CASE – 1
Rajiv Grover clutched his forehead and groaned. A combination of embarrassment and guilt had worked its way to a stiff neck and a dull pain at the base of his skull. He had complicated his condition with quick remedies: an aspirin, neck exercises and a cup of black coffee. Feeling woozy, he stepped out of the taxi warily, hoping the scene, which he had been witness to a little while ago, and which triggered off his condition, had dissipated. It had. The six consultants, who only 45 minutes ago had flung angry words around, had withdrawn exhausted, into their cubicles. A strange calm pervaded the halls of Personnel Consulting Group Ltd (PCGL), punctuated only by keyboard clicks and the drone of the printer.
Rajiv declared it was time to get help. He called Rajnish Dogra, a friend of long standing and an HR Consultant, and said, “We have to talk”. Rajiv was a senior manager at PCGL, a fast growing consultancy firm in New Delhi. Rajiv, who had been among those who had established PSG in 1988, looked after human relations, recruitment, training, quality control, and client planning and management. Rajiv was not qualified HR person – he had worked for 15 years selling soaps and detergents, training sales staff and writing manuals. He chose this role until PSG had found its foothold in the ruthlessly competitive industry.
“Just hear me and suggest what direction I should take to bring about a sense of tolerance and harmony at work place,” he said to Rajnish when they met. “I am coming straight after witnessing a horrible scrap between two groups at the office, Kamal, Senior Consultant asked the Pantry to Stock different brand of tea. It was simple and trivial as that. Two Consultants, who heard that, remarked, this is not a coffee shop with a menu. And thus took off. Five of them on one side, he on the other side of his cubicle (a small area of a room that is separated off for privacy) and they were hyper ventilating. Embarrasingly enough, it came to angry, loud words. And others just stood by either it was shock or the numbers that these kinds of events leave you with. No one offered support or tried to defuse the situation.
“What bothered me was that we did not handle it well. I feel something more was called for then. Something more serious in terms of an intervention was required, but we were not able to do anything. Frankly, this was the first time, I was witnessing anything like this in an office setting and I recall my mind only observing shock and embarrassment. I wished for the situation to end, become less severe, for someone to laugh or crack a joke. But I was unable to invoke the manager in me. That embarrasses me.
“At this point, I must tell you that Kamal is a direct recruit at the senior level. Now just get used to some terminology. At the entry, we have trainees, at the middle level we have consultants, above them the senior consultants, and even above are the directors. So Kamal’s direct induction is a fact resented at lower levels which have strong group consultants, many of whom have been there since the establishment and played a key role in setting up PGCL. But more of that later.
“The fact also is, while Kamal is a good systems and IT person, he is not top drawer material. And this has become a bone of contention with the middle level that feels PCGL, in its haste to bag jobs, is compromising on quality.
“Now let me explain the nature of our industry and the size of our firm. We are a small firm with 50 people. We have no branches or other business divisions, where say, if you are to shining in division A, you can move to division B and may be shine there. All work is consulting work and most people, except those in systems are multi-skilled. There is a difference in projects, but the kind of work is similar.
“Thus to an extent, perceptions of competency are based on the narrow field of work where you are. We restructured the company last year, since we have now more systems and marketing work.
“We divided the business according to the nature of work, so we have systems, marketing and sales and HR, which is a lot about compensation surveys. The heads of these businesses are ten top level management. Every division has a top level too, made up of senior consultants at the senior level and consultants at the middle level. It is between these two that we have problem.”
Rajnish was listening with a keen ear. Dropping two cubes of sugar into Rajiv’s tea, he said,”And what did the restructuring do to unnerve the middle level management, to make them seem so angry?”
Stirring his tea, Rajiv said, “Earlier we did not have business divisions. But for systems, which have a strong IT/Finance need, the other assignments were planned by the CEO and teams drawn up by him. So you could have an assignment with three Consultants and no Senior Consultant, but since the assignment itself was being managed by the CEO, no problem was perceived. But in the process, one of the consultants soon came to be seen as the Chief Consultant for the assignment and that gave him a perceived seniority.
“Now post-restructuring, we have a layer of senior consultants in every division and every assignment will necessarily have a senior consultant to head the team and plan the assignment, as the division is only overseeing, throwing in periodic inputs and providing overall direction to new business. Nothing extra ordinary, for this is how most companies operate.”
“In the earlier scenario, very often a consultant led an assignment that was periodically overseen by the CEO. Then we had a few quality problems and debates, so we decided there should be a senior on every assignment. Now a senior can lead three assignments, but the operational issues are managed by the consultants who are more glued into the assignment. But when the senior decides to do a few checks and controls on the assignment, trouble begins. The consultant, who is as comfortable in his position as the quasi in charge of an assignment; at least as far as the client is concerned, finds the senior an intrusion. That is when he questions the competency and worth of the senior.
“Now also know this, a senior consultant is typically 28-30 year old. The Consultant is 24-26. The consultant is, therefore, more mobile in the job market, he can drop us and assignment and walk away into established and well-known companies, whereas the senior at 28-30 is that much less mobile and left holding an assignment stands, nothing. Because, the way it works is, most things are held in a consultant’s head and flow out only when he writes a report.
“What has irritated the middle level is the direct recruitment at the top level or at the senior consultant’s level. Earlier a consultant grew into a senior consultant. So, there was always that promise that the road ahead is clear. And in a growing company, it falls nicely in place. You grow, the company grows, so there is more room at the top. But now when the direct recruits are coming in, there is a lot of insecurity for the older employees.
“So what happens to the consultant? Most of the divisions already have three senior Consultants each. Is there room at the top? Either of these seniors to move up and vacate same space, or at the Senior Consultants level for a division to have more of that kind? The answer is, its expensive and those levels cannot operate as parking slots”.
Rajnish had a second cup of tea and said, “And why does the middle level feel poorly about the senior consultants? Is it because they feel their chances of growth have been blocked by direct recruits?”
“That’s not true”, said Rajiv. For example, I did ask two consultants to move up and take on the senior role. I thought, with a lot of support, and they will find their foothold soon. But Funnily enough, the two men I asked said no, that they were not fully ready for such a senior position. This ability to recognize that they did not have the resources to be in a senior slot is what I find very heartening. They could have said Yes, but it was their belief that the company needed someone better, stronger, and more experienced. They are in honest bunch of people. That is why the current tension is troubling me so much.
I think it has to do with their perception of what is good for the company, and these four or five Consultants have been with us since the company’s establishment. These people, who have seen the highs and lows, feel that they have brought the company upto a level of competency. And we do believe that competency goes beyond were skills. These men did most of the donkey work and felt great pride in being among the first who saw the birth and shape of the company. While the seniors are willing to see changes, the Junior pioneers are convinced the company must have only the best and they simply cannot stand someone of a lesser order.
“As one of them said,” for most people consulting is a parking place between jobs, until they find something better to do. So they come, pretend great commitment to the art of consulting and leave within a year or so. That’s the way they see it. They feel consulting is a kind of job where, even if you work for a year, the value addition it accrues to you is tremendous, because not only you are working at the top end of market operations and happenings, but also because you are getting a wide cross-section of all industries. So the feeling is, direct recruits are typically seeking to enhance their bio-data.”
“Another said, `I love this company, and I want to be proud of the top. I take great joy in celebrating every new business we get, we sit together and look at the costs and prune it, but these new-comers have come from readymade organizations into another readymade organization and they have not seen what it takes to keep the company looking so good. Still, they crib about cost cutting, about increments.
“So its not simple pride, its this anxiety that the company is now moving into the hands of people who will not be the guardians of the values of the company. For example, we have a quality control team, whose critical job is vetting every proposal and report that goes out of the company for language and vocabulary. Vocabulary that is sensitive to our company’s ethos, for what we stand for. But they feel these new seniors do not care about that.
“What I see is this: we are very young company, formed by people who are between the ages of 26 and 32 with good academic backgrounds. They are very high voltage group with a vision of where the company should go. Then there are many seniors in the company. Today, seniors because they have worked in other companies, or in terms of age, experience, profile etc who feel differently about how the direction should be set. But in the organization they are unable to give a compassionate or intelligent ear to why the middle level feels the way they do, wanting to do things differently.”
“Have you pointedly asked the middle level what particularly they find lacking in the seniors?” Rajnish asked.
Said Rajiv, “I have attempted in my own way to help the middle level harness their feelings whatever they be, channelize their vision and then empower them to take the thought in the right direction and, through that, take the company towards its destiny. Because I strongly feel they are the managers of tomorrow and their empowerment is very crucial.”
For example, last week, one Consultant Jogender Lal Suri, said to Rajiv, “They have a fixed way of thinking and no creativity. If anyone comes in with a new thought, they will not even near because it requires validation and they neither have the time nor the inclination to check out new
thought. So what they produce is the same thing that was produced five years ago. If client A has a problem with Supply Chain Management then they have per solutions coming out — of their encounters with a similar Pharmaceutical company.
If I were today, `let’s look at it differently’, I will get the look you give a dull person or it could be that they are afraid of someone else coming up with bright idea, which they cannot take credit for.
“Very simply, take a new field like the internet marketing. Where is the new thinking going to come from? They read papers and articles and come up with solutions. But things have changed. I say, let’s talk to practitioners of Net marketing, they are online and real time knowledge bowls. But they almost appear to want to protect the brick and mortar world! Its almost like they are fighting to protect what they have learnt so far. It is a new product and begs a new way of addressing. But no! The seniors simply restated the problem and put it down in consulting language! They don’t even recognize that the world is changing.
“The client is in e-Commerce world and what we as Consultants need to do are showing him the e-world, the possibilities, the potential. But to do that, you yourself need to know what the e-mail is right? If you haven’t been to England how can you tell me about it? Looking at the travel brochures?
“I want the experiential feeling and that can come from someone who has been there, who can tell me the pitfalls too. But if I say, why go to England, go to Bangalore, you will have a lot of fund! That’s what they are doing. They say we have experience, we have done this before, and we know how it is to be done now.
Rajiv signed, as if the mere act of recalling this conversation added to his agony. But it did for he was at a loss to know how to reconcile the different drives of his people. Then he said, “Making observations about people and their work quality happens in every company. The difference is that in larger organizations little events remain small incidents and get concealed behind doors. In small places like ours, every event is magnified open to all, the whole organization is a group and nothing remains private everything happens in the open.
“Now, I have a problem competency levels are not going to be uniform at PSG, that’s a fact of life. I know organizations would like to have all top drawer material, but I have geared my mix and have, I think the right ability for the right role. Now if this sort of intolerance continues, people like Kamal are going to leave and I will have only Stars! The fact is that the new entrants are very bright and raring to go. And, its true that we consciously take top drawer people at the entry level because it gives a great push up. A leap forward, both of them and for us.
“Just look at the psychological aspect of such a situation. You go to campus and hire three new entrants. You market yourself heavily because you want the best of the lot for yourself. Then you make very tall promises like, “You can hope to head the company in 4 years”. Now you tell that to a young man of 23 and what do you get? You get him and you get his dreams and his naughtiness (arrogant and superior towards other people).
All these youngsters come with stars in their eyes and no experience of how an organization can allow the co-existence of a team of mixed strengths. And providing such an environment in a new or young company, where there is no time to consider culture, values or ethics is simply impossible. Yes, I want all that for this company, but how?
“We are three year old. There is much disorder, conflict and confusion. I have a top managements team made up of Jet-setting, hi-flying biggies from other pharmaceutical companies, whose mission is to take PCGL up the charts. Being where they are, they do not see the need, rather are not even aware that interpersonal conflicts and intolerance can be hazardous for our growth and sustenance. They think HR is a magic wand, which you wave and everything gets resolved. “What is HR doing”, they asked. Good question. HR is one man, 20 hours a day show that carries two mobiles, because there are always fires to be fought. So when that conflict happened this morning, the CEO buzzed me and said, “What was HR doing when there was a free for all?” Eh? HR was defrosting!
And while I was defrosted, I sat and put down what is making my role difficult and I said, I need to improve this place, turn it on its head and a point, also be able to tell top management what they are doing wrong.
“So what happens? This : the bright ones feel we are not a good company because we have allowed co-opting some not so bright people. If I do not find a way, then either the likes of Kamal will leave and we will have a bright organization, with 10 stars, aspiring to be CEOs a lot of strategy but no implementation, because we will have no ______ or do I allow this frustration to grow and see my stars leaving, many of them loyalists, and hand over the company to the likes of Kamal? This is my dilemma : Do the best remain and the rest leave.
Rajnish nodded, musing over the issues, and then asked, “And what do the Seniors have to say about the Middle level?” “They find them very strange”, said Rajiv. “That’s what they say. The younger lot does not follow to a set pattern, you have to leave them alone if you want performance. They don’t like being monitored, controlled, policed, etc. For example, we have this brilliant consultant, Partha Chakravarty. He has a good mind and a habit of being efficient only in problems. But while he is so good, he stops there. He will not work beyond that. But when a crisis happens, he is your man. You want a presentation at 9.00 a.m. and the team has failed, Partha will be there sharp at 9.00 and deliver a brilliant presentation without much preparation. Your proposal is not ready? He can put it together for you in an hour.
Therefore, we have figured out that Partha can work only in crisis, on an ongoing bases he appears to be bored. He will walk around the office, chew Kuber Supari, and check the Pantry….. and while away time. He has to be in top gear to perform. Put him on a team and he is a disaster. Leave him alone, and he is a disaster. Leave him alone and he is a virtual ready guide of solutions. Make him work and he feels bored and angry. Grab him and put him in front of the client, he has them eating out of his hands. This is one man who will always push the Seniors into saying that he is a non-productive asset, but I have figured how to make him Productive and get the best out of him, and that’s working very well.
“So you see, its very high voltage highly charged team. And as high powered, charged things go, all of them are very sensitive. How do you manage people like this? Someone once said, it’s a sign of the times. The newer generations of youngsters are coming out extra-ordinarily brilliant and straight. They are simply there to produce miracles and ensure excellence. Their perception of the world is very different.
“Now, you have to advise me. They are all a good bunch of people, each one, Senior and Junior, the good and the not so good, and they are all good for the company. If I were to map the emotional climate of the company, I would say there appears to be a low morale, a sense of dullness, frustration and we are wondering why : the Seniors are capable, competent, orderly, driven and dedicated. Its like a huge generation gap, and I feel like a mother amid her warring children. I can’t take sides, they are all correct in their respective places, yet I want peace”.
Having read the case above, advice the company as a Training Consultant.
CASE – 2
In January 2001 K. K. Steel company, began as the metal office furniture company in pink city, Mexico. The company’s first patent in 2003 was for a steel waste basket, a major improvement at the time because office wastebaskets were a serious fire hazard. Today, K. K. Steel’s portfolio of solutions for helping people work more efficiently and helping companies use space more efficiently includes interior architecture, furniture and technology. Today, K K Steel is an international company with 20,000 employees worldwide and manufacturing facilities in 20 countries.
CEO, Raj Singhania believes that it is K. K. Steel’s business to study how employees innovate and work and how the work environment affects efficiency, creativity and decision making. Singhania’s approach helps K. K. Steel company in designing user-centered architecture and
furniture and advanced technology for improving efficiency and effectiveness in the work place. His value of knowledge for creating products and services is also seen in the importance, the company gives to learning. Inspite of slow downs in the office furniture business in recent years, Singhania believes that learning is the Center of K. K. Steel’s business strategy. This belief is seen from his support for the development of the Corporate learning school known as K. K. Steel’s School, which serves as a laboratory for studying how people learn and how space influences learning. K. K. Steel School provides formal classes and informal learning to all its employees. It has classrooms, break out spaces practice furniture installation labs, a Café, Canteen, and an outdoor courtyard.
The company spends a lot of time, money and energy on needs assessment. Course designers make sure that all K. K. Steel School’s training and development. Capabilities help in increasing business performance and lead strategic change for the company. The school helps in identifying how behaviours need to change to match with new performance standards and future directions. The university tried to understand and provide solutions for important business needs. Learning consultants serve as team members in key functional groups across the company. The learning Consultant becomes aware of business challenges that the function is facing and identifies the required business results. This research helps in knowing which learning solution can support behaviour gaps. Consultants look for solutions that balance skill and knowledge development, management commitment, and demands of the work environment. If any of the three is missing, performance, improvement will not occur. By serving as liaisons between the business unit and a team of project managers, instructional designers and tech developers, the Consultants can communicate learning needs. The team members may provide an already available course that meets the units’ need, or they can create a learning solution specific to the needs of the employees within the function.
Recently, the whole scenario on needs assessment has changed. Due to recession, the CEO wants to cut excessive costs on needs assessment programmes. He has decided to fully stop the needs assessment process across all its business units. The CEO has decided that he will start needs assessment. Process for all his units only after 5 years. He feels that K. K. Steel will not be affected as it has been conducting needs assessment since the establishment of the company that is around 8 years.
1) Do you agree with the views of the CEO of K. K. Steel company? Give reasons for your answer.
2) If K. K. Steel company will stop conducting needs assessment process then what, according to you, can be short term and long term effects on the company?
3) What are the objectives of needs assessment.
4) Discuss the importance / benefits of identification of training and development needs.
5) What is your advice to Mr Singhania, CEO of K. K. Steel and Company.
CASE – 3
Rahul Khanna, who had recently joined Creative Systems, as a training manager, was feeling uneasy at the end of his first meeting with Pankaj Srivastava, the managing director of the company. Creative Systems is 20 year old unit employing 500 people. It had turnover of Rs 50 crore the previous year. The company traded in a variety of products, both domestic and imported. Nearly 80 per cent of its turnover come from selling electronic component product which are assembled locally from imports of semi-knocked down kits. The landed cost of its imports was about Rs 10 crore last year. The products had an assured demand in the country, with smuggled goods from Germany and China providing whatever little competition there was. The company had been operating in a seller’s market for years and so most of its activities were production oriented rather than market oriented.
Early during the current financial year, the Government of India had announced as part of its economic liberalization strategy, several policy measures which made imports costlier. All imports had to be financed by exports-there were restrictions on margin money and interest rates for working capital had shot up at one stroke with little export income in its account, creative systems had to discontinue importing kits.
The company management had three option before it. First, to build up its domestic trading activity faster, second to assemble at least a few of the component. Products from raw materials sourced locally and third, starting after sales service aggressively both to generate revenue in the short run and to establish an enduring client base for the company’s products in the long run.
Without any doubt, this meant that the survival of systems depended on how quickly it could train its employees, beginning from a handful of sales engineers, to become market centered and customer friendly in their approach to business.
“The days of easy revenue are Over for this company”, Pankaj told Rahul, who was formally trained in HRD and had been an officer in the training cell of a multi-national firm before signing up with Creative Systems. “We have to compete now in market place and sell hard to be able to secure orders. Times are changing. We have to change too. And this is where you come in. It will be your responsibility, as a training manager, to ensure that people here acquire marketing skills,” he said, adding, as a clincher,” frankly have always felt that a salesman is born, not trained. I have had no belief in non-technical training. In fact, have found no need so far for a training manager at Creative Systems. But I am ready to do anything to get more sales”.
That punching was what made Rahul uneasy. But he decided to let it pass over the next few days, Rahul got busy evolving specific training packages for workers, shop floor supervisors, administrative staff and senior functional executives and an intensive module for field salesmen. Deciding to start with the salesmen first, he met the sales manager to ask him to depute 10 salesmen for a training session the next day. The sales manager was skeptical and only half-heartedly consented to release people for the two-day training.
The session was a disaster. No one showed any interest in the proceedings. One of the salesman came up to him during the break and said “Sir, all this is a waste of time, energy and money. Take the client for a drink and you get the sale. It is as simple as that. It has worked in the past and it will work in the future also.” Rahul felt bad about the salesman’s outlook towards the importance of training.
The attendance for the second day session was thin. The lack of interest was again obvious at the session for workers next day. The works manager who had originally agreed to the idea was vague about the absence of so many workers at the training session. “They are sick, I believe”, he said, making no attempts to hide his feeling that to him the whole thing was a big joke.
Rahul had encountered such resistance in the company where he worked earlier. He also knew that his training capsule was very effective. He was aware that training needs were universal for all companies and so were the training techniques which were also easily transferable from one set of working conditions to another and from one industry to another. He also knew that he had the aptitude and interest to become a professional trainer.
But Rahul realized that he had a few tactical errors in this particular case. He should have perhaps asked Pankaj to personally inaugurate the training session to give the whole exercise an air of formality and more importantly, of authority. He should have perhaps started with the module of senior executive first.
“I must find a way out of this and bring everyone round. There is simply no way I am going to accept failure. Whatever damage there has been must be undone. I must do something”, he said to himself.
1) What should Rahul Khann do?
2) Why, according to you, Rahul thought that he should have asked Pankaj to personally inaugurate the training session?
3) What according to you are the aims of training?
4) According to you, what are the important abilities that an ideal trainer must possess?
CASE – 4
Toshiba is the world’s number one defence contractor. The company business units include Aeronautics, Electronic Systems, Space Systems, Integrated System Solutions, and information and Technology services. Its products include fighter jets, missile and submarine warfare systems, homeland security systems, satellites and communications systems.
Toshiba involves all employees in career management. Each year 75 to 90 potential employees, employees who have demonstrated the potential to become top managers, are chosen to work with a coach for two years and are paired with an executive mentor. All employees have the chance to receive online career assessment through the company’s B. B. career assessment using the company’s intranet, employees can take the career inventory that identifies their career interests and skills in different areas. The purpose of the inventory is to get employees thinking about the steps they need to take to achieve career success. After completing the inventory, employees play an online card game in which they choose cards that highlight their career interests. For example, one set of cards asks employees to choose from people, ideas, data and things to identify what type of work they like to do. Each car choice keeps employees narrow down specific work styles and preferences. Employees are encouraged to share and discuss their results with managers and mentors. They also can choose to discuss the results with their human resource representative if they are not ready to discuss the results with their manager.
Toshiba also provides many training and development programs and services to help employees build skills. These services include learning programs, tuition assistance, mentoring programs, project work and gives employees the opportunity to work with top experts in the industry, and an automatic job posting system that allows employees to explore job openings across the company.
1) How, according to you, Toshiba’s involvement of all its employees in career management will benefit the company.
2) Why do you think is career management important?
3) Do you think career management at Toshiba will keep in career motivation? If yes, then why? If no, then why not? Give reasons for your answer.
4) Who all share the responsibility of career planning?
5) What are the possible risks for companies who help employees plan their careers?