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Potential to Perform

October 2, 2011 Comments off

When it came to performance management, one of  the HR Heads I worked with, used to have a simple formula – reward for past performance & promote or provide a challenge for the potential. Also when hiring people especially those requiring some level of decision making, a lot of hiring managers look for attitude & character while allowing for shortfall in the competence (this is becoming more & more true with people moving across industries & borders).  In a nutshell, we are talking about potential and the promise it holds.

It is interesting to note that while many of those who look potential winners go on to succeed and make it big, there are many others, who seemed to be equally promising,but lose their way.

It is quite easy to identify the real “would be Performers” – These are people who are self-sufficient and yet most-loved team players. They would not wait for anything to happen or anyone to support them.They are raring to deliver & perform irrespective of conditions & external factors, not bothered by facilities, comforts etc. They will find their own way out of problems. There could be different factors driving different individuals but a common thread in all such performers is focus on the action & not on the reward. The reward has to come if they get the action right.

Then, there are those who “can perform” – they have the ability but lack resourcefulness. they need to be triggered and encouraged regularly. They need to be shown the direction and instructed. The motivation is external and focus most often is on what-is-there-in-this-for-me ? Push across an attractive contest & these employees will get charged.

Will perform – People with right attitude and energy but may lack the necessary skills. They are willing to venture into the unknown, riding on their confidence and they just don’t want to give up, whatever may be the roadblock.  They can be trained to bring up to the mark and will most often out-do those who ” can perform”

The most interesting people are those who are “waiting to perform” – These are high visibility people. They will have an opinion or two about everything and have lots of brilliant ideas. They impress everyone they meet and would be talked about in senior level meetings. They give an impression of being rightly skilled &  having necessary attitude but it would look as if everyone & everything around, is conspiring against them and therefore they are unable to deliver. They would have seemingly genuine reasons for not meeting their commitments and they have the ability to get away with it. The reasons can range from mundane to the most complex. They have such an aura that unwittingly, the performers would end up sharing credits with them, allowing them to thrive.

Such people drag an organisation back & cause talented performers to move away. The beauty is that it is most difficult to identify this breed of employees.

From another perspective, an organisation which continues to tolerate ” waiting to perform” behavior will end up converting ” would be performers” & ” can perform” people also to non-performers. The worst hit are those organisations, that have such an employee at a senior level position.

Identifying employees in all these categories and nurturing them appropriately can make all the difference between a successful & driven organisation and a laggard. This is more so for a small/medium sized organisation as the scope for experiment and the margin for error is limited. This is where a continuous process of skills assessment and performance management( not just evaluation or appraisal) can be of help.

It might be a good exercise to think of people you work with and see which box they qualify for. It may also be a good idea to do a self-assessment & see where you stand and finally to understand as to what kind of employees does your organisation nurture & support. Do share your thoughts on your experiences with different kinds of performers.

HR is not an add-on function

August 28, 2011 2 comments

An acquaintance called a few days back to inform that they had recently started their own business and wanted to know if we could help them with recruiting & HRO.

We had a preliminary meeting where the couple ( the acquaintance & her spouse) insisted that they were in a tearing hurry and wanted everything related to HR done up in 30 days, so that they could focus on business thereafter. They wanted everything to be automated so that right from the day a new employee joined, there was no need for any “human intervention”.  They had ambitious business plan but HR had no place or time in that. HR practices were ” necessary but not important”.  I made attempts to inform  them that HR practices necessarily involve Human interaction &  facilitation and that it was an ongoing process and that they can’t think of growth without taking care of the people.

The promoter said that he had seen the best systems in some big organisations & they worked seamlessly without much human involvement. He failed to recognize that these organisations were in business for decades and had fine-tuned their systems. The human interaction part was getting  addressed at the branch/unit levels and so was not visible.

Anyhow, to get more information about their business, values etc, we proposed to send across a questionnaire to help them write down their answers (we insist on the writing part as most often it helps in arriving at clarity). They committed 2 days to revert with anything that we needed so that we could go back to them with a plan & timelines.

The answers never came. Initially they said that more time was needed as they were finding it difficult to get answers. After following up for 2-3 times, we were told that they were busy and did not have time to answer the questions. I suggested that we meet so that i could help them answer the questions by facilitating the process. A time was fixed but the hosts failed to confirm the meeting. Our repeated efforts to contact through phone, mail & messages met up with no success. It was evident that they were avoiding us. ( Had this been a candidate, we would have dropped them after the initial few attempts). I wish, instead of avoiding our calls,  they could have just told us that they did not need our services.

This whole episode and my interactions with many SMB promoters over last 2 years has left me with few thoughts.

  1. Why do many organisations still treat the people functions & HR practices as an add-on function only ?
  2. What kind of metrics can be used to demonstrate linkages between good HR practices & organisational success and vice-versa ?
  3. Can promoters behavior towards vendors & service providers be used to benchmark their possible attitude towards their employees ?

Please share your thoughts & experiences.

5 point checklist for SME hiring

July 3, 2011 1 comment

This is my 5 point checklist for hiring for a small business. Essential points you should keep in mind if you own an SME/ Start-up and are looking to hire initial few employees and the next few. This list should complement your functional screening.

  • Hire people who want to work with you – Look for people who want to work with you, who feel confident about your abilities and who share your dream.  Avoid people who want to work because you have a premium address, or because they feel they can learn by working with you (look for self-learners)  or because you have got funded etc. These people will be there to share the pleasures but ditch at the first sign of pain.
  • Look for people whose aspirations match yours. Aspirations are like shoes. Too big a shoe is loose and uncomfortable, too small, it pinches and is unwearable.
  • People who can pull your venture & team forward rather than those who will drag you back. Avoid those, who need to be motivated to deliver. You don’t need people who will themselves become problems rather than solutions. Do they have the drive like you to make things work or will they get bogged down by the seemingly insurmountable everyday problems ?
  • Experience  or Attitude ?- Go for attitude. You can always teach skills as long as you have the right attitude and basic capabilities. Experience is a double-edged sword. Experienced professionals can get you off the block faster. At the same time, too much experience may block new ideas. They may end up doing the same things which they did in their previous jobs.
  • Culture fit – what sort of organisation do you want to build ? free-flowing & fun-loving, highly disciplined professional, fast moving & flexible, process driven & strict. If you are clear on this, make sure you evaluate every prospective employee for this.  A culture misfit can give you more headaches than anything else and can be disruptive.
What are the things you keep in mind when hiring for a small business ?
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