It was the year 1995, another weekday in the life of VP & MD, P&G Worldwide, same office, some key business decisions to take. All was going well for him and for the business, he was pouring over the profits of bestelling products of P&G like Vicks, Tide, Pampers, Ariel and Whisper, among others. Then suddenly, in office, amidst all the work, as he looked out the window, he had a moment of reflection, he wondered, “If this is it, if this is what life is about?”

This VP & MD, P&G Worldwide is none other than Gurcharan Das, now an Author, Commentator, and Public Intellectual. After much contemplation Das had taken an early retirement from the corporate life to pursue his passion and to make not just a living but a life by following his hobby -  writing. 

As Das addressed a large group of HR and business professionals and leaders at People Matters L&D Conference 2019, he took a chapter from his life to explain what does “making a life’ mean and share what does it entail. 

Unlocking the human potential: Taking care of mental, emotional & spiritual needs

The art of leading a flourishing life comes from our ancient sources. Puruṣārtha - Dharma (righteousness, moral values), Artha (prosperity, economic values), Kama (pleasure, love, psychological values) and Moksha (liberation, spiritual values). 

Das exclaimed, “These were as there were potentialities in us as human beings. And if fulfilled they would lead to a flourishing life.” Similar to the philosophy of Aristotle and the theory of Maslow on the hierarchy of needs. HR professionals have to not only worry about the material needs of talent but also look at ways to address their mental, emotional and spiritual needs. They have to enable the employees to not make just make a living but a life. The scope for the HR professionals thus widens when they look at creating any talent strategy across employee lifecycle. With the presence of technology and use of Big Data, gaining such insights is easier than ever. All that the HR professionals need to do is to shift their focus to fulfilling employees’ mental, emotional and spiritual needs.  

Treat work as play: Creating a culture of self-learning 

Das shared another story from his days at P&G Worldwide. The story of an Assistant Security Guard, Kamble, who didn’t have much exposure and couldn’t even pronounce the name of the company, ‘Procter & Gamble’, correctly. But in six months on a night shift, he had made such an impact on everyone at work, that many had started working late. With his eagerness to learn and his curiosity to know things, he had learnt to make coffee and tea, improved his english and figured out how telephone system in the company works, among other things. He was always there with all the answers. His attention to detail caught the attention of Das and even led him to get the role of telephone operator, which the HR Manager was skeptical about, given his skills and language issue.  

Das said, “He loved his work. He treated his work as though it was play.”

When its raining and there are puddles on the road, most people would go around it and try to avoid it, But a child would jump in the puddle. Das exclaimed, “Kamble was that child.” 

He was not skilled in any domain, didn’t have a degree and even struggled with english. But he had a basic attitude which was the attitude of service.

“There are only three ways of creating competitive advantage - through superior products, lower prices or superior service,” shared Das. 

As Das advised HR professionals must hire for attitude and not just skills. “Fill your company with Kambles,” he said.  

Kamble, in this story, represents an attitude to learn and grow, and he doesn’t depend on anyone for his growth. He takes the ownership to upskill himself. When Das says that fill your company with more Kambles,  it doesn’t just mean hiring people who have the curiosity and urge to learn and grow. But it also means creating and promoting a culture of self-learning. Create a culture that supports an open mindset, one’s quest for knowledge and then give them these opportunities to grow and thrive. Without this culture even if the company manages to hire a Kamble, it would not be able to retain him. 

Open the doors of opportunities for talent, give them the time and space to explore, learn and grow, and hence enable them to make a life and not just a living.  

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Topics: Learning & Development, #PMLnD

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