Aug 7, 2008

HR - What is your people score ?

Just a week from now, CEAT will announce the results of an exercise that no Indian company has ever tried before. The country’s fourth largest tyre company will measure behavioural skills of its top 110 managers and give detailed scorecards to each one of them.

That’s unique for a company that graduated from the traditional ‘pen and pencil’ method of performance appraisal to an online system just a couple of months back. And the man in the middle of all the action, Rahul Ghatak, VP, HR, says the move to a behavioural scorecard system is just a recognition of the old organisational adage — what gets measured, gets done. Companies tend to regard behaviour as soft and fuzzy because it is deemed almost impossible to measure and track. “We are going to change that notion by putting metrics to a manager’s behavioural aspects,” Ghatak says.

Here’s how the system, called Empower, will work. Partnered by hrcraft business consulting, Empower is an online feedback forum, which invited 852 management staff to respond to a set of questions about the degree to which their managers currently display culturally desired behaviours. Each question has a score attached to it and the final score will be shared with the top 110 managers, who have at least four people reporting to them. Apart from their own scores, each manager will also get the average score of all others so that they can benchmark their performance with the rest of the organisation.
To ensure that the exercise doesn’t remain just a top-down approach, even the MD and the management committee members will be appraised by their immediate juniors. That Empower has a buy-in at the top is evident from the fact that the programme, which was conceived in March at a brainstorming session at Amby Valley, has already got going.

While the results of the scorecard for the first quarter will be out on August 14, CEAT will do the exercise again for the fourth quarter so that a comparison can be made and the progress tracked. The purpose is simple: CEAT feels talent is a critical commodity and if talent has to be retained, senior managers must know how they fare in people skills.
The biggest challenge, Ghatak says, was the initial cynicism towards such an exercise, as many people tended to dismiss it as just another management fad. That’s natural for a company with a 50-year-old-legacy mindset. One of the biggest concerns that employees had was whether the feedback will be truly confidential so that they can be completely candid. For managers, the initial concern was whether they will be under a surveillance camera all the time and whether their subordinates would use the scorecard system to settle scores.
So, communication was the key. The communication exercise involved teaser mails, circulation of brochures and meetings with each member of the management staff. Once people were convinced that the management was sincere, the response was tremendous. As many as 88 per cent of the target group responded, which is a record for a first-time initiative.
However, Ghatak says the scores are only a starting point of the Empower exercise as the real work begins after that. The next step HR will be taking with business managers is conducting workshops to help managers understand their scores and skill them to engage their team in corrective actions. A Winners’ handbook has also been developed as a resource guide for managers who can pick up practical how-to’s and implement them along with their team members. These dialogues, Ghatak hopes, will be steps towards bringing about an open and transparent culture and embedding culturally desired behaviour.
More importantly, such initiatives generate positive vibes about an organisation to attract future talent. The result: CEAT has been able to recruit 10 management trainees from premier schools this year —a five-fold rise from last year’s two. The attrition in the critical talent area has come down to 6 per cent while the overall rate continues to at the industry average of around 20 per cent.

The message that the company wants to give out is simple: CEAT is a talent-friendly organisation. That’s critical for its stated objective of achieving in the next five years what it did in the past 50.
Initiatives such as Empower will go a long way in stopping the common refrain across boardrooms that most HR departments have defined their jobs as merely ensuring that forms are filled out in triplicate. In short, the credibility of HR’s role in delivering results — real results — is left in question.
That is possibly why HR heads in leading companies are focusing on managing the changing organisational culture and ensuring effective implementation of corporate strategy — that part of the HR function which cannot be outsourced.

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