Friday, 18 July 2014

Leading through empowerment

…And when Alexander met him after defeating him in the battle at river Jhelum asked him ‘What, do you wish that I should do with you?'; to which Porus answered ‘Treat me as a king would treat another king.’

Alexander the great is said to have been so pleased with King Porus’s response that  he restored to him his sovereignty over his subjects, adding to his realm other territory of even greater extent.  
(Ref: The Campaigns Of Alexander, p. 281)

…And if I were to draw inspiration from this historic incident, to define a leader in the modern context, I would say ‘A leader is one who identifies the leader in every other person’.
Did I say ‘the leader in every other person’? Yes, you read me right! Everybody has a leader within, that needs to be recognized and developed.
“How can this be possible...? How can everyone be a leader?” You may wonder.
To better appreciate this concept, you may need to break out of the traditional concept of a leader and broaden the scope of a leader in the modern context. Any person who has recognized his/her true passion and potential and excelled in it is half a leader. This is how people who have been exceptionally successful in any sphere be it arts, sports, music, movies or business have been recognized as leaders. But if their endeavor is limited to recognizing their own true passion and exceling in the same, I would say they are only half leaders. A complete leader is one, who apart from identifying his own potential also sees this potential in others and inspires them in realizing it.
While there are quite a few modern concepts in leadership; servant leadership, situational leadership, spiritual leader being a few of them, I believe that the most significant responsibility of a leader is empowerment.
Mentoring or coaching is a key aspect in leadership that needs to be taken seriously. A complete leader should engage in mentoring either towards building a successor or for empowering others in attaining their best.
We come across quite a few inspiring stories of leaders and great achievers who have done great things and left their mark in history. These are people who have dedicated their lives in building organizations, institutions, communities and sometimes even a nation. However have you ever wondered what happens to these establishments once these founders severed from active involvement? Most often they are left bereft, without a leader, who has the same commitment and dedication as the original founder. Developing the next leader who would take forward from where one has left is an onus that needs to be a part of the main mission of a leader. This is where a coaching/mentoring angle of a leader comes into picture and in a larger perspective succession plan as well. Won’t a lifetime of aspirations and efforts of so many people become abortive if not handed over to reliable hands?
Porus and Alexander identified the leader in each other. And true to his leadership style Alexander the great empowered Porus to take forward what he had conquered.

About the author

Neeva is a corporate learning specialist and currently works with People Equity HR consulting as Principal Consultant. She has extensive experience in designing and delivering innovative learning initiatives. She can be contacted at 9686113578 and

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Cultural influence on learning

Does culture influence learning? And if it does, is it significant enough to make a substantial impact on the learning outcomes? In my right as a learner and an individual my answer to both the above question would be ‘yes it does’. But before I venture into further endorsing my stand, it would help to limit the scope of this blog by defining what I mean by ‘culture’ and ‘learning’, as you would appreciate that both these terms have a wide scope. The dictionary meaning of culture is “the ideas, customs, and social behavior of a particular people or society”. This can range between culture that is specific to an individual, family, community, society to region or nation. For our understanding we will consider culture in the broad context of a nation. And learning would mean “the acquisition of knowledge or skills through study, experience resulting in the formation of behavior.” Now that the delineations are clear, I can go ahead with substantiating my stand.

The Halo effect of parents in most Indian families and the way this gets transferred from generation to generation is strikingly different from many other cultures. The dominance of parents or elders in families gives limited freedom when it comes to chasing a dream or following a passion. This could influence the choice of subject and style of learning. This phenomenon was aptly demonstrated in the Hindi movie 3 idiots. The scene where Farhan’s father tags him an engineer within minutes of his birth is classic representation of this. Often individuals hailing from this culture end up being what they are expected to be rather than what they want to be. The fact that this trend continues into the following generation is the reason why I claim this to be a part of the culture. This could also explain the emergence of community specific profession or trades wherein legacies get passed on to the next generation.

Another characteristic feature of the link between culture and learning is evident in our formal education system. Being focused on the score rather than empowerment, non-experiential theoretical memorizing, and choice of vocation based on income generating potential rather than true passion are significant weaknesses in our formal education system that needs to be addressed if we need to raise our bar in education. These could be developments that have evolved over a period of time due to various contigent factors. For example post-independence, with limited resources and economic backwardness, the thrust would have been to pursue a career that could economically support the nation rather than a passion. Similarly with a large population and inadequate opportunities, the basis of benchmarking would have to be something as objective as the score. Having said that, isn't it time we realign ourselves to a higher order, now that the reasons stated above are no longer relevant in the present scheme of things?

While all these arguments point to a strong link between culture and learning, what we need to question ourselves now is whether this influence of culture on learning is beneficial or detrimental.

The linkage between culture and human behavior is inevitable and to a large extend this influence is mutual. However should we allow this culture to take control to such an extent that we lose sight of the true purpose of learning? May be not! What we need to realize in this context is that learning is a culture in itself and any tampering or adulteration would dilute its essence rendering it ineffective or below acceptable standard. Learning requires an open, uninfluenced, creative environment to build and take shape. Else what we would end up in the name of learning would be an ineffective, redundant and obsolete output.
At the end of the day, our potential can be maximized through effective learning only. Therefore apart from influencing human behavior in general, learning is critical in harnessing human potential as well. Hence it is imperative to provide learning with the unadulterated  environment it deserves.

About the author
Neeva is a corporate learning specialist and currently works with People Equity HR consulting as Principal Consultant. She has extensive experience in designing and delivering innovative learning initiatives. She can be contacted at 9686113578 and

Monday, 13 January 2014

Nurture a learning culture at workplace

Sundaram was born into an economically backward family in rural India as the eighth of eleven children to Manikandan, a daily wage worker  and lakshmi, a housewife. In an environment, where the biggest challenge was getting two square meals a day, the best education Sundaram could manage was grade 10 from his village school. Unlike others, Sundaram’s sole attraction in going to the school was not the free midday meal; he was keen to learn. His parents decided to send him to the city to a distant relative, so that he could try his hand at getting a job and thus help improve the financial condition of the family.
The relative helped Sundaram find a job as an office boy (peon in those days) in a bank. From there on Sundaram’s career and life took a total detour and there was no looking back. After 45 years of service, Sundaram retired as the General Manager of the same bank he joined as an office boy.
These rags to riches stories are not exactly a rare phenomenon. You get to hear these inspiring stories quite often through the media, movies, networking forums. But what is worth noting in Sundaram’s case is the path taken. The success was not a result of a risky gamble, a creative stroke or the right timing. It was a painstakingly, slow moving path of learning that led to the success. The most important skill required here is sheer perseverance. There is no rejecting the other genres of success, but how many of us have the courage to take a risk or come out with a winning idea or manage to get the timing right all the time?
For a vast majority of us, it is the learning and growing model that works. But still there are very few takers for this. Not many organizations endeavor to nurture a learning culture in the workplace. It is an established truth that a learning organization is a growing organization and companies are generously funding internal and external training initiatives. But do these training actually turn into learning? Often not!

Let us explore some of the reasons

The cost factor: Mistakes are a part of the learning process. But some of these mistakes can prove expensive. Unless organizations have enough buffer to tolerate such costs, an encouraging, fearless environment cannot be developed.

The risk factor: Learning can be risky. Take a basic skill like driving. This skill can be imparted through a simulator and perfected. But the learning is not complete unless it is applied to a real life situation and in this case the risk factor cannot be ignored. Organizations prefer to keep fresh learners away from such high risk zones.

The time factor: Learning is a gradual process; it is so slow that the progress is often not conspicuous. This can be very discouraging unless one is really passionate.

But it definitely goes without saying that developing a learning culture is of top priority for a growth aspiring organization. A learning friendly environment could prove to be the most cost effective employee engagement exercise. The loyalty levels are significantly higher in such organizations compared to those that don’t have it. The organization also matures and adds value to itself along with its employees.

Innovative ideas can pop out from all corners not just your R&D department, when everyone is given an opportunity to experiment and learn. According to Daniel Pink in his book Drive, intrinsically motivated people not only perform better, but also can be highly productive for a longer duration. The best fuel to ignite intrinsic motivation is learning.
If you are seriously planning to reform your workplace into a learning mode, the following pointers may come handy.

Encourage mistakes: The retention of learning is higher when learnt through mistakes. It is not enough if you tolerate mistakes; they should become a part of the learning process. Cheer your people to overcome the fear of failure.

Provide opportunity: Build a strategy to gradually include freshers into new fields of learning. Learning is never complete without application in real life situations.

Feedback is an essential ingredient in any growth strategy and learning is no exception. Ongoing constructive feedback can keep the spirits high in achieving the goal. Build in a feedback mechanism. It also gives the impression that you take learning seriously.

Support: Ensure a good physical environment along with the emotional support. A well managed library, sessions by subject matter experts, internet support are simple cost effective ways of doing this if you cannot afford a full- fledged LMS (Learning Management Solution) in place.

About the author
Neeva is a corporate learning specialist and currently works with People Equity HR consulting as Principal Consultant. She has extensive experience in designing and delivering innovative learning initiatives. She can be contacted at 9686113578 and

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Know Your HR Automation

The Human Resource Information System (HRIS) is a software or Electronic solution data entry, data tracking, and data information needs of the Human Resources, Payroll and other people related functions within a business. The increasing complexity of the Human Resources function in today’s scenario makes it imperative for even small to mid-sized organization to automate their HR data and transactions so as to reduce manual workload, at the same time speed up transactions and minimize errors. There are hundreds of ‘off the shelf’ and customized products available in the market today, each with different capabilities. Typically, the better Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) provide overall:

1.     Payroll
2.     Time and Attendance
3.     Performance Appraisal
4.     Recruitment
5.     Learning Management
6.     Absence Management
7.     Statutory Benefits and Management etc.

What are the Different types of the HRIS available in the Market?  

There are 3 different types of HRIS systems available in the market.

1.                  Client–Server: - The client/server model is a computing model that acts as a distributed application which partitions tasks or workloads between the providers of a resource or service, called servers, and service requesters called clients. These types of software’s come for a pretty low cost, but you would have to shell out on having a good server. They might lack flexibility/modifications of the software in the future. It is a one time investment for the software, where in you may pay a huge amount of money initially for the installation of the software, the later part of the costs is paid off during the process of setting up of the software and some amount of it is paid off after the installation of the software.   

2.                  Application Service Provider: - The application software resides on the vendor's system and is accessed by users through a web browser using HTML or by special purpose client software provided by the vendor.  An application service provider (ASP) is a business that provides computer-based services to customers over a network. This is also a onetime investment, but in this case, the software’s having these types of technology would be expensive.

3.                  Software as a Service (SaaS): - Software as a service is referred to as "on-demand software” is a software delivery model in which software and associated data are centrally hosted on the cloud. SaaS is typically accessed by users using a thin client via a web browser. These are software’s which are having a periodical cost for the services that are provided by the vendor to the clients. They might not have an initial cost which the other software’s have, but they do an AMC.  
It is up to the customer to choose which type of a system they would want to have in their organization.

What factors are to be in mind when you’re opting to buy a new HRIS Software?

Here are some key factors as such that you’ll have to lookout for when choosing one for your organization.

Vendor Background: - First priority is to research about the vendor and product. One of the major issues faced by organizations purchasing software products is the reliability and stability of the organization that has created the software. While there may be good bargains available from smaller vendors. Then look at the experience of the vendor with the product in the market, number of clients with the vendor, after which you check out for the reviews of the product by the customers who have used the product.

Product Demo: - This is one area where in the customer gets to know more about the product and its methodology of working. The customer should look out for vendors who provide a free trial of their software before installation or, ask for the product demo from a vendor to understand the positives and negatives of the software. By having the demo, the customer can get to know the feel of working with the software. The customer should try out as many features he can work on, on the software during the trial period.

Product Features & Flexibility: - After all the above analyses are made, analyze if the product that you are looking out for is the one you actually want, does it satisfy your needs? Does the software all features you may need even in the future? If the customer is buying the software because he found what he was looking for that particular time period/need, then it’s a waste of investment. Always keep in mind of your new future requirements. How good is the after sales support of the vendor? For having any HRIS installed in an organization, the time and cost involved is high. Make efficient use of the customer support and make the process of installation the fastest. The other factor a customer should look out for is the flexibility of the product by the vendor; if it allows any customization after installation or additions of new modules of the software after installation etc.

Training and Support 24/7: - When buying the software, we should check the validity of the license, whether it is having a period as such for it to be renewed or its validity. There are types of licenses which are valid for a life time. These types of license can vary in costs. It is up to the customer to choose which type of a license they would want to have for the organization. There are software’s which you get for the full price, or for the module that you may require, or sometimes even for an AMC may be between 10-15%, where in the first 1yr or 6months of the usage of the software can be free. After the installation of the software, the customer should ask for the vendor to provide training for the software as the customer is new to the setup of the software. The customer should make the maximum use of the vendors support to learn the software’s functionality, database management and its transfer to the software and managing the reports from it etc. and should ask the vendor to provide training for the software to the people concerned of the organization. The customer should check out if the vendor has a 24/7 support team who can help the organization if any support as such is needed at any point of time while using the software.

What can happen to the organization during the installation of the HRIS?

One of the most important things to be done when the process of installation of the HRIS happens is to keep aside time by the HR department and also the top management. This would be for discussions on the policies of the organization, or the organizational structure etc. For having to setup the software in the shortest time, it is good to assign a dedicated person working towards the completion of the software without disrupting the regular work of the organization. The organization should try to get the software fully operational in the shortest time possible. After each tasks completed, send the report to the vendor and take feedbacks and make modifications in the first two months before the vendor is fully paid off.    

Monday, 29 October 2012

Myths about the BPO Industries in India

Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) is the process of hiring a third party to complete a business process of an organization in order to save time, money and other resources.
In the early days, BPO usually consisted of outsourcing processes such as payroll, customer service but later it gradually grew to include employee benefits management. Now it encompasses a number of functions that are considered "non-core" to the primary business strategy. India has a market of $1.69 Billion and is expected to increase up to $2.57 Billion by the year 2014.  In India many youngsters are pressurized not to take up a BPO job by family and peer groups because of various myths & misconceptions. Some of the myths & misconceptions include:

1. Taking calls in a BPO will put your career to a stalemate
In India most people believe that BPO jobs are only call centre jobs. This is a myth because BPO Industry does not consist of only handling calls in a call centre. Organizations’ nowadays have started outsourcing any part of their business which they feel can be done effectively by a third party which in turn ensures the organization saves money, time, energy and concentrate on other core areas.
Lack of awareness about the BPO industry has generated a lopsided view. Many a times it is believed   that a customer service representative in a call centre is the only BPO job. This myth has to be changed especially in an era where outsourcing has become an integral part of our economy.

 2. BPO jobs are all night shifts
This is one of the most widespread myths. It’s only the customer care representatives who work in night shifts in India because of the differences in time zones between the transaction country & the outsourced country. It cannot be denied that most of the outsourced jobs are customer service, yet there are quite a bit beyond customer service as well.
Jobs in the area of research, finance, HR and marketing are done to a huge extent during the day. Hence it becomes very important for us to read and understand the job profile before choosing or rejecting a job offer.

3. You will lose interest in higher studies if you start a job in the BPO industry
At times you may have to work 10-12 hours but that could happen to anyone in any industry but that does not mean you’re putting your goals in jeopardy. It is always better for people to work for a few years before higher studies because you get a feel of work, work culture, work environments, work ethics and networking which is a very huge factor in corporate business.
Another important fact is that when you work for a few years you get an understanding of your strengths and hence you can specialize in your area of interest and that will help you grow in your career.

4. You will lose social touch
80 % of the BPO jobs give you two days off a week. Besides we live in a competitive world where our time for recreation/ spare time have drastically come down. The way you keep in touch depends on the individual to a large extent.

5. A BPO job does not hold a high status within the community

A BPO Job is considered a mediocre job because of the myths and the fact that people still believe all BPO jobs are all Call Centre Jobs. People prefer working in Day shifts and prefer working in primary jobs related to the own company. Back end jobs have never been appreciated in this country.
These are things that an individual needs to learn and cope with. If you are focused and if you believe in what you are doing your hard work should be able to do the talking.
The problem is that a BPO job is not completely understood hence perceptions will arise but it actually does not affect your morale unless you allow it to effect you.

However, there are 2 things that you should keep in mind while choosing a BPO job.

1. A lot of BPO jobs do not give you an opportunity to learn as much as you expect and personally I feel that people need to choose Jobs that help you learn a lot more for the first 10 years of their career because you will learn to face situations, people, resources etc. So always be careful while choosing a job and make sure you choose one which helps you to learn as much you can.
2. Night shifts for a prolonged period are bad for your physical and mental health especially if you’re taking calls throughout the 9-10 hours of work.

It ultimately boils down to one simple aspect that some of us tend to overlook: Do not reject a job based on its industry but choose a job based on the job profile, personal interests & amount of learning you can get.