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3 lessons HR managers must know

Last updated on: July 13, 2011 14:49 IST

3 lessons HR managers must know

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Sunder Ramachandran

On a recent trip to Kuala Lumpur, I met Aidan Menzul, a young finance professional on a leisure and self discovery trip to South East Asia.

Aidan is from New York and was laid off from his $65,000 per annum job with a private equity firm. He has been doing various part time gigs and has been caught in an economic limbo for the last six months.

When I asked him, what brings him to this part of the world, he said "I have been struggling for the last two years not knowing where my career is headed so I took out all my savings and decided to explore South East Asia in the hope of self discovery and pursue my ambitions with renewed energy".

While I admired Aidan's thought my first reaction was to dismiss him as just another young American who is confused about career choices. He looked at me with skepticism when I told him that I am a consultant from India who works in the human resources domain.

Aidan mentioned how he viewed HR guys as chainsaw consultants mercilessly cutting jobs and putting people out of work.

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Sunder Ramachandran is a Managing Partner at WCH Training Solutions, a New Delhi based Training & Consulting firm. He can be reached at sunder@wchsolutions.com.


Photographs: Rediff.com
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I asked him if he thought there were things that his organisation could have done differently to ease the pain and he articulated a list of options almost sounding like a seasoned HR campaigner. Here's what I learnt from our discussion:

1. Not involving the team

Aidan thought that they were not involved in the discussions that led to retrenchment. "The manager deluded himself into thinking it is beneath them and the HR did not see the need to talk to employees. I need to be able to shoot ideas out there and have them sink or float. Good managers & HR should ideally respect this in me.

I had some solid ideas around saving mine and several other jobs without it costing the company. However no one took the time to listen" echoed Aidan. I validated his point of view and added that if an employee needs to play the Devil's Advocate to someone else's ideas, it's for the good of the company, not for their own 'health'.

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2. Not modeling the way they want their employees to act

Aidan mentioned how HR sent several mails and memos on cost cutting and how employees need to be frugal in their expenses. This behaviour was not modeled at the top. He added that "It was frustrating to see that we were being asked to cut corners and the senior partners were flying in private planes asking the government for bailout money".

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3. Leveraging inter-organisational synergies

Aidan mentioned how his organisation was characterised by distributed work environment and virtual teams, delivering services to both internal and external customers. Interestingly many of these virtual teams performed activities of similar nature leading to effort duplication. He said "When the times were good, HR overlooked this aspect and hired randomly as achieving scale internally made them look good to all the stakeholders. The HR strategy should have been to leverage transferable skills and explore cross team synergies which results in higher competency and resource utilisation. A lot of people who lost their jobs should not have been hired in the first place" he mentioned.

I was overwhelmed at the clarity of thought which Aidan demonstrated and was feeling sorry for dismissing him while forming my first impression.

I concluded the discussion and reassured Aidan that our role as HR professionals is similar to that of a tripod supporting a high end camera perfectly balanced by its three supporting legs; living in the present; learning from the past, and planning for the future. Remove any one leg and you miss a picture perfect shot.

Aidan nodded in approval and I thought to myself that this was quite an unexpected HR lesson but it was a reminder that you learn the best lessons from the most unexpected corners.



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