Recruitment Woes: Freaky Fridays: Weekly blog

This week’s blog is dedicated to my favorite department in the corporate world – the HR department. I am an MBA (HR) from Asia’s best institute for HR – XLRI Jamshedpur, but after having seen the way most HRs operate, I sometimes feel glad that I quit HR and moved to Sales. Now-a-days, I hear a fancy term – HRBP. Apparently, it stands for HR Business Partner but I think HR Business Puppet is more appropriate. When they literally have no say in most decisions , why falsely call themselves partners. You will agree with me when I take you through a few of the glorious HR botch-ups which I have experienced in my 9 year corporate career so far.

Let’s talk about the earth’s most customer-centric company “Ghamazon” ( the real name cannot be disclosed for fear of a legal backlash). Getting to know the CV shortlist status of the job you have applied for in this organization is like walking through Abhimanyu’s chakravyuh unscathed. You need to wage a “Ghamasaan” war just to find out if your CV has been shortlisted or otherwise. Of late, this company, which is the largest e-commerce company in the world, has pumped in close to 5 billion $ to win in the Indian market. If only they had invested at least 1%  of this in building a strong HR process, then their employer brand would have been way stronger. I had applied for a few roles here, which I thought would be suitable based on my previous work experience, via their online portal. Almost 20 people (my classmates, seniors and juniors from XL) work in HR here. Sadly, none of them could tell about whether my CV was shortlisted or rejected. They have an amazing candidate job portal, where in the candidate can see the status of his CV (applied, rejected, shortlisted). Sadly, even after 90 days, the portal was showing my CVs status as “applied”. The HR folks didn’t bother to update my status. I called up a few of my friends in the company and none of them had any clue. Finally, one of them said that my CV was untagged for those profiles so maybe I was not shortlisted. Why could the HR simply not update the same in their portal? I understand that the folks in this company are completely over-worked, almost on the verge of burn-out and crave for work-life balance like a kid craving for ice-cream. But what stops the HR from just updating a status on the portal? One of my HR friends in the organization was defending his fellow colleagues saying that each job posting receives 1000+ applications and it is impossible to screen so many CVs. A fair argument, but what stops someone from updating the status to “not shortlisted” for whatever reasons. Why have the portal in the first place? On one hand, the founder talks about the ultimate customer experience like “card-less shopping” while the HR department is not even bothered about updating a candidate’s status online. There’s a huge difference between the consumer experience and the employer brand experience. Hope someday, someone cleans this mess.

The fun gets better at its subsidiary ( let me call it Loud-tail). Ghamazon can’t retail products directly to consumers as per Indian e-commerce regulations so it has created this JV with an Indian partner. So, the interview process in Loud-tail is the same as the parent company. There are two telephonic rounds followed by five face-to-face rounds. This is as per Ghamazon global guidelines. Everything seems fair so far. Thanks to my HR friend referring me, I am shortlisted for the interview stage. After clearing the telephonic rounds, I am called for the face-to-face rounds. Questions are asked by different interviewers on the leadership principles and I am asked to describe past experiences. So 5 different people ask me the same set of questions, I give the same replies to different people. I am told that like MTV roadies, there will be a voting where each of the five interviewers will give their vote against me – yes or no. After meeting the 5 people and doing some research about their profile and experience, I get the first shock. 2 out of the 5 people are 3 years junior to me in batch and at the same designation as me. These people have no clue about distributor sales, but they probe me on it and argue why other approaches could not have been used. This is equivalent to a State Head of Kerala interviewing a State Head of Karnataka. And I get inside info that these two “panelists” have given a “no” vote to me. The fun gets better in the final round , which is called  a “Bar-raiser” round. The bar-raiser has the final say in case of a tie and is supposed to be a senior resource. When I meet him, he tells me that he has just worked for 10 days in Loud-tail and 8 years in Ghamazon. The bar-raiser also asks the same questions, I give the same answers. In all this tamasha, the HR’s role is only to co-ordinate the interviews, arrange conference rooms, escort me to the canteen area and give me a visitor card.I am told that HR is only a “facilitator” and a “support function”. Later, I come to know through my HR friend that I am rejected as the bar-raiser and the two peer “panelists” have given a “no” to me even the hiring manager was confident and had a yes. I don’t take this to heart but I quiz my friend as to why are peers/juniors interviewing a person of the same level. I am told that they need 5 panelists and as the employee base is small, there are not many senior panelists. Great logic but then why not reduce the number of panelists and have only senior folks interview. He replies with a  typical “Lakeer Ka Fakeer” reply – “Ghamazon’s global guidelines mandate that 5 people interview face-to-face”. Fair point but Ghamazon U.S and Loudtail India are two different organizations in two different contexts. Why the hell has a process which is illogical to be followed for just ticking the box? But as usual, why should HR have these tough discussions with global teams? Why bell the cat unnecessarily and create controversy? Typical safe HR mindset. And the best part is the HR doesn’t interview the candidate. It just “facilitates”. The icing on the cake though is the “bar-raiser”. Mr. Bar-raiser has an experience in supply chain and has zero experience of sales, key account management or business development and the role demands a person to be skilled at these. Yet, he thinks I do not have the required skill-sets or “special projects” to demonstrate these. Apparently, I have not met the bar.

The situation in Indian companies is no worse. I worked for six years in WIMC ( Well Known Indian Management Conglomerate). Recently, I referred someone for a Sales regional leadership position. I had sent a mail to the HR as I had their email ids. As expected, there was no reply – no thank you, no status nothing. And then the HRs complain about not able to close positions quickly, not able to generate referrals, not having a pool of profiles. I recently tried applying for a start-up ( let’s call it Hudaan). One of my XL juniors working there gave me a number of the HRBP working there. I called him saying I was looking for suitable opportunities. He said he would call me back. No prizes for guessing, he never called me back. I sent him a text later in the day asking for a time when I could chat with him. As expected, no reply and neither of us bothered after that.

Then, there are the great FMCGs of the world which only want to hire similar industry clones. While on hand, all the HR heads talk about diversity in organizations but in most organizations, there is zero diversity in employee profiles. If you have worked in one industry in sales, the recruiting fraternity ensures that you work in that industry for life. FMCGs want only FMCG experience, Banking folks only banking, healthcare folks want only healthcare and the list goes on. Zero value to the fact that a person who has worked in sales in X industry has his own learning curve which can make him adapt to Y industry. Nobody wants to take a risk and we all have industry clones. The outcome – no new diversity in idea generation, no new perspective. But the HR and the business leader feel proud that they have got an industry person.

All this are just recruitment related experiences. I haven’t even started on appraisals, transfers, resignation letters etc. Will leave that for a different day. Right now, it’s time to head to the gym. If ever I start a bar or a gym in the near future, no points for guessing what the name will be.

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“Bar-raiser” – of course.

Jai Hind

Corporate Designations: Freaky Fridays – Weekly Blog

Folks, this Friday, let’s pay a tribute to some of the fancy corporate designations which exist and motivate employees to progress to the “next” level.

CEO: Chief Email Officer. Most people in the organization see this person only via e-mails. This person sends emails and expects everyone to read, remember everything mentioned but the same is not expected from him/her. S/he meets employees once in a blue-moon and people take selfies whenever this happens. Otherwise, to an ordinary employee, this person is an invisible hollow-man who f*cks people without their knowledge. Bas logon key dil mey hai…. aur subordinates key g**nd mey. S/he’s a pain in the ass for direct reports as most of their time is spent in going through his/her communications, planning travel and meetings, preparing presentations. In general, this person doesn’t have the balls to take his/her own decisions. S/he believes in two rules:

 #1 Success is due to self, Failure is due to subordinates’ failure

 #2 When in doubt, refer rule 1

CFO – Chindi Fakirchand Officer: In their previous birth, these finance folks would have been fakirs. They think a paisa spent is a paisa burnt. They only believe in signing off investment proposals which on an excel sheet gives returns greater than 18%. If life were so simple, then we wouldn’t have Microsoft excel and complex models like IRR, NPV for calculating returns. Most of these finance fakirs will have no idea of customers, sales, brands, operations but will have authority to sign-off or veto proposals in these areas. Most of these guys wanted to be in CID, but since they never made it, they will put their forensic skills to use by randomly checking travel bills, vendor bills. They think employees exist only to make a fool out of the organization. In their quest to save the little pennies, they ignore multi-crore scams.

Next comes the marketing genius – the CMO – Chief Masaledaar Officer : This person’s core job is to put mirch masala in anything given and make it sound out-of-the world. S/he believes every product, every ad created is out of the world and nothing can go wrong (until the product is launched) Like the CEO, this person takes credit for all the success of a product including the awards won. In case the product fails, s/he conveniently passes the blame on other functions like sales, production, quality etc. Mirch-masala leads to bitch-masala . S/he has all the typical qualities of a bahu in the “Saas-Bahu” series. The bitch-masala culture is ingrained into the entire marketing department. The BMs ( Brand Managers  Bhand Managers ) visit the market with the sales team in their quest to add value and only end up finding faults. “Process sucks, the sales team is not able to get things executed, initiatives are going down the drain” Obviously, in a country like India, with the kind of salaries we pay to the lowest rung, you cannot expect excellent execution. The bhand managers think they have opened the sales team’s eyes by stating the obvious. After their visit, they write a masaledaar report of how things are badly screwed up. The poor sales guy is taken to task for not able to cover up things. The marketing team lives happily ever after.

Then comes my favorite function – Sales.  The leader of this function (the CSO) is a “Continuously Stressed-out officer”. As the hierarchy in the sales function goes down, the stress levels in this function increase disproportionately ( NSM – Nationally Stressed out Manager, ZSM – Zonally Stressed Out, RSM – Regionally Stressed out and then comes the ASM – Always Stressed Out Manager  ( they think they are Area Sales Managers). They love their mobiles more than their spouses. The conference call facility has been created only to satisfy the libido of these folks. Whenever the senior most person wants to ejaculate, s/he calls for a con-call with his/her subordinates. Then like a network marketing scheme, each of the listeners adds his own frustration and ejaculates venomously with their direct reports. This chain continues till there is no body left at the bottom of the hierarchy. The folks at the bottom of the hierarchy think that the only way to get rid of this ejaculatory shit is to get promoted so that the shit falls on someone below. What they don’t realize is the shit doesn’t stop at the lowest level, it travels regionally, nationally and even globally sometimes. Chief Shit-Taking Officer in retrospect would be a better name for the leader of this function.

Generally, in life, you feel happy if you meet your targets but if you are in sales, you will feel stressed out that you have achieved it. You and your boss know that you have met your targets with great difficulty but shamelessly, you will get a target which is a minimum 20% higher than your highest ever target. No wonder this function has the highest attrition.

Last but not the least is THE ultimate corporate function – HR. The top boss of this department now-a-days is called CPO (Chief People Officer). To me, s/he’s a Chief Paper-Pushing Officer. This department reminds me of Maun-mohan singh. Without business alignment, they will do nothing on their own, not even push paper. They hate to admit that they are nothing but rubber-stamps in the hands of the business guys. Once-in-a-while, they try to call themselves HRBPs  (Business Partners), but in reality, they only increase the employee’s BP ( Blood Pressure). They are trained to say “I Hear You” These three words are the most useless words which the folks of this department use. “Sir, my appraisal was not fair” I hear you. “Ma’am, the canteen meals suck “ I hear you “ Sir, my id card has not yet been given “ I hear you “ Ma’am, my corporate credit card has not yet arrived “ I hear you. The best part is they only HEAR because they have got ears. After that nothing changes. In many organizations , the Fakirchands of finance do not allow separate admin, IT and HR so you will have employees asking all sorts of random questions to these paper pushers “Sir, my laptop is not working” “ Mam, my bathroom tap is not working . I need reimbursement” “Sir, I am not able to find a conference room “The response is the same “I Hear You”. There are a few people in HR who do not wish to be dummys. They challenge business, speak their mind, take concrete action but in most cases these folks are either transferred or asked to find greener pastures. The rest of the folks pride themselves in calling “facilitators” but they are in reality glorified post-men or “Yes Men/Women”. Anyone with or without a degree can get into this function as the only important skill required is to smile and say” I Hear You”

There are other functions worthy of a mention, but before I try to extend this blog further, my wife gives me a piece of her mind for leaving our new-born baby alone and coming to write this blog.

Guess what my simple response to her is.

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“I Hear You”

Jai Hind