GANDHI Principles in Corporate Lives --HUGE PAYOFF In Talking and Listening to Employees --HR TIPS ON How U are Being Treated and managed to tackle because of your old age ? --Serious business of fun, a direct relationship between fun and motivation --
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What is the common factor that binds the HR manager of a MNC struggling to retain talent and Gandhi who was aiming for Poona Swaraj by unleashing the strength of ordinary people? They both knew that the goals they had set to achieve were not easily attainable. But they, both, had a clear vision and had reinvented tried and tested strategies to tackle the situation. While Gandhi knew that he couldnt fight the British with violence, the HR manager realized that offering a bigger salary wasnt enough to retain a talented employee.

Gandhi, the change manager: Gandhi is still considered to be the common mans leader. Any successful HR leader has to tactfully handle and provide right solutions to different people in different ways, at various levels. Punkaj Shankar, Global Head HR and RMG, Info gain that believes that the HR manager can emulate the above qualities in todays workplace adds, “An HR leader should lead by example. A true HR leader would practice ethic and belief with great conviction before expecting others in the organization to follow. Gandhi was an excellent example of a leader who led from the front and practiced what he preached diligently. A seasoned HR leader does not wait for people to come to him/her with their problems but proactively works at the grassroots level with them to under–stand their concerns”.

   When Gandhi returned from South Africa and was thinking of getting into the Indian political scene he traveled across the length and breath of the country. His objective was to first connect with the masses, know them better and then launch into action. He worked to exhibit that he was a part of the masses and not an outsider. This ensured that he could easily influence and galvanize the people and teams into action around a rallying point of independence. Priya Ranjan, Director, HR, Bharti AXA Life who strongly believes in the above analogy feels that a Gandhigiri Award that will seek to recognize employees who clearly demonstrate the principles of integrity, commitment, passion and respect for all should be instituted, says, “Leaders of today, both in the corporate world and outside, should not just pay lip service. Just like a great HR leader, he understood the pulse of the people and had his ears to the ground”. 

   Shankar suggests a few ways through which our HR leaders can emulate Gandhian principles at the workplace: (1) Adopt Gandhis style of making even the lowest person in the organization feel and believe in the importance of his/her contribution towards the ultimate goal, (2) Use the right leadership style. For example, Gandhi advocated having leadership styles that were dependent on the circumstance. When Gandhi was in South Africa, he launched his protests in a suit and a tie and when in India, he used khadi and (3) Understands the human psychology and usage of it along with public relation skills to make a right impact.

   For instance, during Dandy march, Gandhi had to make a bigger impact to address issues and hence, didnt choose to march alone.

Gandhi, the HR manager: Persuasion and perseverance are the two Gandhian principles that can be used effectively to manage people in this changing environment, According to Ajit Menon, President Organizational Development, Mudra Group. “Humans, per say, are resistant to change and as an organization, if you believe in a philosophy, then you need to have the perseverance to see it through the organization and persuade people to adopt it, by showing them the benefit. He believed in the philosophy of Ahimsa and it was through sheer persuasion and perseverance that made the entire nation adopt it,” adds Menon who says that they follow Gandhigiri at the workplace by carrying out innovative initiatives through LLC (Leadership, Learning and Change), their HR department. Being the change agents in the organization, the HR at Mudra has to follow the principle of persuasion and perseverance as it takes months to change the mindsets of people, he says, adding, “The advertising industry, by and large, has no concept of HR. It has taken the LLC team time to demonstrate (hands on style) that HR is an integral part of the business”.

   Experts believe that the Dandy Yatra epitomizes the flawless people management skills of Gandhi. The Dandy Yatra was the first of its kind when Gandhi took a hundred mile walk to protest. In those days, walking for a political protest was totally unheard of. The innovation clicked with the Indian masses. First time, a leader reached the villages and involved them in a greater mission. People used to walk for getting firewood, for getting water and for daily chores and now they were walking for freedom. While narrating the above instance, Chetan Shah, MD, Synergy India adds, “Gandhi was not a theoretician; he was a man of action. Gandhi made no distinction in man and woman; both were equal in his eyes. He favored decentralization and his idea of trusteeship was based on the humanitarian ground of bread for all before cakes for some”. “This salt satyagraha movement reflects Gandhis power in convincing and motivating people towards following unconventional and practical ways of achieving the goal,” adds Mohan Sekhar, President and COO, Collabra. Abhay Valsangkar, Senior Director – HR, Symantec Corporation says that HR can address the rising discontent amongst employees and check attrition in todays enterprises by emulating some of Gandhis attributes: (1) Be a good team leader: His ability to drive home the cause of the nation and develop a sense of belonging in one and all, for the nation, acted as a cementing force in the masses. A team leader in any enterprise intends to achieve exactly the same, wherein; the project goals can be achieved by a disciplined methodology, as lay down by him and (2) Be a good listener: The leader in him never lost the humility and he always listened attentively to all what people had to say. Similarly, a senior manager should always connect with everyone below his/her hierarchical level and listen to any concerns that they might have and duly address them.

Gandhi, the risk taker: Though most principles of the Mahatma can be translated into effective peo-ple management practices, the one that is inspiring, according to Raj Kumar D, Head HR, Micro land is his people development focus’. Gandhi often said, ‘No society, state or any other institution has any worth or importance apart from its part in contributing to the growth of the individuals of which it is composed’.

   Translation of this would mean organizations should focus more on the growth of its people,” says Raj Kumar. Gandhis life was a chain of experiments with truth. And its these homegrown truths that each member of India Inc. can refer to as learnings to be emulated and applied in todays Indian corporate scenario.   



The BOSS next door



Marriott celebrates its Associate Appreciation Week every May wherein the hotels leadership team/managers thank its associates for all their efforts by getting into their roles and carrying out their functions like room cleaning, serving meals, etc. Gourmet Singh, Area Director, HR, Marriott International says how an associates feedback given to the hotels general manager during a group lunch regarding the poor condition of uniforms and repetitive food menu in the associate dining room was of major concern to him. Hadnt the voiced his opinion, the GM wouldnt have addressed these concerns immediately. As a result, new uniforms were ordered, and a new cyclic menu was issued. The Business Integrity Hotline to establish a standard for compliance and a means for associates to share their concerns regarding integrity or business abuse situation through a secure telephone line to report ethical issues in the hotel directly to the CEO is a key initiative. Perot Systems has created a unique initiative called REACH’, which seeks to promote transparency in communication. Anurag Jain, Regional MD – Asia Pacific and President-Applications Solutions, and Insurance & Business Process Solutions (IBPS), Perot Systems says, “One of our associates deployed on an onsite project felt that the scope of enhancing her career was limited by being at a client location. She felt that the could possibly benefit by being rotated back to one of our global delivery centers, through job rotation. On closer introspection, it was found that this was a common need for associates deployed onsite at client locations. A policy was rolled out for job rotation, thanks to her suggestion,” adds Jain.


Experts say that a CEOs job is the trickiest of all. He/she is constantly surrounded by a bunch of people who always make extra efforts to please him/her, but they point out that usually, at the top, the CEOs exposure to information related to the goings-on, especially among the middle and the junior level employees, is highly restricted. This causes isolation and under such a circumstance, even small gestures such as the CEO sharing a meal with his/her junior staff or playing a game of table tennis with the floor employees to facilitate an open communication, can make all the difference.

     An important point to be taken care of here is that after the interaction with the employees, the concerned senior managers should be kept informed as this will bring further transparency. Caution needs to be exercised so that this doesnt end up becoming a day-to-day source of interaction and must be structured so that it is meaningful and at the same time, does not isolate the line managers and department heads,” adds Shrikant Dikhale, VP – HR, Kansai Nerolac Paints Ltd. This can be cited by an example when the MD of Kansai Nerolac is on a business tour to any of the depots/factor–ies; he makes it a point to meet the front sales personnel/shop floor officers, personally hears them out on business related aspects, their interaction with the dealers and difficulties faced in getting results with respect to product selling, revenue generation, etc. to the management committee and gives a personal feedback to the concerned HODs for redressed. Quite recently, during his visit to a sales office in the north, the sales officers expressed their discomfort regarding the policy of reimbursement of traveling expenses. The MD put across their viewpoint for deliberation to the senior managers after which the policy was revised. “A couple of years ago, the companys young managers expressed their opinion pertaining to a designation called deputy manager’. They cited reasons why after being an assistant manager’, they should be given the title of a manager directly. This was discussed with HR and consequently, the title of deputy manager was abolished when they felt that the issue was genuine,” says Dikhale.

     Veena Padmanabhan, GM Talent Engagement and Development discusses ways in which the CEOs of Wipro Technologies try to bridge the communication gap: (1) Wipro Meets: This bi-annual event witnesses the chairman, the joint CEOs and the senior leadership team get together to address issues of Wipro employees worldwide, through a live web cast. The web cast can be accessed over links, which are communicated to the employees through various online promotional campaigns, (2) Channel W Chat: It is the interactive intranet of Wipro worldwide. The chat is an online tool where employees need to log in to a virtual chat room and send queries through internal MSN chat. The intranet team organizes chats with the CEOs wherein there is a direct interaction with the employees and (3) CEO Blogs: It was started by one of our joint CEOs, which ensures an informal flow of communication.


Shekher Shrivastava, VP-Sales & Marketing, Itz Cash Ltd says he realized very early that with a team where the average age is 24 and with an MD (35 years) younger than the level 2 teams executives (the functional heads reporting to the MD i.e. the departmental heads), one need to set a culture of openness. Mostly what kill an open culture are misgivings and assumptions that an employee harbors. This happens if employees do not appreciate each others strengths and weaknesses. And it is very essential that the functional heads at level 2 are completely aware of their colleagues’ “weaknesses primarily as strengths will be obviously seen. The very first thing Itz Cash did was a personal SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis of the immediate level 2 team was asked to join in the conference room and the session began first with Shrivastavas analysis. Along with his team and the MD, he even jotted down some of his weaknesses thus helping the team to open up. “Talking directly to the employee helps the CEO in grasping the emotions which are the only yardstick to measure employee engagement. So bypassing senior managers in an open environment is seen as creating strong bonds, whereas in any other organization-al environment, it is seen as investigative probing,” adds Shrivastava. Itz Cash had a situation where a competitive company was trying to poach employees from higher to lower hierarchies with 3x packages. However, Itz Cash did not also a single employee to the competitor who happened to be a fairly big industry player. The employees at each hierarchy informed their reporting bosses of the competitors attempt. If an open communication werent encouraged, this wouldnt have been possible. “I, even, took up the case directly with my counterpart of the competitor organization,” he adds.

     Mahindra & Mahindra has a comprehensive communication plan for connecting with employees on one to one basis, ‘one to few and one to many’. They have branded their communication as In sync with a tagline, “Aligning Thoughts, Inspiring Actions,” the objective being if our communications are effective, it will definitely help in converging thoughts thus creating alignment and inspiring people to get into action. At Mahindra, a cross section of employees, across functions and hierarchical levels is taken on stratified random sampling basis and informal discussions are held over tea to understand perception of employees, on a wide variety of issues. 

     Its therefore evident that CEOs are not just paying lip service when they claim to follow an open-door policy. After all, calling your boss by his/her first name is no longer a fad but sharing your grievances with him/her over a cutting chai at the roadside dhabba certainly is!   




Are you being treated unfairly because of your age? Here’s how you can tackle it.

When new owners: When new owners bought the magazine that editor-in-chief Joe Provey had start-ed a decade ago, the severance package for employees included job counseling. Two years later, the advice Provey best remembers receiving is this: shave your ear hair.

     He was a fit, healthy 52-years-old, but to his job counselor Proveys age was more important than the years of experience he might bring to a new job. And despite federal laws barring age discriminat–ion, Proveys experience is hardly unique. Having spent his entire career in the special-interest maga–zine field, he found jobs scarce, especially at the editors level. So he switched his focus and began working with book packagers and newsletter publishers on short-term projects. Stills, the age issue often arose.

Old and wise: I do think there is a bias towards hiring younger people,” Provey say. “Its natural discrimination, not insidious, but Ive sent resumes for openings where I know I could have done a terrific job, and I didnt even get a response”.

     He has thought about leaving earlier jobs off his resume, but his college graduation year indicates his age. On the other hand, omitting graduation dates sets off alarm bells,” he says. What worked for Provey? He networked by attending conventions and calling contacts hed made during his years in publishing. Another strategy that worked was creating a website. “Highlighting a spread that Ive written in a big magazine makes me more of a person than sending out a resume that just says Im a 54-years-old guy,” he says.

     Another mature worker with experience in marketing and information technology agrees there is ageism in the world, particularly in the corporate world”.

     However, he says, jobseekers can still find ways to market the experience that comes with age, which potential employers should see as an advantage, not a liability. “You offer experience,” he says. “Tell an employer that you know how to take responsibility”.

     When this mature worker changed jobs, he networked too. But effective networking for him meant more than just joining groups and calling friends.

     I read trade magazines,” he says. “I found the people who were doing what I wanted to do, and I talked to them”. He reached those people by calling former colleagues who might know them and by attending conferences.

Second innings: John Lupton spent 26 years in corporate life, first as an advertising executive and then as the founder of an Olympics-related sports marketing firm. Nearly two years ago, the economy slowed down, sports sponsorships slipped and Lupton decided to make a lifestyle change. He returned to his native north and searched for a job. While Lupton was consulting pro bono for a local library, a board member mentioned that the towns historical society was looking for its first executive director. Lupton offered his services and got the job. He found his age to be an asset. “With the demise of the dictum business, companies now want people with gray hair,” he says. “Management experience is a real benefit”.

     The job did not bring in as much money but at 56, he was under less pressure to earn a big salary for a growing family. Lupton notes that some older workers can work as consultants rather than full–time employees. They pay their own taxes, which makes them particularly attractive to potential employers.       



The serious business of fun

There is a direct relationship between fun and employee motivation.

What would you do if you found a gorilla in the office? No, thats not a euphemism for the boss or Mr. Grouch, as he is better known. Its a real hairy animal perched on the desk next to you eating a banana.

     For some days, you have been reading strange massages on the notice board: “Gorillas invade office premises,” “Gorillas spotted in ladies loo”. You may have wondered what it was doing there; after all, the word gorilla has such a masculine air about it. Now the gorillas have completed their ablutions and moved into the main area.

     You might have such an experience if your company is the sort that believes in having fun at work. A UK outfit, Fun at Work Company, is offering the gorillas (humans in hirsute habit) as one of its many jokes and gags to lighten the office atmosphere.

     It is available in the UK at $1100. Says the company: “Gorilla Hunt is one of our more wacky jokes. Involving up to three days of teasers and culminating in probably the most realistic gorillas you have ever seen moving in to build their home in your workplace. The most bizarre illegal squatters ever”.

     You could also have a man in a pink rabbit costume running around the officer or an absolute wow as a trainee receptionist”. There are relatively formal occasions such as a Spanish-themed lunch or a cartoonist doing sketches of the staff. Anything to have some fun.

     There is serious thought behind it, of course. Says Fun at Work Company: “Its been accepted that there is a direct relationship between fun at work and employee motivation, productivity, creativity, satisfaction and retention. 

     A programme of surprise activities at your workplace will bring staff to work with a smile, never knowing what might happen today. Humor is in the unexpected and it is known to relieve stress and improve health. There is little else that will make a person feel as good as a laugh”.   

     The trouble with the corporate world is that it starts thinking of these things when the going is fine,” says Mumbai-based HR consultant Shashi Rao. So BPOs and IT companies employ fun officers when business is booming. When things take a downturn, these people are the first to face the axe.

     Fun at work is regarded as a way of making a company desirable to work for,” says Rao. “When attrition levels are high, you roll out the red carpet, gags, office parties, picnics and other excitement. When the job market is in a slump and people dont jump ship too much, you dont think all this is necessary”.


The menu from Fun at Work Company.

ARE YOU A RAT OR A PIG: Its Chinese new year, an excuse for great oriental food, dragon dancers, acrobats, magic and fireworks.

WIMBLEDON WEEK: You may not be able to get to the tennis but celebrate the game with fun-themed activities at work. Swing ball, short tennis and summer games with strawberries and cream in the afternoon.

FLOWER POWER AND ALL THAT: The music, the clothes – Austin Powers and flower power. A memory jerker for some and a history lesson for others.

OFFICE PARTY: A solid favorite with everybody is the killer office party at the office. Transform areas of your building into a range of fantastic settings for great food, awesome entertainment and great company.

TROPICAL PARADISE: A bit of the Caribbean at work even if you cannot get there on holiday. Hula-hula girls, garlands, fruit punch.

SECRETARIES’ DAY: The engine that drives your business, show how much you appreciate them with a special day and the big gestures.

KIDS AT WORK DAY: Bring your kids to work. Let them see where you spend your days and find out all about the world of work.

BOSSES’ DAY: Why not? Even the most senior managers like recognition in a fun way.      

     HR professionals opine, however, that such times are just the occasion when you need fun at work. It may seem frivolous to get in gorillas when you are handing out pink slips. But that is generally the time when morale is at its lowest. People could do with a laugh. “There is a balance you need to maintain,” adds Rao. Gorillas may be overstepping the line of good taste in bleak times. But there is no harm in organizing a special lunch. Or make it a Bring the kids to office day”.

     At the Mumbai-headquartered Ceat Tyres they have dance parties, sketching sessions (you can even caricature your boss), cricket matches, salsa classes, cooking workshops…” At Delhi-based HCL Info systems they as a family go on trips, picnics, movies, river rafting…”

     It does wonders for productivity. Says Rao, “This is part of effective corporate culture. You cant leave the jokes to the office wags”. The trouble is most traditional bosses think its monkey business



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