Saturday, July 21, 2012

HR Mistakes To Avoid In A Startup

We all probably know a lot about HR management and the value of good team in a startup. To further help on the same issue we surveyed some startup employees and have compiled a list of most popular and significant mistakes committed by some well known Indian startups and their founders. For privacy issues we have not used any names.
1. Forgetting to appreciate: You have read enough about employee motivation but you must learn to appreciate daily procedural work as well. Things that look trivial actually make a lot of difference to your company in the long run. Like a good resume found by your HR department on Naukri or forwarded by your current employee. Appreciate that, even if it was their daily work. This requires consistency and may not be easy but certainly keeps the employee excited all the time. – HR executive, BPO
2. Not defining tasks: Learn to define the task in one simple line, being very specific about what is to be delivered. Most of the time a task is undone not because the employee is not making enough efforts but because employer never knew what exactly he wanted to be done. -Graphic designer, Ecommerce
An acclaimed Indian creative director puts it this way – “If i don’t get an idea after reading the brief for the 3rd  time then probably the brief is all bull shit and I will deliver bull shit.”
3. Not encouraging to ask questions: Remember, if he is interested in asking questions he will also do the job well. If he leaves with a question in his mind, he will come back to you without the work. Give me some time to clear my doubts before you say “I want it by EoD”. – Programmer, IT services
4. Forcing decisions in cases when you are not an expert: Say if it is about deciding the color of your website. Both you and your emlpoyee are not an expert, then you should let the employee decide. It won’t make any difference to the product but would encourage him and not make you a Hari Sadu. – Programmer, Ecommerce
5. Not crediting salary on time: In a startup there are chances that you are already underpaying him so even a single day delay matters. The paychecks should be handed out before the month ends. You are not giving him advance for the remaining number of days but it is he who worked for you without pay for these many days. Do you take up a project without advance payment? – Network Manager, Hosting Services
Their might be a risk of high churning rate at month end but that is again for the X type of employees, that too the low skilled workers.
6. Restricting certain websites: You might have done this for productivity issues but you do not realize that it makes the employee believe that you do not trust him. By doing so you have proven that he is not motivated enough. He is not a kid who has to be forced to study (work). If he does not want to do it, he will not deliver his best. This might increase procedural efficiency but not effectiveness of your team. – UI Designer, Web Marketing.
Platforms like Youtube etc. host a lot of informative videos as well. Also, if a quick game of 5 mins can refresh his mind, he would be more productive for the next 55 mins.
7. No or Limited free coffee – Programmer, Classifieds (and about 8 others)
Founders, try and conduct a regular session with your team where they can speak their heart out. If you already conduct such sessions do share your experience.

The craft of connecting

Effective communication is among the top five characteristics needed by teams and leaders to succeed in a complex working environment

Between 2000 and 2004, companies with most effective communication programs returned 57 percent more to their shareholders than companies with the least effective communication programs, as per the findings of Watson Wyatt’s 2005/2006 Communication ROI Study. Good communication is among the top five characteristics needed by teams and leaders to succeed in a complex working environment. A key factor that emerges from studies of successful managers is that they have a regular and meaningful communication process with their staff. They connect! Let’s look at how this meaningful connection is established.
Crafting the connection
It is essential to clearly establish objective of the communication, timeframe for it and how and when it is to be done. Every conversation you have, every communication you make in the work context takes you a step closer to a goal. So it is important you craft each one of the communications with care.
Firstly, promise something only if you can follow through with it. Also, avoid any gaps in understanding – it is a good idea to clearly communicate your understanding and get agreement on it. Equally important is to maintain consistency in communicating a message, whether within your team or across groups. Gone are the days when it was possible to develop tailor-made communications for different groups. In today's networked society, where information spreads fast through blogs, social networks and other kinds of speedy media, every group can become aware of the communications to other groups.
Base your decisions on visible and logical factors. People want to know why they are being asked to do or not to do specific things. Such knowledge not only helps them execute their tasks more effectively but also helps them accept the instructions and decisions more willingly. Even adverse decisions like a retrenchment can be made acceptable if employees understand their rationale.
Try changing the questions you ask. Instead of asking “Why are we falling short of this month’s sales goal?” ask “What do you think we can do to ensure we meet our sales goal?” In the first case you make the listener feel defensive, and in the second case he/she will feel involved in the solution (versus being accused of the problem) and will be receptive to brainstorming alternatives.
It is of utmost importance that you select communication methods appropriate for a particular target audience. For instance for communicating with an employee in another location you may want to use e-mail, instant messaging, intranets, social media and other web tools. There are some very interesting possibilities in the new-age communication tools. While company intranets can serve as central hubs of information about the organization for employees, teams can hold brainstorming sessions or maintain ongoing conversations with questions and answers on a blog.
You can even use wikis to manage projects, share best practices and research case studies. The CEO can keep a blog or a podcast and companies can use RSS feeds to send regular news to employees. If an organization plans to use new-age communication tools, then it is important to effectively implement them and provide necessary training and support in the use of the same. This will ensure that employees experience higher levels of communication satisfaction.
Connecting effectively by knowing your audience
An important step in connecting to people is being aware of who you are connecting with and what essential information they need. For instance, while working with the executive level (board of directors, executive staff, your direct manager), you need to take hierarchy into consideration, depending on the culture at your workplace. Also, you need to focus on business and ROI. On the other hand, while communicating with your team, consultants or vendors, you need to explain the technical background, outline and explain requests, justify outcomes and specify clear instructions and conditions for the satisfaction of requests.
When communicating with peers or other functional groups, you should be clear and concise. You need to make sure that you answer questions, like ‘when, where, why, and why not. And finally, while communicating with external customers, you should be politically correct, aware of revenue impact and conscious of issues related to security and breach of contract.
Internal communication best practices
If you want internal communication to succeed, it is essential that communication be ‘two way’ i.e., employees should not only receive communication, but always have a chance, and be encouraged to ask questions, discuss and express their ideas. Asking for feedback identifies problem areas where messages are misunderstood or not received at all.
Very often good news is given, bad news is withheld. Be it feedback on individual poor performance or difficulties the company is facing, if they are not shared and discussed with the employees an important opportunity to build trust and to improve performance is lost. So don’t just share the good news, but also share bad news if any.
Feedback mechanisms and sharing best practices internally should be an integral part of organizational performance and individual performance management system. Provide regular, on-going opportunities for employees to provide feedback to management. The opportunities can be provided through employee surveys, suggestion boxes, town hall meetings, individual or small group meeting with managers, and an organizational culture that supports open, two-way communication.
It is also crucial that you measure improvements in your performance and not just communication since you are ultimately using communication to achieve your work goals. Have there been changes in the way your team communicate with customers? Are you getting closer to your customers? Is employee retention improving? Is information being communicated throughout your department on a timely basis? You need to seek answers for these questions on a time-to-time basis.
Be it giving work instructions, aligning individual goals to company goals, inspiring team members or understanding team needs, effective communication, without a doubt, forms a key factor in making these connections successful.

The author is Founder of The HR Practice

Engage or be out of business

Many researches reveal that best employers excel at employee engagement. So how can you drive employee engagement in your team?

Does employee engagement seem like another buzzword to you? And yet you must be experiencing the presence or absence of it every day at your workplace. Tim Rutledge, Owner and Publisher, Mattanie Press and Author of ‘Getting Engaged: The New Workplace Loyalty’ writes ‘truly engaged employees are: attracted to and inspired by their work (‘I want to do this’), committed (‘I am dedicated to the success of what I am doing’), and fascinated (‘I love what I am doing’).’
The concept of employee engagement was developed in response to increasing globalization. Global competition forced businesses to become more flexible in responding to employee needs. There was also a rising interest in employee engagement due to the dotcom bubble burst in 2000, which caused the economy to dip and created unemployment. Then came the Millennials, a new generation of workers who demanded more from their employer than just pay. Technology continues to revolutionize not only how work gets done, but also how people access their work and each other. As the economy changes and employee needs evolve, employee engagement becomes more and more essential in increasing productivity while satisfying employee needs.
Hewitt has been conducting Best Employers studies around the world. Their research shows that the best employers excel at employee engagement. As a result, they enjoy a bigger pool of talent to select employees and experience lower employee turnover, lower absenteeism rate, increased customer satisfaction, higher economic returns, and greater sustainability in the face of business challenges.
What drives employee engagement and how can you drive it?
Frederick Herzberg observed over 40 years ago that the same employees who complained about poor working conditions, such as cold, dirt and dim lighting were quite happy to work on their cars in a dingy, dusty garage at home. So there was something else that was driving engagement. In fact there are several factors that drive employee engagement. Let us look at how as a manager you can help in creating employee engagement in your team. 
1. Relationship with manager and managerial support: Very often, employees leave an organization not because of the dissatisfaction with the company, but because of the dissatisfaction with the manager. As a manager, you need to provide your team with required direction and resources to support work processes and activities. Be supportive of the engagement initiative while monitoring the work-life balance of employees.
2. Role clarity: Being a manager, you are the best person to provide clarity to employees about what is expected from them at work. Also make them understand how their goals relate to the company goals and how their unit/department contributes to the company’s success. Helping employees clearly understand the mutual responsibility and accountability is at the heart of an effective employer/employee relationship.
3. Challenging work: Being able to do something interesting and meaningful helps create a sense of personal inspiration and accomplishment, leading to pride in one’s work and one’s company. There are certain things that you can do to help promote a more stimulating and challenging environment for your subordinates. You must encourage people to take initiatives, coach and develop people’s skills, and hold people accountable for their performance.
4. Performance feedback and recognition: Regular, specific performance feedback is a powerful tool to engage people. As important as pay and benefits are in attracting and retaining people, they are less important in engaging people in their work. So, offer recognition for employees who excel or who demonstrate a strong passion for their work and organization.
5. Career development opportunities: Get to know your employees, as well as their goals and aspirations, so that together you can develop a clear path for advancement and opportunities for growth. Ensure that high performers in your team advance in the organization.
6. A sense of ‘team’: Foster a sense of community and team work. People’s positive emotions are strongly influenced by the people they work with day-to-day, by collaboration, teamwork and shared goals, and by a sense of a purpose in work.
7. Communication: Effective communication is not just about disseminating basic information. Rather, it is providing context, commentary and ensuring a two-way dialogue. Employees want to know what management thinks and believes and how it plans to act. And they also want forums to give their inputs. Engage employees through direct communication by involving them in important decisions and keeping them informed of new developments or changes within the company. Listen to employees and act on their suggestions. Just listening and not acknowledging, responding or acting on what is being heard can damage credibility and engagement.
8. Control: Employees should have an appropriate decision-making authority and appropriate decision-making input to be truly engaged. If you consistently keep your team members fully informed, you are providing them the necessary foundation to behave responsibly and accept accountability for making their own decisions.
9. Leadership: A clear vision from senior management about future success and senior management taking steps to ensure company’s long-term success are important in driving engagement. Leadership’s interest in employee well-being also helps increase employee engagement. As a manager you can keep your team updated on what the leadership team is doing for them.
10. Company credibility: Organizations that proactively manage their reputations also enjoy higher levels of employee engagement. Employees distance themselves from the business when they believe their company does not have a good reputation. By talking positively about the company and its practices and by correcting any negative perceptions that employees have about the company, you can contribute to employee engagement.
Thus, it takes commitment, consistency, trust in employees’ judgment and strong leadership practices to create employee engagement. Most importantly, it takes strong day-to-day management.

The author is Founder of The HR Practice

Four Ways CLOs Can Change Their Company's Culture

Often in approaching an organizational issue, the conclusion a learning and development professional comes to is that it comes down to culture. In order for a company to truly change itself with respect to a given aspect of performance - ethics, for example - it has to embed its intentions in its culture to succeed. The conventional wisdom is that it has to happen from the top-down; from the C-suite down through the ranks.

But how does a CLO change a company's culture? That's easier said than done. According to Joseph Grenny, co-chairman of VitalSmarts, a corporate training and organizational development consultancy, this is because it hasn't been approached correctly.

"We think it needs to be top-down and driven by leaders, when in fact that's just a recipe for resistance," Grenny said. Grenny prescribes four critical competencies for building a high performing organizational culture: self-directed change; intellectual honesty; 360-degree accountability; and influential leadership.

1. Self-Directed Change

Grenny identified execution and innovation as the primary abilities a CLO seeks to foster in an organization. "The basis of that - the core ingredient - is self-directed change," he said. "If you have a capacity in your organization for individuals to examine where the organization is headed and create self-directed change to be able to examine their own habits, alter them as the occasion requires, and align with the direction of the organization and their own professional aspirations, that really is what unleashes individual potential. Then the leader's job is just to guide that self-direction."

2. Intellectual Honesty

According to Grenny, a significant barrier to effective organizational culture is created when employees don't feel free or able to speak up about bad decisions or mistakes that their company may be making. "If they are; if they can be intellectually honest; if they can talk about the elephant in the room, that's the process by which self-correction happens in an organization," he said. "When dissent gets stifled, then our capacity to execute well diminishes because we can't talk about what's wrong with the way we're executing and our capacity to innovate disappears, because innovation is fundamentally a function of spirited debate. Intellectual honesty means you're getting my full honest view of reality and what ought be done in the organization."

3. 360-Degree Accountability

Another way of describing such accountability would be simple transparency. "It means that everybody is responsible for everything at some level," Grenny said. "Strong ethics happen in an organization when the norm is to challenge."

In order to achieve this, it's important that companies get away from strict vertical accountability. "In healthy organizations, peer accountability and upward accountability are the norms," Grenny said. "People can let their boss know when they're letting them down. People hold their peers accountable."

This is not a process that can occur just once a year. "That's malarkey because that's so late in the process," he said. "If it waits until some performance review nine months after the episode occurred because that's when it comes into the boss' purview, then you've already paid an enormous price in execution and innovation."

4. Influential Leadership

Grenny feels that leadership is an area lacking clarity with respect to learning. "One of our problems in the learning and development field is we don't define leadership particularly well," he said. "So leadership is this vague, abstract concept, when fundamentally leadership at its heart is about influence. If people aren't changing their behavior as a result of your leadership you aren't leading. One of the greatest deficits in organizations is leaders not only don't know how to do that, they don't even know how to think about the process of changing behavior across a large social system in a rapid, profound and sustainable way."

That is a tall order. But according to Caroline Turner, a former senior vice president of Coors Brewing Co. who now heads consultancy DifferencesWORKS, it can be achieved through creating inclusive work environments that allow people to thrive. The key to this is an engaged company culture.

"If you don't have engaged employees, you don't have committed employees who are willing to give you their best quality and focus," Turner said. "Engagement really means a sense of belonging and commitment and it's linked to retention, productivity and profitability. Then inclusiveness is a key competency because only by creating a culture where people who are very different from one another and from the leader feel valued and included will you get engagement."

By Daniel Margolis - managing editor of Chief Learning Officer magazine.

Top 5 Women-friendly companies in India

Top 5 Women-friendly companies in India


They have Toddlers Park, a day-care centre, and an infrastructural facility, called Baby's Day Out, from where mothers can work while taking care of their child. For cases of extended maternity, accompanying their spouse on travel, or caring for dependent family members, special leaves can be claimed.


Ninety per cent of their 2,000 employees are women, and all of them come from a rural district of Bangalore.They have women-friendly facilities: a creche, teachers to teach the children of women employees, social activities involving the parents and workshops on health and hygiene.


They have a formal community of women employees, called Vahini, to bring about inclusiveness in the organisation, and make them good parents, empowered citizens and fine financial planners. Expecting mothers can enjoy regular visits by a gynaecologist and special cabs for their smooth travel. There is also a dedicated 24x7 emergency helpline for women.


A prominent feature is their creche, called Ashray. Employees can also choose to work from home on a full-time or part-time basis. A security guard escorts women employees who use late-evening transport. Half their employees are women.


It is the first Indian company to set up a dedicated office for gender sensitivity, called Infosys Women Inclusivity Initiative (IWIN). Women employees can avail 24x7 counselling facilities and nursing stations. For new mothers, there are satellite offices where they can stay close to home and work. They can take upto a year's leave for their family and continue to be on the rolls.

Source: The Great Place to Work Institute (2009).