Have you ever experienced the following behavior?

You finally reach the toll booth after being in the queue for more than 15 minutes. Your colleague who is driving the car rolls down the window and ask the operator as to how much is the toll…. Then slowly searches for the money purse which is finally traced to his back-pocket and hands over Rs. 500 for a toll of 31! The toll booth operator is trying to be patient but not the drivers in the vehicles behind who started honking due to the unusual delay! You too are exasperated by the casual and thoughtless behavior of your colleague but keep a smiling and indifferent face. The worst part is that you again stand in the queue to pay the same thirty one rupees on return which could have been avoided if a return ticket was taken.

Or have you seen business executives, who looks like frequent traveler, stumbling at the security check point searching for his boarding pass or taking out coins and key chains one by one when you are fuming behind him in the queue when your flight is already announced! There are also persons who search for their passport after reaching the immigration counter!

What is your opinion about such persons?  How do you define their behavior? If you are his boss, would you give him additional responsibilities or promote such people?

 I see a lot deficiency in these type of individuals. Clearly they are not action oriented and does not show any sense of urgency and may miss many opportunities in their lives. They also seriously lack in certain managerial skill sets such as planning, organizing, timely decision making and priority setting. Lack of maturity, responsibility and thoughtfulness stand outs in these people and they can also be called undisciplined.

One might think that I am too critical, harsh and paranoiac in judging people and that too very soon. But my experience shows that these are not one time behavior but habits formed over a period of time and difficult to change unless conscious about it and make serious efforts to change.

 

 

 

ABC of being a great Employee – Part 3

Venu Payyanur

In the previous two articles, we discussed as to how to be a “Great Employee”. However to be successful, one also needs a great organization that supports your vision, actions and aspirations! Though many organizations today claim that “Employees are their best asset”, how many really practice what they preach? In a country like India, where the economic growth is the highest in the world and opportunities are being created every day, employee attrition is a common scene even among the best paid companies. The best software company in the country, voted many years in a row as the best company to work with, also had close to 17% attrition levels. What then happens to lesser known or companies who do not practice modern human resource management philosophies? Let us analyse the common causes and remedies for such a situation.

I always believed that hiring an employee is like entering into wedlock with someone. Once entered, you must plan to live rest of their lives together. However these days’ employees change jobs for meagre increments without analysing the long terms career benefits and companies terminate employees for many reasons including individual or company performance or economic reasons! As a manager responsible for the business success, your task is to attract and retain the best talent available in the industry. In other words retain the best and retrain the rest! At the same time individuals have to analyse their career and growth aspirations in the long term and select the best job that meet their requirements. Let us discuss the employment process in little more detail.

Employment process if executed properly will result in selecting the right candidate who will contribute significantly towards the success and growth of the organization for a long time to come! But the biggest stumbling block is lack of preparation. Even though we all know that a good employee can make a big difference to our performance, we take the employment process very lightly and at times delegate the entire responsibility to a subordinate or HR Manager! Generally the following steps are involved in the employment process: Job description, sourcing, screening, interviewing, hiring and on-boarding. Let us discuss each of these steps in detail.

Job Description – a vacancy can arise either due to resignation of an existing employee or creation of new positions based on workforce planning. Specific and accurate description is essential to attract the most suitable candidate for the job! It should explain the job and the type of person most suitable for the job.  A broad statement of the primary duties, responsibilities, qualifications and competencies required to perform successfully in the position.

Sourcing – There are a number of internal and external sources such as employee referral, internal transfer or promotions, company website, advertisements, job portals, placement agencies or head hunters, etc.

Screening – many valuable information about the potential candidate can be found by properly evaluating the resume. Whether the person has the necessary qualifications and experience required for the job, his stability and pattern of job changing, types of companies worked, etc.

Interviewing – interviewing the candidate is the most important step in assessing the suitability of the candidate for the job. As a hiring manager it is your responsibility to ensure that only the most suitable person for the job is selected to avoid potential problems in the future for the company as well as for the candidate. Having a diverse team of interviewers who has a stake in the individual’s performance helps selecting the best candidate.  Thorough preparation is the key to successful interview. Interviewer should ask questions to assess the knowledge and skills, character and personality and attitude and behaviour of the candidates based on the requirements of the job. Common interview mistakes are making snap judgements, doing all the talking, leading the candidate, accepting general answers, relying on memory not notes and making the final decision based on gut feeling. There are many books and articles written on the interviewing process and I do not wish to elaborate further on this topic. Once the interview process is over, doing proper assessment of all the candidates interviewed with the team is essential to select the most suitable candidate for the job.

Hiring – preparing a suitable job offer that attracts the best candidate is the next step. In many organizations there are specified processes towards setting salary; designations etc. yet managers do have discretions to offer the best. Discussing the offer with the candidate before a formal offer is sent is also a good practice followed by many companies. Equally important is doing reference checks to verify the claims made by the candidate and get proper feedback from the previous employers. Some Indian companies also check the horoscope of the candidate to check the suitability, particularly for senior positions.

On boarding – The last stage of the employment process is On Boarding. After the candidate has accepted the offer and the start date has been established it is important to get the candidate off to a productive start. On boarding process can take few weeks or months depending on the position and complexity of the function and has 5 primary stages, each stage providing a foundation for the next. The five stages are:

Induction – This is simply the events that happen before an employee has started.

Welcome – which addresses the employee’s first day in their new position.

Engagement – activities that facilitate an understanding of the resources available to the employee and the expectations surrounding the duties and responsibilities of the position

Productivity – putting into practice the behaviours that enable an employee to contribute to individual, business unit, and corporate goals.

And finally Retention – of key high potential and high performing employees which are the by-product of a well-designed and effectively implemented on-boarding program. It is increasingly evident that the successful On-boarding of a new employee is directly related to the level of involvement of that employee’s Hiring Manager.

An organization’s human resource is its most valuable asset. The employees are the repository of knowledge, skills and abilities that can’t be imitated by the competitors. They are the critical intangibles that make the organization unique in a competitive market place. Equally important for success is having as many engaged employees as possible. An engaged employee is a person who is fully involved in, and enthusiastic about, his or her work. They care about the future of the company and are willing to invest the discretionary effort – exceeding duty’s call – to see that the organization succeeds. Engaged employees believe that they can make a difference in the organizations they work for.

How do you make the employees engaged?  There are many methods but it is the leaders who make all the difference by understanding the drivers of employee engagement and implementing the right strategy to achieve the objectives. Some of the drivers of employee engagement are,

  • Leadership – employees are confident and comfortable working under a dynamic and visionary leadership who follows ethical practices and communicates the objectives and strategy clearly to the entire organization. They should be able to handles issues efficiently, approachable and care for the employees.
  • Immediate Supervisor – level of confidence an employee has in her immediate supervisor in terms of perceived competence, availability for consultation, honest communication and frequency of feedback.
  • Career Advancement – opportunities available in the organization for career advancements that meets the employee’s aspirations.
  • Job Motivation – is achieved when the job is challenging and employees are empowered to achieve the objectives.
  • Learning & Development – for younger generation learning and development opportunities are an important motivating factor. Do the company provide technical and skill development training? Do they support specialised training or higher education?
  • Teamwork – refers to employee’s attitude towards people in the organization and perceived levels of cooperation within and across the work group and divisions.
  • Workload – can the employee achieve the stretched goals of the organization without seriously impacting the work life balance? Both over working and under working are demotivating to employees.
  • Performance Management & Feedback – refers to employee level of understanding, perceived equity and flexibility of the PM system, ability to recognize and reward deserving staff and the level of feedback and communication
  • Rewards – how is the compensation system administered? Is it fair and transparent and takes into consideration complexity of the job, market factors, internal and external equity?
  • Pride–the level of satisfaction and pride for the organization and as a member of the organization.

Next most important factor in ensuring the success of the organization is in minimising attrition, both voluntary and involuntary. Involuntary attrition occurs mostly due to performance reasons and occasional behavioural issues. Following a proper recruitment process can minimise wrong hires and efficient on-boarding programs can improve motivation, engagement and performance thereby reducing attrition levels. Performance problems can occur either due to lack of ability or lack of will to do the job. Ability is based on knowledge and skills. We must do everything possible to provide all assistance to the person in improving the knowledge and skills and adequate time to show the performance. Attitude problems can be addressed through counselling and feedback. Termination decisions should only be taken after every effort to improve performance has not resulted in desired results.

Voluntary attrition could be due to many different reasons.

Job mismatch: The person’s understanding about the job and functions is different from what is asked to perform. Unexpected job responsibilities lead to job dissatisfaction.

Job and person mismatch: Best person for the right job should be our objective, based on individual’s knowledge and skills, attitude and behaviour.

No learning or growth opportunities.

Lack of appreciation

Lack of trust and support from co-workers, seniors and management.

Work life imbalance: Job stress can lead to work life imbalance which ultimately leading to employee leaving the organization.

Compensation: Better compensation packages being offered by other companies may attract employees towards themselves.

Immediate supervisor – generally it is said that “A person joins the organization and leaves the Boss”. A good boss will help the employee to be successful while demanding highest level of performance and commitment.

Certain other visible HR policies of the company could also lead to greater employee engagement or higher attrition.

  • Does the company celebrate success and major events?
  • Does the employee’s family participate in any functions organized by the company?
  • How do you treat long term employees who are sick and unable to function efficiently for an extended period?
  • How do you treat employees who are above 50 years and lost their youthful energy and vigour, fallen sick, lack the current knowledge and skill required to be successful in the function, etc.?
  • Do you discriminate based on gender, religion/cast, language, colour, etc.?

An organization with right technology and products, right policies and practices, efficient and effective visionary management team, modern tools and facilities will attract the best employees. And they all win and become great employees!

Venu Payyanur 

In the previous article, 116 attributes were mentioned that helps a person to be successful in life as well as in profession. The list was only indicative and one can dwell on each of those individual attributes at length. Essentially all those attribute could be classified into three categories. Character/Personality, Attitude/behaviour and knowledge/Skill.

Character

Although character is related to personality, it is not the same thing. Personality is primarily inborn traits, while character consists of learned behaviour.

Character is a set of behaviour traits that define what sort of person an individual is. It determines whether a person will effectively achieve goals, be forthright in dealing with others and will obey the laws and rules of the group. It can also imply a variety of attributes such as integrity, courage, fortitude, honesty, loyalty, trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring or of good behaviours or habits, etc. Character is who we really are. It’s what we do when no one is looking. It is the accumulation of thoughts, values, words and actions. These become the habits that comprise our character. That character determines our destiny.

The family is the primary character-building force in a child’s life, and character education is a major family obligation. The following thoughts and actions determine and help build our character.

• Be straightforward, open and direct.

• Be sincere. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

• Look out for the best interests of the people who depend on you.

• Don’t lie (that is, don’t misrepresent facts or opinions).

• Be reliable; keep your word.

• Make only promises that you can and will keep.

• Support and protect the best interests of your family, friends, employers, community and country.

• Don’t talk behind people’s backs or spread harmful rumours or gossip.

• Share your values and beliefs with your children.

• Walk your talk.

• Treat everyone with respect by being courteous and polite.

• Judge people on their merits, not on their race, religion, nationality, gender, physical or mental condition, or social and economic status.

• Don’t manipulate or take advantage of other people.

• Think before you act. Consider the consequences for yourself and others.

• Be accountable. Take responsibility for the consequences of your actions (or lack of action).

• Be reliable. Always perform your duties.

• Don’t blame others for your mistakes.

• Don’t take credit for other people’s work or accomplishments.

• Don’t give up.

• Don’t neglect your duties.

• Treat all people fairly.

• Consider all the facts, including opposing views, before making a decision.

• Live by the Golden Rule: treat others the way you want them to treat you.

• Don’t be selfish.

• Obey the rules and laws.

• Be a good team player.

Personality

Personality is the set of characteristics that each person possesses. Personality influences how one behaves as well as one’s motivations. The personality is the one making the person react in a certain way in various situations. Basically, it is the image that one presents in front of others. Some of the traits based on which we judge the personality of a person are as follows. Warm, outgoing, kind, easy-going, participating, likes people, emotionally stable, adaptive, mature, dominant, forceful, assertive, aggressive, competitive, stubborn, bossy, lively, animated, spontaneous, enthusiastic, happy go lucky, cheerful, expressive, impulsive, Rule-conscious, dutiful, conscientious, conforming, moralistic, vigilant, suspicious, skeptical, distrustful, abstract, imaginative, absent minded, impractical, discreet, shrewd, polished, astute, diplomatic, open to change, experimental, liberal, analytical, critical, flexible, perfectionistic, organized, self-disciplined, trusting, unsuspecting, accepting, unconditional, etc.

Personality traits are individual, subjective, and vary widely. Character traits are objective, constant, and timeless. Personality is easy to read, and we’re all experts at it, but to judge one’s character takes time.

Attitudes

Attitudes are vital/emotionalized thoughts about our existence. Attitudes can be divided into those that we have towards life, towards ourselves, and towards others. Attitudes can be positive or negative. An on-going positive attitude is the goal we seek. It leads to greater accomplishment and attracts positive conditions.  Most of our difficulties in life are rooted in our wanting attitudes. An attitude is born when an opinion is endorsed by the emotions. We acquire our attitudes through our parents as we are raised, in our interaction with others and the environment, through the genes we inherit from previous generations, and through the challenges and difficulties of life.

Perhaps our greatest stumbling blocks are in our attitudes. In our attitudes lies our greatest barrier to success in life. We can trace our positive and negative attitudes towards others, towards, things, towards ourselves, and towards life. Each person can make the effort to overcome their own predominant negative attitudes. This will lead to becoming a better person, and enable greater accomplishment and joy in life. When a person changes a negative attitude, often we witness an instantaneous positive response from life. The process of reversing a negative attitude would occur by shedding our subjective, false opinion about an object, and replacing it with the objectives truth of things. There are three ways to overcome negativity towards another, such as bad will, anger, jealousy, disdain, etc. First, refrain from verbally expressing it. Second control your emotions about it. Third, empty your thoughts of it. Success arises from shifting our reliance from the outer world around us to our own inner being, relying on right attitudes, rather than on external sources of support and assistance.

Examples of negative attitude about work and life include an unwillingness to be fully engaged in the work at hand, procrastinating, not caring about the quality of our efforts, being lazy, and being cynical. Examples of negative attitudes towards others is being hostile and harbouring ill-will to another, and being jealous. Examples of negative attitudes about ourselves is having low self-esteem and self-confidence.  If we can identify our own unique individual negative attitudes, and make the concerted effort to overcome them, not only can we create the right conditions for greater achievement and joy in life, but also under the right conditions we can invoke continuous sudden and abundant response from life.

Behaviour

Behaviour can be defined as the way in which an individual behaves or acts towards people, society or objects. It can be either good or bad. It can be normal or abnormal according to society norms. Society will always try to correct bad behaviour and try to bring abnormal behaviour back to normal. Human behaviour is influenced by culture, attitudes, emotions, values, ethics, authority, rapport, persuasion, coercion and/or genetics. The following are the root causes of behaviour differences: individual differences, differences in family patterns, impairment/disabilities, environmental factors and psychological factors.

Attitude and Behaviour

Experts say that that attitude is what you think whereas behaviour is what you do. In other words it can be said that attitude has to do with the mind whereas behaviour has a lot to do with actions.

Attitude is thought-oriented whereas behaviour is action-oriented. Hence attitude has all the power to shape the behaviour of a person. It is indeed true that a person with the right attitude would be endowed with the right behaviour too.

Attitude is all about the opinion somebody has about something in life. Behaviour is about how one responds to the impulsions and the pulls of the environment.

Knowledge and Skill

Knowledge refers to learning concepts, principles and information regarding a particular subject(s) by a person through books, media, encyclopaedias, academic institutions and other sources. It can be implicit (as with practical skill or expertise) or explicit (as with the theoretical understanding of a subject); and it can be more or less formal or systematic. Constantly increasing our knowledge is essential if we are to progress further or develop ourselves. Whatever field we are involved in, we always have to look for ways and means to expand our knowledge. Increase in knowledge in a particular subject can lead to better understanding, grasp, judgement, intelligence and ability in that area. It can expand our thinking and heighten our expertise on a topic. Knowledge allows us to understand, analyse, plan, evaluate and measure. The greater our knowledge, the more accurate our prediction. Knowledge ensures that skills are applied in the right fashion. According to scriptures, knowledge can be gained by four means.

“Achaaryaath paadam aadatthe, paadam sishya swamedhayaa, paadam sa brahmachaaribhya, sesham kaala kramena cha”. It means one can get one quarter of the knowledge from the teacher, one quarter by analysing oneself, one quarter by discussing with others and the last quarter one can get during the process of living.

Skill refers to the ability of using the acquired knowledge and applying it in a context. In other words, knowledge refers to theory and skill refers to successfully applying that theory in practice and getting expected results. To be successful in any profession, some of the skills that are essential are technical skill, communication skill, planning and organizing skills, interpersonal skills, team building skills, leadership skills, negotiation skills, time management skills, etc.

Knowledge can be learnt whereas skills require practical exposure and can also be in-born. Skills can take a person only to a certain level. To move ahead, it is necessary that a person has the requisite knowledge as well. Knowledge and skill are equally important. As they grow, so does the individual competency. If your knowledge is faulty and your skill is high, then you will go brilliantly along the wrong path. If your knowledge is high and your skill is weak, then you may go very slowly in the correct direction, but never arrive. To achieve the highest results, you need to be both knowledgeable and skilful. Knowledge points the way; skill walks the path.

“Knowledge gives you proficiency, application of the knowledge gives you efficiency and the knowledge applied at the right place, right time and right way gives you effectiveness”. And that is the secret of success.

 

Venu Payyanur

There are many books and training programs created to help employees improve their performance and self esteem on their job. So why to create one more? Likewise there are many cook books written by very eminent chefs across the world. Does that mean that we have seen the last book published on that topic? Everything is evolving and there are always new things to learn and practice and this article will also help all those who are starting their career or in the middle of their career to evolve and become even more successful going forward.

My wife is an excellent cook and she can prepare mouth watering dishes of many varieties. However our two daughters refused to enter kitchen as long as they were in the schools and colleges. Finally, just before marriage, my elder daughter decided to learn something from her mummy and entered the kitchen ceremoniously. They have collectively decided to prepare, the most popular and must have south Indian dish – the great Sāmbhar to begin with. My daughter told my wife, “mummy, you just sit there and tell me what to do; i will do everything today and give you the best Sāmbhar you ever had”. “Fine” said my wife and started giving instructions as to how to prepare the dish. First keep all the necessary ingredients required to prepare the dish and take from the kitchen shelf  mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, tamarind, asafoetida, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, toor dal……. wait, wait, shouted my daughter, what are these and where is it available?? Because she has never entered the kitchen, she has no clue as to how all these ingredients looks and smells!

So the first step in learning the cooking process is to know what are the common ingredients required in the kitchen for preparing various dishes and familiarize with its smell and feel. The first step in this book is to show you all the ingredients that make a great employee!

The next step is to understand what must be added and in what quantity for the dish you are preparing. For example the items and quantity need to prepare Sāmbhar is different from those required to prepare chicken stew!

Similarly the competency requirements vary depending on the job, such as sales, accounting, manufacturing, R&D, etc.

Similarly how much of these items must be added to make a great dish? Generally if everything is added correctly, you get a decent dish, but what makes a great dish also depends on the sequence of adding each ingredients and variation in the cooking heat, etc. If any ingredient is not added or added extra, that becomes instantly visible. Think of a dish where no salt is put or excess salt is put. All those who have tasted that dish will only talking about the excess or absence of salt in the dish until you eat your next meal! That is exactly what happens in the job also! If you have all the requisite competencies you make a good employee but not necessarily a great employee. But if you lack a critical competency or use it in excess, all your subordinates, peers and boss will be talking about it either in front of you or on your back! And you will not make a great employee until you make corrections!

This cook book will aid you in understanding what ingredients and at what quantity and when to add to make a great employee! Like my daughter who had become an expert cook who can prepare mouth-watering dishes you can also become a great employee by understanding each of the ingredients that will help you excel in your chosen functional area. So go ahead and earn your millions!

The list of traits or competencies is given below. In the subsequent articles, we will discuss about each of them and finally help you determine which of those traits are critical for your success.

   The ABC of being a great Employee    
Ability Emotional  
Action Oriented Empathy Motivation
Adaptability Energize Negotiation
Aggressive Energy Optimistic
Ambition Enterprising Organized
Analytical Skills Enthusiasm Ownership
Approachable Entrepreneurial Passion
Arrogance Ethical Patience
Attachment Exceed Expectations Performance
Attitude Execution Perseverance
Behavior Experience planning
Candid Fairness Polite
Care Flexible Presentation skills
Character Focused Pride
Cheerful Follow Through Problem Solving
Chemistry Forgiving Professional
Commitment Friendly Punctual
Common Sense Grateful Realistic
Communication Grooming Reliability
Compassion Hard working Respectful
Competence Healthy Responsible
Composure Honesty Responsive
Confidence Humble Self Esteem
Cooperation Humor sense of urgency
Courage Initiative Sincere
Courteous Innovation Skills
Creativity Integrity Team Building
Customer Focused Intelligence Team work
Decision Making Judgment Technology skills
Decisive Judicious Thorough
Dedication Knowledge Thoughtful
Delegation Leadership Time management
Diligence Learning Trustworthy
Dependable Listening skills Understanding
Determination Logical Visionary
Discipline Loyalty Will Power
Drive Lucky Willingness
Eager Maturity Work Life Balance
Efficient Meticulous Zeal

 

You are also most welcome to contribute in explaining some of the traits listed above.

Venu Payyanur

As the organization grows, expectation of the stakeholders also grows, at times more dramatically than the business itself. Shareholders expect higher profitability and return on their investments while employees are looking for higher salaries and benefits. Customers demand the best product at the lowest cost with unprecedented levels of service and support. Balancing these conflicting demands and yet sourcing enough funds for investments for future growth is like tightrope walking. Authorities are looking for increased tax revenue and the company must also meet its corporate social responsibilities. Some of these are conflicting and difficult to manage. Let us evaluate each of these conflicting demands on the company management in more details.

Customers – Probably the most important segment of all who ultimately decides the success and failure of an organization. In a highly competitive market place when the customers have multiple choices to decide from, they can be extremely demanding. Customers are looking for products with most advanced technology at the lowest possible price and on-demand service and support, preferably free of cost throughout the life of the system. Companies have to constantly reinvent themselves to remain competitive and be successful as none can be the leader in all the three areas of technology, price and process/service.

Technology challenges – this is a double edged sword. Customers are always looking for products that give better results, faster, easy to use and smaller. But it must also be easy to learn and implement. Imagine the struggle many organizations have to face when they introduced computers for accounting or similar applications many years ago.  Besides maintaining ledgers manually for many months managements have also to confront aggressive trade unions resorting to strike fearing their jobs due to automation. Considering the rapid progress in technology, such challenges are magnified manifold more so when one is dealing with organizations working under regulatory controls such as pharmaceutical companies or food testing laboratories. Hence the challenge is on you to ensure that the users are successful in using the products and getting better than expected results without interrupting their day to day activities. This is like changing the tyres when the car is still running.

Price challenge – India is generally a highly price conscious market and we Indians enjoy hard bargaining whether we are buying high technology products or vegetables. If you are sales manager, you would have certainly heard these kinds of statements from your sales man

This is a Government customer and has a fixed budget. Therefore we must reduce the price to get the order.

This is a university customer and has very limited budget. However we will benefit in the long run as the students who use our system will become users or managers in due course of time and will buy our products. Hence we must take this order at any cost.

This is a big buyer and is planning to buy multiple systems this year and how can we ever miss such an opportunity. The customer prefers our product but if we do not meet his price expectations, the order will be taken by our competitor.

Ultimately it is up to you to decide whether it makes business sense to take the order at the price the customer demands or leave it, taking into consideration the overall internal financial guidelines and external market conditions. You may also feel that all the competitors are unreasonable and do not follow common sense business policies or else how could they offer such low prices and special prices to the customers when situation does not really demand such things!

Process/support challenges – when you describe a customer, who actually you are referring to? Is it the end user? Her Manager? The General Manager of the dept. or the Vice President of the Division? Or is it the Purchase Manager, Finance Manager, Vice President of Supply chain Management? Or is it someone at the “C” level executives such as the CEO, CFO, CIO, CTO, etc? The process and support challenges are unique for each of these groups and must be managed to ensure overall customer satisfaction.

If the end user is successful in using your product, she will always support you. Successful here actually means not that the equipment is working OK, it means the product/equipment gives absolutely trouble free operation and the results are better than expected, maximum uptime of the system and if ever there is a problem it is attended and solved at the shortest possible time and the support is excellent, effortless, less expensive and hassle-free. She is provided frequent trainings free of cost to improve her knowledge and skill sets and additional training programs conducted whenever there is attrition.

The purchase manager will take all the time in the world to decide and will also call you for discussions and negotiations for the nth time, but once the order is placed she expects the delivery yesterday! Forget the payment terms or delivery commitments in the offer!

The finance Manager expects maximum discount, 180 days credits without guarantee, and not to charge for freight and insurance! Warranty should be for the life of the system!

“C” level managers are looking for better return on investments, improving productivity and quality and saving in time and manpower. If your products can meet those expectations, you are the winner! 

Finally you need to sell your product, meet your company expectations in terms of margins and short and long term profitability targets!

Employees Expectations – Attracting and retaining highly qualified, skilled and experienced knowledge worker is one of the biggest challenges of a fast growing medium sized high technology company. In a growing economy, employment opportunities are easily available as existing companies are growing and new companies are being set up every day and they all need additional manpower. Though India is producing the highest number of graduates and post graduates, English speaking professionals, none of them are trained or skilled to meet the specific needs of any company or industry group. However those with two or three years of work experience become highly valuable and can demand 50% or more increase in salary for a switch and gets it easily. Because of our demographic structure where almost four generations of workers are in the industry, meeting every segments expectations and needs are another big challenge for any company management. Young, professionally qualified, below 30 employees are looking for highest “take home” salary, learning opportunity and fast career progressions. Those above 40 years need good salary, responsible managerial positions, stability and long term benefits such as pension, gratuity, superannuation, etc. 30% and above attrition levels have become common in many fast growing high technology companies and that has become a major impediment to sustain the pace of growth. Since employees have option and do get their way today, many do not think about the future.

Why is Indian economy growing today? It is mainly because the labour is cheap here! Multinational companies transfer their work to India as they are able to get their job done at equal or acceptable quality levels at a fraction of the labour costs in the USA or Western European countries. But at the current rate of increase in salary and benefits, we will certainly loose that advantage very soon, in the next 10 to 15 years’ time! In many high technology companies the salaries would have gone up by more than 5 times in the past 10 year! Few cases even more than 10 times! While the salary increase in developed countries have stabilised to less than 2% a year! Since every company needs experienced and competent employees to sustain their growth, the management succumb to the pressure today but may be they are mortgaging their future opportunities!

Share holder expectations – one can keep arguing as to who is the most important stake holder of the company. Some will say it is the customer, as without the customer no company can grow! Some will say it is the employees as they are the group that runs the organization! But we all forget that without the shareholders, there is no company! And therefore they are the most important stakeholder and must be taken care of properly by ensuring that the market value grows year after year and dividends are paid out regularly. Growth in share prices are depended on EPS (Earnings per share) and therefore the company management must ensure that there is constant growth in the absolute and percentage profits of the company! To increase profits one must increase revenue, increase gross margin and reduce expenses. Increase in revenue can only be done by selling more to the existing customers or finding new customers or new markets. In a competitive environment, margins are always under pressure and your managerial ability is always under question when the gross margin is in the decline! For many high technology companies, the salary and travel forms the biggest percentage of expenses and is always on the increase! As a CEO of such a company you will be doing a tight rope walk in balancing the demands of all the important stakeholders of your company!

Government, central/state/local – every one of them is looking for additional revenue whether it is for developmental purposes or other purposes. Every company have to pay Income tax, central excise, central sales tax and state sales tax, service tax, entry tax, octroi, customs duty, etc for all of their business transactions. There is also professional tax, ESI, provident fund, shops and establishment tax, factory licence, environmental clearance, you name it and we have it. If you delay or miss making any payments on time then you end up paying a heavy penalty for such a lapse and at times you get a feeling that the authorities are waiting in the wings to catch you the moment you get something wrong rather than help you do everything right!.

Corporate social responsibility – this can be interpreted in many different ways! It includes meeting the expectations of all the large political groups, small groups and sub groups, meeting the expectations of various religious groups for their festivals or construction of places of worship, and many more! All need money for their activities and you may get into troubles if you ignore their regular demands.

As a Manager of a fast growing high technology company, your success is in meeting or exceeding the expectations of all these stakeholders  and as you can see, it is not always very easy as they are not complimentary!

Venu Payyanur

Never in the history of India, we experienced such dramatic growth in our economy resulting in the creation of millions of new jobs every year. This is both an opportunity and a challenge. Management of high technology companies are fast paced, complex and highly risky. Success requires skills and abilities that are very different from those required in other industries and other economies, because high technology business in a high growth economy has some very unique challenges. There are many Indian start-up companies as well as subsidiaries of large multinational companies operating in India in these technological and business spaces struggling to manage the growth and survive, even though the external environment and market conditions are conducing for their growth.

All high-technology businesses are based on a set of underlying technologies. These technologies are usually complicated and they advance rapidly. They must be planned, developed and replaced. High technology executives have to understand these technologies in order to make the appropriate judgements and decisions. This skill set adds a challenge that executives of non-technology companies do not need to manage.

High technology companies are typically high growth companies, particularly in a growing economy like India. But managing growth is a precarious act. If a company grows too fast, it risks getting out of control, if it does not grow as fast as competitors or expectations, it risks becoming a loser. When a business grows too fast, the resulting strain on management processes, organization and systems can be tremendous. Management capabilities must grow and develop as accompany grows. It is easy to manage when the company doubles in size in 7 years but not in two years like what is happening in India. Rapidly growing companies quickly exceed the capacity of their managers and often suffer from ineffective management in key positions, high turnover and lack of continuity as they continually bring in new managers with inconsistent approaches and experiences.

The high levels of technical and market uncertainties that characterize high technology product or services marketing have resulted in shortened product life cycles, collapsing markets and rapidly declining prices. Short product life cycles require that emphasis be placed on having the right products at the right time. Successful executives know they need to “manage” their future or it will manage them. This means proactively understanding tomorrow’s markets, forecasting changing customer preferences, anticipating potential competitive offerings, interpreting the impact of emerging technologies and defining the strategy for future products. Conventional strategic analysis tools such as SWOT analysis, Michael Porter’s industry structure analysis model and product positioning matrix, etc. by themselves are inadequate for developing comprehensive marketing strategy for innovative high technology products and services.

The increasingly rapid dissemination of new technologies and the continual change, both of which require constant adaptation, are a challenge for society as a whole. Innovation is a precondition for an SME’s growth, employment and competitiveness. In the era of globalization, SMEs play an important role in the overall growth of the economy of India.

The challenges being faced by the managers of medium sized high technology companies based in India are many fold whether they are in the area of human resource management, technology management, marketing and sales management, customer management and  managing growth.

Managing growth – most companies experienced on an average a compounded annual growth rate anywhere between 30 to 50% during the past 10 years. While this is exciting, the associated challenges of creating systems and processes, talent management, market management, human resource management, etc. are humongous.

Marketing and sales management – with fast growing opportunities and market growth company’s ability to address all the market segments become difficult. Equally challenging would be the threat from new entrants who are eager to take share from the market already developed and established by the leaders in the field. How to protect share from the existing market and expand reach to new market is one of the biggest challenges being faced by the management team of such companies.

Technology management – high technology companies are known for introducing breakthrough or disruptive technologies faster than well-established larger organizations. This is very exciting as well as equally challenging. Users of existing product/technology may be just getting used to that and in many cases may not be willing to change to a new product, even if it means cost or time saving in their operations. In some cases there could be regulatory controls such as in the pharmaceutical industry. Being a highly cost conscious society Indian customers  also show resistance to change due to cost of new acquisition while the existing product or technology is not fully utilized or cost not recovered.

Human resource management – probably this is the biggest challenge. High technology companies need highly qualified and talented manpower to manage most of their technical functions in R&D, product development, manufacturing, marketing, sales and customer support. In some cases special skills, knowledge or talent is needed, which is very difficult to acquire. Since most companies are growing and new companies are coming up every day, the demand for specialized manpower is high but the supply very limited. This leads poaching and artificial rise in salary and compensation that could impact the profitability of the company in the short as well as long run. Managing 30% or more attrition levels are challenging in any company more so in a high technology company. Education systems in India currently do not support some of the human resource challenges when it comes to modern technology. In many cases the knowledge and expertise available to effectively utilize the technology is not available within the users and neither the suppliers have adequate resources to educate and train the entire potential customer base.

Attracting and retaining highly qualified, skilled and experienced knowledge worker is one of the biggest challenges of a fast growing medium sized high technology company. The cause of India’s talent management dilemma is in many ways tied to its most valuable asset – a national demographic where more than half the country’s population (54%) is under 25 years of age, and 60% of people in the workplace are between the ages of 15 and 59. With four generations in today’s workplace, most companies are struggling to create an employee experience that appeals to individuals with diverse needs, preferences and assumptions. Although India is home to nearly 500m young, mostly English-speaking workers, finding the right talent to meet the high technology industry’s immediate and long-term needs is proving difficult. This is especially true in light of the fact that large numbers of college graduates prefers to pursue careers in the more lucrative salaries offered in software development and information technology.

Managing expectations – all stake holders of the company keep raising their expectations year after year. Customers want better product and support at a lower cost, shareholders want better return on their investments, employees wants better salary and pay packages and better work life balance, authorities are looking for increased tax revenue and the company must also meet its corporate social responsibilities. Some of these are conflicting and difficult to manage.

Even though the general perception is that in a growing economy every company grows is not true, even if one is operating in the most admired high technology sector. There are multitudes of examples of once successful companies closing shop or lagging behind late entrants in India. Even companies operating in same technological sphere with similar or equivalent products or services shows contrasting growth stories is certainly an interesting scenario in India.

Fast growing business needs dynamic leaders with vision and commitment to manage the growth and take it to the next level and we see a scarcity of such leaders in the Indian market. Leadership roles are thrust into young professionals who do not possess adequate knowledge and experience and are struggling to cope with increasing demands on their competence and capability. Aspiring managers must understand the dynamics and complexities of managing fast growing high technology companies in India and be able to create applicable strategies and prepare action plans to execute those strategies effectively.

Preliminary studies indicate the following deficiencies and requirements for Indian managers in the fast growing high technology sector.

Vision – a leader with vision has a clear, vivid picture of where to go, how to reach there and what success looks like when you reach there. They must also be able to share and communicate the vision to the entire organization. Set high expectations, even unrealistic at times, and demonstrate personal commitment and involvement in achieving the same.

Execution – creating a strategy is probably the easiest thing for someone with reasonable knowledge in management, economy and markets. And most companies operating in the same space have similar strategies too. But what makes one company more successful than others is their ability to execute the strategy well. Execution is a systematic process of rigorously discussing how’s and what’s, questioning, tenaciously following through and ensuring accountability. It includes making assumptions about the business environment, assessing the organization’s capabilities, linking strategy to operations and people who are going to implement and linking rewards to outcome. Leadership without the ability and discipline of execution is incomplete and ineffective.

Managing change – as the scale and scope of business increases every day, change becomes inevitable. Change management is defined as the continuous process of aligning an organization with its marketplace and doing it more effectively and responsively than its competitors. The key management levers, strategy, operation, culture and reward must be synchronized and aligned continuously. The biggest challenge would be to adjust your own management style and approach.

Team building – attracting and retaining the best talent available and investing in their continuous development is fundamental to any organization’s success and growth. Even with a billion population, you will find it extremely challenging to get the right candidate for the job and once you hire a person, train him to be successful; he is already on the lookout for the next job. Attrition levels are amazingly high, as high as 40% in many organizations and the old concept of lifelong employment is passé when you have multiple opportunities to choose from. Once you have assembled the team, motivating, instilling a sense of purpose and getting the job done is the next step. Generally people are capable of remarkable achievement if they are provided with the right work environment and collaborative leadership.

Managing expectation – as the organization grows, expectation of the stakeholders also grow, at times more dramatically than the business itself. Shareholders expect higher profitability and return on their investments while employees are looking for higher salaries and benefits. Customers demand the best product at the lowest cost with unprecedented levels of service and support. Balancing these conflicting demands and yet sourcing enough funds for investments for future growth is like tightrope walking.

Besides the above, every business leader must develop certain fundamental traits to be successful such as Business acumen, managerial courage, integrity and trust, composure, perseverance, humility and ethics & value.