Of effectiveness and efficiency studies

question-markI’ve spent the past few weeks hunting for solutions to three business requirements. I have spent considerable hours on calls and in meetings trying to figure how HR greats across are solving for these. I always end with a few questions –

“How do you know this is working?”

“What are the metrics that you have used to measure success?”

“Have you carried out an effectiveness/efficiency study? If not, do you plan to do so?”

& guess what? I have a feeling you aren’t going to be surprised by the answers. Hardly 10% could give a satisfactory response.

Let me share an example. Rewards and recognition (R&R) is a practice in place for most teams and organizations. In an attempt to design one for my team, I went into meetings with the below questions –

“How do you know these are the optimal number of awards? What happens if you knock one off or add two? How do you know ‘X’ is the right number?”

“How did you arrive at ‘Y’ amount?” (In case of a monetary benefit).

“How do you know your R&R system is working?”

I probably received some of the most creative answers in the industry. Some of course, had sound replies but for most, it went something like – ‘People are happy, our survey questions have high scores, the rewarded behavior is encouraged and so on.’

I thought – if I added an extra award every year, it is highly likely that my people will be happier, positive scores on surveys will rise and the rewarded behavior will be encouraged but that’s not essentially the most effective method.

As an industry, we don’t spend enough time evaluating practices. There is a problem, we solve for it, put the solution in place, monitor for a while and then let go. Maybe years later when we see everyone in the industry doing something new or hear our employees create noise about it we go back and evaluate. Is it any wonder then that we cry about our practices being outdated?

Finding something outside of work


A few days ago I came across a post with a title that went something like – “The way to be happy at work is to find something you love outside of work”. I found it rather interesting and parked the piece for later. Alas, the post witnessed a similar fate to bobby pins and I never found it again. But the thought lingered.

& then I stumbled across today’s post on Fistful of Talent (if you’ve been around, you know I love them). Here’s an excerpt from the post –

Know what’s more annoying than listening to you talk about your job? Not much. Even the busiest and most successful CHROs have hobbies they pursue and charities they support. If you want to do right by your career, spend some time away from your career. Gain perspective. Bring that good energy back to your job.

Take your life more seriously and your job less seriously. Build your “life resume” before you work on your LinkedIn profile. See the world beyond your zip code or your state conference. Don’t be a tool and fall for the certification scam.

Professional change happens through external experiences and coursework, but all of it can be a phenomenal waste of time and money until you work on yourself.”

I couldn’t agree more. So I’m going to kick off my HR shoes every now and then and do all of the other stuff I’ve been pushing aside – learning German, how to drive, skateboarding and more.

What are your passions outside of work? I’d like some ideas 🙂

Setting one up for failure


Taking risks is essential. However, blind risks are fatal especially when your risks could ruin one’s career. Everyone loves to move up the ladder. You take a high performing individual at a level and move him up before he’s ready, he is bound to be happy. Fast forward six months  and when he falls to the bottom of the curve, the same leadership team that decided to promote him decides he needs to be put on a development plan. How is that fair to the individual?

I’ve witnessed this happen for a while now. As HRBPs, it becomes out duty to caution leaders on their decisions. However, if they go ahead, it is just as much our responsibility to enable the newly promoted individual to be successful at his new role. It is challenging. More so when you see your worst fears coming true. The individual is struggling. His team loses faith in him and his career is on the line.

Have you seen this happen? What did you do? Have you ever set someone up for failure? How did you deal with it?

I’d like to know.

When your own community sells you short!


On 14th February, I saw this post circling around my many WhatsApp/Facebook groups. For some strange reason, it became a very popular Valentine’s Day read. I gave in to the draw of the title and soon wished I hadn’t. This post offends me. The fact that it became a popular read makes me feel worse and this is why –

The post states 7 reasons why one must date an HR professional. While I can make peace with some points, I refuse to digest the others.

“Knows how to deal with stress: You have a problem at work – computer problem, canteen problem and even loo problems— and you simply go to HR to sort it out. Imagine they take the load of the entire office to keep your workplace running. They know how to manage the stress and they deal with it everyday.” –  I agree that we deal with a lot of stress on an everyday basis. Is this due to employees coming to us with computer, canteen or loo problems? Goodness no! I have not had employees reaching out to me for these and I hope they never do. That is not my job. We have very efficient facilities and IT teams who are dedicated to solving these problems. Forgive me, for I do not understand how an HR professional fits into this description.

“Remembers all the important dates: One of the most important factors of dating an HR professional is they remember everything. You won’t have any problem reminding them about important dates/days of your lives. Before you know, they have already jotted it down in their super brains and will probably remind you even on that day! In office, it’s the HR guys who have a calendar of events rightly marked so that they don’t forget any employees’ birthdays, or work anniversaries – so the moment you enjoy at work is an effort that an HR person puts behind it. So the guessing game of does he/she remember my birthday won’t be necessary.” – I almost fainted when I read this. An HR professional ideally should not be remembering birthdays and work anniversaries. It is great if they do but IT IS NOT THEIR JOB! We aren’t event planners or fun event organizers. Our job is so much more.

“Creative in getting good innovative gifts: Someone who remembers all the important events of your life will not disappoint you when it comes to gifts. The HR is known to be creative in sourcing the best gifts possible when it comes to Diwali, Christmas gift options. They are the ones who always make you smile with festive gifts. So once you are dating an HR professional, you will be sorted for your entire life about getting and loving the gifts they shower on you!” – They’ve got to have us confused with someone else. I feel sorry for the HR professional who has to waste valuable time deciding gift options.

& these are just three. The post rambles on to state four more. I am hurt. I’m hurt to see the role that the post has reduced us to. There are a million reasons to date an HR professional but none of them have to do with how great we are at remembering birthdays, getting gifts or listening to cribs. I doubt if that is what most successful HR professionals spend any time doing, yet that is what this post focuses on.

If this is what my own community thinks of HR professionals, how can we expect others to think differently? How can I expect the industry to take our profession seriously? I can only pray that I never stumble across another post like this. I do think it’s time for our profession to be recognized for the true value we bring to the organization.

The cost of doing too much

sma-1-20-13-lead-resize-380x300We’ve all fallen into the trap of wanting to do too much in too little time. We’ve also successfully deluded ourselves into believing that this is required. Let me burst that bubble for you. It is not! Au contraire, it is the worst possible thing you could ever do. If you’ve had to choose between doing one thing well or doing three things mediocre and you chose three, STOP!

In the larger scheme of things, your mediocre contributions will fade. Tell yourself you will do one thing; one thing that the organization or HR community will remember you by. There’s a reason why people have a legacy, not a dozen or hundred legacies.

Drop your 50 ideas. Pick one. Make it a star. Make it something that the world will remember you by. One thing a year. One thing only. As HR professionals, your time is rarely your own. Don’t pick 3 projects. Don’t sell yourself short.

Realize the cost of doing too much. It’s never worth it.

The golden trick to boost survey responses

depositphotos_3986434_xsI’ve spend multiple nights lying awake plagued with nightmares of low survey response rates. If you are someone who rolls out surveys on a regular basis, you may be able to sympathize with me. I spent the past year trying every trick in the trade to boost participation – especially for ONA (Organizational Network Analysis), as anything less than 90% could lead to gaping gaps in the network.

I believe I may have discovered the secret sauce & today I am sharing it with you. Here goes – get people into a room. This trick is deceivingly simple. The biggest bane of surveys is that you can always take them later until it’s too late. What this trick does is to block time on the participant’s calendar to take the survey. Not only that, it also eases sceptics into responding when they see their peers and leader taking the survey with them.

Here’s what you should do:

  1. Start with a mail talking about the survey, the purpose and throw in some FAQ’s for extra effect. Ideally, get the leaders to send out the mail.
  2. Block time on participant’s calendar. If you block calendars a week in advance, managers can then push for 100% attendance. Mention that they need to turn up with their laptops. (They may forget).
  3. De-brief team managers on the importance of the survey and equip them to answer questions if any. They also need to ensure that the team makes it to the meeting.
  4. On the D-day, the manager spends the first 5-10 mins requesting everyone to take the survey, its importance and answer questions if any. At this point, there is a high likelihood that everyone in the room is ready to take the survey.
  5. Everyone in the room then spends the next 20 minutes taking the survey and walking out as and when they are done.
  6. Get pleasantly surprised when you check response rates at the end of 30 minutes. Keep the survey open for an extra week for everyone who couldn’t make it to the meeting.

More things you should do:

  1. Ensure that you aren’t steam-rolling people in the room to take the survey. Always, I repeat, always ensure that the survey gives the participant the choice of opting out of taking the survey. If you miss this key aspect, it will come across as though they don’t have a choice. Also, mention the option of opting out in the first few minutes. Say that you would like everyone to participate however; they do have the option of opting out.
  2. Not apply it to every survey. It works for most but not all.

Through the above process, you have eliminated the two major barriers to taking surveys – time and skepticism. Post applying this technique, I haven’t seen survey responses drop below 96%. I’d love to hear how this worked for you.

Happy surveying!

Making work fun


It isn’t that hard to turn work into fun & fun doesn’t come in just one variety. According to Nicole Lazzaro, there are four kinds of fun:

  1. Easy fun – This is casual, nice, light and takes minimal effort. Think of it as the fun you have when you’re relaxing by the ocean or hanging out with friends.
  2. Hard fun – This is the fun you have solving challenges, attaining mastery or overcoming obstacles. Think of it as the fun you had spent hours solving that complicated math problem (if you’re that kind) or that puzzle at the hackathon.
  3. People fun – The fun that comes from social interaction. This can overlap with easy or hard fun. These are not all mutually exclusive but think of this as the fun you have when working together as a team.
  4. Serious fun – How can fun be serious? Valid question. There is also fun in doing something that has meaning for you. This can be doing good for the planet, for your family or friends.

There you go. While designing work, try incorporate some fun. Try incorporating all four kinds.Your employees will thank you!

P.S: Check out this very cool website that showcases how Volkswagen makes fun work.