Talent, aspirations & opportunities

Today there seems to be a mismatch between the talent in the market, their aspirations and the opportunities. The millennials of today are not keen on a 9 to 5 job. They want to pursue their passion cutting across organisational boundaries. While organisations may offer routine jobs, their aspirations may never be met.

What do we do in such a divergent environment ? While opportunities in the environment may change as per demands of the industry and the market, the aspirations of the next generation needs to be understood to be met.

Permanent employees may be a thing of the past in industry. We are moving towards a gig economy. This means jobs may be split and people may be available part time to share their knowledge and skills on a contractual basis. There will be neither permanent jobs nor permanent people in organisations.

Everything will be in a state of flux and change. While jobs will appear and disappear at frequent intervals, people may also keep changing their jobs and organisations as per their current aspirational needs. Thus aspirations will also keep changing with time. Nobody is going to stick to a particular organisation or profession for life.

A friend of mine was sharing with me that post his retirement after a long and illustrious career he was pursuing painting as his hobby. A few months later he informed me that painting was passé and now he was writing a novel. The aspirations of the millennials of tomorrow will be somewhat similar. It may change many times a year rather than even once in a few years.

Organisations have to redefine jobs to match these transcending aspirations. There has to be a market place for opportunities and aspirations to match. The cycle time for change will be frequent. This has to be managed through automation and artificial intelligence. It looks like there will be nothing permanent in life.

Even the personal lives of the future talent will be different. Family and marriage as institutions may fade away. The boundaries of a nuclear family may give way to living in partnerships as per mutual convenience. Marriage may no longer be a social pre requisite to have children and hence may disappear.

Organisations have to spend a lot of time and money to understand the aspirations of this generation. Sociologists and Anthropologists may play an active role in redefining roles and matching aspirations of the future talent. Thus organisational boundaries may fade away. Talent may work in multiple organisations as per their interests and time availability.

The talents today are like the balloons in the photo above.  Multi varied and with different and needs.  We need to create an environment where every talent blooms.

A new era where there will seem a dynamic relationship between opportunities, aspirations and availability of talent. Organisations which are flexible enough to match these changing trends will be successful in the market place. Organisations which continue with rigid job definitions may fade sooner than realise.

Flexibility may be the key to success.

S Ramesh Shankar

9th September 2018

Tiffin carriers

The tiffin carrier has been a symbol of many things over time. The basic purpose of a tiffin carrier may have been only to carry food for consumption when you are hungry during any time of the day as you prefer.

However, over a period of time the same tiffin carrier has symbolised different things to different people. The oldest known utilisation of the tiffin carrier was the media of communication between two people. It could have been an innocuous message from a mother to her child or a wife to her hubby.

It later transformed as a messenger service in the pre-digital age. Romantic lovers used the tiffin carrier as an innovative medium of communication, which was indirect and at the same time kept the novelty and inquisitiveness alive at all times. They were used to sending slips inserted in tiffin boxes to their beloved partner.This helped many young couples bond relationships while may have also split a few of them due to mis-communication in the process.

Nowadays tiffin carriers have become popular again and used extensively by food carrier apps and also food delivery services in metro cities for dual career couples. The purpose could be ensuring timely delivery of food apart from saving a lot of valuable time for the working couples, students and single men and women.

What amuses me most is the use of the tiffin carrier to carry food for your family members after you attend a marriage or ceremony in a friend or relative’s home. People nowadays tend to carry food for people back home after they have had a sumptuous meal in a ceremony they have been invited to.

I have nothing against having a grand meal. But it may be unfair to carry a tiffin carrier and carry food back home. This will unnecessarily add costs and inconvenience to the host. While it may still be fine to carry food for the elderly or differently abled back home, it may be better to do the same from a restaurant rather than from a party you are invited to.

Tiffin carriers are also used to send messages of errands. Parents request their children to buy some food, groceries or medicines for them. It could a be reminder to pay phone or utility bills. Thus the tiffin carrier may have been used for multiple purposes over time.

The most interesting story of tiffin carriers is that related to the “Dabbawallahs” ( tiffin carrying men) of Mumbai. This may have started many decades ago when hygienic food was not available in or near offices and factories. So, employees got tiffin from their homes and thus Dabbawallahs evolved this service.

In this service, Dabbawallahs carry tiffin from each home in a bag and code them using a color and keep them in trolleys. They are then hailed in bicycles to the nearest suburban station. It travels by trains to the nearest station of the office. Then gets re-distributed and again hailed in bicycles to the workplace of the employee. The return journey of the tiffin is similar.

These Dabbawallahs have provided a six sigma quality of service to their customers over decades. Their process is simple and there are practically no wrong deliveries. They could provide a living example to organisations of today and beat the artificial intelligence and robotics of tomorrow.

Long live the Tiffin Carrier.

S Ramesh Shankar

12th September 2018

“Sayli”Sportsmanship

Sayli Kamble

I was watching a music reality show on TV. The best singer in my perception was singing and while delivering one of the best ghazals of all time faltered and forgot his lines. One of his co participants, who is his competitor vying for the same title, sang the line and encouraged him to complete the song. I salute this girl Sayli and her parents for inculcating such a wonderful value in their child.

Sayili is a young girl from the Chunnabati area of Mumbai. Her father is a ambulance driver and mother a home maker. Their only child is competing along with others in this contest. When a competitor of yours, who is a favourite to win the title falters, it can be music to your ears. Most of us as competitors would have rejoiced at such an instance. But here is a girl in her early twenties competing fiercely but demonstrated humanity in action. This is true sportsman spirit in any game.

The game of life is no different. We may compete with our classmates in class in academics or sports. We may not win always but we have a chance to win their hearts through our actions. Imagine helping the captain of the opposition team on the field when he is injured. Imagine taking a neighbour to the hospital when he is in distress even though he has harmed you more than helped you in normal times.

Each one of us would have gone through different moments in life when we would have been betrayed by a friend , relative or neighbour. We may never feel like forgiving them leave alone help them in trying times of theirs. But just think of the impact you can make on another human being if you can be good to them even though you lose more than you gain in that process.

Today I was touched by this incident. I had tears in my eyes when I saw it live on TV. The Benefactor was equally magnanimous. After his performance when Sayili approached him, he hugged her in gratitude and so he did with all other co participants.

We can learn such beautiful life lessons from such incidents in real life. It is the behaviours like these, which can win hearts of other human beings. Neither money nor fame can win you accolades as much as such acts of service without any expectations. I should confess that many of us including me may not have the generosity to help a competitor in real life, when he is in distress.

I would say this is God in human form. It is like the millions of common women and men who helped millions of other people in distress during this pandemic. I was reading about a middle class housewife who was in distress and was desperate to get admitted to a hospital. A taxi driver whom she hired to reach the nearest hospital went from one hospital to another and ultimately got her admitted and saved her life. He did not even leave his mobile number with her since he served human kind without any expectations in return.

I see God in human form in such acts of humanity.

I salute Sayili and her kind of young girls and boys today. Proud to live in a country, where such values are being inculcated by parents in their children.

Salute to Sayili and her wonderful parents.

S Ramesh Shankar

18th July 2021

If we are nice to people, they will be nice to us…

Today morning I was meeting a guest at work in a common meeting room. I had booked it from 830 to 0900 hrs only. My meeting spilled over and the receptionist at our office promptly and politely reminded me to vacate the room as the participants for the next meeting were waiting.

I realised that I had over stepped my time and apologised for the same and vacated the room as requested. As we came out and sat in the lobby to conclude our meeting, the receptionist told us that we can continue and conclude our meeting in the same room. When I enquired what happened to the other meeting, she told me that she had arranged an alternate discussion room for them.

I wondered why it happened . On reflection, I realised that every day when I pass through the reception I wish them and return back their gleaming smile. I try to be polite to them always. So, today I realised that if I am nice to people around me, they always try to be nice to me.

It may appear a simple thing in life but difficult to practise. All of us want to be good to others all the time but the circumstances make us vulnerable many a time. Imagine you have parked your car in a no parking zone and on your return you see a cop placing a fine on you. What do we do – we say we were not aware that it was a no parking zone. We go further and justify stating we had parked only for a few minutes. In the end when fined, we lose our patience. Was it our fault of parking in a banned zone or the cop’s mistake of rightly fining us.

At work, we behave no different. We keep rescheduling meetings as per our convenience and changing priorities. When someone does not attend a meeting on a rescheduled date and time, we express our displeasure. We forget that we had rescheduled, postponed and advanced the same meeting five times to suit our convenience without checking on the convenience of our team members. We were not nice to our team members’ convenience but we expect them to be nice and adjust to our convenience all the time.

We expect our bosses to adjust when we fall sick all of a sudden. But when a similar things happens to any of our team members we preach the importance of maintaining good health and the criticality of work on those days when our colleague is sick.

We are equally belligerent at home. We do not bother to wish the security guards in our homes when we pass by them every day. On the contrary, we expect them to salute us and wish us every single time we pass through the main gate of our campus. Is this fair ? If we do not have the courtesy to treat security guards and our maids as human beings, can we expect them to treat us humanly ?

One of the drivers at my workplace who is a diabetic told me that one day his lunch break was delayed and he requested his boss for a 15 minutes break so that he could quickly have a bite. His boss not only denied him the break but also made him feel small by asking how he could ask for a break when he was so busy at work that day. His boss was possibly not even aware that his driver was a diabetic.

My learning in life is that if we expect our family, friends or colleagues to be nice to us, we need to learn to be nice to them. If we treat our servants, drivers, security guards etc humanely, they will reciprocate humanness with equal measure.

As in the photo above, our security staff took care of us 24×7 even beyond their call of duty since we treated them with respect.

Lets learn to be nice, if we want others to be nice to us.

S Ramesh Shankar

5th September 2018

Life in a digital world

Our life has transformed as we transition from an analog to a digital world. We are connected 24 x 7 through technology. Apart from connected devices, cloud computing and artificial intelligence, our world seems digitised in more ways than one.

We get up with an alarm from an AI digital assistant and end the day listening to music on an app. The time in between getting up and sleep is digitally controlled. We look at the news app more than the newspaper for our news update. We book a cab using a hailing app rather than the traditional black and yellow cab at the taxi stand.

Our breakfast may be pre-cooked in the microwave using a pre-programmed instruction through AI. Then as we proceed to work in a cab, we clear our pending emails on the mobile. Our connected watch may remind us of the appointments in the calendar.

As we enter office, the digital board at the entrance reminds us of the key happenings at work. Then the laptop or tablet is the enabler at work for emails, conferences and scheduling the day.

We use our mobile again to book a quick lunch through a food hailing app as we have no time to have a sumptuous lunch at the canteen chatting with colleagues at work. The day zips past as if it is less than 9 hours at work. We are busy interacting only with our mobile phone and laptop and do not have the time even to wish our colleagues at work.

Our workplace has transformed due to the impact of digitalisation. The business planning cycles have shrunk from years to months and now weeks. The workplace has transformed into spending more time with laptops and machines rather than people around us.

The business models are getting disrupted. Technology like artificial intelligence, data analytics, cloud computing etc are changing the way we think and respond to our customers. The response times have dramatically changed and the so has our definition of competition.

Which is our market ? Who are our customers ? Who are our competitors ? Every thing is changing. The speed of change is faster than the change itself. What we think as impossible today becomes a reality tomorrow. Our customers and competitors are getting redefined in every way.

Then as we return home in the evening, we are busy on social media to wish friends and relatives for their birthdays, anniversaries and promotions. We neither have the information in our memory nor the time to wish anyone in person. Sometimes we end up wishing our own family members only on social media although we may stay together at home.

We then reach home and are busy on our mobile or tablet to look at movies, sitcoms or games to relieve ourselves of all the stress and strain of the day. We are oblivious of all our family members around us at home and do not have time or the energy to even talk to them or listen to their stories.

Life seems hectic in every way possible. We seem to be racing against time always. Technology seems to make us lonely and less emotional in all our relationships. We do not seem to know our neighbours at home nor our colleagues at work except by email ids and social media identities.

How can organisations help individuals cope with such a stressful life ? Helping employees balance life and work is possible in many ways . Some of initiatives at organisational level in this direction have been :

– 24 x 7 free counselling services for employees and their family members

– Healthy break ( exercise for 3 minutes) twice a day at work

– Programmes like “Fit for life” & Enrich your life” for different employee segments

– Health and wellness interventions at the workplace

– Flexibility of working hours and work from home policy

– Sabbatical & Volunteering leave

I sometimes wonder whether such a life is worth it. I am not sure. If I look back at my own life, I had all the time in the world in the past. I was never in a hurry at home or at work. I always remembered the telephone numbers of all my family members and friends in my brain memory. I never forgot to wish friends, family or colleagues at work on their birthdays or anniversaries.

Today I wonder if technology has enabled me or disabled me to be a good human being. May be it is unfair for me to blame technology for my current state. I may be more to blame than the digital technology around me. Instead of managing technology to my benefit, I have allowed technology to rule my life.

It is time to challenge ourselves. Digital technology has been invented to make our life better and more comfortable. It is up to us to use technology effectively. Let us learn to attach and detach from technology as we think it is appropriate. Let us not end up in a health centre for digital detoxification.

Th GPS in the car is very useful to guide you to your destination as in the photo above. It can take you to any place on earth without any knowledge of the route.

Time to digitally attach or detach is now.

S Ramesh Shankar

24th October 2018

Customer First, Employee Always

Our Customer pays our salary – every employee needs to understand this reality. This a bitter truth that many of us do not realise as the organisation grows and our brand matures in the market. We had a similar experience and hence launched a Customer first programme in our organisation. The objective of the programme was to keep our “Customers” in the centre of everything we do within the organisation.

We evolved five modules in this organisational intervention. They were Customer Intimacy, Customer First Culture, Reliable Execution, Service Excellence & Lean Processes. Each of the modules was led by a leadership team member and supported by a team. This led to our Customer Engagement scores more than trebling in 3 years. We focussed back on the customer within the organisation.

Now that the customer centricity was established, we shifted our focus to employees. We realised that while it is critical to focus on customers, it is equally important to keep employees highly engaged. It is true that if we treat employees well, they in turn would ensure that customers are happy always.

We launched an intervention and called it “People Matter”. We had a long tradition of training and certifying our project managers using global processes and standards. We took a leaf out of this experience and decided that we will train all our people managers and then certify them through a three stage process.

We identified a professional external partner and then trained more than 800 people managers and certified them. All of them went through a two day class room training. They they had to work out an action plan in three people management areas impacting their team and submit it. Then they had to implement their ideas and a feedback was taken from their team on their leadership style. This was followed by implementation and a follow up feedback from their team members to measure impact of their actions.

We found a cultural transformation permeating the entire organisation. I got phone calls, emails and personal feedback whenever I visited locations from team members. Many of them were positively surprised at the changes in their manager’s behaviour. It appeared that the program was making a impact in changing leadership behaviours.

We shared the best practices of various people managers across the organisation through newsletters and other communication channels. We invited the best people managers, who scored the highest to our annual business conference and enabled them to share their experience with the rest of the people managers.

The journey has just begun. We have supported this initiative by empowering people managers to decide the increments and promotions of their team members. We encouraged them to reward and recognise their team members in innovative ways. All new initiatives in the organisation were channelled through these people managers.

Great companies  believe that if they take care of their employees, they will take care of their customers as in the photo above.

Hence, customer first, employee always.

S Ramesh Shankar

25th August 2018

Everything cannot be valued in money terms…

Everything in life cannot be valued in money terms. I remember way back in 1987 I was buying a second hand car. My friends and well wishers cautioned me that it was not a good return on investment. It may be true in financial terms especially when interest rates were in double digits. But buying a car or a house is a quasi emotional and quasi logical decision.

Similarly in 2008 I was selling a flat in Gurgoan and my well wishers cautioned me that it was not the right time to sell. The markets were down and I could wait for some more time for getting a better yield. This also may be true. But my decision to buy or sell or a flat is also a quasi logical one.

In life, there are many decisions we take by emotion and then apply logic to justify it. I prefer to go that way. If you love something in life, one should go ahead and do it. If you are guided by return on investment or logic, life may be become worthless. I love photography and videography. I may have bought a dozen cameras in my life. This definitely cannot justify financial or logical reasoning. But the joy it gives me, no money can.

I remember in 2011, I ended up buying a car of my choice. It was an expensive one and many of my well wishers were not supportive of my decision. They may be right logically but my decision was quasi emotional. I love driving and wanted to enjoy life driving a car of my choice. Money saved in a bank or mutual fund can never give me this joy.

I am not for one recommending that we should end up squandering money on worthless things in life. I am only saying that sometimes we decide based on gut and this is fine. After all life is full of emotions. If something in life gives us joy, we should go for it without thinking too much about it.

The moment we try to apply logic and reasoning to everything in life, we may stop enjoying life. Imagine someone working out a return on investment before buying a pet dog. Can you value the love a dog bestows on you as a human being ? We have to remember that everything in life cannot be monetised.

I have lived my life in my own terms. One important learning of course has been to enjoy life without being indebted. We should not end up buying a luxury car or home if we cannot afford to buy it at a particular stage of life. It is better to wait for the right time and buy it rather than trying to enjoy life on borrowed money.

I remember there were many things I yearned to have but could not afford. So, I waited till the day I could afford to buy. One cannot justify buying things stating life is to enjoy if if it goes beyond your means at that point. Yes, we need to enjoy life within our means. We need not justify to anyone what we are buying as long as we can live within our means and love having it.

As in the photo above, the joy of having lemon juice in a road side shop and having a heart to heart chat with the vendor has to be experienced to be believed.

Let us learn to enjoy life our own way.

S Ramesh Shankar

9th September 2018

Monetising Relationships ?

Do we build relationships based on the monetary value of the person we are relating to ? It looks like that today. Whether within the family or with other friends, colleagues and relatives, we seem to build relationships based on our perceived value of the other person in economic terms.

It may not be true for all relationships but is increasingly becoming a trend. It is sad but is a stark reality in today’s material world. Relationships are meant to be unconditional and based on love and mutual respect. But today, we tend to measure the worth of a person only in money terms.

I do agree that this is not yet a universal truth. But I sometimes wonder why is it increasingly becoming the truth rather than an exception. It may be because of our materialistic instincts. We are increasingly valuing life in material terms.

We spend our whole life time accumulating wealth. There may be nothing wrong if it is done the ethical way. However, the danger is when wealth becomes the barometer for valuing relationships. How can one value your parents, siblings, colleagues or friends in monetary terms ?

We hear stories every day in the newspapers where parents are suing their children or the other way around. We see siblings filing cases against each other over property matters. Everything ultimately appears to be valued only in money terms. Children not caring for their parents or parents throwing away their kids from home.

All this leads to the basic question – how do we value relationships ? In my view relationships are to be based on love, respect or gratitude. I cannot imagine any relationship which is based on wealth. The moment love, respect or gratitude is missing in a relationship, it is bound to break or turn sour.

We need to realise that life is short and we need to make it sweet. We need to build relationships based on unconditionality. The moment we relate to someone with an ulterior motive, it is bound to fail. Relationships have to be natural to blossom and prosper.

In the past, we have heard of relationships which have survived generations. We have heard of businesses run based on mutual trust with no formal contract or agreement between partners. We have heard of life long partnership between friends, relatives and colleagues. This means all this possible and even prevalent today. It only means that we need to make it happen.

The day we build relationships based on mutual respect and unconditional love, it is bound to prosper. The day we are willing to contribute more than we get without any expectations in return, it is likely to succeed. Success or failure in a relationship is based on the unconditionality in that partnership.

All religions have taught us to respect the person and not their possessions. We seem to be carried away by valuing the wealth of a person rather than the love they shower on us. The day we respect the other person and love them rather than their financial position, we value the person and not their materiality.

I am happy that my relationship with my spouse has been unconditional and we liked each other irrespective of our material possessions, at every stage of our life.

Let us resolve to demonetise Relationships forever.

S Ramesh Shankar

2nd September 2018

Rituals in our lives…

Most of us have been following many rituals from our childhood without even knowing the reasons for following them. We follow rituals because our forefathers handed them over to our parents or elders and we inherited them.

A ritual is an action determined by tradition more than any other reason. It may or may not have any religious connotation. It could be like fasting during solar or lunar eclipses or even during certain festivals amongst some religious groups. Rituals go beyond religion too.

I am aware of some rituals, which are followed by individuals cutting across different faiths in India. It is like determining the auspicious time to inaugurate a new venture. Even the date and time to admit a child to a school. This gets more entrenched as it turns out to be lucky for some in their actions.

I have nothing against rituals. In my view it is each individual’s personal preference. What I am against is when a society tries to impose its rituals on everyone irrespective of their personal preferences. We recently had some controversies when the highest court of the land ordered that men and women have equal right to visit religious places. I fully support this view.

I cannot understand how religion can prevent a man or a woman to visit a religious place of his or her choice. I am aware that some religions prohibit women to enter religious places. I am against such religious dictates too. No religion should prevent a human being to enter a religious place of their choice.

I do agree that sometimes rituals were designed to discipline human beings. For eg., washing of hands before having a meal may be considered a ritual but it is more for hygiene rather than a ritual. Similarly washing of legs before entering a place of worship may have been prescribed more for hygiene than for ritualistic belief.

On the other hand, women not being allowed to a funeral ground to pay their last respects to their elders may be a ritual with no scientific basis. I am not even questioning anyone’s right to follow a ritual. What I am against is making it compulsory for someone against their wishes.

Every ritual will have a story. Many of the rituals may also have a scientific reason behind it. So, it may be unfair to say that all rituals are blind faith. My belief is that every human being is capable of making a choice. If the individual chooses to follow a ritual, so be it. If they do not want to follow it, let us respect that too.

As in the photo above, I learnt pranayama almost five decades back, but considered it a ritual those days as a child, while now I think it is a good breathing exercise for my wellness.

Every one of us learn rituals from our family, friends or society. Even organisations have rituals, which get embedded in the minds of their employees over time. Let us allow the individual to have the liberty to choose their rituals. No individual, family, community or organisation has a right to impose it on the individual.

Let human beings individually choose their rituals and not the other way around.

S Ramesh Shankar

1st September 2018

Suspense !

Life is a suspense. It is like a mystery story that unfolds itself in the least expected way. We may be expecting a bad news and it turns out as the best day in our life. On the other hand, when we have worked very hard and expect good results in our examinations, we are disappointed with a poor result.

There are many ways to deal with this suspense in life. While most of us accept it as destiny or fate, some of us find it difficult to deal with the uncertainties of life. Some of us take it in our stride and move on. While others get bogged down and find it difficult to handle.

It may be useful to view life like we see a suspense movie. We are not sure of the next scene and hence we prepare ourselves for whatever may come in the next few hours we are in a cinema. It may be worthwhile to face life in a similar way. We can be sure of the past but not of the future. It may be useful to put in our best efforts and be ready for whatever comes our way.

Some may say it is easier to write about it than to deal with it in reality. Yes, it is true that writing about life is simpler than facing it in reality. However, there could be a way of preparing for the realities of life. In my view, life is full of choices. When something good happens we are happy and spread joy. When something untoward happens we are sad and share our grief with our near and dear.

It is all about our attitude to life. If we believe that life is a mix of the good and the bad, we may be better prepared to deal with it. If we believe that we are the only one to face all crises in life, we may be mistaken. It may be worthwhile to compare ourselves with people who are less privileged than us. Life is similar to all of us. Some have a longer period of joy as compared to others. However, when grief strikes, it also does not seem to end for some in their lives.

Life is a suspense like the difference between someone who is sad and someone else who is depressed. We can easily recognise someone who is sad because they express their grief on their face. On the other hand, a depressed friend may be laughing at the surface and hiding the sadness within herself. Such is life too.

I am a born optimist and hence would like to look at life only as glass half full. I have gone through the good and bad times in my life. The bad times are difficult to deal with and also seem never ending. It is here self belief and patience plays a role. We need to believe that something good is round the corner and it is only a matter of time before we benefit from it.

We sometimes cannot believe what life has in store for us. It unfolds itself in the least expected way. It is also not predictable for many of us. Even the astrologers and fortune tellers can predict the past but struggle in forecasting the future. Hence, I would say the best way to deal with the suspense of life is to treat it like a mystery. Let us be ready to deal with it as it comes and prepare ourselves for the best and the worst.

As in the photo above, Life is a suspense like walking in a green forest.  You do not know which moment you will see a beautiful waterfall and which moment you may be confronted by a wild animal.

Life is a suspense. Let it unfold its own way.

S Ramesh Shankar

29th July 2018