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Train the resource properly - 07 Dec 2010

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Written by Administrator
Tuesday, 07 December 2010 00:00

“The new undergraduates fall short of the expectations of the employers with regard to self motivation, self discipline, empathy for other workers and management, willingness to learn, good written communication and basic computer skills” says FICCI through a survey conducted by them recently. This is  something that all of us as human resource development trainers have been saying for a long time. This is what the corporate sector has been suffering from a long time. The survey of FICCI comes as an authentication of the facts and should be appreciated by all concerned. It is important to note that the specific deficiencies have been identified and highlighted. Most of the factors mentioned above relate to the psychological dimensions of the personality and only the last two factors of poor written communication and computer skills relate to the technical skills.

This survey and its results have implications for the organisations as well as for the educational institutions that cater to students who go for higher studies. My experience with most organisations is that they give more emphasis on the technical training to the neglect of psychological dimensions. I have no research study at hand to quote of the ratio of technical versus behavioural inputs in terms of the HRD training programmes conducted by companies. As a behavioural scientist and a trainer it is my observation and experience that make me formulate the hypothesis of the neglect of behavioural training inputs. We all know that in times of resource crunch the first casualty is HRD. Rightly or wrongly it is thought to be an extraneous need and not an intrinsic one by the corporate sector. They would prefer, rightly, that they get sophisticated candidates who fit the bill and for whom the company may not have to provide the basic education and training. They do not want to spare a certain percentage of the budget for further training inputs is what bothers most of us. Most successful companies who take the HRD programmes seriously and quantify the benefits would vouch for its tremendous utility.

That brings us to the role of the second important principal in this phenomenon, and they are the educational institutes of higher learning. The students may have degrees of arts, science or commerce but have no or little practical experience of the concepts that they may have learnt. In Indian colleges and universities the application of principles are sorely missing as part of the education. The theories are taught, reference work in libraries are not encouraged, there are examination guides which students mug up instead and pass the exam. As if getting the degree is the only high point of education, the rest is taken care of by society! This is a tragic situation of our country and it needs to be turned on its head. Give more importance to application of principles and put the students to work. Let the college be a hub of activity with seminars, presentations, projects, research and reference work and there be enough range of subjects to choose from. This academic activity leads not only to intellectual stimulation but also to personality development and growth. It leads to better communication (what FICCI bemoans) both verbal and written. It also leads to self motivation, self discipline, and willingness to learn. Should we hold the colleges responsible for the lack of such qualities in students and candidates for jobs? Of course we should. The training makes the man/woman. When the training at college level is inadequate, ineffective, and insignificant the poor student is only a victim of the rotten system. If he lives and learns in a stimulating, intellectual, healthy, competitive and creative environment of the college, under the competent supervision of the professors, his personality blooms. The same flower withers away in a forlorn, monotonous,dull and dead desert of learning. Most undergraduate colleges are boring, dull, inactive and uninteresting places where students find themselves in a predicament and have to suffer the three to four years of drudgery and get a degree. When I refer to this phenomenon I am talking not of the colleges that are exceptions but the colleges that cater to the growing masses of students who come from villages and towns and smaller cities. When we look at the bigger picture we understand the reality in its true colour. That’s where the problem lies.

Published in The Hitavada Future - 07 Dec 2010

Last Updated ( Thursday, 23 December 2010 20:08 )

Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill - 23 Nov 2010

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Written by Administrator
Tuesday, 23 November 2010 00:00

The Union Cabinet last week finally approved the introduction of the Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2010 in Parliament. Hopefully it will be passed soon by both the houses in spite of the opposition by sections of society. As we understand the bill seeks to ensure protection of women against sexual harassment at the workplace, both in public and private sectors whether organised or unorganized. The bill expands the scope to include students and research scholars in colleges/ uni versities and to patients in hospitals. It also covers any woman who enters the workplace as a client, customer, apprentice, and daily wageworker or in ad-hoc capacity. Sexual Harassment infringes the fundamental right of a woman to gender equality under Article 14 of the Constitution of India and her right to life and live with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution which includes a right to a safe environment free from sexual harassment.

It was a long pending demand of women and we wondered what could be the cause for delay. It was surprisingly shameful that there was no Act under which women could complain in case of sexual harassment at workplaces which is a fact not unknown to all. A woman had no forum to seek justice and hence had to become a victim and suffer in silence. This bill brings the issue of ‘sexual harassment’ out in the open thus bringing awareness to the masses. It is important for people to understand the definitions of the term sexual harassment and it is equally important for working women to know their rights and for men in workplaces to know their limitations and liberties with their female colleagues.

As the workplace opens up dramatically for women workers and as their numbers go up significantly the socio- cultural atmosphere in general is undergoing a drastic transformation to the discomfit of many. It’s like a revolution taking place. It is a cause of a major shakeup in the mind-sets of people which is proving to be a source of stress. Women are developing a different consciousness of themselves as they become assertive about their rights and their careers. With their sense of self worth going up tremendously they demand respect and a life of dignity at work and at home. As they hone their skills, compete in the open market (not get jobs through reservations) and focus on quality performance they would like to be treated as equals to male counterparts. They would want promotions and positions according to their talent and abilities and not by exploitation of their physical assets.

The problem lies with the attitudes of men towards women in general, towards working women in particular and towards competent working women in specific! The attitudes and emotions they harbour for the above three categories of women are different. Men generally treat women as inferior to them or superior to them but never as equals. There is a fair amount of contempt for the female sex in the subconscious minds of men as they consider her an inferior being and never an equal. The contempt shows in their humour, ridicule and sarcasm. Besides this, there is fear in their minds of the competent female colleague who could possibly overtake them and supersede them in power and position. There is jealousy, back biting and politics to pull her down instead of appreciation and regard. Besides all these attitudes and negative emotions, the sexual angle cannot be ignored. For many men women are sexual objects for pleasure and every woman has ample experience in this regard! The experience begins when you reach your teens and in public places you start taking precautions with your body getting brushed, pushed or pinched in the wrong places. This precautionary stance has to be taken till your death so to say, for mature women are not spared too from the onslaught! Every woman in her normal senses learns to discriminate a bad touch from a good touch of a male. Such male attitudes definitely show up at the workplace too sometimes in a gross manner and sometimes in subtle manners.

Under the bill women can now complain against harassment ranging from physical contact, demand or requests for sexual favours, sexually coloured remarks or showing pornography. Additionally it recognises the promise or threat to a woman's employment prospects or creation of hostile work environment as 'sexual harassment' at workplace and expressly seeks to prohibit such acts. This addition addresses the invisible glass ceiling that many competent high achievement oriented women experience. I know organisations where highly competent women are promoted only till the second level management and never to the top level, as part of well planned but unwritten policies. Now on the basis of ‘sexual harassment’ it can be challenged. Actually the term here should be ‘gender discrimination’ and not ‘sexual harassment’ as that becomes a misnomer. Gender biases are also there in many other forms such as disparity in wages, job profile, besides promotion policies. I wonder whether all these issues can be addressed through this bill.

Opposition to the bill has already begun by male lobbies. The cry is about the likelihood of it being more abused than used judiciously. But that is one side of the story. As women get empowered with such laws men would learn to behave in just and professional ways. It’s time they changed their negative attitudes and learnt to accept women as responsible bread winners, decision makers, equal team members, independent thinkers, mangers and able leaders. And not just good home makers.

Published in The Hitavada - Future 23 Nov 2010

Last Updated ( Thursday, 23 December 2010 20:03 )

Singled out at work places - 02 Nov 2010

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Written by Administrator
Tuesday, 02 November 2010 00:00

How should single people handle personal queries on the work situations is a question we often deal with. What should I tell my colleagues when they probe into my personal life is something I have often been asked. Should we tell them to mind their own business which becomes rude, should we skirt the issue by making lame excuses and telling lies which many may not like to do, or should we honestly tell about ourselves even if I do not feel like doing it, haunts many employees who may be socially shy, temperamentally introverts or just too privacy loving. Each one has a right to personal privacy and a right to refuse information they do not want to give. How best to do that is the question. Interestingly such questions about personal life are more thrown at employees who are single women as compared to single men! We would generally think this is a typically Indian situation with marriage having such a high premium in our country but we are in for a surprise at this point. It’s quite or very much the same in many countries.

Singles are singled out for personal queries. The favourite one being ‘why have you not married so far’. People are curious to know the reasons for singlehood and although this could apply to both men and women, there is a bigger curiosity for women folks. A single man is an oddity as well and could be equally harassed by colleagues to join the bandwagon of the fortunately /unfortunately married men, but a single woman is a bigger oddity! Did no one like her enough to marry her, is she being continuously rejected by men, does she have an ugly handicap, is she involved with a guy, the curiosity has no limits. Match- making, the favourite pastime for many elders works overtime as generous souls try their best to ‘fix’ them up!

Two enthusiastic women professors Bella DePaulo and Wendy Casper are working on the issue of making workplaces singles friendly. They say that "Family-friendly organizational culture" is already an established topic of study in academic circles but singles friendly organizational culture is not.

Organisations are sensitised to the needs of families and their responsibilities and may make provisions for them. Work-life balance concepts spring from such concerns about the time demands of organisations on people who have families to look after. These two women argue that singles (it could be country  specific) are treated inequitably in terms of salary and health insurance. They argue that singles also live in families and have to take care of them. They  also have their own set of priorities for their life. The main idea is to make organisations friendly to all employees regardless of their marital, relationship or parental status the two crusaders say. The work place should be a fair and friendly place for all types of employees irrespective of their backgrounds.

Bella DePaulo to corroborate her view about biases against single women analyses the Forbes report on the ‘100 most powerful women in the world’ and finds that on the top of the profile of these women besides factors like education their marital status has also been included! She compares it with the Forbes list of ‘most powerful people’ which mentions mostly men and some women, and in that list the marital status of men is not included in the top of each profile as it does for the all-women list! This is double standards at its best quite clearly. When reputed entities indulge in such discriminatory behaviour lesser mortals can be discounted and forgiven.

The demand to make organisations friendly and fair to all employees seems to be a just and rational demand. With increasing number of adults including both men and women opting out of marriage and choosing to remain single and deciding to be happy with their single status the old attitudes become discriminatory. Newer ideas should give way to newer attitudes and behaviour. I am sure no one can have any doubts about that!

Published in The Hitavada - Future 02 Nov 2010

Last Updated ( Monday, 15 November 2010 15:46 )

Boss is not a vain fool - Oct 19 2010

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Written by Rita Aggarwal
Tuesday, 19 October 2010 00:00

There was a very interesting and a different type of letter I received than the ones I am used to receiving. In fact it almost looked like a response to my last article in my column ‘work behaviour’ on ‘preparedness for sudden opportunity’. But there was no reference to it and hence I believe that it was purely coincidental. A young professional, to be more precise a graduate trainee, was suddenly positioned to a level where he was to report directly to the president of the company. He was happy and satisfied with this bonus. He was able to make a good presentation of himself and was appreciated for the same as well. However he wanted further suggestions from me as to what ‘extra or what else I can do to win his heart. And I look forward to be in touch with him and I expect the increment in my salary’.

Here was a catch I thought. ‘Winning the heart’ of the boss and ‘expect the increment in my salary’ were two things uppermost in his mind and in fact  should not be so was my concern. If these two goals become the focus of this young man who is just beginning his career he will take a wrong step that will perhaps lead him no- where. The work/career goals should be entirely different according to me if you think seriously with a broader perspective towards your work and your life. Pleasing your boss and earning a few increments does not give you the ultimate position in life and nor the desired happiness. Maintaining good relations with your boss, understanding your boss, following his orders and being in his good books by delivering the goods is great but life does not end there. Material gains are important as we work for earning money and the comforts it buys but again material gains cannot be the sole purpose of working. There are studies to prove that just having material wealth does not give happiness otherwise the richest persons would be the happiest people on earth.

I am taking the young professional as a case in point- he may not be entirely oriented in this fashion. But a note of caution is important for other young professionals to understand the point. The point is that we observe that a majority of executives in any industry / organisation are doing just this- trying hard to please the boss and to gain a few more brownie points. Their entire focus is on flattery and self gain to the exclusion of the bigger goals. These unfortunate mortals may be unaware of what more they need in life! A vision, a mission, a philosophy, a set of principles, a set of values and beliefs may
sound like high ‘funda’ to them and not actually the fundamental things! I may be outdated today as I am brought up in the old school of thought but experience tells us that the basic truths do not change – they are like the absolutes. Today large majority of youth may believe that ‘opportunism’ is the best philosophy and being expedient is practical wisdom. They may think that pleasing the boss is a more beneficial than doing one’s job properly. They may think that the boss is more important than the organisation and its’ goals! They might focus on short term gains being oblivious to the long term aims.

A lot depends upon the maturity of the boss as well- a good competent boss looks for competent people and not sycophants. A capable boss appreciates  dedicated talent and creativity in people and not just job doers. A visionary leader craves for dynamic intelligent minds who can carry forward effectively the organisation as well as its’ goals. Sitting wisely at the top of the pyramid he can spot easily the shining gems from the stones. He is no fool with only vanity to guide him. He looks for age old virtues and dynamism in his people. If you have a boss who resembles this picture of mine he would not only be a task master but a difficult one to please. Then in that case you would be frustrated at all levels in your efforts at flattery and however hard you try to please him you will only have to turn around and say – ‘whatever you may do the boss is never happy’!

This brings us back to square one - what is more important - lasting values or values that last only one day!

Published in The Hitavada - Future work behaviour for 19 October 2010

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 27 October 2010 23:07 )
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