Solo Act to Symphony… Future of Employer Branding

Symphony

 

Recently at a dinner with a group of senior HR leaders, I was surprised at the conversation which completely revolved around value of employer branding. The zeal and fervour with which everyone was discussing the ascendance and power of the concept  was akin to what in the recent past has been accorded to likes of big data and culture.

Now we all know what Employer Branding is all about, Google is full of articles, blogs and views and opinions ranging from thought leaders to research agencies to publishing houses all extoling the value and virtue of it. After all employer branding is not a spectator sports but a contact sport! What begs the question then is 1) Is it already a mega trend? 2) Has work begun on it in holistic manner? 3) Have companies redesigned their organizations to factor this as a full time role? 4) Is it getting talked about in the board room? Let me share my point of views

  1. Is it a mega trend? Not so far, but soon will be. The onus lies on us as HR professionals and leaders to understand its subtleties and nuances, be able to nurture employee value proposition so employee ambassadorship is unleashed, which together with organizations marketing efforts will become a force multiplier to propel employer branding. If all of us at SHRM, People Matters, NHRDN, BIY, GPTW and talent influencers can put this discussion front and centre, it will gain momentum. Tipping point will come! Look at the LinkedIn post that Susan Peter – SVP HR at GE posted on LinkedIn when they announced John Flannery as the new CEO. She has written about the 6yr journey GE took to identify, train and announce their new CEO. Unprecedented degree of sharing, one would say, but huge in its impact wrt creating powerful employer brand.

 

  1. Has work begun on it in a holistic manner? No it hasn’t. But that’s ok. As it always happens, there are initiators who have taken this raging bull by the horn and have started to make inroads. They are making this their priority and focus and are starting to invest both resources and time on it. Eg Mark Zuckerberg, arguably one of the most employer friendly technology company is regularly on Facebook Live sharing stories of his dreams, failure and turnaround as he built Facebook. Why is he doing it? Well it does give tremendous impetus to the FB brand which no amount of marketing spends can! Added bonus – it’s free for him! Makes business sense – right?

 

  1. Have companies redesigned their organization to factor this in as a full time role? Progressive companies which are catching the tide as it rises on concepts such as Future of Work, Modern Workplaces have certainly begun to do it (Remember my conversation on the dinner table). Like it happened with Diversity and Inclusion, Internal Communication, Employee Engagement, Employer branding is also so far an additional assignment for someone in talent acquisition or marketing but I see the landscape rapidly shifting to having this as a full time role reporting to CHRO/CXO. If I were to extend the definition of an organization to our country India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is already branding it all around the world. His Make in India initiative is meant to make everyone come, stay and flourish in India, his organization!

 

  1. Is it getting talked about in the board room – Yes absolutely it has made its way to the board room. Company reputation both from value creation and risk management is one of the top things boards are beginning to focus on, especially in this era of IOT and social media. The astute board members and the CEO/CXO team is fully conscious of its materiality and have a technology leader on their board who’s the soul keeper of leveraging social/technology both for creating business value as well as to fuel employee ambassadorship. Anand Mahindra – The chairman and MD of Mahindra group constantly tweets and updates his followers on happening within his company. His twitter followers are 4.8mm nearly twice the circulation of major national dailies in India. No wonder then, his speed and reach of communication about the Mahindra brand is phenomenal!

 

So does employer branding really matter, does it make business sense, do stakeholders value it, is there concept of materiality to it, these and many other questions will get asked, are getting asked. There will be soothsayers, naysayers and opinion makers. Either way, the brand is getting built. The difference is will it be by design or default. The music will ebb and flow for a while before it reaches a crescendo, but then, that’s how symphonies are written!

1st published in People Matters magazine – July Issue as Cover Story https://www.peoplematters.in/author/harlina-sodhi

 

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade…

WonderWoman

As 8th March rolls around again, there are countless requests to do a webinar, record a video or an audio byte, do tweetchat, upload photo of smiling successful women at work or at home, mount the stage, hold the mike and talk about gender equality, diversity and inclusion, women in leadership and such! You know what I mean. Like many of you, I’ve been there, done that and more…

While I still do this, what started to disturb me was, these were all “Doing” acts rooted outside of my inner “Being”, ignited and fanned solely by the external world. That’s why while all us women feel a heady rush of an adrenaline on 8th March (after all who does not like flowers on desk, free lunches, time-off, thank you notes) the day soon recedes leaving us with a residual feeling of at best a charming memory and longing if not complete cynicism and apathy.

Having undergone intense crucible moment recently, on deep introspection I slowly started to realize that it’s not the “Do” that I need to search but the “Be” that I need to build! Rumi said “What you seek, is seeking you” and that’s what precisely started to happen. The conversations around me changed, I met people who spoke about deeper meaning of life, higher level of consciousness and I started to “hangout” with those who were in the search of fulfilment and larger purpose of life. They were on the voyage to “Believe In Yourself” exactly the journey I wanted to take and my life took a turn! Do look around, these people are in your life too!

Soon the journey to fortify “My Authentic Self” began and today I walk the path with a surer tread and a stronger “Being”. And now whenever my trainer in the gym tells me to do push-ups and sit-up’s (groan) to harden my core, I smile, give myself a shot of “Believe In Yourself” thought and strengthen my inner core alongside too!

Life is going to throw a few punches now and then! What will matter in the end is “How we took those knocks! It’s time to “Believe In Yourself”, learn and live by these famous lyrics:

I’ll never fear the mountains in the distance, never take the path of least resistance, I’ll give faith a fighting chance, Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance, And when I get a choice to sit it out or dance, I will dance, I will dance!

Are Leaders drivers of Diversity or is Diversity riding in a driverless car?

cars

This decade is perhaps the last port of call for the companies still thinking about Diversity and Leadership. Diversity is not just Gender and Leadership is not just CEO, CFO, COO or the person who owns the company. But alas even after there have been countless articles and blogs written to this effect, endless academia research and white papers that have been published, scores of management lectures and panel discussion on the subject, it’s still the 1st thought that pops up even in most progressive leaders mind and companies. Are leaders the torchbearers of diversity in organizations? The question that begs to be asked is – Not why not? But why? It’s an idea whose time has come and gone!

To my mind, it’s because we have allowed ourselves to think like this, HR and Diversity leaders across the world have risen in unison in last decade or so and drilled the concept of Diversity and role of leadership into every leaders mind, hard-wired it into HR core processes of hiring, learning, performance management etc, to the extent that it’s now become a muscle memory of all leaders! If that be the case, why do we bemoan it?

My viewpoint is that in the corporate world, we have reduced the power and potential of Diversity to the point of trivialization and metricization. It’s a contrarian viewpoint but backed by experience and tons of data.

Let’s look at some other worlds to see how the concepts of Diversity and Leadership play out. If we reflect on any movie award function such as Oscars or Filmfare or IIFA, we will remember that on stage every performer/actor who wins an award starts by saying “I won this because of my team – my director, choreographer, screenplay writer, music director, stunt man, make up artist, publicist and so on” – what they are really saying is – They won, because diverse skills came together to create a perfect mosaic – catapulting them into realms of leadership. The producer and director of the film knows this well and spends time, money and effort putting this magic potion together. Another example is of our armed forces. There is Army, Air Force and the Navy. There is perhaps no one better in the country than the Chief of Armed Forces who knows the immense power of Diversity because it is he who brings it all together in times of unrest, war, riot, revolt etc. As an eg: the diverse skill set of different part of India’s armed forces show various aspects of  diversity – the strength of the Punjab regiment, fearlessness of Maratha troops, Guerrilla war-tactics of the Nagas and valour of Gorkha regiment among many others are legendary.

Hence, it’s the proverbial writing on the wall in the corporate world that says, indeed shouts: that leaders need to appreciate diversity, manage diversity and learn to leverage diversity to ensure competitive strength in the market place as well demonstrate their core moral value system of “opportunity for all”, “fair play” and “equal playing field”. If we continue to hire just men over women believing there are not women out there in the job market who meet our role needs, if managers continue to hire clones of themselves, if leaders vociferously keep defending that “all is well” in their organizations, we have lost the plot even before it’s even begun. I find it fairly a waste of time to keep convincing leaders of the merits of diversity, it’s perhaps the most unproductive job anyone could do in today’s age and times!

So based on my own experience of leading the Diversity agenda in large corporations for over 15years, my call to action points are as under :

1.   Weave Diversity and Inclusion into the language of the company. Sprinkle all leadership communication with the words which position Diversity in the right spirit – Get the verbiage right

2.   Articulate, document and publish your Diversity agenda and then measure it. Drive it relentlessly, with conviction and passion. Slightest of doubt and hesitation will kill it

3.   Continuously check how your diverse population feel – conduct pulse surveys, do focus groups, set up coffee chats – what you don’t know, you can’t solve for

4.   Set up employee resource group – there is power in togetherness. Groups as  Newbies to the company, First time mothers, Far from hometown…derive comfort & feeling of oneness.  Do not fear them getting together – Let them learn from each other.

5.   Run unique programs so that the leaders truly understand nuances of Diversity, such as have a diverse employee from across the company in a structured manner and rotational way attend boardroom meetings, sit through critical project discussion, travel for important client meeting, attend key marketing presentation – the insights and perspective are bound to add value to both the parties

You decide – shall we continue leaning on leadership to drive diversity or Is it perhaps time to – Explore, Experiment and Execute on diversity agenda akin to Driverless cars? 

Bells & Whistles aren’t enough…

It’s that time of the year, when Santa comes flying across the sky and sliding down our chimneys with bag full of goodies and a merry ho ho ho. Eyes stay glued to the hanging stocking by the bedpost, ears strain to hear the reindeer bells ring and hearts brim over with goodwill and joy. But this visual would be quite incomplete; in fact shocking if all you saw were the reindeer pulling the sleigh with all the bells and whistles without the Santa riding in it, now wouldn’t it?

That’s what organizations have to constantly guard against when it comes to building and breathing Culture…it’s easy to plant the tree, decorate it with bells and whistles, put fairy lights on it and sparkly star atop but tough to get it to take deep roots and grow taller. Culture needs a face and voice; usually it’s the Ceo and/or founder of the company.

Often, leaders in their haste set about laying the foundation of Organizational Culture with gusto and enthusiasm only to realize that’s it’s not a project or a product, it’s not a program or a process, certainly not a race or a sprint! It’s an ultra-marathon! Just putting together nuts and bolts of Culture such as training programs, websites and posters, scorecards and rewards is never going to be enough. .

To build, drive and sustain culture leaders have to “run their talk”, “change their language”, “act in accordance”, “protect it when push comes to shove” and “lean on it when torn by conflict”.

Deeply Believe before they Optically Do!

To everyone who is the Culture architect, Culture crusader, Culture evangelist, it’s time to go beyond the bells and whistles and be like the Santa with a constant twinkle in your eye, eternal spring in your foot and forever gusto in your laughter!

Dig deep, Ignite the fire, Leave a legacy…Merry Xmas!

 

My Journey, from Slides to Stories

Story.jpg

If you, like me, worked for many years in global MNC’s and large corporation’s words like pitch, deck, power point slides would be part of your language and muscle memory. Your core professional DNA really! The moment I would hear of an operating review, customer meeting, project update, I would grab my laptop and feverishly begin to search through templates and formats, in fact, I even had them archived as per the person we were going to make presentation to….CEO likes blue colour font and prefers pie chart over bar, CFO wants to see excel and benchmark data, Customer want comparison with best practices…you get the drift. It was all canned and highly personalized. Or so I believed….

And then I discovered the power and potential of being “untethered” – walking into rooms full of people, standing on stage, talking in townhall, pitching to leadership without the slides. A year ago, this would have petrified me but then Life took a turn…

Today, my blood pressure no longer rises, I don’t sleep fitfully, and people around me don’t feel the pressure as I no longer spend endless hours making the deck and then beautifying the slides and then fretting over notes under each of them so I remember the data, insight and punch lines!

I now tell stories of my life’s experiences, my own anecdotes, tales of things I’ve done, paint a picture of things that have happened to me, share my own learning and talk of lesson I’ve learnt, a narrative from the heart that leave no piece out – hard facts or emotions.

And it works like magic! No one was as stunned with the impact it has on audience than I was! Not only did I unshackle myself from unnecessary gadgetry, unburden myself from anxiety of building content but ended up adding meaningful colour and context to my conversations.

Today I am my own “Google”, my life experiences are my “Wikipedia” and I am the “Story”!

 

Serendipitously in search of Destiny…

Rumi 13th Century Poet

“What you seek is seeking you” said Rumi, 13th century Persian scholar, poet and sufi mystic. In recent times, Shahrukh Khan, popular bollywood hero said something similar which caught the fancy of the nation – Agar kisi cheez ko dil se chaaho to puri kayanat usey tumse milane ki koshish mei lag jaati hai (If you yearn for something with all your heart, the entire universe conspires to make it happen)

So far, I did not believe Destiny (Karma) and Serendipity (Chance) had anything to do with each other. But winds and waves of life and time continue to illuminate…Let me explain.

When few months ago, I chanced upon Mumbai Marathon from my balcony, little did I know how that would change my life. Transfixed, mesmerized I watched 40,000 people run their guts out for hope, life, love…Took me a while to understand that “Each of them had a story”

Driven I knew I wanted to be out there running with them next year (2017). But first I had to find “My story”! It took me many months to realize that to go through any life changing experience (and running a marathon is certainly one) besides our family and friends; we need two people in our lives:

One a Trainer who will train our bodies to be stronger – help us workout like a madman/woman, become disciplined like a soldier and fixated on the goal like the Arjun of Mahabharata. I searched and found one. We have a great love/hate relationship 🙂

Second a Life-Coach – it is tough, nearly impossible to tame your mind and control your restlessness without the coach. The coach helps introspect, reflect and enables discovery of authentic self. Thankfully the coach found me! Time will tell how this goes

It is true, once you set out on a path, it does get lit, all roads begin to lead to where you want to go, and you meet fellow travelers on the same voyage as you are…almost miraculously!

So, no longer alone or lonely in this quest…Faith surges stronger in my body, mind and soul.

Rest as the story unfolds…

Brooms are for flying…

vroommmmm

I was tempted to give this article the title from ancient Indian Rig Vedas “Where women are worshipped, there the Gods dwell”, given the fact I am posting it on 8th March – International Women’s Day. And here is a little narrative as to what made me change my mind.

As per Indian Vedic culture, women were held in high regard, they enjoyed position of power, freedom and equality, were revered as goddesses, often advisors to kings on matters of warfare, warriors themselves and were free to choose their own groom in the ceremony called Swayamvara. But in the post Vedic era, their status degraded significantly – Sati pratha, Purdah pratha, Child marriage, Girl child killing, Polygamy became law of the land and sole existence of the women was to live her life for the man – “Pativrata”

So deep has been the physiological and psychological damage to the women through the centuries, that it needs systemic and holistic fixes from all parts of the society. Indian government is running nationwide campaigns to bring balance back in our society via schemes such as Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, Acts like Prevention of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace, Companies Act which mandates Seat for Women in the Boardroom and themes such as “Nari Shakti” (Women power) at Republic day celebrations.

And where is the corporate India amongst this entire din – does it think of it as “Much Ado About Nothing” or is it doing enough to right the balance? It’s certainly not enough to put a target in the KRA of business leaders often perceived as quota by them to hire more women, run training programs to “upskill” them on management skills which is akin to fuelling the stereotype of what a business leader should be, run initiates to celebrate women day with emails from CXO’s glorifying womanhood  and  flowers on desks by colleagues on #IWD, less said about that the better!

My “call to action” in this blog is less for the companies and more for the women themselves. Assume the role of a leader, it’s there for our taking, fight hard and fight fair to wear the mantle of a leader, it’s equally ours, work hard to move further up the corporate ladder, No, it’s not too crowded, there is place for us there!

Look back and learn from our Rig Vedic Culture and Awaken your “Aadya” (Goddess within)

Now is the time to – Grab the Broom and Vroom! Happy Women’s Day