The HRD We Dream(t)!!!
(An interview with Dr. Udai Pareek and T V Rao Originators of the HRD Function in India)
Dr. Udai Pareek and Dr. T. V. Rao are two former IIMA professors who are largely credited with the design of the new HR Function and the First Dedicated HRD department carved out of the personnel function. They designed the first HRD department in the world, about thirty years ago when the term HRD was not even known in India. They designed this out of their own thought and reflection as a part of the consultancy they provided to L&T in 1974 and subsequently helped organizations like the SBI and BEML to start the same. Subsequently Dr. Rao established a center for HRD at XLRI as a part of the L&T Chair and then established the National HRD Network in 1985 and subsequently the Academy of HRD in 1990. Dr. Udai Pareek has been mentoring some of these bodies and institutions have done a marvelous job and changed the course of history of HRD in this part of the world. Some of these institutions have grown and have made significant contributions. These two former professors of IIMA chose to remain in the country and influence the course of HRD movement than to go and settle abroad. They have provided enormous consulting support to other countries in this region like Malaysia and Indonesia and UNESCO Bangkok. We reproduce below some excerpts from an interview with them.
Q1: What is your feeling about HR in the country to day? Do you think HRD has come to stand on its own as a profession? Are HR managers getting their respect they deserve? Are they living up to the standards and expectations they are expected to maintain?
TVR: Our feeling about HR in the country is both satisfaction and disappointment, hope and apprehension of course more hope combined with a good degree if not equal amount of apprehension. I will explain all these mixed feelings as follows: Satisfaction is due to the fact that we have progressed a lot from the days of apprehension about HRD as an old wine in new bottle to the level where we are constantly discovering more solutions to new problems and challenges. We acted with the belief that HRD is the soul of personnel function. Remember Udai Pareek’s address in late seventies to NIPM on “Personnel Function in search of a soul” And HRD was given the status of the soul of HR function by Udai. We suggested to CEOs beginning mid seventies to accept HRD as a philosophy. Our argument was that every employee spends a large part of his or her waking life for the company, with the company and in the company. The organization is the first family and therefore it is in the interests of the organization to take good care of the person, provide right conditions for him, direction for his growth and ensure growth of the company. We suggested critical attribute analysis (now a days called as competency mapping), identification of KPAs, performance analysis and coaching, career and succession planning, HRIS, OD and many such interventions to promote capacity building of individuals, teams and the organization. We promoted HR as a philosophy and not as a technique to get things in return though we hoped that returns will come on their own. In fact we promoted HRD as a responsibility of the top management and of all senior managers. Recognizing this L&T even trained a large number of their line managers in 1975-76 as HRD facilitators and used to call them selves as L&T University. Now a days we establish corporate Universities to do the same things L&T has done in mid seventies relentlessly. Holk Larsen, NM Desai, SR Subramanian supported it and Dennyson Pereira spearheaded the movement. HRD was an act of faith and not based on any research. The research findings from the US that have come in the last one decade have supported our philosophy and assumptions scientifically. There are studies that proved in the US that HR interventions have enhanced a share holder value by several percentage points. The fact that we promoted a philosophy which ahs scientifically been supported latter and the way many corporate have been taking these interventions and constantly trying t implement them is a matter of satisfaction. HRD has definitely added to the quality of work life in industry. It ahs come of age. It is no more taken for granted. T is a part of life of any corporation. While we can’t take credit for all that happened to is not happening in the HR we are satisfied that we originated and promoted a concept and philosophy and pursued it for the last three decades relentlessly.
The dissatisfaction is out of the fact that HRD also got diluted in some ways and in some of the organizations. HR managers have not been doing right things though some of them are doing whatever they are doing well (things right). HRD has not yet established its credibility fully with the line managers and particularly in the new economy industry. It pains us deeply when we hear rumors like that in a particular city HR managers are even going to the extent of helping candidate to write or rewrite their bio-data in ways that get them selected – for a fee! The news that ethical standards and values are not being followed by some is painful. Some of the HR managers have reduced themselves to be “dalals”. By this I am told that their main job is to contract and subcontract. They are busy locating recruitment agencies to whom they can subcontract their recruitment, training agencies to subcontract their training and consultants to subcontract their competency mapping and performance appraisals is very disappointing.
Interviewer: What is wrong with that? There is no time and staff? The recruitments needed are in tens and some times in hundreds and thousands and HRD departments are small. What can they do about it?
TVR: There is nothing wrong in using recruitment agencies and outsourcing training. I am not against these as and when needed. I am concerned about outsourcing as a way of life and as a substitution to learning and managing your corporation. What is wrong is the way you do it and the purpose for doing it. The purpose should not be to show to the top management quantitative results in terms of costs saved and the number game to show the number recruited. Some HRD managers don’t do their own basic work of profiling the job properly through competency mapping and the like and ensure that scientific recruitment is followed. I am told they even make false promises and get wrong people in order to fulfill their targets and shoe cost savings to their top. That is why many candidates leave. So instead of contribution to retention HR is designing attrition from the very beginning by not doing their job properly. There is no research and there are no basic questions like what competencies are needed, what we can offer to the candidate in terms of the career etc. The attitude of Dalalgiri is what pains us. Some of them ask us to submit tenders even without understanding the organization. Submitting the tender document following all norms is more important than understanding their problem and addressing the problem. They are not willing to spend their own time and effort to understand the issues. They lack required qualifications and competence. Any one with a master’s in any subject is being taken for HR in some of the companies. We are also dissatisfied that after three decades of the evolution of this function we have not influenced companies to recruit professionally qualified HRD professionals. A master’s in Social Work odes not ensure that you are professionally qualified HR person. Many HR professionals lack the basic HR knowledge. This is a big disappointment for us. The NHRDN has made some moves in this direction but it is no where near the solution. In sum I am disappointed with the poor quality of HR professionals, lack of understanding of the CEOs and other top management of the need for having professional trained if not qualified managers as HR managers, lack of identification of the required skills sets, inadequate supply of professionally trained HR managers, not intone with curricula of schools that prepare HR managers, and eroding ethical values , slow work and Dalalgiri of HR managers, and not raising up to the occasion with speed of professional bodies is disappointment to me.
In sum, in my view the knowledge base of HR in India is tremendous. HRD has come to stand on its own as a profession. However we have done very little to consolidate our gains. It is high time that this is done with focus on HRD for this region -India and the Asia pacific. Good HR managers are getting the respect they deserve but there are many bad HR managers whoa re spoiling the profession and its image. They are not living up to the standards and expectations they are expected to maintain. In my view job-hopper HR managers are doing a lot of damage to the profession. Changing the job in a short time is like shifting your dispensary or clinic suddenly in the middle of treatment to your patients. I think HR managers need to set right examples of sticking to their jobs for longer periods. They should not enter the profession if they are only commercial in outlook and the main purpose in life is to become a millionaire soonest possible.
Q1: What is your feeling about HR in the country to day? Do you think HRD has come to stand on its own as a profession? Are HR managers getting their respect they deserve? Are they living up to the standards and expectations they re expected to maintain?
UP: I am happy to see HR increasingly occupying key position in organizations. Several organizations have inducted HR Heads in their Boards recently. This shows the growing realization of the importance of HR. In several organizations HR is fulfilling the expected role. However, in most organizations HR continues to function as old-time personnel department. HR managers are not getting the respect, and in many cases, the HR function is responsible for this sorry state of affairs. Unfortunately HR has not yet achieved the level of the profession, which it deserves. By and large, HR is not living up to the standard expected of it.
Q2: What do you feel when you look back at the HRD departments and the institutions you both have started or are associated with? Specially the L&T, SBI, Crompton Greaves, BEML and other organizations? Do you look back with satisfaction?
TVR: The HRD departments of these organizations specially L&T, SBI, CGL and the like have done marvelous job until late eighties. Somewhere in late eighties the people who succeeded the early HRD chiefs have not been able to build on the past. The growth of the HRD and it impact ahs to been of the same magnitude as it was a decade before that. For example assessment centers were introduced in CGL in mid eighties. SBI struggled a lot with its performance appraisal. Job rotation, skill inventory and the like. L&T went of incorporating quality and such other concerns into it HRD. These organizations have done a good job. They could have been much more of role models than what they are today. Also today there are many other corporations especially from IT and other new economy industry who have come up with innovative HR practices. The failure of organizations like L&T, SBI, CGL and the like is in terms of lack of innovativeness and inability build on the past. This needed strong HRD managers and unfortunately it is what they lacked. Mr. Naik the current CEO is one of those whom I have personally interviewed in mid seventies. He had a lot of HR ideas even in those days. So there were HR practitioners in CEOs but not supported bys strong HRD managers. For me the only satisfaction with these corporations is out of history we created and not out of what they have been able to do subsequently. Some of them have built on the work we did, others did not.
UP: I share TV Rao’s sentiments. The great organizations that pioneered HR in the country have on the way gone astray in relation to the spirit of HR. In my opinion, the main reason is undue reliance on foreign consulting groups, who, without much experience in India, and without intimate knowledge of the organizations, are recommending structures and processes that are anti-HR. It is a pity that some excellent HR practices in the organizations have been discontinued. Several years back D.M. Silvera had independently visited several organizations, and had documented some innovative HR practices based on the Indian cultural orientations. While some new organizations have been designing innovative practices, the older organizations, which pioneered HR function, have lost interest.
Q 3: What do you think about the direction in which HR is headed in this country? Does it have a bright future? Do you think it has created the right image? Will it evolve as an honored profession like Medicine, Engineering, Chartered Accountancy and the like?TVR; I definitely think that HR has bright future. The way HR I s headed in the country is both good and bad. Don’t take my criticism as an indication of the state of affairs in HR in the country. Perhaps the malpractices and in competencies in HR are more an exceptions than a rule. However the magnitude of these exceptions is good enough to pay attention and to be warned about. There is a lot of dilution. There is also a lot of purposiveness in HR today. In most cases HR has become HR administration rather than HR development. What is needed in future knowledge society is continuous development of its people and their competencies. People and their competencies are going to be business drivers in future. Share holder values can be enhanced by right HR practices. There is no sub statue for competency building and commitment building. HRD defined as the three Cs – competence, commitment and culture building- had become more critical today than before and it is going to become even more. As technology, money, and systems lose their competitive advantage by virtue of their easy accessibility of all people and their competencies or ‘Talent” is going to become scarcer and hence gain a strategic advantage. If HR can realize their and HRD managers prepare themselves to this changing role, then HRD will have bright future. If HR fails to recognize this other functions will take charge and new titles get created like “performance manager” “People processes manager” “OD expert” etc. I have mentioned a few of these in my book on “The Future of HRD”. HRD has still a long way to go to be accepted fully as profession. It ahs the knowledge base and it should draw from psychology of learning, personality theories, Social psychology, assessment, measurement, competency mapping etc. We have the required disciplinary background but no body that can put them together. Bodies like NHRDN have a long way to go. Unfortunately over last one decade they have alienated the academicians slowly and to day it is filled with parishioners often have little thirst for theory and knowledge. Professional bodies not having such academic rigor will have difficulty establishing professional standards. Commercial minded management schools and consultants cannot do full justice to help is evolve as a profession. We have a long way to go.
UP: I am an optimist and believe that HR has a bright future. It is certainly on way to become a business partner, and acquire professional status like other professions. Certainly it will be necessary for academic bodies (Universities and Management Institutes), Professional bodies (NHRD, AHRD), and work organizations to do a lot of work in this regard. HR Journals have also to play an important role in this regard. I am quite impressed by Human Capital, which has spread the message of innovative practices in HR, and has become a good forum for sharing of experiments and experiences. We need more such journals.
Q 4: What is your message for the future HR professionals and others who are likely to man HR positions in organizations and professional bodies like the National HRD Network?
TVR: Learn, relearn and learn. Continuous learning is the only way. Learn from all sources. Respect and be sensitive to your inner world, neighborhood and global scenes. If you learn only from overseas your HR will be baseless. If you stick only to indigenous and inward learning your learning will be shape less and only will be a foundation. Hence you need to learn from all sources. You need to be a relentless learner. Regarding NHRDN the main message I like to give is don’t make means as ends. Conferences, seminars and such other Events are means and the moment they become ends it is he end of a professional’s body. Similarly Presidentships, Secretary Ships and other positions are means to save the profession and not your self not the body you manage at a give point. Don’t miss the forest for the trees or the trees for the wood. Don’t cling on top positions. If you cant give time for the profession make way for others and not outsourcing agencies. Don’t try to do in NHRDN what your own employer does not allow you to do. Don’t spend a penny of the body without being accountable for that penny and demonstrate return on every single penny you spend in the same year you are office bearer. Respect the history and learn from it.
UP: A large number of young persons are preparing themselves to enter HR profession. I would like these bright young people to be more serious about their preparations. HR will not be able to fulfill its role unless HR people know the business, and have insight into various aspects of the business they are associated with. They should equally be adept in the understanding of organizational processes. Increasingly HR will be required to play the role of internal consultancy in the organizations. The skills of change management will be essential for success of HR people. The institutions and professional bodies have the responsibility of helping young budding professionals to become more efficient to play this required role.
Q5: In your opinion what roles should be played by the academic institutions like the management schools and professional bodies like the NHRDN and research centers like the academy of HRD to shape the future of HRD?
TVR: Management schools should innovate. Train and recruit competent faculty, Use increasingly practitioners from industry. Build theory of HRD that can take the country and the profession forward. Professional bodies like the NHRDN should focus on establishing standards, enforcing them. Promote research in Universities, fund research and establish standards of HRD education. For that they need to have enough academies and theoreticians in the body. It should be managed like a professional body and not like a corporation. It should have more rigorous standards and financial prudence in the behavior of its office bearers. It should think several times in terms of the example it is setting in the use of funds, design of events, and conduct of the same. The office bearers reveal a lot of their behavior in the way they conduct themselves. Apply ethical standards to it and have office bearers whoa re above board in terms of their ethics and values. Candidates not worthy of being emulated should not be given positions. Performance assessment and removal of office bearers whoa are not active for more than six month periods (25% of their term) should be removed automatically. Every professional must commit a week to ten days a year for the profession and donate the same time without any compensation. This is what we owe to our profession. NHRDN and AHRD should take the HRD beyond the corporate sector and come up with innovations in HRD for NGOs followed by the Government and close with HRD for communicates. The success of HRD is when it becomes a part of life and a part of every one and every process. HRD is learning and instituting processes that facilitate learning and grown and make work and life healthy and happy for all.
UP: HR will become a valued profession only if all concerned with this function contribute to its effectiveness. In the first place, HR must be value-based. As in our original concept, HR should be concerned with all the units of the organsiation, from individual employees to the total organization. It is time that we distinguished between transactional HR and transformational HR. The transactional HR would include functions like recruitment, induction, performance management, development system, career development, separation etc. However, while these are important functions to make organizations effective, they cannot take the organization to a higher level of greatness. For that they need to pay attention to transformational HR, which may include functions like talent management (identification, nurturing and mentoring talent), culture building (trust, equality and involvement), change management (including mergers and acquisitions and their processes), leadership development, reward system, and very importantly, ethics and social responsibility. While some of the transactional functions of HR may be outsourced, transformational aspects need to be strengthened in the organizations. For this all concerned agencies need to play their roles. Educational institutions, where HR people are being prepared, need to orient their training to include significant work on the transformational aspects. Professional bodies like NHRD should take the responsibility for accrediting individuals and organizations on rigorous professional criteria. In fact, they can also publish ranking of organizations and management institutes; this will help in raising professional standards. Research is extremely important. We need to generate new knowledge in HR. While AHRD and NHRD have done commendable work in publishing in some good experiences and case studies, more rigorous standards are needed to search and publish material based on significance experiences in Indian organizations. While we can know everything about Western organizations, we don’t have information about our own innovations. This lacuna needs to be filled up.