Musings at 40,000 feet…

A80CBC07-052A-4CC9-91D2-84D41D78F9EA.jpegAs I write, am on flight back home to India after 100 day on/off tour of APAC countries….Singapore, Dubai and Melbourne before I take off for Kathmandu in few days. As always my lens to view, observe, reflect and comment on a what I see during my travels is culture. Only this time, it’s the culture of posturing, positioning and pitching. Whether I visited mega diversified conglomerates, worked with technology giants, partnered with small home run businesses or just spent time with local families, what struck me most is the way they are branding themselves, most of all these cities.

Singapore is all about the core values and intangibles assets of its people. Brand Singapore hits you the moment, the wheels of your aircraft hit the tarmac. It has fought their its way out of non-entity status and smallness into becoming a thriving, glittering economy, a shining case study for several global economies. Singaporeans have deeply engrained the value of honouring multiracialism, with fanatical focus on continuing learning and reskilling. Sojourners to this island-nation are now stayers. Every Singaporean is it’s brand ambassador.

Dubai on the other hand believes that brands are about people working together towards a shared purpose. It’s putting its people at the center of its vision and making a assertive statement that they have embarked on a journey to achieve ‘happiness’ for all who reach its shores. In fact, UAE has not only appointed Minster for AI but for happiness and well-being as well. Happiness per them is the ultimate metric of success. If a country’s brand can create that illusion to begin with and then make it into a reality, it’s pull will be like that of a siren drawing both trade and tourism to its shores. What a brand story.

Then there is Melbourne who has what it calls ‘Melbourne moments’. It’s the way they transform ordinary everyday activities into unpredictable and unexpected enjoyment which inspires its residents and visitors to experience them repeatedly, be it the fire spouting pillars on the yarra river promenade, pop up luxury brand retail stores or quintessential reconstructed spaces as empty parking lot, derelict garage or laneways which beckons the passerby just by their sheer promise of unconventional experiences. It’s not for nothing that Melbourne has got rated as the ‘most liveable city in the world’ for years!

If at times, you do think if spending time and money on building a brand is worth the effort, considering it’s such a intangible, well then it’s good to remember that not only these cities but mega brands such as Pepsi, Samsung, Amazon, McDonald, IPL and heaps more pour in millions of dollars into advertisements, sponsorships, events, billboards to keep their brand alive and kicking and right where it belongs…At the top. Let’s trust their reasoning.

Coming closer home, to personal branding, based on my travel observations, I am mulling over these and given that many of you ask me so much about it, thought it pertinent to share:

  1. It doesn’t matter where you come from, What matters is where you’re going. Start now.
  2. Being small does not mean being insignificant. Play the odds.
  3. Purpose fuels passion. Find yours. Fan it furiously. Make it your USP.
  4. To be remembered takes doing. Create your experience moments.
  5. To be a leader, you need fans and followers. Do good, take the stage, let the spotlight shine and say your piece. Applause will follow!

Transition, transform, transcend! Happy travels…

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Mei akela hi chala tha, janibe manzil magar, Log aatay gaye, kaarvaa banta gaya…

Long Journey

Said one of the finest avant-garde Indian Urdu poet Majrooh Sultanpuri who comes to my mind as I write about the long road SHRM India has traveled. In English, I would quote Lao Tzu – “A journey of thousand miles begins with a single step”.

Couple of years ago, there were rumblings which were becoming a crescendo about invasion of technology, coming of mobile devices, age of digital natives & rise of robots, all of which were churning a mixed bag of emotions in the hearts and minds of Indian workforce.

HR was expected to know, HR was expected to show the path, HR was expected to lead! After all, Human is at the heart of technology, both the source & the recipient!

SHRM stepped in & stepped up! SHRM HR Technology Conference – India was born! Today it’s a force to reckon with & my sojourn with them began, as a delegate, speaker, blogger, twitter host, panel moderator, jury member & a friend of #SHRM.

Today this relationship has morphed into several threads of deep and meaningful partnership. Much of what I’ve learnt about contemporary and futurist HR has been at the SHRM conferences, many new ideas have struck me there watching and listening to hugely talented folks from around the world, several deep relationships with colleagues from industry seeded here, many win-win partnerships with vendors forged and social and networking skills honed!

Often, I hear people say and ask things like – “I am a lifelong learner”, “Platforms are going to revolutionize the way we work”, “I believe Microlearning is the way only way to go”, “AI will cause a turmoil, what is HR doing”, “Learning Agility is the key skill of the future”, “What is the dark & the bright side of technology”, “What does future of work look like?” and more…

Well then, if any of this is on your mind, tune into SHRM India HR Technology Conference 2018 #SHRMTech18 as we whip up a storm…of disruption & innovation, letting go & learning & draw out the blue print for HR digital organization of the future!

It is after all a melting pot of some of the finest minds in the country & beyond…Join Us!

Want To Build A Brand & Race Ahead… Use Culture As Your Ignition!

Ignition

The word “startup” carries a whole ocean of meaning within itself. Start what? A business obviously! The definition of business imprinted on our minds comes from many management gurus who have said,  “The goal of a business is to make profit”.

Perhaps it used to be. However, its been fully challenged now. The goal of a business is to make profit led by its larger “purpose” and societal responsibilities.  So really it’s about the fact that – Belief’s lead to Behaviors, which leads to Business. Belief is the bedrock of Culture. Culture is propelled by the purpose of the company and fueled by the passion of its people!

In the early days of getting a startup off the ground, it’s easy to sink deep into transactions that are ferocious in intensity and suck both the time and energy of the founders. During this period, founders become bodily and emotionally exhausted, thus not being able to spend time on building deep roots of culture in their organization. This very often is the death knell of most organizations.

This is where HR needs to step in and step up – continuously talk about building a strong and powerful culture of the company, get the buy-in of the board and other senior leaders, socialize with the workforce. In fact get the CEO/Founder to “be” and “become” the Chief Culture Officer. If HR is to be seen as strategic they have to get the architecture and blueprint of the organization right, which goes far beyond the mere reporting lines on paper and policies. Culture has to be the “Cornerstone”!

What I mean by Culture at a workplace is what we call “User Experience” these days. Many would claim in fact argue that the “experience” whether its customer or employee today is the ONLY differentiator. It’s what will make or mar the progress of the company as this evokes a strong emotional reaction, builds loyalty and advocacy amongst all stakeholders. If HR today is getting to sit on the boardroom table, it’s because of the power of the impact they are able to make to the business by building the strong foundation of right values and behaviors, which lead to superlative experiences in the marketplace. And to my mind, it’s not about what authority HR is “allowed” but more about what do they think they cannot “do”. HR does not need to be granted authority – they need to feel empowered to put the right culture building blocks in place.

Wikipedia defines Culture as a medley of Values, Visions, Norms, Working language, Systems, Symbols, Habits, Rituals, and Beliefs that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization. The way it plays out in the corporate world is seen how committed the company is towards building a strong culture of learning, of conversations, of employee wellbeing, of strong values and behaviors and most of all – does it get waylaid on the roadside during times of crisis or does leadership lean to it in times of crucial decision making.

In essence, culture stems from the experiences an employee goes through in an organization and can become a strategic enabler acting as a beacon in tough times. Today, HR is in a strong position to lead the torch on a strategic standpoint and it is purely the responsibility of startup founders to enable, empower and energize the HR function in their startup’s to create positive and lasting employee experiences.

1st published by Business World – http://bit.ly/2yDP7KZ

It’s Time to “Catch” our People

WIN

In today’s times, compliance and control reign supreme. That’s no surprise given the volatility and paranoia in the corporate world due to economic macro environment, threats from technology, government regulations, unions and such…While organizations grapple with all this and more, its behoveth on us not to forget who’s at the front and centre of our business!

  1. Who creates value for your client & the firm? Is it your product & service or your people?
  2. Who is the advocate of your organization’s brand? Is it marketing or your employee?
  3. Who is the custodian of your company’s culture? HR or the employee!
  4. Who do your prospective customers & employees believe more? Information on your company website or social media posts of your employees?

Who then has really won the war for Talent?

The answer is “blowin in the wind” and has been for quite a while now! The proverbial employee of course! Now’s is the time for us to applaud them in letter and spirit.

Dale Carnegie said – People work for money but will go the extra mile for recognition, praise and appreciation. Many organizations do a stellar work around appreciating their employees. The names they have given to their recognition program (some that I know of are Cheers, Samaan, ICON, Stars) acknowledge the fact that they know that their employee is “The champion”. If that be the case, lets broaden the definition, reach and scope of our recognition programs.

Lots of research and data tells us that many companies value longevity; the tenure of the employee above all, which is great as loyal employee in today’s VUCA times is of great asset. After all they are one’s who have deep contextual knowledge and know just when and how to adjust the sail of their company’s boat when its stormy and windy weather. Experience often trump’s enthusiasm!

Besides loyalty, I want to make a strong case here for recognizing employee for other things as:

  1. Failing fast and learning early with no fear of retribution
  2. Disrupting hence innovating fuelled by organizational resources
  3. Making sacrifices as they steadfastly uphold values
  4. Imploding rather than exploding hence releasing incredible energy
  5. Doing the right thing…for the customer & colleagues when in conflict

When it’s about saying “Well done” & “Thank you”, bust all hierarchy. Let recognition come not just from the top but from all and from all far flung corners of the organization. Build such a strong culture of recognition that it sweeps across the organization like a tsunami.

Let us “catch” our people doing right and watch the magic begin! It’s time to WIN together!

1st published for SHRM Annual Conference – 2017 #SHRMiAC17