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? 

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

Demystifying Change and Transformation…

We have heard it being quoted often that “Change is the only constant”, “Change is inevitable”, even that “Change is the law of nature”. Coupled with the word Transformation every organization today is talking about, the waters get muddied even further. But when we begin to say “Change is law of life”, it’s time to demystify it!

The epic “Tryst with Destiny” speech made by India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru on the 14th August 1947 the eve of India’s independence speech says “Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends……..” This celebrated speech marked the start of journey of Change and Transformation for India and rest is history – political, economic and social.

When I type Change on the Google search bar – it throws up 1 Billion results and the word Transformation throws up 75 million. Golly, I thought to myself – what does one write about which has not been written before. Tough task indeed; but relatively easy when you are in the midst of mammoth scale of organisational Change and Transformation in the history of corporate India.

Unprecedented and non-stop Change is the norm for organizations now and “the future is already here” said William Gibson. Increasing competition, globalization, technological changes, financial upheaval, political uncertainty, changing workforce demographics, and other factors are forcing organizations to Change faster and differently than ever before.

Change and Transformation have become the new buzzwords. Be it politics, business, schools, economics, corporations both have gained enormous attention in the past few years. More often than not Transformation and Change are used interchangeably although there is a stark difference in the meaning. “Change is the consequence of Transformation

Change is defined as modifying the way things are done by altering the management structures and business processes. Change can be incremental or quantum in nature. The Changes could be of different types like, Social, Technology/digital and organisational Change. Organisational Change is more about changes in the structural, process, and people.

Transformation is what happens when you see the world through a new lens of knowledge and are able to create things, never before envisioned, for the future. Transformation is motivated by survival, by the realization that everything needs to Change or the organization will die; that a significant breakthrough in mind-set is needed in order to pursue new opportunities. It is a longer process, more internal and requires strong commitment and conviction by those involved in the process.

Let me paint a visual for you by taking few examples from the animal kingdom, organisations and people to exemplify what is Change & what is Transformation.

Examples Nature Companies People
Change Chameleon changes its colour Xerox from Photocopier to document to technology company Amitabh Bachchan evolved to medium of TV from Cinemas
Transformation Caterpillar transforms into a butterfly Apple – Transformed the way people used technology – literally reinvented the “reinvention business” Buddha – theory of Impermanence

As per Indian mythology every time the universe was in trouble or required social awakening numerous gods would take human form in order to bring about the necessary Transformation and set the world on the right path

If I were to share the global landscape, almost every organisation undergoes some form of Change or embarks on the journey of Transformation be it through restructuring, reengineering, rightsizing or right aging in order to keep pace with the competitive world. Transformation relates more to the culture, belief and the mind-set of the people, while technology or process changes are just the enablers to bring about the desired Change. Needless to mention that Transformation in the VUCA world is increasingly becoming more challenging given the transient nature of the Change itself. As you move towards your desired Transformed end state your expectation from the end state would have already evolved during your journey and again the end state seems like a failure. Hence an ability to foresee the desired Change 4 years ahead and then working backwards is what will bring about the desired output.

Coming closer home in India the last decade has been fraught with social, economic and technological changes. Organisations in India have very unique characteristics. They are more owner driven, have multi-generational workforce, and diverse political – socio environment. As humans we’re wired to be wary of Change. Neuroscience is showing that we experience potential threats to status, certainty, and autonomy as painful. Real Change puts all of these in flux. And for many of us these are a matter of pride. Hence more often than not large-scale organizational Transformation seems unpredictable, fickle, and irrational.

The only way to make change palatable is to ensure that that there is a common framework, set of words and language. It is important to have common definition, approach and process to be successful. It should be integral to overall plan of the company and not just an add-on event. Change needs to be driven, role modelled and reported.

Failed changes can be costly, demoralize employees, reduce competitiveness, and start an organization on the road to mediocrity or obsolescence. The problem exists because few people responsible for change understand how to manage change.

With this as a backdrop, today’s organizations need to ensure they are leading from the front to bring both mind-set and skill change in the leadership and overall workforce of the organization. There are 3 core pillars which have the potential to really change the game for the organization

  1. Learning – which has be at learner’s behest, bite sized aka Micro learning and available on need to know basis (JIT). The tools of learning that companies need to leverage are MOOC, Gamification, Wearable technology and Mobile Apps – the underlying concept being – “Go where the learners already are!”
  2. Leadership – has to change gears from being command & control, instructional & reviewer, hierarchical to collegial to being co-creating & empowering, “walk, indeed run the talk”, the underlying concept being – “There is huge value in minds of all, trigger it off”
  3. Performance – agile and progressive companies have to know that today people believe there is more to life than doing the job and getting paid for it. They have to provide meaning and purpose to its workforce – “Give them a dream and an opportunity to leave a legacy behind”

Developing champions who understand how to initiate, facilitate, and implement needed change is an alternative that offers considerable potential for addressing this important topic. Deploying psychology of change management can accelerate change too (Theory of cognitive dissonance – which talks about giving people purpose, theory of conditioning and positive reinforcement which clearly states that  reward, recognition and performance systems in the company must be aligned to desired outcome, theory of adult learning which details out the fact that we should let people absorb the change, allow them use it experimentally and then get them integrate in their current processes and finally the theory of adult behaviors which states that people need role models and leaders who “walk the talk”. If an organization can play the different instruments of music seamlessly, change is guaranteed almost magically!

Let me paint the picture for you using 2 illustrations.

Every company today has started to talk about their almost fanatical focus on employee engagement. In the corridors of HR leadership, there is constant chatter about how we need to empower and energize our employees, how should we make the company ecosystem and environment conducive and how to find innovative and real time ways to listen to what employees are saying! There are employee engagement surveys, employee satisfaction survey, pulse surveys, happiness surveys and whole host of other ways companies have started to “listen” to their workforce. Indeed some have deployed very innovative and technology enabled ways as well, such as “Click a Glad-Sad-Mad-Bad smiley button on a flat screen as they come in and go out of workplace to capture emotions real time or leave a message on company’s internal blog site sharing how they feel and what they want.

To my mind, unless done for dramatically different reasons, it is but mere entrapment’ that we are talking about for our people. By laying out long and complex roadmaps to actually increase organization productivity, advocacy and “win the eternal war for talent”, companies will only achieve incremental changes not long lasting transformation. Marginally making minor tweaks to processes, systems and policies hoping natural cycles of evolution over a period of time will make the change impactful, sustainable and meaningful, which it will, but only the landscape would have changed by then again and thus the eternal cycle of change will begin yet again!.

Or we could start with end in mind; work towards making quantum leaps, build a blue print to transform the workplace and then get into execution. There is enough knowledge out there to tell us, what’s changing both within the DNA of millennial employee as well in the technological world. We are truly at the “tipping point” with the meshing of workplace megatrends such as millennia’s, social, globalization, connectedness powered by technology, rise of gender diversity and innovation and more than ever before, the time is ripe for transformation.

Another big change that we have begun to see at the workplace is migration of talent from global MNC’s to Indian conglomerates. While earlier the MNC’s were considered mecca of learning and opportunities, place where a person learnt about structure, models and process there has recently being a rapid shift in the way employees have started to embrace the working ways of Indian companies. I attribute this change to 2 key reasons :

  1. The times are different, we are in a VUCA world already, so people have started to adapt to the volatility, uncertainties, complexities and ambiguous ways of working, something that Indian companies are intrinsically good at, in fact, an attribute they evaluate in a candidate while hiring them. The larger socio-economical-politically environment coupled with technology explosion has taught emerging talent the value of agility, manageability of their projects and careers and concept of “personalization” while operating in a world of “globalization”
  2. The other significant transformation that we have begun to see if the rise of entrepreneurship and start-ups. Its reasons are many, funding for start-ups is available easily with angel investors looking to put in the seed capital, spirit of risk taking is all time high, world is now flat so market place has grown hugely, social media has reduced set up and infrastructure cost and innovation is being funded by the both government and corporates. What Indian organizations do is get a person to think more “end to end”, inculcate ownership mind-set given the fact that both strategy and design as well as execution and implementation has to be done here in India compared to MNC where thought leadership comes from their HQ’s in US or Europe and SOP, template driven work gets done out of India.

Change involving movement of talent to Indian companies as well as transformation of workforce from being mere employees to becoming entrepreneurs are great examples which elucidate what Change and Transformation is playing out in the Indian workplace.

In conclusion, what I would say is that Change is a process of evolution while Transformation is disruptive and innovative. Change is inevitable and reversible, Transformation is internal and completely non-reversible. Change occurs with a desire to improve the past while Transformation is driven by future orientation, constrained only by the limit of our imagination, conviction and courage.

In organizational context, it is apt to say that “Transformation prescribes vision and Change subscribes to vision”!

 

In a VUCA world – Forewarned is Forearmed

We may well be in the midst of a revolution to bust the established theory of “Six degrees of separation” – which states that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away from any other person in the world, so that a chain of “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect two people in a maximum of six steps.

Our world as we know it, is “shrinking rapidly” due to this ever increasing connectedness of human beings. Despite great geographical distances, human networks fuelled by technology have made actual social distances smaller. So let’s understand what’s going on :

1. Intersection of four major trends in technology: social media, explosion of big data, mobile revolution and emergence of wearable computing (Apple Watch, Google Glasses) has redefined concepts of Space and Time

2. Rapidly shifting demographics like gender, age, employment status, mobility, earning capabilities have resulted in rise of individualism and value shift in society, where people are starting to explore the meaning, purpose and identity in their professional and personal life.

3. Economic rebalancing has reached a tipping point in the way that global balance of economic power is shifting from developed to developing countries. As this trend continues it will have increasing impact on where growth opportunities are for companies and professionals and augur well for us to stay “nimble on our feet” and “learn on the run”.

Wikipedia defines Environmental scanning as “the study and interpretation of political, economic, social and technological events and trends which influenced a business and industry or even a total market”. Hence its critical for our personal and professional success, dare I say even survival to be constantly cognizant of our environment given it’s a VUCA world.

SHRM India Annual Conference on 25th and 26th September 2014 at Gurgaon with its theme of CONNECT – INSPIRE – GROW is designed to give us an immersive experience to be able to “Scan the environment”. Join me as we discuss Stimulating Workplaces: Creating a learning Culture at 1:45 PM on 26th September 2014 – Panel Discussion which will explore current and emerging social, economic, political, legal, and regulatory changes which make “environmental scanning” a critically important activity.