Article: Mirror mirror on the wall, what's in store for HR in 2013


Mirror mirror on the wall, what's in store for HR in 2013

Not merely satisfying the higher order needs of employees,this New Year, HR will go back to basics
Mirror mirror on the wall, what's in store for HR in 2013

Growth programs will be perceived as valuable only if inidvidual aspiartions and company growth are taken care of


We have succumbed to a minor weakness and labeled this the year of basics. Hopefully we will focus on results and plain speak for the rest of the year!


Sigh… there goes my column for December, everything I want to write will be written about, debated already by well-fed HR heads in comfortable seminar rooms!

But, lady luck (now don’t quote my own book title on me) decided to throw in the HR planning off-site for next year at me. Like all off-sites, we had a packed agenda and the spit and polish PowerPoints came in ahead of time. I had my speech ready and was rubbing my rotund belly in anticipation of a day of pontificating and playing facilitator! 7 people in the audience for a full day of listening guaranteed! After a well-timed speech, I retired to take guard at the head of the table and the first direct took the stage. We did the usual berating, ah what is different, you should have thought about this, oh we have already tried… the directs made the right noises, cluck-clucked and promised to modify the approach!

Now, disaster reared its head in the form of one of my directs. She stood up and very nonchalantly switched the projector off and took center stage, arms akimbo, ready to take on the group. What she said in the next 5 minutes was well - hear it for yourself.

Quoting Lady Disaster for your reading pleasure! (listening at that time wasn’t for us)

“Listen guys, sitting here listening to all of you, I am yawning. We could have just replayed what we did last year. I did the same, the presentation I sent is c!@p. I am not even going to bother pulling it up. The world around us has changed and we still want to do the same things.”

I think we were all too stunned to speak. Taken aback and little nonplussed, we were floundering for a reaction. Using this to her advantage, she propounded her course of action.

She led us back to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory. She quoted Maslow and pointed out that we must address safety, security needs and not directly get to self-actualization! Her premise was simple. The world has changed, look around – the most mature markets are in recession. Even though India is growing, the demographics of the workforce and demand patterns have changed. We didn’t need her reminder to know that 2009 and 2010 college graduates were still looking for jobs or in jobs that did not utilize their full skills. Those a little more experienced, went to bed worrying if they will have a job to pay their EMIs!

Every year, we always advocate plans to satisfy the higher order needs while the primary needs are still hazy! We go gaga on the various career progression plans in place; we hype the talent management strategy, and in all the buzz of activity around, we forget the basics!

While we roll out fancy programs, our employees are struggling with increasing inflation, meager increases and rising aspiration, care of dependants and providing for their children. In cities, most of them are struggling with ever increasing commutes and demanding families. All in the shadow of uncertainty and change, many of which they are struggling to come to grip with.

How do our programs and policies help them? Maybe, not in balancing their budgets and commutes, but at least, in addressing some of their basic security and social needs!

After a little reticence we all jumped in. The meeting was over before the scheduled time. Clarity of where you are, what your customers are experiencing and what you should do is a recipe for focused discussion.
And that’s how we froze on our theme for 2013; this is the year of ‘Back to the Basics’.

Here is the 6 step ‘Back to the Basics’ plan of action we chalked out

1. We will go through all HR programs and classify them as growth programs, delight programs and basic need programs.
i) Basic programs: Defined to address one’s basic needs of security, safety and satisfaction. A quick check and we weren’t surprised to find that there were no basic programs.
ii) Delight programs: Defined to keep employees engaged and maintain employee morale.
iii) Growth programs: Defined as those that were run to establish individual aspirations and accelerate company growth. Growth programs would be perceived as valuable only if the above two are taken care of.

2. We then agreed to classify the internal organizations we supported because even in slow times some parts of the organization will grow at higher rates. A one-size-fits-all approach will alienate these sections. We also segmented the employees we support.

3. We agreed to stop all programs and activities that we did only because we always performed them. RIP of such programs.

4. Next was to see what will address basic needs. No surprises there - how we communicate with our employees emerged as a big priority amongst others. This was not even on our radar.

5. While we addressed the now, we cast our focus on the future. Leadership and capability building emerged as a must do. We had some fun figuring out what we could do when our budgets were being slashed by a third!

6. Finally, given that our budgets are being slashed, how do we structure the HR organization for the new world? Should we align to supporting managers and help them manage their employees? Terrific discussions and practical solutions emerged.

Now, I must quit calling her Lady Disaster and maybe call her Lady Game Changer. Whether this is a game changer we do not know yet, but we were definitely trying something different for a different world. What will be the outcome is a good subject for the next year and another column.

Here's wishing you a fantastic 2013.
We have succumbed to a minor weakness and labeled this the year of basics. Hopefully, that will be the last label and we will focus on results and plain speak for the rest of the year!

Elango R, is the Chief Human Resources Officer at MphasiS and author of the book “You Don’t Need a Godfather”. You
can read his blog on and follow him on Twitter @agastyasays

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Topics: Watercooler, Strategic HR

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