In an increasingly competitive world, people have become a cutting edge factor. Is it just any people or right people? As the typical HR mantra say, right person at the right job with right targets in a right environment will produce right results within the right time. This is by no way an accident but a series of committed actions by the people developers. Based on their success or failure, it will be a case of glamour or gloom. Let me propose five Gs of grooming people. Today’s column will illustrate what they are.
Overview of grooming people
Grooming essentially means to prepare for a specific position or purpose. In doing so, you need to ensure the availability of suitable candidates. Once they are in, what you do for them and with them matter most here. I was inspired by two recent speeches on this matter.
The first is by Adil Malia, Group President – HR of Essar Group India. He was talking on changing mental models as the HR’s most important task at the annual conference of the Institute of Personnel Management, Sri Lanka.
The second is by Prof. Uditha Liyanage, Director of the Postgraduate Institute of Management. He was addressing a group of senior managers of the Central Bank. Both mentioned about several Gs of managing people, highlighting the need to go back to basics. I would propose get, give, grow, glue and glow as my five Gs of grooming people. Let’s look at them in detail.
This is all about getting the right people in. The hiring challenge looms large for organisation in diverse environments, mainly owing to a talent gap. I would call it R-R gap, the gap between required talent and raw talent.
The market is abundant with raw talent, especially with school leavers. Are they geared to a demanding job in a target-driven environment? Sadly, the answer is no. We teach complex subject matter but not how to gain confidence. Job-orientation in the academic courses has been recognised as important only of late.
In practical terms, updated job descriptions and job specifications should be available for each position and these should be used in the selection process. Also, selecting the appropriate test in predicting future performance on the specific job is of importance. Managers should be trained on effective hiring, with special emphasis on interviewing skills.
One acute issue I see in this context is the non-availability of updated job descriptions. The job description can be viewed as a “list of a job’s duties, responsibilities, reporting relationships, working conditions and supervisory responsibilities”.
Dessler (2005) defines a job specification as a “list of a job’s ‘human requirements’, that is, the requisite education, skills, personality and so on”. Presence of basic level could be seen in most of the organisations in the sample.
It reminds me what the advertising tycoon, David Ogilvy said: “Hire people who are better than you are, then leave them to get on with it… Look for people who will aim for the remarkable, who will not settle for the routine.”
“If you give peanuts, you get monkeys,” goes the old saying. What you give to the person who came in by way of reward and recognition is of utmost importance in the context of competition. Your competitor can grab our best talent by “giving” more. Susan M. Heathfield (about.com) offers five tips for effective recognition:
- All employees must be eligible for the recognition.
- The recognition must supply the employer and employee with specific information about what behaviours or actions are being rewarded and recognised.
- Anyone who then performs at the level or standard stated in the criteria receives the reward.
- The recognition should occur as close to the performance of the actions as possible, so the recognition reinforces behaviour the employer wants to encourage.
- You don’t want to design a process in which managers “select” the people to receive recognition. This type of process will be viewed forever as “favouritism” or talked about as “it’s your turn to get recognised this month.” This is why processes that single out an individual, such as “Employee of the Month,” are rarely effective.
This refers to the need to build people. Training and development go hand in hand. The simple difference is that the former is for current and the latter is for future. In essence, training is to do something. Development is to be someone. Both are intertwined in such a way that training leads to development.
Choices in training and development are captured here. Identification of training and development needs is of utmost importance in this regard. Having clarity on programme participants, presenters, designers, coverage, delivery methods and expected behavioural changes are some of the vital components associated.
We broadly categorise training into two parts, namely on-the-job and off-the-job. On-the-job training takes place in a normal working situation, using the actual tools, equipment, documents or materials that trainees will use when fully trained. A trainee mechanic in a manufacturing setting or a call-centre assistant in a service setting can be examples.
I remember seeing a longer queue towards a cashier counter in a leading supermarket and upon reaching the point, realised that it was manned by a trainee. There lies the challenge. The person undergoing on-the-job training is still responsible for the job results.
Off-the-job training has the advantage that it allows people to get away from work and concentrate more thoroughly on the training itself. It offers the opportunity to use a variety of techniques in order to enhance the knowledge, skills and attitude. The popular training programs in hotels where the venue and the menu seem to be more attractive than the training content fall under this category.
A growing emphasis on training effectiveness with proper mechanisms to measure is seen in the Sri Lankan private sector. Use of Kirkpatrick model to assess training effectiveness at different levels is one such approach. Return on Training Investment (ROTI) has slowly become a critical factor in the local scenario as well, in justifying the monetary allocation for training and development.
I would associate the feature “binding” with glue. This refers to the range of choices in retaining talent. Having developed the knowledge and skills of high performers of any organisation, seeing them leaving is the last thing an organisation would like to see.
Finding out why talented people leave and taking appropriate actions to arrest the outflow should be high in the HR agenda. Offering of a variety of financial and non-financial rewards to stay has also needs to be strengthened.
Encouraging evidence can be found in many leading organisations in Sri Lanka. Yet, the reality remains that, when overseas opportunities are galore with unmatchable financial offers, employees tend to seek better prospects. As we discussed in several earlier columns, effectively engaging the employees with a clear purpose can be a sure-cure in arresting the rot.
Meaningful strategies for employee engagement also become relevant in this context. Engagement captures the essence of employees’ head, hands and heart involvement in work. It refers to employee’s psychological state (e.g. one’s identification with the organisation), his/her disposition (e.g. one’s positive feeling towards the organisation) and performance (e.g. one’s level of discretionary effort). In brief, it captures affective (feeling), cognitive (thinking) and behavioural (acting) dimensions of an employee.
Devising mechanisms to appeal to “head” (stimulating them intellectually) and “heart” (stimulating them emotionally) of employees are the right way forward. Having an employee suggestion scheme and aptly rewarding the most value-adding suggestion is one such example. Organising a family day where the loved ones’ of employees proudly associate with the organisation is another example of strengthening the bondage.
This is the subtlest of all. It can appear in several forms. As one such form, choices in promoting the employees can be captured. When a career ladder is available for them to climb, and when the organisation is genuinely providing the support and encouragement, chances of them contributing better in a more committed manner is high. Establishing criteria for new jobs, allowing volunteers to take up challenging tasks, evaluating candidates’ potential, supporting of new job holders are some of the key actions in this regard.
In another form, encouraging the employees to unleash their potential is also a way of allowing them to “glow”. Creating an environment where employees feel free to experiment, resulting in innovative products and services is a right step in this direction. Global examples such as 3M and Google have made this a sure-fire approach in making people glow.
“If you pick the right people and give them the opportunity to spread their wings, and put compensation as a carrier behind it, you almost don’t have to manage them.” So said Jack Welch, the one-time most-admired CEO. Gloom or glamour will result in based on the way you groom people. I see a mixed scene in the Sri Lankan organisations in this respect.
Thomas J. Watson Jr. in his book ‘A Business and its Beliefs’ says: “I believe the real difference between success and failure in a corporation can be very often traced to the question of how well the organisation brings out the great energies and talents of its people.” This is relevant to Sri Lankan organisations and their managers as well.
(Dr. Ajantha Dharmasiri is a learner, teacher, trainer, researcher, writer and a thinker in the areas of Human Resource Management and Organisational Behaviour. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.)