Workplace gifting: Offering colleagues the option of choice

Gifting options that allow the receiver to exercise the option of choice reduce the risk of upsetting a colleague or an employee with the wrong gift

Many companies consider gifting an essential part of the organisation’s cultural fabric. New-employee forms in several organisations include details about the employee’s date of birth, anniversaries, and other personal information that have no direct relevance to the role, job profile, or employment offer. Beside record-keeping purposes, organisations typically use this information to broadcast and recognise small and large personal landmarks of employees through gifting initiatives.

Workplace gifting has become an integral part of engagement strategies in many organisations. While varied in nature and form, behavioural studies reveal that workplace gifts lead to sudden positive spikes in an employee’s engagement and motivation levels for a limited period of time.  While a numerical correlation between the nature of a gift and the consequent positive spurt in engagement is yet to be established, gifting between organisations and employees and between colleagues continues to be an integral part of organisational culture in most companies.

What constitutes the right gift?                  

While gifts at the workplace can drive positive motivation, empirical evidence also suggests that wrong gifts can result in adverse effects. Gifts can go terribly wrong! What works as a good gift for one individual can have the exact reverse effect on another. When Pratiksha Mishra, a customer-care executive in a global financial firm, received a musk perfume on her birthday from a male colleague, she was visibly upset. She interpreted the gesture as a crude remark on her personal hygiene. And all her colleague was doing was replicating the success of a gifting experience with another male colleague a few months ago.

Mr. Joshi, who is the General Manager at an international manufacturing firm, had to trash the “Diwali Gift” that his organisation sent him—a box of sweet biscuits. He is a diabetic and his wife would be terribly upset if she suspects that Mr. Joshi helps himself to sugar-based snacks during work.

The headache of collaboration

Added to that, it is often noticed that community gifting at the workplace becomes a Herculean task of management and collaboration. Soliciting individual contributions within a specified timeline and collaboration involved in arriving upon a mutually agreeable gift idea actually becomes a logistical nightmare for the individual who is tasked with it. The task gains an added layer of complexity when there is a cross-geography team involved.

Offer choice, do not impose

Behavioural scientists comment that the spectrum of “safe gifts” that can be based purely on gender, demographics, or age is rather small. While most rely on the above approximations, it is very hard to predict how person attributes value against a particular gift that s/he receives.

There has been an increasing trend of providing gift cards as a safe alternative for employee gifting. Gift cards offer an employee the choice to utilize the value according to his/her own discretion. Organisations and employees have many gifting options to choose from in this space. Some of the most popular ones are mentioned below.

Visa incentive card: This is a co-branded Visa card that a company loads with money and uses as part of the total rewards or employee incentive strategy.

Banking gift cards: This is a gift card that banks offer for enterprise employees and preloaded with a specific amount of money. An organisation typically uses these cards as a gift during festivals and special occasions. These cards usually carry the option for the user to load more money for later use.

Bitgifting: This is a virtual card offered by the incentive service company, Bitgifting. This is a virtual platform where colleagues and the employer can create gifting events for an individual where people can seamlessly contribute online. This eliminates the need for collaboration and scheduling and the contributions can be directly claimed in equivalent money terms by the receiver. The platform also allows contributors to leave a message to the recipient, thereby making the gifting experience long-lasting.

Yiftee: Although only available in the US at this point, this is a mobile application that allows users to send credits to a colleague that s/he can claim from the nearest Yiftee supported merchant. This application is supported with GPS and hence, geography-agnostic.

The process of gifting a colleague is always a tricky affair, as it entails a great amount of personal, demographic, and psychological estimations.  It appears that an individual or an organisation can greatly reduce the risks associated with workplace gifting by offering the receiver the option of choice.

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Argo suit yourself: Why delegation is better than ‘command and control’

While running short-term risks of failed delivery and embarrassing delays, loosening the grip on operational controls yields bigger chances of project success

On February 24th the whole world will be tuning on their television sets to witness the unravelling of the biggest movie extravaganza known to man, The Oscars. The academy-nominated movie Argo has been a central topic of discussion and speculation among many in the movie circles this year. In the movie, a CIA operative facilitates the rescue of 6 US diplomats from Iran by posing as a movie producer from Canada. At a critical juncture, it looked like the plan was about to fail when one of the six stepped ahead and “improvised the plan” that ultimately turned things around and made the operation successful.

The improvisation sequence presents some essential learning tips for a project manager.

Help your team know what their role means for the greater goal

What Tony Mendez, the CIA agent who was leading the operation, did right was to instil the sense of empowerment among the participants involved. The industry expert and column writer, Tim Barry, reasons in his article, “Top 10 qualities of a project manager,” that the top quality of a project manager is to inspire in his team a ‘sense of shared vision’. Barry quotes from a concept from the renowned leadership thinker Bennis, “shared vision helps participants gain a view of what a task means for their jobs and for their lives.”

Instil belief

Unconvincing as it was, and packed with immense risks, Mendez’ plan was to bluff their way through the rebels who had taken over the airport. At various points of the movie, Mendez was noticed telling the six that if they wanted to avoid their nails being pulled out of their fingers they needed to start “believing” in the characters they were assigned.  C. Trent Rosecrans, a sports columnist wrote an article, outlining his research on what makes a good baseball manager. Beyond field formations, the right player allocations, and timing, Rosecrans argues that most of the sporting fraternity is unanimous on the view that a good manager’s role is to facilitate ‘belief’ among his players.

As it turns out, it was this belief in the plot that helped the actors in Argo stay true to their role in the operation. One of the six, who was assigned the role of illustrator stepped ahead and gave a 5 minute narration on the movie through the illustrations as if they were his creations. The act demonstrated a kind of honest passion that only someone with ‘belief’ could have pulled off.

So what are the benefits of empowerment for a manager apart from having successful projects?

1. Lesser headaches— Empowered team members will not feel cowed by the need to ask for “sign-offs” for every small and big decision in the project. Not all decisions will be right, but anyone doing something wrong has a greater possibility of owning the process of getting it right.

2. More time for the important stuff— A manager can dedicate more time to “ideate” and identify improvement opportunities rather than spend all his time in the “regular operational stuff”.

3. Greater chances of success— Research indicates that managers who empower have more engaged teams and have a higher probability of professional success compared to their “command-and-control” counterparts.

Many may ask, “How do I, as a manager, make sure that someone feels responsible and empowered when s/he comes to me asking what’s to be done?”   As it appears, it’s perhaps not such a bad idea to just say, “Suit yourself.”

Do you really intend to hire humans?

It appears from job descriptions that organisations are looking really looking to hire assembly line robots rather than humans

Job descriptions—they are everywhere— in employment dailies, job portals, and in e-mail inboxes. Why then, do recruiters continue to complain about long recruiting cycles and irrelevant applications? Alibies abound!  They range from the data-driven such as dearth of quality talent and geographical skill concentration, to the purely nonsensical such as cost constraints and macro-economic conditions.

Sifting through hundreds of irrelevant job applications costs an organisation precious time and resources. Research indicates that the most common cause of receiving irrelevant job applications is a poorly crafted job description.

A job description is the first touch point of a hiring organisation with the prospective talent pool. In many ways, a job advertisement is similar to a note one sends to ask someone for a date on Valentine ’s Day. What works or doesn’t, depends on how well the note is able to portray genuine intent and earnestness.  And much like a Valentine’s date proposal, a job description is an appeal to the candidate to consider the prospect of employment as an experience to cherish.

So where do organisations go wrong in scripting job descriptions? The US-based business magazine Inc. published an article last week outlining that a recruiter can easily be mistaken as a passive non-committal entity through a job description.  Scripting a job description requires a great deal of thinking and restraint that a recruiter often fails to exercise. This leads a job description to sound like an activity list rather than an earnest invitation to consider and apply.

Here are five common mistakes to avoid while scripting job descriptions.

We are looking to hire robots

The first point where a job description can start to sound passive is through non-committal phrases such as “the candidate should possess.”  As experts argue a job description can introduce the human element through a simple rephrase from “the candidate” to “you.” Introducing the human element can work wonders in how a prospect views a job.

More detail means more exciting

Most recruiters are tempted to include every single detail leading to an exceedingly long and overwhelming job description.  On most occasions, including too much detail can prove to be counter-intuitive.

A superhuman is the best bet for this job

Understanding the difference between “desired” and “required” is very essential. While every recruiter desires the candidate to possess every skill available on the planet, it is important to exercise restraint and understand what is required of the job. The job description should reflect that.

The only thing more complicated is neural networks

Job descriptions that fail to provide clear, directive guidance around the application and selection process fail to attract attention.  Oftentimes, the job description presents the process as a set of complicated activities without definitive timelines. Clear guidance around the process of hiring in the job description can potentially get more eyeballs rolling.

This is the only job advertised anywhere at all

Oftentimes, a recruiter fails to acknowledge the fact that a job advertisement is really a competition in the talent arena and therefore, there is a great necessity to make a job description appear stimulating. A job description needs to have an inviting headline and needs to be written in a language that sounds exciting for a prospect to consider and apply.

So, are you a DRIFTer?

Creating the perfect output every single time in the highly complicated job environment may not be as impossible as it sounds

“Do it right the first time” or DRIFT is a concept that got introduced into the business lexicon from the manufacturing industry in the 1980s.  The concept refers to setting up processes and systems in such a way that the distribution receives goods from production just once but without errors.

Psychologists and visionaries have closely looked at the theory to understand ways by which an individual can implement this to their daily work. John Wooden a Hall of Fame basketball player and coach famously quoted, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

DRIFT can potentially reduce the cost of production by eliminating the need for carrying excessive inventory or the need to manage customer returns. The concept is simple—whatever comes into production has zero probability of error. In other words, whatever, goes out of the assembly line is done right the first time.

Time and motion experiments reveal that the cumulative time required for executing projects by applying DRIFT principles are much lower compared to conventional techniques.  It is not hard to imagine how life becomes easier for someone who develops the aptitude to do things right at the first go. A professional who churns around the perfect output time and again enjoys greater confidence and trust among managers and colleagues. He or she is better able to manage time and is more engaged with his or her work.

The cost of rework includes not just additional time and effort but also the risk of losing brand equity.  So how does one apply the principle of DRIFT to their daily work? Experts recommend that an individual needs to shed some conventional mind-sets in order to become a DRIFTer.

I do not have time to think about it

As an intensive and highly technical quality control exercise, DRIFT needs significant investment of time and effort to put together systems, processes, and controls to ensure zero error output at the first go.  Individuals and organizations often fail to see that though it involves investing time initially, the returns are high and long-lasting.  The starting point of becoming a DRIFTer is by shedding the barrier of reluctance.

DRIFT does not apply to my job

While a manufacturing concept, the concepts of DRIFT can be applied to every job, every role, and every industry. Research indicates that the most common uses of DRIFT principles outside the manufacturing industry are among professionals in the software, home improvement, and auto repair industry.  There is no evidence to suggest that the concept does not apply to other industries.

I need to employ a consultant

No one knows your job or how you work better than you! It is extremely important for a professional to break down his job into activities and map them to his or her potential failure points.  While the job activity breakdown for two professionals in the same role might look fairly similar, the failure points are really dependant on the individual’s work strengths and weaknesses and therefore unique.

It CAN be done right the first time

No self-improvement plan can work out perfectly the first time, and neither will DRIFT. Unless one works in an assembly line with a fixed set of activities and output expectations, one needs to be persistent with his efforts to find out better ways of doing things right.

The globally renowned author and management thinker Atul Gawande argues that every professional can develop the capability to do things with “no-error” efficiency. Gawande recommends a simple tactical starting point in one’s efforts to become DRIFT compliant— a checklist!

Skilled or adaptable— what does your resume say?

In this age of intense competition, the most important professional competency that a recruiter looks for in a candidate’s resume is adaptability

Jennifer Openshaw dons many hats. She is an entrepreneur, a financial consultant, and a mother of a beautiful daughter. As many would say, Jennifer is ‘living the American dream.’ Jennifer reveals that at a young age when she pledged to do what it takes to become a successful professional, she saw every employment option as opportunity to learn and build skills.

In an article that she posted recently, Jennifer articulates the diverse set of experiences that she acquired in her professional career, including that of working as a maid. Jennifer argues that, in this age of intense competition and the constantly changing business landscape, the most important skill that a recruiter looks for in a candidate’s resume is the ability to adapt.

As professionals, many of us are inclined to pursue a limited set of competencies through the course of our careers. At some point of time, we claim to be experts in our particular field and expect the job market to attach a monetary value against it. A recognized global career expert, David Conley, argues that it is actually an individual’s “non-cognitive” skills, including experience and diversity that marks the difference between professional success and failure. Specialization, though important, is not the definitive selection criteria for most recruiters.

An analysis of language standards available in any job portal for job descriptions across widely divergent industries, roles, and hierarchical levels reveal a few interesting commonalities. These commonalities mostly revolve around adaptability or “non-cognitive” skills.  The University of Bradford’s career development web site has published a set of language standards that are common in job descriptions that are advertised. Some of the commonalities include the following—

—      positive “can do” attitude

—      willingness to grasp opportunities

—      demonstrate a dynamic approach

—      the right attitude to change

Openshaw quotes from a speech from a hiring manager at Google, one of the most sought-after employers in the world, “Today, companies aren’t hiring for a specific position but rather people who are smart and flexible. The way you demonstrate that is by showing you can do multiple things well.”

Adaptability is a function of personality, cognitive behaviour, and non-cognitive skills. Experts feel that in order to assess a candidate’s adaptability, recruiters typically look for the following signs in a candidate’s resume—

—      Intellectual flexibility through widely divergent academic and leisure pursuits (for example, a programmer who paints)

—      Change receptiveness (ability to deliver positive business results in diverse roles)

—      Capability to innovate (instances of business-results achieved through non-standard channels)

Before you go ahead and headline your resume as “PMP-certified professional with 10 years of SEO experience,” take a step back and reflect. Perhaps your dream recruiter is looking for something else.

EPFO’s Aadhar headache

Unless operational efficiencies in the system are removed, the mandatory EPFO directive to enroll in Aadhar might lead to many headaches

The Government of India announced the Aadhar scheme in 2010 to provide unique identification numbers to ensure that citizens gain efficient access to national schemes. The Aadhar identification can be used for any purpose that seeks to establish the identity of a citizen and covers several government schemes under food and nutrition, employment, education, social security, and healthcare.

Though purposed initially with ensuring that the marginalized and poor of the country gain access to government benefits, the span of the programme gradually evolved to act as a single identification mechanism for individuals who are tied to the fiscal system, including banking, insurance, and government schemes.

Earlier this month, EPFO announced that PF transactions will now come under the ambit of the Aadhar scheme. The EPFO directed all its field staff to mandatorily ask for Aadhar numbers from new members joining the scheme from March 1, 2013 and existing members by June 30. What started out as a voluntary enrolment initiative will now cover a significant majority of the organized workforce of the country that is enrolled under the EPFO scheme.

Trade unions are vehemently opposing the EPFO’s suo moto decision to make it mandatory. The EPFO currently covers over 50 million subscribers. EPFO is currently working on building a national database for issuing all subscribers with unique account numbers to allow an individual to switch jobs without transferring PF accounts while switching jobs. The primary argument of trade unions is that in the event that the PF account gets centralized, the choice of creating an Aadhar number should continue to remain voluntary.

PFO trustee and All India Trade Union Congress Secretary D L Sachdev says that, “EPFO does not need to use Aadhaar number as unique account number of its members. “ In addition to the operational inconvenience of creating Aadhar numbers, this move will not go down very well with both employees and with employers. Here’s why.

Incomplete reach of the scheme

The Times of India recently carried a report stating that Aadhar scheme has not reached many regions in the country and it is unfair to expect that employees in those areas should get themselves enrolled. If the move comes into effect, employees in those areas will be unable to carry out any transactions in their PF accounts even while moving jobs.

The increasing incidences of Aadhar-related fraud

An article published in the daily, Raising Kashmir, reveals that there has been a rising number of Aadhar-related frauds that are being reported. Amidst all the benefits that Aadhar promises to deliver, these incidents have contributed to the shaky confidence in the minds of citizens in the credibility of the scheme.

Limited number of Aadhar centers

Many believe a flood of applications will likely follow this directive, and the limited number of Aadhar centers will be unable to process so many applications. The number of Aadhar centers in the country is hugely disproportionate to the population. For example, Mumbai with a population of over 1 crore has only one Aadhar center. Many in the organized sector feel that this will mean lengthy queues and a massive waste of productivity.

Operational hassles and additional cost for an employer

The EPFO guideline mandates an employer to submit every employee’s enrolment ID (EID) number to the EPFO. The employer, however, cannot issue an EID. What that means is an additional cost for an employer in promoting and pushing the scheme among its employees in order to meet the mandatory requirements.

The EPFO has directed its field staff to collaborate with local authorities and set up camps in industrial areas and other places they find suitable. Analysts believe that the EPFO directive will help workers in various sectors that witness a lot of movement of skilled workers. The move will also likely help contractors and contract workers who frequently move organizations and locations. The success of the Aadhar scheme in the organized sector, therefore, hinges around steps that the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) will take to ease enrolment and reduce the likelihood of fraud.

Who will be the biggest recruiters of 2013?

Business expansion will drive large-scale recruitments in several sectors, led by IT and Pharma

The head hunting firm, HeadHonchos came out with a report earlier this month, ‘Management Hiring: Perspective report 2012’ enlisting the hottest industries for hiring in India this year. The findings reveal considerable changes in the hiring landscape this year compared to 2012. Along with some macro-economic drivers, such as FDI in retail and Banking Reforms Bill, skill availability and demographic composition of the talent pool will drive hiring trends in various sectors including retail, banking, telecom and infrastructure. According to Amit Garg, Business Head, HT Digital, “There will be a 15 to 20 percent increase in both fresh and replacement hiring in Indian companies compared to 2012.”  While most sectors will continue to hire skilled professionals in large numbers, IT and Pharma are expected to be the biggest recruiters in 2013.

The  Naukri Job Speak Index, that tracks hiring trends across industry sectors, geographies, and functional areas has shown consistent hiring activity in pharma across several months and experts predict that the trend will continue across 2013. President of pharma company, Lupin says that, “All large pharma companies in India are expanding and will continue to expand across the next few months. Being a research-intensive industry, there is a need for technically skilled and knowledge workers.”

India’s biggest IT company, TCS, announced yesterday that they have plans to close the financial year with 10,000 more recruits over and above their earlier goal of 50,000. Corporate India is also expected to see significant competition in IT hiring from a very unlikely player, the PSU sector. In November 2012, 14 of the largest PSU companies announced plans of hiring via the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) 2013. A look into the career websites of these 14 PSUs (including HPCL, IOCL, BEL, BHEL, NTPC, and NALCO) reveals that IT jobs are aplenty. With nearly 81% of the candidates who appeared in GATE 2012 from IT and IT-related streams, added to the attractive remuneration and perks advertised in PSU jobs, the corporate sector in India will face stiff competition from the PSU sector in IT hiring.

A January 7 report by the Times of India reveals that there is a dearth of skilled entry-level talent in the pharma and IT sectors. Tier 1 institutes, such as IITs and NITs are the first preference for hiring in IT companies. The growing scale of IT businesses will however compel these companies to dig deeper into the talent pool in Tier 2 and Tier 3 colleges. Some IT companies, such as Hexaware Technologies, are spending up to Rs. 30,000 per employee on training.  Pharma companies are also staring at the face of a huge demand-supply gap and companies are end up investing large sums of money in training. Companies, such as Lupin spend an average of Rs. 25,000 per employee on skilling and training.

As the hiring space in India will likely see a mad scamper for talent acquisition in 2013, social media hiring, access to larger talent pools, and employer branding will likely be the focus areas for companies in the coming months. Hiring organizations will also likely create region-specific strategies to maximize their investment in hiring. Tulika Tripathi, Managing Director of the Consulting firm Michael Page, says that “Companies this year should focus on designing internship programs that are more aligned with industry requirements and can potentially lead to conversions into final offers.”