Sustainability and Inclusiveness: 17th National HRD Conference
T. V. Rao
The conference is over yesterday. I returned after full three days of attendance. I am lucky to be at this and the last two other conferences at Hyderabad and Bangalore after missing the much talked about earlier conferences at Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai conferences. The themes are very appropriate for the times. HR people should be concerned about sustainability issues in the society, organizations, teams and institutions. NHRDN is always ahead in many ways. The first conference was on Alternative strategies of HRD. The next recognised the importance of workers and workmen and has organised the Delhi conference which was attended by a large number of people including union leaders and workmen’s representatives. This is also the place where all great academicians like Ishwar Dayal, Manohar Nadkarni, Udai Pareek, Somnath, Rolf Lynton, Pradip Khandwalla, D M Pestonjee, M B Athreya, B L Mahewari, T V Rao
(see: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=141741082513548&set=t.100000329719397&type=3&theater ), After quite some time the Kolkata conference also invited a good number of academics like N M Agarwal, MG Jomon, Asha Bhandarkar, S Ramnarayan, Fr Abraham, Fr. O. Masacarnes, Radhakrishnan Pillai, Gautam Sinha, Pranabesh Ray etc. IIMs, XLRI, TISS, XLRI, SIBM, TERI, ISB, NLS, and IMI etc. are represented in some form or the other. I feel unless there is a good presence of academics along with the practitioners any such conference will not be complete.
The session by Leena Srivastava and Paranjoy Guha provides compelling answers to justify the theme. Our common future is to face shortage of water, energy, land, clean air and perhaps many more things. Unless we take care of it from now our children are going to have a bleak future. Who can be concerned about the future than the HR professionals. One lesson for me form the conference is that HR professionals must read, understand and educate others on the future of this planet and how world’s haves and particularly organizational elite are contributing to the brewing crisis. An understanding of this will totally change the role they are playing and focus their attention on part of the issues they should focus. It is not enough to take care of the current human resources but also pay attention to future of people everywhere. How organizations exploit the planet for their own good and how to live and let live are important concerns. For a change HR Managers also should care for not only people inside but also outside who are their customers or potential customers. This needs understanding and right ethical values. Sustainability at societal level involves treating our planet and fellow human beings with respect.
Lesson for HR managers is also in choosing the right CSR activities. Government of India has provided ample opportunities for HR to influence sustainability through CSR.
Sustainability at Organizational Level:
The latest issue of the NHRDN is devoted to building sustainable organizations and the role of HR. It begins with the following quote by NRN.
“Organisations become institutions by transcending individuals and following sustainable practices. This can happen only when companies put long term goals ahead of short term interests. Businesses should not only have profitable growth but must also address environmental, social, and people aspects to ensure business sustainability. I am glad that National HRD network is making efforts to create champions of sustainable practices and dedicating an issue to this important topic.” Narayana Murthy, Infosys Limited.
There are many practices discussed in the conference. The book prepared for the conference edited by NM Agarwal, M G Jomon, Chandrima Banerjee and Biju Varkey presents a good view of the possible organizational practices. The book released on the first day and summarised at length by Prof. N M Agarwal has 22 papers selected from over 50 of the papers received. The various sessions discussed issues like Diversity and inclusion, legal frameworks for inclusion and sustainability, womentoring, and the role of inclusiveness in building sustainable organizations. The second day was devoted to issues like the role of workforce and work life balance, employee engagement in building sustainable organization. The sessions also dealt with creating harmony at the workplace by addressing the aspirations of the bottom of the pyramid. The Conference very appropriately felicitated Achyuta Samantha the founder of KISS and KITS who is training over 20,000 tribal children from KG to PG and bringing out the talent in them. The third day was focused on sustainability at the individual level.
On the whole the conference drew attention of HR professionals to an area of great significance.
What make NHRDN Sustainable and is it Inclusive:
At the end of the conference I asked myself the above question and circulated the question among a few others. I have a view and I am not sure how many share this view. My view is:
It is sustainable or sustained itself so far because of its purpose and 4 Cs: its constitution, culture, capability and commitment of a few of the office bearers who relentlessly work for it. HRD Network is a body meant to take forward HRD movement in the country and HRD is defined broadly to include all sectors. Its constitution requires change of leaders every two years and at the same time practicing HRD principles. It provides scope for new office bearers to play leadership roles. And use as well as build their competencies. Leading and managing not for profit organizations is not the same as leading and managing profit driven companies. Here the responsibility and accountability is higher and you have to generate your own resources. The incentive for work is in the work itself and not in performance incentives. There is no hierarchy. The culture is OCTAPACE as this is a charitable society and Institution. Corporate sector principles and attitudes don’t work well here though one may try them out and learn from experience. The commitment of a few office bearers from the beginning is responsible for its sustainability. The culture which prevents a few people from becoming powerful for all time to come and form power centres is another reason. Perceptions may always vary and if there are perceptions it may partly be because of the nature of its members not following the OCTAPACE values and particularly that of Transparency and Confrontation. As Founder President I tried my best to point out when things did not go in tune with the dreams we had and the culture we tried to build. I am sure it was appreciated in the long run though not at the time I made the comments. I have also followed the philosophy I learnt from Ravi Matthai, Vikram Sarabhai, Udai Pareek to build institutions and move and not possess institution. I think this applies to all Presidents we had. All of them moved on from dictating terms to committed work after their terms as office bearers were over. I like to give full credit to each of the office bearers and particularly the Presidents and other team members: Starting with MRR Nair, Udai Pareek, Rajesh Vidya Sagar, Debashis and Arvind Pande until 2000 and subsequently Arvind, Santrupt, Dwarakanath, Rajan, and Siddiqui recently. It also is applicable to many regional Presidents secretaries and other chapter presidents.
Is it Inclusive?
My answer is: Very Much. However it could be and need to be more inclusive. From beginning it included all categories of members. There is no qualification required to b e member of NHRDN. The gates are open to anyone interested. Its inclusiveness covers mangers, teachers, government employees at all levels, NGOs, students etc. with no restrictions. It has had many seminars dealing with youth, women’s issues, various HR systems, IR issues ( one of the round tables was devoted to the role of Unions in HRD and Union leaders participated in it) and HRD in government etc.
It is also inclusive of high performers and low performers. It is so inclusive it continues to carry some chapters, chapter presidents and some office bearers who do nothing after getting elected..? This extent of inclusiveness sometimes does more damage to NHRDN. But NHRDN hope that they will realise some day and contribute to NHRDN....?