Monday, October 08, 2012

How to resolve Employee conflicts

 Guest Post by Patrick Del Rosario

It can be tempting to turn a blind eye to pesky employee squabbles and hope they simply work themselves out. Unfortunately, though, workplace disputes rarely work themselves out on their own, and even the smallest disagreements can escalate into more serious problems if left to fester for too long.

According to recent research, between 24 and 60% of management time is spent on dealing with conflicts and anger in the work place.

While it may seem like all this time would be better spent on some other aspect of running a business, it is important to keep in mind that employees are the very thing that keep a company going, and in order to keep your workforce productive, happy and stress-free, interventions are often necessary.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when settling conflicts in the workplace.

1. Stay neutral and listen to both sides of the story

When dealing with conflicts amongst your employees, it is important that you stay neutral and don’t pick sides. Picking sides will only worsen the problem and prevent you from coming up with a workable solution that sits well with both parties involved.

In a small business setting this may be more difficult, because you work so closely with people that the line between your professional relationship and your friendship can become blurred.

Before you even attempt to mediate a conflict, ask yourself whether or not you will be able to stay neutral and keep an open mind. If you don’t feel that you will be able to do this, for whatever reason, you should seriously consider bringing in a third party mediator, who can leave their personal opinions and feelings out of the matter.

One good way to help keep things neutral is to take the mediating outside the office. This will prevent other employees from feeling caught in the middle of it, and being away from the office during the discussion can help everyone feel more at ease.

During your meeting, try to give both parties a chance to speak their part without being interrupted by anyone. Then, once everyone has had their say and gotten the grievances off their chest, they will be more willing to listen to what others have to say and see the situation from another perspective.

 2. Stick with the facts

Most employee squabbles are very emotionally charged, so it is important that you as the mediator are able to keep the emotions out of the picture and listen only to the facts that are being presented.

You will probably hear lots of feelings and assumptions, but while these may be very valid concerns to the person in question, what he or she assumes or perceives may not necessarily be correct. For example, you may be told things like “I feel like he doesn’t respect me…” or “I know that he doesn’t like me…” While these are certainly real concerns, you cannot do anything with assumptions and emotions.

So, in order to get to the bottom of it, ask questions like “why do you feel that way?” or “what makes you think that?” In this way, you can learn more about specific actions and behavior that might have caused the problem.

You will also have concrete facts to go on, rather than vague assumptions about what another person may be doing or thinking. Once you are aware of any problems (whether real or perceived) you can go about helping your employees to see areas in which they need to improve or change.

Keep in mind that while you do want to get the straight facts, you will probably have to wade through a lot of emotions to get to them, which will take time and patience. Always try to be understanding of your employee’s predicament, and don’t downplay their issues by telling them to get over it or move on.

3. Ask your employees what they would like to do to resolve the conflict 

Even once you have heard both sides of the story, you may still be at a loss as to where you should begin. Sometimes, asking the employees themselves what they would like to do to resolve the issue is a good way to come up with a workable solution that both parties are in agreement with.

Also, you should always consider the possibility that the company’s practices or management methods may have played a part in the dispute. If this is the case, try to get feedback from your employees about how you could improve the team’s morale and encourage better collaboration in the future.

Try to help your employees become part of the solution rather than looking at them as the problem. If you are able to approach conflicts in this way and stay open to suggestions and feedback from others in the company, your mediating will be a whole lot easier in the future.

Guest Post - About the Author: Patrick Del Rosario is a Filipino business and career ninja. He works at Open Colleges, one of the pioneers of Online education in Australia and one of the leading providers of human resources courses and cert iv training and assessment

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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

HR in an age of austerity


Debbie Meech, HR Director, Cable & Wireless and Graham White, HR Director, Westminster City Council discuss some of the issues facing HR personnel in a difficult financial climate. Interesting observations about Human Resources functions on generating positive sentiments about organizations during times of downturn and job cuts.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

What really motivates us

Adapted from Dan Pink's talk at the RSA, illustrates the hidden truths behind what really motivates us at home and in the workplace. Interesting research work showing how higher rewards not always leads to higher or better performance for knowledge workers. 

Makes you wonder if we need to review and redesign performance management philosophy and Organizations reward approach. Higher performance need not always be driven by higher rewards, economic behavior is also a function of purpose of work and inherent satisfaction which a job provides.

I am reminded of Herbert Simon's Satisficing approach where he pointed out that human beings lack the cognitive resources to maximize: we usually do not know the relevant probabilities of outcomes, we can rarely evaluate all outcomes with sufficient precision, and our memories are weak and unreliable. A more realistic approach to rationality takes into account these limitations: This is called bounded rationality

These observations & studies are good indicator why our approach towards human behaviour model continue to be a limiting approach due to perceptual / cognitive behaviour which is more heuristic, unique and situational.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Future of work 2.0

Tom Malone, professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and author of the HBR article "The Age of Hyperspecialization," explains why breaking jobs into tiny pieces yields better, faster, cheaper work -- and greater flexibility for employees.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Getting it right at the Interview

An insight into what recruiters look for in a candidate, why candidates fail to clear the interview, the importance of soft skills and more.

What mistakes do candidates generally make during interviews?

One must try and put his/ her best foot forward for the interview. Very often, candidates fail to clear the interviews due to inaccurate or incorrect information given in their resumes. Interview panel focuses on key traits and behaviour, which a candidate must demonstrate to succeed in the position being interviewed for. Sometimes, candidates end up discussing about areas in which they have little knowledge and experience. Too much of self-talk can also be seen as a negative attribute if the role needs a good team player. This shows them in bad light.

It’s always better to start with areas of your strength, show a positive approach and accept wherever you are unsure of the right answer. Interviewers do not expect candidates to answer every question; they also assess the forthrightness, professional behaviour, team work and work ethics of the candidate. One should avoid bad mouthing previous employer or talk negative about previous work experiences.

Often candidates start discussing compensation and benefit related aspects even before the final offer has been made. These questions should be taken up only when asked about or when the final round of interview is conducted. One must keep his answers succinct, focused to the subject in discussion to avoid any long rambling conversations.

Do you expect the candidates to have a fair idea about the company and the position they are applying for?

It’s always better to know the background of the company where you have applied for and understand the job profile as well. This shows the seriousness of the candidate for the interview. It also demonstrates that it’s a planned career move to align long term career goals with the organisations future strategy.

How important are soft skills (team work, communication, leadership etc.) in selecting a candidate?

Soft skills are very critical for individual success in any role. Interviewers focus on assessing the team work, group behaviour and leadership ability of individual through various case studies, questions on past experiences and also seek examples where the candidate has displayed these key attributes to successfully accomplish the goals.

To perform a role successfully, one must display fair understanding of behavioural aspects and good communication skill. As one moves up in career ladder, soft skills become critical differentiator to perform senior manager and leadership roles.

How important are the background/reference checks? Do you hire people without these checks?

Background check and reference check is mandatory in most organisations today. This is a non-negotiation aspect of hiring today. NASSCOM, which is the trade association of all the IT / ITeS / BPO companies in India has taken up a significant initiative called “Trusted Sourcing”. This initiative aims to develop and project the industry as a safe and trusted destination for sourcing, development, outsourcing and process work so that overseas clients develop confidence with the safety of our industry and assign more work.

NASSCOM, has developed a robust information infrastructure about all present and prospective employees of the industry called “National Skills Registry (NSR)”. NSR facilitates development of fact sheet of credible, permanent and accessible information about each registered person. You can refer to the link  for more details on NSR. This clearly explains how important background check is in today's times.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What Hiring Manager really want in a resume

An insight into what hiring managers looks for in a resume and what are the mistakes candidates generally make. 

How important is a cover letter when applying for an IT job? 
It’s important to provide a brief cover letter, which outlines an individual’s interest and candidature for the role being applied for. A cover letter should be specific to the position, give an overview of one’s strengths and suitability for the role. A good cover letter helps in attracting recruiter’s attention. 

How much time do you spend reading a resume? 
This depends on the recruiter and the position being considered. For senior and niche positions one does spend considerable time going through the resumes for shortlisting. 

What according to you are the loopholes a candidate should avoid while creating a resume?
One must highlight the suitability for the position being applied. Recruiters always focus on finding the right fit for the job; profiles which match the role position have the best chance for being interviewed. Few don'ts in a resume: 
  • Avoid lengthy resume, best resumes are of 1-2 pages. Don’t make it verbose, keep it brief and relevant.
  • Avoid repeated reference of past achievements, should focus on recent experience and achievements.
  • Avoid fancy fonts and bold letters, spelling and grammatical errors.
  • Don’t include personal information on age, height, weight, date of birth, marital status, gender, health, religion, state or political affiliations in the resume.
  • More that 7-8 years of employment history is avoidable and redundant for the recruiter.
  • Salary information should be avoided, provide only if asked for.
  • Reference should be provided only when asked for.
  • Avoid usage of personal pronouns (I, my, me).
  • Avoid generic information; provide specific and quantifiable values wherever possible.
  • Don’t put hobbies and non-relevant information as it’s often seen as space filler.
  • Don’t provide incomplete information on anything being mentioned in the resume.
  • Don’t overemphasize your academic background or one particular experience. Don’t start with academic background, unless you have started your professional career in the last 1-2 years.
  • Don’t just provide the start date of your previous job, provide complete tenure detail. Any incomplete information must be avoided. 
What are the key must haves in an IT professional’s resume? 
  • Provide details of your job title, current and recent positions in detail.
  • Details of projects worked on, skill set and job responsibilities performed.
  • Highlight the technology and domain experience.
  • Provide summary table which provides number of years of experience in a particular technology.
  • Highlight achievements and core areas of expertise from future career interest perspective.
  • Descriptive summary of how particular skill set like Java or Oracle was applied for a particular project.
  • Organise tech skills into appropriate areas such as operating systems, networks and programming tools.
  • Depending on the job title, one must highlight specific areas relevant for the position.
  • Avoid too much of technical language, explain it appropriately with right balance of technical terms to ensure that even a non-technical persona can understand the profile.
  • Highlight competency development initiatives like certification, programs undertaken or participation in technical forums, white paper submission
  • Must provide summary of key achievements of each role, improvement in productivity, scheduled adherence, TAT etc are few examples.
How do you assess a candidate’s credentials?

Assessment for fresher’s who are hired through campus hiring is usually through a written aptitude test followed by an interview. These objective type tests are designed to assess the quantitative aptitude, logical reasoning and problem solving ability. Applications are pre-screened based on academic background and marks secured from high school onwards. Short-listed candidates are usually invited for an interview as part of the selection process. One has to meet the required proficiency levels for both the assessments to be selected for the role. 

For lateral entry, profiles are short listed which is followed by a panel interview to assess the technical and behavioral competencies of the candidate and fitment for the position applied for. Usually there are two-three rounds of interviews by technical team, HR and senior managers to assess the candidature for the position. Technical interviews focus on assessing the candidate's depth of knowledge and expertise level in a particular technology, skill set or domain. These are panel interviews which involves technical experts to assess the technical expertise and role fitment of the candidate. This is followed by human resources interview to discuss personal preferences and compensation, benefits related aspects before the final offer is made. Some organizations also administer psychometric tests to test the role fitment for the role.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Leaders Inspire – Perspective on leadership style of M S Dhoni & Nitish Kumar


It takes moment in life to make it special, dream of a generation, imagination of a nation, heartbeat of billions, and then the prayers finally were answered. India lifted the world cup 2011 with great pride and emotions. What Dhoni and his men have achieved will remain etched in the memory of our generation forever. Tears of joy, cries of triumph, and a sense of gratitude filled our hearts as the realization of world cup victory finally sinks to the nation.

Celebrations still continue and what really stood out was the cool and razor sharp finesse which Dhoni displayed in his leadership style throughout the tournament. Perhaps he summed it up himself when he said how his decisions could have been questioned. But as lady luck had it, Dhoni will smile all the way to the glorious annals of cricketing history, perhaps the most successful India captain ever.

One can’t help but draw parallels of his leadership style with another great leader Nitish Kumar who was the Man of Year 2010 for bringing a ray of hope and faith in the murky theater of Indian politics. Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar, won his world cup (Bihar elections) consecutively by transforming the electoral dynamics in Bihar. Both Nitish and Dhoni have uncanny similarities in the way they operate and bring out few unique dimensions of their leadership style in their own sphere of influence. They have displayed remarkably identical traits and style which really demonstrates similarity in their leadership style and ability to influence outcomes.

Communication is the key 

Dhoni has always spoken his mind out on every aspect of Indian cricket. Often criticized for being too blunt, he has never been a favorite of his bosses in BCCI. Nitish Kumar also stands out for being upfront and plain talks, he has often earned wrath of media, alliance partners and even his own team members for speaking his mind out. Another interesting aspect that stands out of Dhoni and Nitish is the way they have been humble and open enough to admit weaknesses. Dhoni didn’t mince any words in castigating his fielders publicly and even accepted that few decisions didn’t work to the plan. 

Likewise, Nitish has publicly rebuked his own party men and allies on many programs and policies. At the same time, one must acknowledge that they have set right goals, worked with their teams to strive together as a team. As the captain of the team, both have been articulating there plans and vision for the teams.

Get the best out of limited means

One of the most inspiring aspects of both these leaders has been how they have struck to the basics of managing their teams. With limited resources at hand, they have ensured that they get the best out of each situation to work to their team’s advantage and thereby imbibing the culture of self-belief and resilience. Despite India’s limited bowling attack, Dhoni marshaled team well and always had an ace in his weak link whenever opposition came to bat. Though Indian bowling attack never looked lethal, but it was very effective and result oriented when it came to the crunch. Dean Jones went to the extent of saying that Dhoni must be dreaming to win this world cup with current Indian bowling attack. With this victory, he has really proved that dreams do come true if only we work as a team.

Similarly Nitish has always worked under constraints, he never had the luxury to spend on public welfare programs, with limited resources and little financial aid he has been able to transfer a state by just ensuring that limited resources are put to optimum utilization. He has proved that good governance can lead to electoral success and one need not always fall back on petty politics of caste and chicanery to achieve political victory. Despite low per capita income & investment, lowest Credit deposit ratio in the country, Bihar has had the 2nd highest growth rate in the country for the last 5 years. Bihar chief minister got applauds from none other than Melinda Gates for his achievements in increasing the immunization rate in Bihar . “In 2005, when Nitish Kumar became the chief minister of Bihar, the burden of disease in the state was massive. It also had a low immunization rate, 33 per cent compared to the global average of 70 per cent. By 2010, however, Bihar’s rate had risen to 66 per cent,” said Melinda

Lead from the front

Boy.. who can question Dhoni on his ability to lead from the front ( though he remains behind the wicket). When it came to the rubber hitting the road, Dhoni stood up for the challenge like a true champion. Not only did he score well and took the battle back to the opposition, he ensured he is there till the end to give the final punch, and what a thump it was. 

Nitish, just like Dhoni has always taken things head on and confronted his party members, policy makers on every public policy decision. He was the first one to come out and declare his assets when he enforced public declaration of assets and wealth owned by all public servants. They have both inspired there teams by their actions and has also given them hope in times of despair. 

What’s even more surprising is that both Dhoni and Nitish has been called the Obama of cricket and politics respectively. Despite many parallels, both are believed to be inspiring leaders in their own rights.

Delegation, Decentralization &  Team work

Gary Kirsten went on record to state how Dhoni gave him complete freedom to work in his areas. He said “Dhoni was the man in charge once they crossed the rope” while he continued doing his job off the field. Great leaders are not the most talented; they realize they realize that as long as they get the best from everyone there job is done. Dhoni as a batsmen and wicket is not the greatest of all, but he helped the team achieve its peak with help of Kirsten and Sachin and other senior players. He has allowed every one the space to breathe and creating a sense of joint ownership with harmony.

Unlike both Nitish and Dhoni predecessors, there was no noise in public space to display sense of being in control or vulgar display of authority on trivial issues. Nitish Kumar has delegated few key responsibilities to his key advisor N K Singh ( Rajya Sabha MP & Economist) & Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi. Just like Kirsten, N K Singh is believed to be the master strategist and close advisor of Nitish Kumar. Kumar also re-energized the local governments in the form of panchayats or assemblies, by giving them more responsibility for areas such as education.

Dare to dream and take risk 

Both Dhoni and Nitish have been non-conformist in their decision making style. They have dared to risk their own stake by taking decisions that may have backfired. Dhoni’s decision to drop Ashwin and take Nehra may have backfired but it proved otherwise in the match against Pakistan. Similarly, the decision to promote himself in the batting order during the final match would have come for severe criticism if he had failed to perform with the bat. His ability to back his team and stand for his decisions has really earned respect from his team and peers. 

Nitish has also charmed his followers and critics with his ability to implement out of box ideas which have had significant impact on social development in Bihar. Who would have imagined few years back that girls in Bihar would ride all the way to school and women’s will get 50% reservations in panchayat. Today, Bihar’s leads in various many initiatives, which other states are emulating. Programmes like Sarva Shikhsa Abhiyan, Mid-Day Meal scheme, NREGS and innovative schemes to suit marginal sections, setting up of District Child Protection Units (DCPUs) are few firsts which Bihar has stood out under leadership of Nitish Kumar. His party has often warned him of losing his vote base but Nitish has always implemented his ideas of development.

Humble beginning and private family life

Both Dhoni & Nitish have humble background and they continue to keep their family life very personal. Dhoni’s father worked in MECON and his brother and sister have also stayed away from public eyes. His close friends still count on him for any support. Nitish has also kept his personal intensely private; his family has always been away from media eyes, not much is known about his brothers and only son.

With all the glory and achievements, both of them there feet firmly stuck on the ground. They are indeed role models for today’s youth and inspire everyone to dream the impossible.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Employee Retention - Getting it right

Changing times needs different strategies to engage and retain key employees. Organizations adopt different approach towards managing talent and working towards improving deliverables for business profitability. 

Mckinsey study shows that too many companies approach the retention of key employees during disruptive periods of organizational change by throwing financial incentives at senior executives, star performers, or other “rainmakers.”The money is rarely well spent. Many of the recipients would have stayed put anyway; others have concerns that money alone can’t address. Moreover, by focusing exclusively on high fliers, companies often overlook those “normal” performers who are nonetheless critical for the success of any change effort.

Some of the key observations are:

Find the “hidden gems”

Once HR and line managers have generated a thoughtful and more inclusive list of key players (usually 30 to 45 percent of all employees), they can begin to prioritize groups and individuals for targeted retention measures— 5 to 10 percent of the workforce.

The key is to view each employee through two lenses: first, the impact his or her departure would have on the business, given the focus of the change effort and his or her role in it; and second, the probability that the employee in question might leave.

Mind set matters

One-size-fits-all retention packages are usually unsuccessful in persuading a diverse group of key employees to stay. Instead, companies should tailor retention approaches to the mind-sets and motivations of specific employees (as well as to the express nature of the changes involved).

Retention is about more than money

Executives mustn’t view employee retention as a one-off exercise where it’s sufficient to get the incentives packages right. Rather, best practice approaches build on continuous attention and timely communication every step of the way to help employees make sense of the uncertainty inherent in organizational change.

Ultimately, what many employees want most of all is clarity about their future with the company. Creating that clarity requires significant hands-on effort from managers, including the ongoing work of tracking progress so that companies can quickly intervene when problems arise.

Targeting retention measures at the right people using a tailored mix of financial and nonfinancial incentives is crucial for managing organizational transitions that achieve long term business success; it’s also likely to save money.

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Friday, April 09, 2010

7 Talent Management Practices to Help You Survive a Downturn

Guest Post by Sean Conrad

To weather an economic downturn, companies need to focus on their core business and strengths, reduce unnecessary costs and be more efficient. Here are 7 talent management practices every company should implement to get the most out of their workforce.

1. Align Goals and Track Everyone's Progress

You need to make sure that every employee's goals are aligned with organizational goals. You also need to regularly monitor progress on goals so you can take corrective action as required. Finally, you need to be able to quickly and effectively communicate any change in focus, priorities or tactics. Your talent management system should allow you to quickly communicate changes that impact organizational goals to everyone who has a linked individual goal.

2. Conduct Regular Employee Reviews to Keep Employee Performance On Track

Employee performance reviews give employees an opportunity to talk with their manager about what they are doing well, areas for improvement, skill gaps, career plans, goals, competencies, development needs and more. It's one of the most effective ways to keep performance on track.

They also help managers and HR identify low performers and take action to improve their performance, so the company can get the most out of all its resources.

Finally, employee reviews make it easier for managers and HR to make critical decisions about workforce restructuring and right-sizing if/when needed. By providing a history of employee performance they allow managers and HR to accurately identify high and low performers and employees with critical knowledge/experience/skills.

3. Provide Ongoing Feedback to Maximize Performance

Ongoing feedback helps everyone maximize their performance. It allows for quick corrective action, so managers and employees can address any issues while they are still small. To formalize this process, you might want to do quarterly or semi-annual reviews instead of just annual ones.

4. Invest in Performance-Based Development

Make sure you're getting value from your investment in employee development. Start from your employees' performance appraisals and use them to identify skill gaps, so you can be sure you're offering the right, targeted learning activities. You should also consider which competencies are key to your organization's success and target training to build strength in these. Finally, you should always measure the change in employee performance ratings that results from a learning intervention to make sure your training is effective.

5. Identify and Reward High Performing Employees

Knowing who your high performing and high potential employees are is always critical. While you may not be able to reward them with salary increases, bonuses or other monetary rewards during an economic downturn, you can still demonstrate your organizational commitment to them and recognize their contributions through other means. These are the employees you can't afford to loose; make sure you're acknowledging their performance and potential.

6. Have a Succession Plan

Your organization needs to be prepared to replace people in critical roles at all times. It's even more vital in a downturn, when a vacant leadership position or shortage of a critical skill could cripple your organization. A talent pool based succession plan helps your organization to identify the critical skills and competencies it needs to succeed over the long term, not just the leadership roles it may need to fill. It then helps you identify and groom your high-performing and high-potential employees to fill these needs when they arise.

7. Be as Efficient as Possible

In an economic downturn, no organization can afford inefficient processes. Systems that automate your talent management processes make these processes more efficient and cost effective. Many companies realize a return on their investment in talent management software in the very first year – often enough to more than cover the cost of the new system. They also usually see an increase the quality and value of their processes, typically resulting in higher employee satisfaction and engagement.

Sean Conrad is a Senior Product Analyst at Halogen Software, one of the leading providers of talent management solutions. He can be reached at

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