Thursday, December 22, 2016

The OD Quest: Part 2 – ‘Doing Recruitment in the OD way’!?

"I don’t have an opening in my OD team now. But, you can join our recruitment team and do recruitment in the OD way”, I heard the Senior HR Leader telling a candidate who was hell-bent on joining the OD team. This was my fifth ‘encounter’ with this gentleman (See 'Passion for work and anasakti ‘, 'Appropriate metaphors for organizational commitment ‘ ,‘To name or not to name, that is the question’ and ‘A Mathematical approach to HR’ for the outcomes of my previous interactions with him). I was a bit taken aback by what I just heard. I knew that often these kind of ‘solutions’ will end in tears or worse. However, similar to what had happened during my previous encounters with him, this interaction forced me to think a bit more deeply about the underlying issue - the application of OD(Organization Development) to the various functional areas in HR (Human Resource Management). That, in turn, has prompted me to write this series of posts on 'The OD Quest' where we will look at the possibilities  that arise when OD ventures into other parts of the people management terrain. 


In the first post in this series (see The OD Quest: Part 1- Mapping the terrain) we did a cartography of the Human Resources (HR) and Organization Development (OD) domains to map out the current world (the terrain) inhabited by HR and OD and also the evolving worldviews in HR and OD (ways of looking at the terrain). Now, let us come back to the statement made by our Senior HR Leader – about ‘doing recruitment in the OD way’.  

Prima facie, OD and Recruitment appear to be ‘strange bedfellows’. Aren’t they at the opposite ends of the spectrum of HR activities in terms of their nature? Isn’t OD supposed to be much more strategic and evolved as compared to Recruitment? Aren’t the skillsets required for OD and Recruitment dramatically different?  However, when I thought about underlying issues a bit more quite a few possibilities started to emerge in addition to paradoxes! The crux of the issue here is ‘What is meant by the OD way?’.  

While OD is typically defined as a planned effort to increase organization effectiveness using behavioral-science knowledge, the domains that are typically associated with OD are Culture, Vision, Mission Values, Employee Engagement, Coaching, Collaboration, Diversity and Inclusion, dealing with hidden issues  and biases etc. Also the traditional OD approach has been that of action research (the process of systematically collecting data about an ongoing system relative to some need of that system, feeding thee data back into the system, taking action by altering selected variables within the system and evaluating the results of actions). Similarly, while recruitment can be defined as the process of bringing the right talent into the organization, the domains that are typically associated with recruitment are Attracting/sourcing talent, Selection, Offer, Joining and Onboarding.

Based on the above descriptions, it can be seen that OD can help in increasing the effectiveness of recruitment in many aspects including the following:

·    Increasing the person-organization fit (culture fit) during the selection process by mapping and evaluating fit on the relevant cultural and personality dimensions. Culture can be considered to be the personality of the organization and the fit of the personality of the candidate with that of the organization is something that is better addressed at the hiring stage as personalities (both individual and organizational) tend to be relatively stable (resistant to change)
 
·    Facilitating enculturation during the onboarding process (enhancing alignment with the organization values, vision and mission)
 
·    Ensuring  greater shared understanding of ‘what good looks like’ and hence avoiding unpleasant surprises

·    Helping in the formation and effective management of the psychological contract during the  recruitment process (see ‘Of salary negotiationsand psychological contact : before joining’  for more details)

·    Solving problems related to the recruitment process like early attrition  (through the action research process mentioned above and by enabling ‘sense making’)

·     Dealing with hidden biases in recruitment and thereby building a more diverse and inclusive organization.

·   Crystallizing the Employee Value Proposition (EVP) that embodies the essence of the organization to attract the right candidates and repel the wrong candidates.

·   Driving ‘bottom up culture change’ by identifying talent with the right ‘cultural DNA’ to be hired into the organization

Now, it can be argued that all these are integral parts of any good recruitment process. May be, that is exactly the point. OD is essentially a helping profession that enables individuals and groups to become more effective. At a fundamental level, OD is essentially about ‘process consulting’  - helping a client system to diagnose and solve their own problems. May be, we can just say that the application of OD makes recruitment better just like ‘sugar sweetens milk’ in the famous story* about Parsis.


Let’s come back to our Senior HR professional. What he was really advocating was to look at recruitment through the OD lens. There is a lot of merit in this. However, the danger in this situation was that the candidate might have interpreted it as a back-door entry into OD or might have inferred that there is a mandate to do a major overhaul of the recruitment process.  

So, where does this leave us? Can Recruitment be done in the OD way?  Yes, and that is just enlightened recruitment using what is considered to be the OD lens and OD skills! With Recruitment moving from 'being more like Procurement' to 'being more like Sales' to 'being more like Marketing', the relevance of the OD lens and the OD skills in Recruitment has definitely increased!

*The story goes something like this.: Parsis came to India fleeing from persecution in their Motherland Iran and landed in Gujarat. There they approached the local king Jadi Rana and requested asylum. Jadi Rana motioned to a vessel of milk filled to the very brim to signify that his kingdom was already full and could not accept refugees. In response, one of the Parsi priests added a pinch of sugar to the milk, thus indicating that they would not bring the vessel to overflowing and indeed make the lives of the citizens sweeter. Jadi Rana gave shelter to the emigrants and permitted them to practice their religion and traditions freely. Parsis are still adding “sugar” to our lives!

Any comments/thoughts?!

Monday, July 18, 2016

The OD Quest : Part 1 - Mapping the terrain!

"I don’t have an opening in my OD team now. But, you can join our recruitment team and do recruitment in the OD way”, I heard the Senior HR Leader telling a candidate who was hell-bent on joining the OD team. This was my fifth ‘encounter’ with this gentleman (See 'Passion for work and anasakti ‘, 'Appropriate metaphors for organizational commitment ‘ ,‘To name or not to name, that is the question’ and ‘A Mathematical approach to HR’ for the outcomes of my previous interactions with him). I was a bit taken aback by what I just heard. I knew that often these kind of ‘solutions’ will end in tears or worse. However, similar to what had happened during my previous encounters with him, this interaction prompted me to think a bit more deeply about the underlying issue - the application of OD(Organization Development) to the various functional areas in HR (Human Resource Management). That, in turn, has promoted me to write this series of posts on 'The OD Quest' where we will look at the possibilities that arise when OD ventures into other parts of the people management terrain. 

In the first post, we will begin by doing some cartography (that is, mapping out the currently known world inhabited by HR and OD). This cartography is not only of the world (terrain). At a more fundamental level, it a also a cartography of the worldviews (ways of looking at the terrain). So we will look at the various 'countries' in the HR world - like Recruitment, Training, Performance Management, Talent Management, Rewards etc. and see what happens when the OD quest reaches those countries. Of course, OD quest will explore the land of OD also,! But we will reach there towards the end of this journey because, as T S Eliot said, "We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."  Of course, as soon as we make some progress with the cartography, we will venture out into the land of recruitment (in the next post in this series)!

To proceed further with our cartography (map making), we need to have some sort of working definitions of HR and OD. This is a difficult task as there are so many definitions. For the purpose of our discussion, we will use the following simplified definitions. Organization Development is a planned effort to increase organization effectiveness using behavioral-science knowledge. OD deals with a total system or with a subsystem in the context of the total system. Human Resource Management is about systems and processes aimed to enable the management of people within an organization so as to maximize employee performance (and engagement) in alignment with the strategic objectives of  the organization (See 'Towards a Philosophy of HR' for a deeper discussion).
So, there is an obvious overlaps in terms of overall objectives. However, when it came to actual tasks, there wasn't much of an  overlap initially, as HR was primarily focused on the basic processes related to people management (like Recruitment, Training, Performance Management, Career Planning, Compensation and Benefits etc.) whereas OD was focused on more 'ethereal' stuff like inter-team and intra-team collaboration, mission/vision/values, culture building, sensitivity training, action research etc. So, HR was mainly a set of regular activities whereas OD was a set of interventions that happened once in a while. But, this has changed quite a lot now.

These days, HR functions in most of the companies are gravitating towards some variation of the Dave Ulrich model with HR Business Partners(HRBPs), Centres of Excellence (CoEs), HR Shared Services etc. The overlap with OD happens mainly in the HRBP roles - especially when they are supposed to be 'Strategic HR Business Partners' (though what they actually end up doing varies considerably - see  'In the wonderland of HR Business Partners' for more details). Outsourcing of transactional activities in HR is also meant to prompt HR to be more strategic (though it might not always work out like that - see 'Nature abhors vacuum' for more details)

OD has also evolved from sensitivity training (in 'stranger groups' outside the organization) to sense-making (in 'intact teams' within the organization). Also, the tradition 'Diagnostic OD' (that used the 'action research' methodology to enable organizations to solve their problems) has been supplemented (not replaced!) by 'Dialogic OD' (that takes the organization reality to be 'socially constructed' and uses 'generative metaphors and images' to shape that reality).

More importantly, the worldviews (of HR and OD) are also converging with HR taking a more 'systemic view' and OD becoming more sensitive to and accountable for the sustainable value added by the OD interventions (as opposed to 'hit and run' OD interventions). Actually, the term 'intervention' no longer seems appropriate for OD work, as OD  work is currently viewed more as a 'dance involving the consultant and the client' as opposed to being some sort of an 'operation' done on (or done to) the client! 
Hence, there is a growing overlap between HR and OD. A more fundamental question is whether OD should be a CoE within HR or a separate function reporting directly to the CEO. There is no clear answer to this. Metaphorically speaking, whether OD is 'a country in the HR Union' or it is a 'completely independent entity' is a political question on which a referendum needs to be called for (again and again)! The first (OD being part of HR) is the more common scenario as of now, though it creates quite a few tricky challenges for both HR and OD (see 'OD Managers and Court Jesters'). One easy solution is to hire OD expertise from outside. But the question will come back to haunt us in another way - who will take the decision on hiring OD expertise- the HR Head or the CEO!

So,how should HR and OD respond to this overlap? Obviously,fighting over the disputed territory (however tempting that might be) is not the most effective solution. To me, one solution is for OD to remain a bit of an 'outsider' so that HR can fully be an 'insider'. Being a bit of an outsider helps the OD professional to be more objective (or at least not to have any vested interests) or even to be a bit provocative when required (see 'OD Managers and Court Jesters'). Being an insider allows HR to be fully part of the solution design and implementation. Of course, this calls for a very high level of mutual trust and respect between HR and OD. Also, remaining as an outsider while being a full member of the organization in all aspects is a very tricky 'tightrope walk' for internal OD consultants! Anyway, OD leveraging its marginality and HR leveraging its centrality to add value to the business seems the best possible solution to me. We must keep in mind that the concept of  'Business-orientation of HR' per se is quite paradoxical!
The above discussion does not complete our cartography. But we have done enough to start our 'OD quest'. It is important to remember that OD can be defined at many the levels (e.g. underlying philosophy and principles, process, tools/techniques, outcomes, skills etc.) and the quest can be done at any/all of these levels. While the story of this quest has been written from the point of view of OD, I have tried very hard not to take sides (I have done both HR and OD roles and I have the highest degree respect for HR professionals - see 'In praise of HR generalists' for more). The objective of the quest is to explore the various domains in HR with the twin objectives of (a) determining what value (if any) can OD add to the domain and (b) figuring out what OD can learn from the domain. Remember, it is a quest and not a conquest!!!
 Any comments/suggestions at this stage before we start our quest (starting with the land of recruitment in the next post)? Please let me know!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Personality Profiling : As simple as two plus two!?

Personality profiling is an evergreen business. Human beings find other human beings difficult to understand. And, those who bother to think about it, find themselves to be even more difficult to understand. So, if there is a 'scientific-looking tool' that can enable us to map ourselves and others into some sort of  predefined categories with 'precise-looking' characteristics and consequences, it reduces our (existential) anxiety and gives us a feeling of being in control. 

Now, there are all kinds of personality profiling tools. Almost every one would claim that their tool is the best (and an unadulterated blessing to mankind) and that the other tools are so seriously flawed that they can corrupt young (and old) minds and even souls! Though the validity and  usefulness of these tools are doubtful, I am very much certain that personality profiling tools can provide amusement and pleasant diversion from the unpleasant realities of work! Since, I have always aspired to be some sort of a 'Corporate Court Jester' (see 'OD Managers and Court Jesters' for details), how can I resist the temptation to jump into the business of personality profiling - at least for comic relief?!

My personal preference is for tools that are more like 'straws in the wind' - simple things that can give an indication regarding the direction of the wind (personality).I also know that when we give people an ambiguous question, people will project their own meanings into it and hence their answers would reveal quite a bit about their personality. Actually, this is similar to what happens in a human process lab where an unstructured situation is deliberately created so that participants will project their 'here and now' reality into it (say, in their attempts to structure the situation) which in turn can serve as a mirror for the underlying feelings and thoughts. All this led to the creation of the 'two plus two' personality profiling tool.

So, what is this '2 + 2' personality profiling tool? 
  • 2+2 profiling aims to highlight some aspects of the occupational personality of the individuals concerned based on how they will answer the question ‘What is two plus two?’
  • 2+2 profile is more of a ‘caricature’ and it is not intended to a ‘portrait’ of the individual
  • 2+2 profiling is intended to be a joke (with a grain of truth)
  • 2+2 profiling won’t work on people who have a mathematical approach to life (See ‘A mathematical approach to HR’ for details).
Since this is a 'caricature' of the personality, directly asking the question "What is two plus two' won't work. If we want to get an interesting answer, we have to ask people to answer the question "What is two plus two?'  in such a way that it reflects some prominent aspect of their occupational personality. However, considering the fact that we are better at making caricatures of others as compared to making caricatures of ourselves (and that many of us are likely to have an overly positive image of ourselves), it might be even better to ask  people to indicate how different members of their team are likely to answer this question in a way that it reflects the most prominent aspect of occupational personality of those team members.

Now let us look at some of the possible answers. Of course, many more are possible!

  1. Why do want to know? Why are you asking me? Who told you that I know the answer? What will you do with this information?
  2. Before we can answering this question, we need to have a detailed discussion on 'What is addition?'
  3. The answer can be 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 or 22 depending on the organization culture!
  4. Both the 2s are my family friends. Let me tell you long stories about my last 4 meetings with them. By the way, since both of them are family friends, it won’t be proper for me to add them!
  5. What do you want the answer to be? You can choose the answer you like and I can help you to convince others that it is the right answer

Is there anything at all that you can infer from the answers about the people involved? Can you think of any modifications to the tool ? What about possible applications for the tool? For example, can we do some sort of a team building activity using this tool? (This could involve asking the team members to write down different answers to the above question so as to highlight key personality characteristics of themselves and of each of the other team members. Then each person can look at the various answers that others have written to highlight his/her personality characteristics and try to infer what could be the underlying personality characteristics. May be, they will learn something useful about themselves or at least about perceptions others have about them). What do you think?