Enter CCO

Who is a CCO – a Chief Coaching Officer – of course. We have seen a tremendous shift in how organizations are approaching the development of employees. The move from training being a sub-function of HR to L&D being a separate function and in some organizations performance taking a front seat with high end executives responsible for performance improvement. With the kind of evolution employees are going through, wanting to slow down, not wanting to take on stressful roles any more, saying no to travel to spend more time with family, it is only natural that organizations create a new function, namely coaching. Retaining employees is no longer about offering them deferred bonuses or about giving them a better increment than they expect.

We are in an age of a multi-generational workforce and while the Gen X and Y are trying to cope with the millennials and the challenges they bring to the table in terms of their commitment, loyalty and their general work ethics, HR organizations do need to realize that it is the Gen X and Y that would finally keep the teams going and bring about stability, which seems to be a fast disappearing construct.

The priorities of Gen X and Y, though, are fast changing. Coaching can help these employees cope with the changing times and truly impact engagement levels. It is finally by impacting some individuals deeply, that one can expect wider impact. A wider effort intended to enhance employee engagement would only have a very superficial impact of engagement. It is time for coaching.

Most organizations today do deploy a coaching methodology, have empaneled coaches to work with their employees who are going through all kinds of changes in their lives and careers. In the current market situation, with the quality and availability of talent diminishing by the day, would it be wise to abstain from this path? There is no time for cynicism – only an opportunity to make a difference.

Is your organization still trying to build a coaching culture and hoping to train its people in supervisory positions to be coaches or has it started letting coaching into the doors by empaneling certified and experienced coaches?

Not sure where to go to hire coaches? Try some coaching consortiums. A recent one which has started in India is Play2Potential. Why not leverage them? Employees can ‘sample’ coaching sessions, choose to go ahead if it works for them. One has nothing to lose I would think.

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Engaging the virtual workers

This is the age of working from home, outsourcing work to contractors and we find more and more field sales people having to spend more and more time away from the office. If organizations are moving towards more such models, how are HR practices helping in engaging these workforces? It is often like – oh but we forgot to add their names to the list or oh, but they may not be able to make it as they might not be in  and slowly, disengagement sets in. While employees are becoming well versant in virtual working, HR teams have not necessarily geared up to keep pace and to leverage technology to their benefit.

Let’s take, for instance, working from home. For many employees, getting to office takes a special effort. However, it is important to facilitate that at least once a week to ensure employees are able to connect with other employees and remain ‘plugged in’ to what’s the latest etc. The social networking opportunity that working in an office provides is often missing for virtual workers. It is not a wonder then, that many of them might eventually choose to drop out of the workforce. Scheduling visits to the office when all virtual workers meet is important too. This cannot replace online hangouts or video Skype calls. By working from home, employees do save a lot of the infrastructure cost for organizations. It is, hence, important to offer some sort of financial benefits like reimbursements for their visits to office. This might help in employees not feeling discouraged and motivating them to make the effort to keep up their engagement levels.

Which does bring another interesting question to the fore – do virtual workers need additional or a separate set of performance indicators? Like – regularity of participation in scheduled team meetings, participation in virtual meetings by way of sharing a point of view, building a virtual network etc.? Most times, organizations who claim to be uncomfortable with the model of people working from home, have a hard time trusting employees. Adding such performance expectations and criteria might help create some discipline for the employees and build trust in the model for the organization.

With the talent shortage being faced globally, many organizations cannot afford to ignore these workers. So what is your organization doing for retaining its virtual workers?

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Matching the pairs

First up, I want to add a disclaimer that this post might be more focused on technology really and not solely on HR. I really did not want to create a fifth blog so I thought I might as well include this in HR. HR is Human Resources, anyways! Hope you find it thought provoking.

Increasingly, I get the feeling that one of the side effects of convergence is that teams as we used to know them, are morphing into each other and roles seem to be morphing into each other. No wonder the inter-team meetings are killing everyone! Nobody has the complete view yet a complete view of what an employee goes through is invaluable. A generalist, hence, who is created as a result of moving across functions and gathering multiple expertise is far more valuable to an organization than a generalist who has always been a generalist in that sense.

As people in learning struggle with offering relevant content to people anytime, anywhere, people across functions are having similar struggles. At the end of the day, people have more information than ever and lesser time than ever and more expectations than ever.

In such a scenario, while organizations continue to tread the path of launching initiatives and flaunt their feathers one after another, the basic point, is missed (as it has been on many occasions).

The point being – we train people to be good mentors and coaches..and then what? We train people to be buddies for new joiners…and then what? We ask people to network…and then what? We set up these really great communities and hope people will keep them buzzing with activity..and then what? We earmark people as experts in the organization and expect them to do some things over and above what we pay them for..and then what? We have a demand on a project which needs to be filled..what do we do?

For a moment, let us turn our attention to our personal lives. Many of us are turning our attention to fitness, looking for a walking partner or a personal fitness coach or someone to cycle to work with. Some of us have children and are perhaps looking for a play date for our child.

Countless instances of the same problem – match the pairs!

By now, I have seen quite a few organizations, big and small, that struggle with trying to build intelligence into their systems to propose the right match using systemic intelligence. If that has failed, they have set up teams which are really glorified match making teams.

I have always believed that the deeper issue one deals with is that of creating a transparent system.

Let information be accessed and choices be made and let the choosers own the outcome of making those choices. We are then, freeing up so many people from a meaningless and rather frustrating task of matching the pairs and working with them to focus on something else which they might finally find of more value.

Could we build a simple yet robust system, which captures information about people in a lot of detail but more importantly, empower the person with a need, to filter possible matches by applying multiple criteria? I am not sure if any technology innovators might be reading this post but if you know of one, please do the HR community a favor and forward this to them! And more importantly, please do share your comments. What do you think?

Read more about me and what I do on my website: http://growth-cube.com

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To conserve talent, collaborate

In this world of talent scarcity, worsening by the day, educationists are trying hard to keep up with the requirements of the corporates. Corporates are trying hard to integrate their programs into educational institutions in order that they might be able to get the right talent someday.

Unfortunately, the world of tomorrow will hold many new roles which we are unable to foresee today. This leaves what I call a talent blind spot for organizations. How do they fill this void today?

Enter Collaboration. When we are in a world of talent scarcity, with more and more people moving to entrepreneurship and wanting flexible roles (not just women, men too!), options for organizations are limited. Experts in any area are only a handful and the number is fast dwindling. Smart organizations would choose to collaborate and might consider exchanging their Talent. You give me a good HR Professional, I will give you a SAP professional in return. If the resource is good, the deal stays and we continue to exchange else we move on. It might sound simplistic, but well, who knows, this might be the key to sustaining talent.

I would even take it a step further to say organizations might want to consider sharing niche experts. The experts, by virtue of their scarcity, might be kind of unaffordable by a single organization in the future. In all likelihood, the experts might want to work on multiple assignments and get extensive exposure to keep themselves up to date. That’s what would keep them an expert after all. Expecting to monopolize resources by overpaying may not work beyond a point. It is hence, imperative for organizations to seriously consider collaboration and create new models of leveraging the limited pool of resources that we are left with.

Expertise today, is like the dwindling wildlife. State and nation agreements need to be signed with the common objective of conserving them.

Corporates, what’s your latest count of attrition of experts?

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Talent on call

True diversity is about understanding the needs of the segments that one refers to as ‘diverse’ and being able to create a business model that supports their needs. It is not about being able t0 offer more and more ‘diverse’ people an ‘existing’ business model and an ‘existing’ role.

Take for instance the challenge of tapping people who are skilled, talented, known to be committed but are unable to take up full time roles due to pressing personal issues, which might be related to their own health or other family related circumstances.

Organizations can certainly consider having a pipeline of such people, who are known to be promising, maybe even alumni or freshers whom they are unable to offer cookie cut positions, available on call.

This addresses the huge bench problem and the sudden peak problems that organizations are dealing with. Not that organizations are not doing this but my contention is that the pipeline management and the screening of talent for this needs to be done as an in-house activity for it to provide quality talent. Studying the pockets where activities are likely to peak and establishing a pipeline of active people can save an organization from a loss of business or even credibility.

It is a great activity for recruiters to engage in when they have bandwidth. These resources could even be paid a minimum amount so they continue to be available – and minimum could be anything – really negligible but something, perhaps for a duration of say 6 months or till such time we anticipate some peaks happening. Take for instance, housewives – I would actually rather refer to them as latent talent – many have given up their jobs to be with their families and many are well qualified, great with communication, experienced workers. If there could be a pipeline of such people available on call, for any kind of work – marketing, communication, instructional design, proposal making – the opportunities are endless – wouldn’t it be wonderful! It is almost like creating a parallel of the virtual assistants site.

It is the next generation of service delivery – an ‘offline’ service arm, meant for repeatable tasks / processes which does not require live resources working from office.

If there is a project HR needs to invest in – it is this – create a pool of virtual assistants who are available on call as and when required by the organization.

What innovation projects are you aware of in your or your client’s HR organization?

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Tapping the latent talent market

After my 13 years of working in corporates and exposure to various HR policies, processes, priorities, systems etc., I am left feeling a bit disappointed with how HR has not kept pace with the evolving minds of human beings.

The world today, we all know, is moving towards healthy living and a better work life balance. More and more women, in particular, are choosing to throw in the towel and have chosen to not go back to the corporate rat race. If corporates believe that they can lure this segment back by offering exceptional salaries, they are sadly mistaken. In the name of flexibility, what is on the table is the offer to work from home, to not commute to office as much though most roles remain as full time jobs, with the same expectations as those of full time employees who get to office everyday.

Sadly, this is recipe for disaster for corporates. What they are doing in the process, is saying, we know you need to be at home but we would still like you to work full time which means they are signing off to doubling or trebling the work load for women, hoping that by way of some miracle, women would survive and continue working. Really…? Time for a reality check.

If we really want women to continue to work, genuinely, that is, there are clearly 3 things to be bear in mind:

a) Recognize that women are already overloaded with work and family pressures and need to work under an environment which does not add to the stress. What this means is, consider offering an option for women who want to slow down, an alternate career track, which takes off the pressure of competing with peers. Consider different rating criteria and moderate all such workers as one group. Making this a merit based system is still possible but it needs to be a different system. Ambitious women can still choose to get back into the mainstream track whenever they want and compete with everyone else at their level

b) Be proactive in providing such options to women proceeding on maternity leave. We know how things would be – they would be tough. Acknowledge the challenges and offer a slower career track right away. Leave the choice to the employee. Reassuring women (by way of a policy), that they have a choice to get back to work and not to deal with so much pressure that they were used to in the past will go a long way in retaining women

c) Treat this group of people like your ‘special needs’ employees. Provide mentors, deeper HR connect, a dedicated helpdesk etc. This, if managed well, will be the set of employees who keep the organization going despite tough times. Include Alumni, interns and such people and if required, roll this up into a company by itself. We all know many women do bring a lot of commitment, passion and creativity to the table and the bottom-line is, they do want to work.

Women are already making their decisions and do prefer to work provided someone understands their needs. Corporates are struggling to get their diversity ratios right.

Let’s take some risks. Try out a new model. See if it works.

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