‘EMPLOYEE RETENTION IS THE KEY TO CREATING A LEADERSHIP PIPELINE’ --INDIA INC. IS RECOGNISING THE MULTIPLE BENEFITS OF HAVING WOMEN LEADERS ON BOARD, ACROSS LEVELS. AND AN INCREASINGLY LARGE NUMBER OF FIRMS ARE TAKING STEPS TO INVOLVE MORE WOMEN FOR HIGHER ROLES AND FUNCTIONS, SAYS DEEPESH DAS --Stripped of layers of management, ‘anorexic’ corporations give rise to an exhausted and demoralized workforce --
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LEADING THE WAY
‘Q: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHARACTERISTICS OF CREAT LEADERS?
A: A leader’s greatest skill is his/her ability to listen – which we, at Dale Carnegie, believe is the most important communication skill.
Q: WHAT KIND OF QUALITIES DO YOU LOOK FOR IN THE PEOPLE YOU HIRE (APART FROM TECHNICAL/HARD SKILLS)?
A: I like what I refer to as “the fire in the belly” – a deep desire to succeed, a willingness to work hard and think outside the box – a go-getter attitude, a risk taker. You can usually identify those traits in an interview, but you can certainly ask questions that can help you uncover someone’s approach to their career.
Q: IS IT HARD TO FIND PEOPLE WITH THE RIGHT MIX OF WORK-RELATED, LEADERSHIP, INTERPERSONAL AND ATTITUDINAL SKILLS?
A: Talented employees are a company’s biggest assets. At times, you can find someone with the right interpersonal and attitudinal skills and then, because of the cultural climate in the company, they become disengaged. At Dale Carnegie, we believe that keeping your employees engaged – that is winning both their hearts and minds, is the key to attracting and retaining talented employees. It’s not that difficult to attract and find talent, what’s hard is retaining them.
Q: HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR ORGANISATIONS TO HAVE A LEADERSHIP PIPELINE?
A: It is very crucial to have a leadership pipeline. And the key to this is employee retention. Once you have identified the top talent in your company, it is your job to make sure you retain them. It is from your talent pool that you must look for succession planning, and that means investing in training and development.
Q: WHAT ARE YOUR PERSONAL TEAM MANAGEMENT PRINCIPLES?
A: I prefer a collaborative process – one that focuses on consensus building – at the same time, it’s important to make sure that people have specific goals and that they are held accountable for achieving them.
LEADING FROM THE FRONT
It’s been more than 20 years since the term ‘glass ceiling’ was coined. Since then, discussions about the presence of a glass barrier and how to break it have been prevailing in the corporate sector. But now, things are slowly changing for the best and more women are getting into the top echelons of power, across industries. And to keep this trend alive, the corporate world is bringing in various initiatives to nature and groom potential women leaders within organizations.
According to Nasscom, out of the 1.6 million employees in the IT industry, approximately 30% are women and by 2010, this number will rise to 45%. But statistics shows that the percentage of women in the IT/ITES sectors is more at the entry level but is not so at the middle and senior management roles. Realizing this now many firms are opting out for means to foster leadership talent in women executives and thus making the organization more gender diverse.
“Women, with their distinct skills and talents, are now a powerful source of professional leader-ship and intervene strategically in the decision-making and selection process of leadership. Evidence also proves that women are playing a primary role in bringing a more facilitative and inclusive leader-ship style to the professional environment,” opines Shantanu Banerjee, Director – Human Resource, Steria (India). A survey by Nasscom found that 11% of leaders in the IT industry are women and these roles are in senior management and as decision makers. The survey also revealed that two years ago, only three or four companies formally followed gender diversity programmes, but today there are about 80 companies that have some initiative to handle issues of women and take care of gender diversity and inclusiveness.
SET THE ADVANTAGE
So what is making corporate look for more women leaders? “Listening skills, a fine-tuned sense of timing, and the ability to bring together diverse voices around common goals have emerged as key components for the success of women in the post-modern workplace and also the reasons for organizations turning to them for leadership roles,” says Banerjee.
“Organizations must be a representative of society. A diverse workforce brings differential thinking to the table, also diverse opinions and fresh thoughts,” adds Sudheesh Venkatesh, Head HR and Tesco Hindustan Service Center.
A HELPING HAND
Glass ceilings do not seem to exist for women anymore and progressive organizations have excellent programmes in place to bring up the leadership talent in women. “With a strong focus on enhancing the leadership pipeline for women, IBM has programmes like finishing schools for high potential women employees, coaching new managers to explore potential etc. 72% of our global women executives are working mothers and we offer a full range of flexible work schedules ranging from the ability to adjust your start/stop times by up to two hours before or after normal start times, compressed work weeks, working at home etc.,” explains Dr. Guruduth Banavar, Director, IBM India Research Laboratory. “Mentoring can help a women employee in making herself more visible. By sharing their experiences and also by creating awareness about the essential skills requirement needed for a higher level position, mentors can make a difference in the professional life of an employee,” adds Banerjee.
The great philosopher Socrates once said “If women are made equal to men they will overtake them in no time”. And this seems to be playing out well in India Inc.
WORKED TO THE BONE
Thin isn’t in. A debate has started in India about banning anorexic models. After the Madrid Fashion Week showed the door to five models for being extra thin, Union health and family welfare minister Ambumani Ramadoss has clipped in with his own take on the object. “India faces both problems – obesity and osteoporosis,” he says. “Although many more suffer from obesity, the number of young girls starving to become thin models is also rocketing”.
Yet, in the corporate domain, “thin” has suddenly acquired a lot of virtues. There are no takers for the Obese Corporation, into which category fall most of our public sector organizations. But the Anorexic Corporation can be even more dangerous.
Many companies, however, are proud of it. “We run a lean-and-mean ship,” says the CEO of one such organization. “Our people work hard and play hard. They get paid well for it”.
In such companies, everybody plays total football; they can replace each other at the drop of a hat. When the receptionist hasn’t come in, the sales executive, who doesn’t have too many calls to make that day, takes over.
Take the “play hard” bit with a pinch of salt too. In such organizations, the games you play are of the golf variety. You spend hours on the fairway with the occasional interlude to hit a ball. “Golfing CEOs are not the sort of people you should emulate,” says Mumbai-based HR consultant Shash Rao. “They may not realize it, but they are people who have lost control of their lives. Even their weekends are spent working”.
These CEOs produce Anorexic Corporation. What are its characteristics? Says an article in Canada and the World: “While technology has shut down many clerical jobs, it’s had the same effect on the people who used to supervise the clerks. Middle managers are no longer needed in the same numbers because there are fewer people to manage…
“But the downsizing can go too far. The danger point is reached with what’s been called the ‘anorexic corporation’. Stripped of layers of management, all that’s left is a few exhausted workers and a CEO who is struggling to control the whole operation from the personal computer sitting on her desk”.
“In the anorexic corporation everybody, from top to bottom, is stressed by overwork and on the verge of burnout. Morale is at rock bottom. Nobody thinks in terms of a career any more; the major goal of each staff member is to survive the next round of firings. Long-term strategic thinking goes right out the window”.
Today, there are thousands of Anorexic Corporations in the US. You can’t make them out because, say, carmaker Saturn Co may be adding to its overall numbers. But it is creating anorexic clusters all over the place. But watch the productivity figures. When these climb consistently, anorexia is round the corner.
Rao says the malaise isn’t big in India as yet, except in certain industries. But don’t try and tell that to the people who are bringing you this newspaper. Two decades ago there used to be reporters, rewriters, sub-editors, compositors, proofreaders and page makeup artists. Now it is one humble sub-editor in which all these functions have been combined. Anorexia approaches. Don’t you see a lot more burnouts around you?
WORK FOR A BETTER WORLD
A LOT IS SAID AND WRITTEN WHEN THE HIGHER RANKS OF LARGE ORGANISATIONS GET INVOLVED IN SOCIAL WORK. BUT THEN THERE ARE EMPLOYEES WHO ARE CHIPPING IN ACTIVELY TOWARDS ISSUES OF SOCIAL SIGNIFICANCE, IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE, WITHOUT MAKING MUCH NOISE! “EMPLOYEE PHILANTHROPY” IS THE LATEST TREND CATCHING UP IN INDIA INC.
It’s said that it’s always better to give than receive. In social psychology the term reciprocity represents the ideal that positive actions will inspire reciprocal positive actions. A theory that is encouraging many employees of corporate India to go beyond just making money. They aspire to make a difference to the community, while helping their organization with the responsibility revolution (read: CSR initiatives). In doing so, employees affirm, they learn critical career enhancing skills like leading through tough times, managing with few resources and inspiring others with a common sense of purpose.
· Tushar Guha, Founder & MD, Nrityanjali Management Services (NMS), a training and consultancy firm says that being a part of any philanthropic activity creates a sense of belonging for the employee, builds team spirit and ultimately, enhances employee productivity. Girish Dalvi, Head-operations, who organizes several cultural events for the residents of old age homes and orphanages couldn’t have agreed more. “I spend a lot of time performing folk and classical dances for them,” he says. “Being a part of such initiatives has given me tremendous confidence and even enhanced my communication skills. It has also helped me become a better administrator. I am also able to understand, appreciate and accept different viewpoints, as I have become more sensitive towards the needs of others”.
· “Other than being a provider of information technology services and business solutions, Perot Systems also works with ‘Deeksha’ (an NGO that addresses environmental and educational issues). Their association with the NGO has provided employees a new outlook to life and a framework for character building. Though, being a team leader at Perot has helped me achieve a lot in my career, my role as the service project coordinator at Deeksha has helped me become a better employee,” says Madhavi, Team Leader and Perot Systems. “The children I worked with at Deeksha have helped me perceive things, in a more positive light and also, changed my approach towards my work, in a good way,” she adds.
· “Volunteering programmes that use and hone skills are an effective and inexpensive professional development tool. Fostering team spirit is possibly one of the most visible qualities that emanate when employees participate in community programmes,” says Deepanshu Sharma, GM Marketing Strategy. AMD, a Bangalore based microprocessor provider. AMD has been a part of many initiatives, including working with non-profit organizations like ‘Trees-for-Free,’ ‘ People for Animals’ and Parikma Humanity Foundation,’ which is dedicated to the cause of providing top-quality English education to poor children. “Being a part of these philanthropic activities has made me realize that every small story of their success acts as an encouragement tool and gives us hope to keep our commitment towards achieving milestones by marginalizing our problems. The process of leading the community activities at AMD has given me an opportunity to hone my leader-ship and inter-personal skills,” says Milind Nagda, Senior Design Engineer at AMD.
As these cases illustrate, employees now want to work for and support organizations that share their ethical values, besides other things. They also want to be part of a cause that can make a bigger difference to their work experience.
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