“The only differentiator for any corporate in the world is its people, and not the niche it plays in, not the technology it deploys, not the market it focuses, not the valuation it commands and not the revenues it clocks “ - Jason Jennings
A lot of water has flown under the bridge, since Frederick Taylor’s scientific management principles, where the emphasis was on productivity rather than people. While these principles were considered to be valid and valuable and gained considerable attention by the industrial world at the time, the Hawthorne experiments of the late 1920’s shifted focus from productivity to people and it was recognized that productivity as a byproduct, automatically increased when workers were truly happy.
It was Theodore W Schultz who for the first time, though he didn’t use the term Human Resource, in the 60's stressed the need to invest in labour. He said, if we continue to invest in capital without investing in Human Resource’s growth and development is possible up to a point & beyond which no further development or growth. In other words, he advocated for investing in Human Resources. Later many people spoke and recognized the importance of Human Resource.
For instance, Narayan Murthy Sir reportedly observed that after 4.30 the net worth of his company is zero, meaning that he will be left with machines only which can’t create value on their own. In a contemporary world of today where every organization has equal availability, accessibility and could afford any of the resources, it’s the only human resource and that too a talented one which could provide the required cutting edge for the organizations to survive and prosper.
As Jason Jennings, recently pointed out, a major challenge for the CEOs would be taking care of their Human Resources. He came to this conclusion after meeting over 2,20,000 companies and interviewing over 80,000 CEOs, Managing Directors. etc.
During the current pandemic, people have been put under a lot of stress, being worried about their job, health. Accordingly, people started talking about psychological safety and need to pay attention to the same. Most importantly few people started talking & addressing the mental health of people. Hitherto organizations didn’t pay much attention to this aspect of the employee and focused more on physical health.
In addition to the challenges associated with the current pandemic & the likely action to be taken in the post-pandemic period, another challenge that organizations in general & HR fraternity in particular are facing is about engaging their talent. And the time has come to take a refreshing look towards our approach to HR. A few thoughts that comes to our mind are:
- Keeping Employees happy: In Maslow’s theory, which consists of a five-tier model of human needs, food, shelter and clothing appear at the bottom of the pyramid. But, as people grow, they want something more & want to feel good about what they do for a living. Further, they want growth, would like to feel wanted & achieve their full potential. Only a few CEOs who are aware of this need will be able to keep their employees happy. Today, young people have no hesitation to quit their unhappy jobs because food, shelter and clothing are no more the reasons to stay on.
- Be with their dreams, aspirations: Quite often, employee engagement is seen as a calendarised set of events from rangoli’s and parties to recognition events. But these things fall short of being sustained & it’s time to move beyond symbolic transactions. Let’s try to understand their world and the more we become one with them, the more we have a chance to build a powerful force of energy.
- Make things simple: All our employee engagement, mentoring programmes including diversity & inclusion actions appear to be symbolic & may not help in unleashing the power of our talent. Can we simplify and enable the lives of our people rather than control, track and measure anything and everything?
- Go beyond culture: In a world of disruptive upheaval, let’s not merely think in terms of culture fit. We will be making a strategic mistake of building a sterile culture by hiring or keeping talent which is a ‘culture fit’. We must make culture our priority but have to build pluralism if we want to unleash the power within. If we robotize our culture, it will be boring in the least and fairly irrelevant to help us win in VUCA times of today.
- HR process owned by HR Executed by line managers: While HR process is owned by the HR department, it is used & executed by people & people’s managers(line). Most of the employee experience with a company happens with their managers and not HR. Hence, managers must be held accountable to know their team beyond task delivery. Managers must be coached and held accountable for unleashing the power of the talent they are entrusted with.
- Meaningful work: In the SpaceX factory in Los Angeles all the staff wear ‘Colonize Mars’ T-shirts. Everyone has the feeling that they are working as part of a unique project and each time a SpaceX rocket is launched, thousands of employees watch the event on a giant screen with the same sense of euphoria. Could we make the work more purposeful & meaningful?
- Continuous learning: Obsolescence is happening at a rapid pace and we need to upskill the workforce on a continuous basis. Organizations with a strong learning culture reportedly have 92% more chance of bringing innovative products and services to market. It’s time to practice learn, unlearn & relearn mantra.
- Well-being: A recent study by LinkedIn showed that 49% of employees prefer benefits linked to health and well-being above all other benefits. Apple took this to extreme lengths in 2019 when it introduced optional DNA checks for employees to check for certain hereditary diseases and then develop personalized treatments to keep the health of the employee stable for as long as possible.
- Continuous feedback: Researcher Josh Bersin showed that 70% of multinationals no longer organize annual evaluation meetings with their employees, but have switched to a system of continuous conversations as the best means to discuss performance and plan future career developments. The traditional performance appraisal focuses on the assessment of past behavior, and then rewards or punishes people via financial incentives. But if you want to be a partner in the life and career of your people, you need to look to the long-term future, build trust between teams and plan together through a process of constant dialogue.
In a VUCA world of today and the world as a whole, which is in the post pandemic, companies need to reorient their HR functions for making them committed and enabling them to give their best. Further, in the light of the Business Roundtable resolution, there is a need to involve employees in taking care of community interest because projects with a societal added value often strike a chord with the employee’s own values. A good fit between personal values and the company's values is one of the most important drivers for intrinsic motivation. And it has never been more important to make your employees the offer they cannot refuse.