The advertisement appeared in the jobs supplement, Power Jobs, of the Hindustan Times. An N.G.O. (non-governmental organisation), which runs an institute for providing vocational training to the youth among the economically weaker sections of society, had advertised a number of job vacancies. Among the positions advertised, was one titled 'Executive - Human Resources'. So, I went along to attend the 'walk-in' interview.
The N.G.O. is backed by and, I believe, receives substantial financial support from a leading India-based pharmaceuticals company that has a presence in over 100 countries and is a front-runner, globally, in the generic pharmaceuticals business, in terms of revenues. The N.G.O. even shares a part of its name with the pharmaceuticals company.
Much of what transpired during the interview was quite interesting. It provided an insight into how the organisation, otherwise involved in philanthropic work, treats its own employees and how much it trusts them.
The following is an extract from the conversation that I had with the interviewer, who was a podgy, dark-complexioned woman, with a pronounced South-Indian accent:-
Interviewer: What is the most important quality that a person working in the field of Human Resources Management should have?
Sidhusaaheb: He or she should be a good listener.
Interviewer: Any other qualities that are important?
Sidhusaaheb: He or she should be able to empathise...
Interviewer: No, those are wrong answers.
Sidhusaaheb: I would say that is your point of view and it is different from mine.
Interviewer: The correct answer is 'confidentiality'. The Human Resources department has all the data about employees' salaries and a lot of problems are caused when employees find out about their colleagues' salaries. So, the HR department has to ensure that the data about salaries remain confidential.
Sidhusaaheb: All the data about salaries are also available with the Accounts department, so how can the HR department keep the information confidential?
Interviewer: No, no...The HR department has to keep the data confidential. So, 'confidentiality' is the most important quality to have, for a Human Resources professional.
Sidhusaaheb: Well, I shall again say that is your point of view and it is different from mine.
Interviewer: Thank you!
I did not bother to take the time to explain to her that if the salary structure of her organisation was fair and based on criteria understood and accepted by all employees, the company would not have had to try and adopt such a cloak-and-dagger approach. Incidentally, in all of the organisations that I have worked with, most employees had a fairly good idea of the salaries associated with various positions, whether or not the information had been shared with them by the 'management'.
Such policies, I believe, are fundamentally in disagreement with the basic concepts of Human Resources Management in the modern world. Over the years that I have spent working, I have realised that those concepts are employed only in the name, in most Indian business organisations, even in this day and age.
Recruitment and Selection are, still, largely based on the personal preferences of those in charge. Decisions to conduct Training programmes are not based on any scientific Training Needs analyses. Money and material rewards are still thought of as the greatest motivators for employees. Performance Appraisals, even though these are ostensibly based on best practices, are rigged so that the results reflect the personal opinions that the bosses have of the employees being appraised. The concept of Self-Directed Work Teams is alien to organisations in this country and what has been very conveniently done is that units formerly known as departments and work-groups are now called teams, with the 'worker' now known as 'team-member' and the 'supervisor' as 'team-leader', without effecting any change in the functioning.
Team-building is limited to periodic trips to scenic locations, with pleasurable activities like rock-climbing, river-rafting, etc., thrown in and is not taken too seriously by any one, since the Appraisal, as well as the Compensation and Reward Management systems, are still based on individual, rather than team-based performance criteria. When I sought to implement a Team Reward System in one of the organisations I worked with, the COO (Chief Operations Officer) rejected the idea saying that he had worked for five companies, earlier, and none employed any such system, when he ran out of logical arguments against it!
In his book titled 'Organizational Behavior: Concepts, Controversies, Applications' (published by Prentice-Hall, Inc.), Stephen P. Robbins writes, "Throughout this book we've argued that national differences-that is, national cultures-must be taken into account if accurate predictions are to be made about organizational behavior in different countries." and "The research indicates that national culture has a greater impact on employees than does their organization's culture.". I could not agree more!
So, is there still hope and will the hypocrisy ever come to an end? I do not have a definite answer.