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Role of HR post Covid crisis

Work from anywhere

What could be the role of HR in the post Covid scenario ? This is a question, which may be lurking in the minds of many people. I would state that HR could evolve their “Ten Commandments” post the Covid crisis is over and employees gradually trickle back to the workplace.

1. Job Security : In the post Covid scenario, most employees would be worried about their jobs. This would mean a lurking fear that their organisations would have lost revenue for more than a few months and this could result in job losses for many. So, the first duty of HR could be to make the CEO communicate to all employees how they plan to get over this crisis and assure employees at all levels that they would not lose their jobs.

2. New Workplace : The new workplace will have a new normal. It will not be the same place of work like in the past. Apart from physical sanitisation of everything, there would be silence and loneliness at the workplace. There is need to make people adapt to this new work environment through effective communication and counselling by the managers and leaders at all levels.

3. Cost optimisation : While HR leaders should try their best to save jobs, they could be the champions of cost reduction efforts in the organisation. They could engage with employees at all levels and enable formation of teams so that cost reduction is in everybody’s radar and the organisations are able to make up for the losses incurred by this pandemic.

4. Employee engagement : In the post Covid scenario, employee engagement actions become all the more critical. It is important to make employees adapt to the new workplace and at the same time realise that we need to continue to serve our customers, suppliers, employees, shareholders and all other stakeholders as we did before.

5. Work from anywhere : While the Covid crisis forced organisations and employees to adapt to the work from home option, it may be an opportunity for HR in organisations to enable employees to work from anywhere. This means no fixed workstations, laptops for everyone and they could work from any office or any place of their choice in the future.

6. Re-engineering processes : This is a great opportunity for HR to facilitate all the functions in the organisation to challenge all their existing processes and eliminate unwanted ones, simplify those needed and automate wherever possible. The shop-floor could also be digitised and automated so as to minimise human interface in routine operations and use employees for human value addition, which robots or machines cannot do like listening to and attending to customer grievances.

7. Rewrite the HR manual : Just like the Constitution of a nation gets amended from time to time based on the needs of the nation, this is a great opportunity in the history of the organisation to re-write its HR manual. It may be helpful to keep it simple, eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy and all paper work if possible.

8. Productivity : While many of us may not realise that India still has one of the lowest labour costs in the world but our productivity is not on par with the best in the world. This reset post Covid gives us an opportunity to rejig our productivity levels at the shop floor, in our offices and also in all our processes with suppliers and customers. For eg. is it possible for all employees to deal with all HR processes through their mobile phones and eliminate all paper work in the future.

9. Digitalisation : The ability to go digital in all aspects of work is a real possibility in the new workplace. Sales can happen online and service can be remotely handled. This means manufacturing can be digitilalised and automated and so can be all other processes. If banks can provide all their services through digital means so can all other organisations and this is the best time to transition and go digital, wherever feasible.

10. Employee Health & Safety : This crisis provides the best opportunity for organisations to rewrite its health and safety standards. It is not only physical health but mental and emotional health and wellness, which will get tested post this crisis. So , it is the best time for organisations to prepare for similar unknown crises in the future.

While I may not have listed down all possible things, which HR leaders could do post this crisis, I have focussed on the most important and called them the “Ten commandments for HR”.

Do let me know if I have missed out anything ? You can make your own “Ten commandments for HR” based on the needs of your own organisation.

S Ramesh Shankar

12th May 2020

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Relearning from childhood…

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Learning is a life long journey. I was sitting with my grandson, who is 7 years old. He asked me if I knew how to use Instagram on my phone. I said yes. He asked me if I could take a photo of his with the whiskers of a rabbit. I told him that I did know how to do it. He readily agreed to teach me.

He advised me to open the app on my phone. He then showed me as to how change the setting on the phone and then take a selfie as in the photo above. I was quite stunned. It was great learning to use a mobile app from a 7 year old.

As children, we are inquisitive and curious. We learn continually by observing others and things around us. When I asked him as to how did he learn it – he said that he saw my son doing the same on his phone. As we grow up in life, we possibly forget to be curious. Our inquisitiveness is buried within us. We feel shy to ask questions and thereby our learning retards.

It is time to look back and learn from childhood. If we cannot turn the clock back, we can observe young kids around us and learn from them. Another incident made me realise how simple observation can be of great learning value. My grand son was at home for his school vacation. We were playing with each other. Then he wanted to download a few games on my iPad.

I gave him my iPad and enquired which games he would like download. He glanced through the app and shortlisted a few. When I was about to download, he told not to do so. He informed me that every app has a preview. We should preview the game and only if it is interesting, we should download the app. It would otherwise be waste of money. I could not believe that a young kid of 7 years could be so knowledgable on how to carefully download game apps from the internet without wasting money.

To be honest I was not aware of it. This helps learn an important lesson in life. We all are good learners as kids. We observer everything around us and learn. We do not hesitate to ask questions when in doubt. As we grow up our observations skills fades away and hence may be our learning ability also diminishes. We are scared of asking questions when we do not know so as to hide our ignorance rather than learn from others who know.

It is time to reflect. It is time rekindle the child in us. It is time ask questions of curiosity from everyone around us including kids. It is never too late to change. It is also never too late to unlearn, learn and relearn.

Time to restart is today ?

S Ramesh Shankar

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Joy of giving…

I have always be in awe of our festivals in India. Diwali is no exception. Apart from lights and crackers, one recalls Diwali with fond memories because the entire family got together once in a year and celebrated together. We got up early at dawn and had an oil bath before sunrise and enjoyed all the sweets and savouries all day.

Today I got a new insight on Diwali. It is celebrated in India with two different beliefs in the northern and southern part of the country. In the north, people believe that Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya after his 14 years in the forests and hence is welcomed back with lights and crackers. In the South, it is believed that Lord Krishna killed a ghost by name Narakaasura on this day in Dwaraka Yuga.

The new insight I got today is from a forward about the story of Narakaasura and the lessons for all of us. It is believed that Narakaasura is the “I” or ego residing in all of us as humans. When Lord Krishna killed Narakaasura, he eliminated our ego and released more than 16000 evils in us. So the next day on amavasya we pray to Godess Lakshmi to lead us to the right path.

Every ritual in Hindu religion and so in other religions has a deep insight for all of us. We generally get swayed by the rituals and start believing that they are of no use and most of us including me give up rituals because they serve no human purpose. I have been no exception. Now that I have all the time in the world, I am able to reflect and get new insights into these rituals.

Another interesting belief that we should clean our home and get rid of all the unwanted things. This is also symbolic that God wants us to give up all that is not necessary and take up the good things in life.

It is also enshrined in our religions that the best way to serve God is to serve the human kind. If we give more, we get more. If we are content with what we have, God always gives us more than what we need. This is the challenge for all of us. How much is enough – is a question difficult to ask and answer for oneself ?

I have admired people who give away without expecting anything in return. Recently another friend forwarded a message with a great insight. It was a couplet from Rahim. When Tulsidas looked at Rahim donating, he found his eyes looked at the ground and so asked him ” O great person, where have you learnt this amazing way of giving ? “. As your hands rise ( to give), your eyes look down. “. Rahim replies – “. The Giver is someone else ( God Almighty), giving day and night. The world has a misconception that I am the giver. So, I lower my eyes in embarrassment. ”

The best people I have met in life are those who give unconditionally. They are anonymous most of the times and recipient does not know that they are the donors. They give because they have a surplus and they are grateful to the Almighty for it and want to thank him for the generosity bestowed on them.

It is like the exotic orchid in the photo above, given my colleagues at work, which are blooming because of their unconditional love.

This blog a salute from my side to all the wonderful people who have made me what I am today. They have given me support, advice, money and love unconditionally. I can never ever return their favour in any form. I promise to give back without expecting anything in return as I bow in gratitude to them.

S Ramesh Shankar

27th October 2019

What happens when someone takes the credit for your work in an organisation ?

A young aspiring professional called me up early morning today.  He looked very much worked up.  When I asked him for the reasons for his anxiety, he explained how some of his seniors were taking away all the credit for the hard work he puts in at work every day.

This is not an uncommon situation especially for youngsters starting their career in an organisation.  Interestingly, you see and experience this phenomenon in all professions.  Today, it is easy for me to write about it and share my views.  When I went through the same experience, it was one of the biggest challenges at the beginning of my career.

When you experience it as a young professional, you feel betrayed.  You feel frustrated and sometimes feel like bashing up the senior who takes away all the credit for your hard work.  As you grow up in the organisation , you realise that you are not alone to face this type of challenge.  It is faced by many and almost in all professions.  A senior lawyer may win a case based on the arguments and efforts of his junior and take all the credit for the victory.  A senior doctor may do the same while treating a patient.

In organisations, we see senior leaders taking the credit for presentations made to other stakeholders, which were never prepared by them.  Sometimes, they take the credit for articles never written by them.  While it makes you feel bad, it is not uncommon to say the least.

The question is how do you deal with it in your career, when it happens to you.  At the first instance, it may be a good idea to vent out your feelings to someone  near and dear to you.  This may make you feel lighter and better after this bitten experience in your career.

Then you need to settle down and realise that you are not alone.  It is important not to get distracted by such phenomenon.  I remember an incident when a senior of mine tried to present my case in front of the Chief Executive in one of the organisations I worked.  He was trying to take the credit for my work in front of the CEO.  However, when the CEO asked a few clarifications on the case, he had to call me in and he was embarrassed when the CEO asked if I had prepared the case.

We always need to believe that “Excellence” is a journey and never a destination.  The leaders who try to take the credit for the work of their juniors have limitations and they do expose their limitations by such frivolous behaviour.  They get exposed sooner than later when they make this a habit to take credit for others ‘ work.

As  I said earlier, it is not easy to deal with a situation like this especially when you experience this yourself in the beginning of your career.  As you grow up in your career, you realise that people can take credit for your work but can never take away your value to the organisation.  Each individual brings a certain value and this can never be stolen by others.

This nature of some leaders to take credit for others’ work reflects their limitation rather than yours.  They get exposed sooner than later in front of other employees or other stakeholders.  One does not need to put in any extra efforts to expose them since they expose themselves because of the lack of depth in the subject they take credit for others’ work. Of course, the time taken for them to be exposed may vary and this could add to the frustration of employees.  But my experience teaches me that it happens sooner than you believe as long as you are willing to always give your best and let them expose themselves in the process.

As in the photo above, while a captain can take away the credit for his team’s victory, everybody in the team and even the spectators know who deserves the credit for that win.

I would continue to focus on excellence and let these impostors expose themselves rather than waste my energy and time trying to figure out why they do so. I would want to focus on my strengths rather than their weaknesses.

Let us always remember that “Mediocrity will never recognise Excellence”.

S Ramesh Shankar

27th May 2020

Gone too soon…

I got up in the morning and heard a shocking news conveyed through social media. One of my ex colleagues lost his life long spouse. She was perfectly fine in health. She just complained of a mild head ache and slept early at night. She never got up thereafter.

Life is so uncertain. We do not realise how life could change within minutes for us – not days, months or years. We grow up with our near and dear and almost take it for granted that we will be with them for the rest of our lives. It may not happen.

I lost a close relative two years back in a similar fashion. He just went to the rest room for his morning ablutions and never returned. Such was the shock to all of us that it took more than a year to realise that he was no more.

I sometimes wonder why we end up fighting with our siblings, relatives and friends. All of us are guilty of doing it in some measure at every stage of our lives. We are least forgiving especially when the hurt is deep and we are not willing to forget or pardon them.

Today I am not sure if it is really worth it. I had some early experience in my life. First I lost both my parents just as I turned 25. At this stage I also was to attend the funeral of every employee who died at our steel plant when they met with an accident. Every time I returned from the funeral ground, I could not bear the grief of the near and dear of the ex employee’s family.

Now, when I look back, I realise that life is too short and there is no time to hate anyone. The only way to enjoy life is to love everyone around you. I would appeal to everyone to consider forgiving those who have hurt you in any way and love them unconditionally. You never know if you will ever get a chance again in this life to do so.

There are hundreds of people who have moulded me as a human being. I am indebted to many of them and cannot express my gratitude to all of them in this life time. I do try to meet each one of them on every possible occasion now and sincerely express my gratitude and salutations to them.

These incidents of sudden tragedy make you realise how short our life is and why we need to express our love and gratitude to everyone around us. We may not be around within seconds or they may not be there. Life may not give us a second chance and it is time we realise it.

Love begets love. Gratitude expressed unconditionally grounds you and makes you into a better human being. The one way to repay our emotional debts in life is to be of some help to someone in need when they least expect it from us. We need to help people unconditionally and anonymously if possible.

We may visit temples, churches or mosques to have a date with our Gods and Godesses. But the best religion in the world is to serve humanity unconditionally and without expecting anything in return. I am committed to try my best to give back to society in my little ways. So can you ? Try it and good health and happiness is guaranteed.

S Ramesh Shankar

17th February 2020

People & Places

I have lived across different parts of India. My father was a government servant and this gave me the opportunity to do so. Further, after my studies, I lived and worked in different states in the north, south, east, west, central and south of India.

I found every place fascinating and the people interesting. I have learnt life lessons from each of the places I have lived and from the people living there. Although, I was born in Trichy, Tamil Nadu, I did pursue my education in Kolkata, Jabalpur and Chennai. I started working in Chennai and then moved to Bhilai, Indore, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore and my last stint was in Mumbai.

Each city is close to my heart and made me a better human being in many different ways. Let me start with Kolkata. A city rich in heritage and culture taught me patience and tolerance. It also made me realise the richness of Indian culture and how traditions can be sustained through active community participation.

Jabalpur is almost the city of the defence forces. We can see heavy defence equipment being manufactured here. This city taught me how our defence personnel sacrifice their lives for the nation and protect our national borders for all of us. I also learnt pure unadulterated spoken and written Hindi from this city and its inhabitants.

Chennai is in my home state. I learnt to lead a simple life from this city. I also learnt how education can make a man and external material success is not the ultimate in life. The people in this city also taught me to be rooted in family traditions and understand the multifaceted dimensions of my religion – Hinduism.

Bhilai taught me cosmopolitan living. This steel city is a mini India. I have met people from almost all states of India living and working together happily in this city. Nobody in this city is recognised by his religion, caste or state which they belong. They are only treated as human beings. This city inculcated the values of secularism and co-existence in a beautiful way.

Indore was my next destination. It taught me the tastes of India. The variety of food available in this place is unbelievable. Apart from food, the people in this place are vey helpful and enable you to settle well without you realising it. Today it is the cleanest city in India and has been awarded for being so for the third consecutive year.

I then moved to Delhi, the capital of India. Apart from beautiful wide roads and heritage like the Red Fort, Qutub Minar and the Humanyun’s tomb, it has brought people from all over the country and the world to live and work here. I learnt the meaning of risk taking in this city. Apart from being a planned city to a large extent, it has green well laid out parks almost in every community and has a lot to offer for visitors in terms art, craft and culture.

My next destination was Bangalore, which is the ultimate destination today, where I have settled post my retirement from active corporate life. I have always envied the weather in this city, which is pleasant almost throughout the year. It is greener than most other metropolises in India and can boast to be the Silicon Valley and hub for start ups too. I decided to settle here for the weather and wonderful flora and fauna in the city. Apart from the greenery, it has great world heritage cities within a 350 kms radium and possibly the largest forest cover in India.

My last destination before I hung up my boots from the corporate world was Mumbai. I loved this city for its spirt of living. I have not seen any other city welcoming immigrants from all walks of life with open arms. Further, every dream could be fulfilled for everyone if they were willing to put in their best and luck also favoured them. There are innumerable rags to riches story not because of family lineage here but because of the individual’s talent and the abundance of opportunities. This city taught me to bounce back from every low and believe that there is sun rise after every sun set.

So, having lived in every part of India and also travelled to almost all the continents of the world, I can say there cannot be a more beautiful and diverse country than India. Every city I lived gave me something to learn. It is time for me to give back to my country in my little ways.

S Ramesh Shankar

3rd February 2020

 

My Ten Commandments

I completed my first innings of my career on 31st March 2019. Many people have asked me as to what advice I could give to youngsters based on my career experience. I have no advice to give but I have a lot of learnings to share with others.

I have tried to put my experiential learnings so far into my “Ten Commandments of life” and I am happy to share them with everyone. They are :

1. Life long learning: One has to learn to learn throughout our life. Our learning begins at birth and may be ends at our death. We have to keep our eyes, ears and all our senses open to learn from every experience of life and everyone around us.

2. Work smart as much as hard : A lot of people today imagine that there are many short cuts to life. In my view, there are none. One has to work hard as much as smart to be a winner in life. Nothing in life can be achieved without toil and efforts. A bit of luck may help but can never be recipe for success.

3. Strive to be the best in whatever you do : We tend to live life by comparisons. It may start in the family when we compete with out siblings, then friends and colleagues at work. It is better to strive to be the best in whatever we do and we are always likely to be a winner rather than a loser.

4. Be a role model for the next generations through your actions and not your words – My definition of inspiring leadership is leading by example always. Your next generation always follows what you do and not what you say. Hence, it may be wise to give advise through your actions and not your words.

5. Maintain the right work life balance : Some of us believe that it is worthwhile to burn oneself away at work. It is not worth it. If we reflect on life and living, one may realise that work and life are equally important. Hence, striking the right balance is not only in our hands but also ensures good health and happiness.

6. Accept failures and missed promotions gracefully : The first failure in life is like the first scratch on your new car. It is difficult to face it and hurts your heart directly. But our ability to reflect and accept failures helps us to be equanimous in life.

7. Be humble and grounded always : We remember people who have their feet on the ground and are always simple and down to earth. We may not respect and regard arrogant people in our lives .

8. You share more, you learn more : Some of us think that if we share our learning with others, our value diminishes. In my view, it is the other way around. The more we share, the more we learn and the more we are respected by others.

9. Own up the blame and learn to give credit to others always : Leaders who give credit to others and learn to accept the blame and consequences always are the ones’ to be respected. This is applicable irrespective of whether one is an individual contributor or a team leader.

10. Never give up at work and in life : The best will always bounce back. Have we ever seen a great sportsperson give up in a game before the final whistle is blown. Similarly in life, one has to keep trying till one succeeds. The journey to success is interspersed with failures. Sometimes failures teach you more valuable lessons than success.

All the best

S Ramesh Shankar

16th March 2019

Experience teaches you…

You realise it only when you experience it. How many times do we dread advice when we find it impractical in life. Almost every time someone gives you some advice, which you think is not realistic and have not experienced it.

I can recall this experience again and again since my childhood. I remember as a child many times my parents and other elders have given me advice which was unpalatable to me. It could be as simple as not to climb a tree as I could break my bones or as serious as not studying well will land me on the streets with no gainful employment.

Every time I felt their advise was either unsolicited or not empathetic. I felt they could not understand the joys of a kid. However, as you grow up you realise that much of their advise was valuable as you experience the effects of not following many of them in your life in real.

This trend was experienced in school and college as a student too. When a teacher advised you to do something or not do something, you desisted it. You felt they unnecessarily interfered in your personal life without really understanding you. But later in life you feel that you wish you had listened to them as you see the pitfalls of non-adherence.

Then you move to the work place and the scene is not very different. Your manager tends to impose his views on you and you feel as if he is breathing down your neck. He seems to be always telling you what to do in every step of your work life. You feel as if you are missing the freedom at work. Then as you grow and become a manager yourself you realise that you need to guide your juniors. When your juniors resist your close supervision you realise you have gone through the same.

Even in the family space we experience this phenomenon. As an adult we do not like advice from our parents. Then as a spouse we feel our partner interferes in our life and many a time tests our patience. We realise this only when we grow into a parent and our child feels the same way. Similarly, when our spouse behaves the same way we do and we do not like it we realise the fallacies of our ill behaviour.

In life, we realise that experience is the best teacher. We also realise it only when we ourselves experience it. It is easy to give advise to others but difficult to accept the same from others. We learn the difference between good and bad advise only when we go through it ourselves.

As in the photo above, we will listen to the advise of even Bhagwan Mahaveer only when we experience a challenge in life and not otherwise.

Experience is one of the best teachers in life.

S Ramesh Shankar

10th June 2020

Expressions…

“Face is the index of the mind” is an an old saying. It is more than true. There is a lot of research to confirm that more than 70% of human communication happens through non verbal means. This means our expressions speak more than our words.

The best opportunity to learn from expressions is from the kids. They can express the entire spectrum of emotions of the human kind in more ways than one. None of us need to learn to speak to a child to understand their emotions. However, as we grow up we tend to forget to express ourselves

Alternatively, we are conditioned by the environment around us and our own belief systems that expressing oneself is immature or childish. In my view, this may be the beginning of the end of joy in our lives. A child emotes without any reason. Children express in every way they can. Emoting oneself appropriately not only may secrete good hormones in the body but keeps you happy always.

If we look back, our childhood was the best period of our lives, when we unconditionally expressed ourselves. As we grow into an adolescent , we tend to restrain ourselves, which then results in rebellious behaviour. Growing into an adult we stop emoting altogether. We think it is not mature enough to share our emotions with others.

The “adult” in us over rules the child. Every time we feel like laughing, crying or screaming, we regulate our behaviour to try to do the opposite. This may sometimes end up in awkward reactions in different situations. For eg. we may laugh when we are supposed to cry or the other way around. This is because the world around us conditions us on what is right and what is wrong.

The right and wrong emotions are not determined by our heart as it should normally be but how people react around us. If people may laugh at our crying, then we do not. If someone objects to our laughing we tend it to keep it ourselves.

We need to challenge ourselves. We need to live our emotions the way we want to. People who emote unconditionally are the people who have no blood pressure. If we forget to share our emotions, we may forget to cry, laugh or get angry.

If we condition ourselves too much, we may to tend to contradict ourselves. Our emotions will not reflect our true feeling inside. This may be easily be misunderstood and we may end up in conflicts with others around us.

It is time to rekindle the child in us. It is time to express ourselves the way we want to. Let us not be be guided by the reactions of others. Let us be guided by our own gut feelings. We need to learn to be true to ourselves. This may be the best way to live life fully.

Let us interact with children around us and learn from them. It is never too late to learn. Every child can teach us to live life the way we need to live. So what if we have forgotten the basics of life. It is time to look back to move forward sometimes.

Let us learn to express ourselves.

S Ramesh Shankar

15th Oct 2020

Blame the world

One of my seniors taught me early in my career that I should speak in “first person singular” and encourage others to do so. When he first told me so, I was perplexed as to why he was saying this. It took me sometime to digest this simple message and then internalise it.

His advise was that I should take responsibility for what I am saying and doing and hence I should speak in first person singular and never in third person. We generally tend to speak in third person and blame the world for all the wrongs we have done or are experiencing in life.

If we look a bit within, we realise that we need to take responsibility for our lives and cannot blame the world for our state of affairs. While it may be difficult to understand and assimilate this simple axiom in life, it is worth learning it as we go along in our life and career.

Today I strongly believe that my state of affairs are all because of my actions or in-actions as the case may be. If I am successful in life, I can take the credit for my hard work apart from a bit of luck favouring me. If I fail, I equally have to take the blame and not pass it on to anyone else around me.

In organisations, it is quite common to see many leaders taking the credit for their team’s success and blaming their team members for their failure. A true leader will always do the other way around. She or he will take the blame for the team’s failure and credit the success to the team.

Another interesting dimension in the organisational context is to enable employees to speak for themselves. I also learnt this simple truth from one of my seniors. He had told me that we need to encourage employees to speak for themselves. Let them come to us and ask a hundred times -“ Why I cannot be promoted ? “ or “Why my increment is low ?” . This is fine and should be encouraged. However, the moment they ask “Why I cannot be promoted when X has been promoted ?”, they should be reprimanded. We need to tell them that they have every right to speak for themselves and not for others. When they speak for others, it is gossip and that needs to be discouraged. This is the culture building in organisations. It was an invaluable lesson in my career.

This simple truth can be extended to family and life in general. We need to encourage our children to come to us and complain about issues they face themselves and not about others. The moment we are able to establish and internalise this simple truth, our life will be happier and it will be easy to deal with issues both within the family and in society in general.

We can extend this simple principle to states and even nations at large. Every state can ask the centre as to why they have got less allocation of funds or why they have not got more central projects etc ? The moment a state compares itself with another state and then demands more grants etc, it needs to be pulled up.

Life is all about taking responsibility. We need to take full ownership for our lives and be accountable for the efforts and the results will follow. If we blame the world for our failures, nobody is going to listen to us and we will continue to be a failure in life.

As in the photo above, I need to take responsibility for not only how I look but for all my actions.

Let me resolve today that I take responsibility for my life and cannot blame the world or anyone else for my success and failure.

S Ramesh Shankar

29th April 2020

The sound of the river

Siruvani river

I came for a short break to Anaikatti on the outskirts of Coimbatore bordering Kerala. I did not realise that the resort I was booked was on the banks of the river Siruvani.

On reaching this place, I got a room facing the river. This is not only scenic but the gurgling sound of the flowing river soothes your mind, body and soul. You forget the material world around you and sink into the soulfulness of nature.

It is green all around you surrounded by coconut and arecanut trees. As you watch the river from your room, you feel a sense of calm. It flows steadily and without any catalyst. This made me think why we need a push all the time in our life.

A river can possibly teach us a lot of life lessons. First and foremost it goes around its business without any fuss. It flows through the hills, forests and plains and does not look at stones, girders or hills as obstacles on the way. It considers flowing through them as part of its journey to reach its destination.

The crystal clear water of the river signifies that we can be pure at heart even if we are surrounded by people we may not adore. Most of us throw all trash into the river as it flows by but the river purifies itself and flows clear along its way. It not only provides water for drinking, bathing and other ablutions, it also cools the environment around it as it passes through its way forward.

A river never stops on its way. Have we ever heard of a river, which stops mid way. Never. It surmounts all the obstacles on the way and moves forward all the time. We get immersed in life and get drowned and pulled down by obstacles. We wonder whom to blame for all the things going wrong in our lives.

A river shares its resources without expecting anything in return. It provides water for drinking, transport, washing and many other uses and does not expect us to pay back. On the other hand, we as humans expect more in return even for the smallest service we provide to others. It’s time to learn to be selfless from the rivers.

As the river flows down its path and merges into a bigger river or into the sea, it does not cling to its identity. It is willing to give up its name and fame as it merges into its final destination. We as humans are not willing to subsume our ego for the larger good of society. “I” is the centre of everything we do and we want to take credit even for things we may not have contributed much in life.

I was fascinated by the qualities of the river flowing in front of me. It taught me invaluable lessons of moving on without blaming obstacles on the way, sharing resources selflessly and working for the larger good of society by subsuming our egos.

It is time to reflect and learn from the rivers around us.

S Ramesh Shankar

5th March 2020

Trinity of Life

The mind, body and soul could be called the “Trinity of Life”. If mind denotes the intellect, the body reflects the struggles of life and the soul is the beating of our heart. Life is a balance of all the three and we need to find ways and means of balancing the mind, body and soul.

I have heard different interpretations of the “Trinity of life”. I am neither a philosopher nor claim to have knowledge of philosophy to write on this subject. However, I would like to relate my experiences of life and how I could or could not balance the three.

Some call it -Heart, Mind and Soul and some others term them as – Mind, body and intellect. It does not matter to me how we classify this trinity. What matters to me is how do we balance them in our day to day life.

Let me start with friendship. A true friend is one with whom you can connect with mind, body and soul. Your thoughts are similar and so are your feelings. You enjoy each others physical company but even if you do not meet for ages, you still love each other forever.

The second dimension of understanding this trinity is work. If our work helps us balance this trinity, we enjoy our work and it becomes a passion. On the other hand if we don’t, then the mind refuses to cooperate and although the body goes through the motions, the soul is missing at work.

In my view, life is all about mind, body and soul. In everything and anything we do, if we find that the synchronisation of the three is missing, we may like to challenge ourselves. On the other hand, when it works like a symphony, we enjoy the process. Let me illustrate with an example. I enjoy driving and especially long drives. So if you ask me to drive for ten hours non stop I will still enjoy it. My mind may be tired and my body may feel the heat but my soul will keep me going since I enjoy it and it will balance my body and mind to keep going.

On the other hand, if you ask me to go on a treadmill every day to exercise, my body may still do it but my mind and soul does not enjoy it and hence will not give me any joy. In this case, while my body may be willing for the physical stress, my mind and soul will not cooperate.

It is true for everything we do in life. If there is a symphony of the mind, body and soul, we enjoy doing it and if there isn’t we do it against our wishes. So it is easy to know the difference. We need to ask ourselves this question whenever we want to take up something new. Are our mind, body and soul in sync ? If the answer is yes, go ahead, if it is no, give it up. You may not get the answer instantly. In some cases, it may take days, months or even years. But, it may be a good idea to listen to it whenever you hear it.

Each of us as humans are different and unique. Our needs, wants and desires are different. Our minds, bodies and souls are also different. So each of us will have a different symphony in life. Some may like western classical and others Indian Carnatic. Some may want fusion and others Hindustani classical. It does not matter as long as it is soothing to your ears.

It is time to find our own ways of synchronising our mind, body and soul in life.

S Ramesh Shankar

5th March 2020

Changing world of HR – Hire to Retire

When I started my career, we joined organisations where we could spend our lifetime and retire. Now, the scene has completely transformed. Nobody joins an organisation with the intent to retire from the same. People join organisations to propel their career as a launch pad.

In this context, the world of HR has transformed too. It has changed from “Hire to Retire”. Let us look at each phase of the employee life cycle and understand how the role of HR has changed over time.

Let us start at the recruitment stage. In most organisations, campus recruitment used to be the main source of recruitment since people joined and retired. Now, recruitment happens at all career steps of the organisation. Earlier it was a pen a paper process of recruitment. Now it is digital. We recruit through portals, apps and even social media. So the world of recruitment has completely transformed.

If we move to Induction and placement, most organisations do not have the luxury of time to induct an employee and in most cases the employee joins for a role and is not keen on the organisation deciding on which place you have to place the person.

If we move to learning and development, the concept of classroom training has given way to everywhere learning. This means that learning can be enabled in all forms. It could be e learning, app based learning, podcasts, videos or webinar’s. It could be supplemented by class room learning where it is absolutely necessary. The onus of training has gradually moved from the organisation to the individual. Organisations enable individuals to learn from all mediums possible and from everywhere.

If we move to performance management, the concept of yearly target setting, annual performance review are yore of the past. It is possibly monthly goals and could turn to weekly or daily ones in the near future and ongoing performance reviews. The concept of annual appraisal and salary reviews could be replaced by ongoing reviews and salary corrections linked to dynamics of the market place.

Employee engagement is stratified and targeted at different segments for maximum impact. It is no longer a one feed for all. It is an ongoing process and looks at retention more than engagement. Loyalty is no longer a virtue and attrition is no taboo to organisations.

Rewards and recognition is also not necessarily monetary. It is a mix of financial and non financial incentives. The schemes are also designed to suit the different generations and different segments of employees in the organisation. For eg, while the aged population may be happy with long term incentive, the youngsters prefer instant gratification.

The exit management process has also radically changed. Earlier organisations had a structured concept of exit interviews to understand why employees are leaving so that they can learn from such exits and improve their processes and system to retain employees better in the future. Now it is managed instantly. Just like appointments are made through social media, exits are announced through social media too. Both individuals and organisations are treating employees as tradeale commodities and it seems working although I am not sure how sustainable this model is going to be.

The world has changed and so has HR. It may be time to challenge some of these changes and adapt to many of them. While it is desirable to change with times, it may be useful to check if it syncs with organisational values from time to time.

Time to check is now.

S Ramesh Shankar

3rd June 2020