After shelving our long weekend plans to Ellora Caves, we resorted to some mall hopping on Sunday. Sometimes retail therapy can do wonders to your mood like nothing else does. The Santa was entertaining a lot of kids yesterday afternoon at the Pune Central. Watched a bunch of movies - Apaharan, Ek Ajnabee and a few on TV. Don’t be misled by their 3* ratings. Not good at all.
Lot of good food at home, tried out some new recipes on the Microwave. I’m sure that the pictures of the Indian recipes in the Microwave book are all actually made in gas and not in MW. From Phirni to bartha none of them come out as good and as crispy.
The weekend is almost over and so is my mindless blogging for now………
Little doubt that Customer Service in India really sucks. Else attribute it to some freakish coincidence that ICICI Bank, Citibank, BSNL and Tata AIG Insurance are all equally bad in serving their customers.
Believe it or not we wasted over 5 hours of our weekend talking to some customer service reps for various year end/mundane tasks like paying insurance premiums, telephone bills and all of them outdo each other in acting stupid!
Consider it twice if you are taking your Auto Insurance from Tata AIG because you can be sure they wouldn’t dispatch your policy hardcopy even 2 weeks after you’ve paid the money.
ICICI Bank requires their customers to visit the bank in person to change the address. Which is still fine. But for every task you got to visit them atleast 2 times for they never seem to get anything straight the first time, from issuing pins to changing addresses. It is quite funny to visit the branch..stand in long queues glaring at the 10 inch monitor over your head for your token number to go ting tong..so much for automation!
Citibank is the master of it all. On the one hand it charges their customers when they make a personal visit to the branch and on the other it resorts to ancient ways for getting the address changed. It requires them to post a hand written letter ensuring that your requests never get handled. It has taken me over 4 months to get a goddamn address changed.
BSNL, Pune is a black mark for BSNL. On the one hand you see pictures of Dayanidhi Maran and Bill Gates flashing all over and his attempt to make the connection process smoother and faster, and on the other you see such morons that makes you think, where is this country heading to. Telephone bills never reach home after multiple reminders but they are prompt enough to call up to disconnect the line.
Either I must be living in a very backward city of this country or Pune is totally not worth a place to live in. Atleast now I can partially empathise with Americans’ experience of Indian Call Centers and their processes.
“Workplace Culture”. What is it and does it really matter? I’ve often heard this term in conversations when you are talking about Google or Sun Microsystems. Or for that matter what is it that you really miss about your old job and bang comes the answer “the culture”.
In my opinion, “workplace culture” is synonymous to the environment, the atmosphere you work in. Which has been created by the people who work there and over the years has been emulated by others who joined the organization. Be it good, be it bad it has all been carried forward. It is the “system”. And as kids, we have been taught to adapt to the “system” and not “revolt” against it. “Workplace culture” defines how you treat newcomers into your Project family - you can either be hostile or inclusive and accommodative. It defines how you interact with your peers and superiors, the openness, the freedom to voice your opinions. It defines how much tension is always in the air as you swipe your cards in and enter the corridors of your workplace. It dictates whether you will live in freedom or in fear. It dictates when you come in to work and when you leave and how much time you spend on lunches and coffee breaks. Someone set the rules and they become graved in concrete for the rest of the lifecycle of the project. It percolates from the top management to the lowest orders.
Now why should it affect one? It does because we are all social animals and not robots. We spend 8 hours or 3/4ths of a day if you are working for one of those top Indian Services Firms at work. And if you are not having fun what you are doing, then you got a problem. “Workplace culture” after all is nothing but “Social Behavior” at workplace.
The reason why I started off with this post was I found “Workplace Culture” in Pune quite different. I leave it to your discretion to judge if it is different good or different bad. I know it is politically incorrect to generalize as huge a thing as Corporate Culture for a place as big as Pune. But having worked in 2 companies and heard a few up, close and personal stories, I think I will do it justice. A few experiences…
a) Day 2 of a job - Manager introduces to two most senior members - persons A and B. While he is doing that, one does not even have the courtesy to look up. Leave alone standing up and shaking hands. What a great first impression!
b) Day 3 - A “hi” is met with a hostile unfriendly stare.
c) All this while, this has just been a dark place. No other introductions have happened except the 2. The others around don’t even bother and refuse to acknowledge that there is someone new sitting behind them.
d) Week 2 - Person A refuses to address X by name. A comes and taps on the table - what a gentle way of addressing someone.
e) We don’t really care if you are having your lunches alone.
f) “I’ve just returned from a trip to Germany. So I’m going to flaunt my travel stories by shouting loudly on the phone.” How lame!
g) So what if you are from down South. We will all rattle in the local language even if you don’t understand.
h) Manager A walks into a meeting and addresses Manager B sitting in the meeting so rudely that makes you think “What have I got into?”.
Well, never before in the past 6 years have I heard or experienced of such stories until now. What is surprising is the fact that the same organization has cultures that are poles apart in different locations. Pune definitely needs a cosmo look to make it a choice of the preferred offshoring destination in India. On a closing note, I would also like to say that where there are such people, there have also been some very nice and supportive people.
Categories: Corporate, work, culture, Pune
“Retaining Top Talent” was the topic of discussion last night on NDTV Profit’s program called “One Life to Love”. The program featured interviews with Grow Talent’s CEO Anil Sachdev, HR of Sasken Comm. Technologies and Chief People Officer of Scandent.
There are times when you can’t point a finger to one reason as to why you want to quit a job. It happened with me when I quit my first job. It could be as trivial as “I just don’t feel like I belong here anymore” or “the culture”. But whatever it is, you sometimes feel the management isn’t taking the right steps to retain its top talent even after identifying you are their top talent. Why? It is no secret that the services firms in India do treat their employees as commodities. Can they afford to do that? Ironically, their balance sheets show they can. But I’m sure it comes at price. Though opportunities are galore, highly talented people generally are not primarily motivated just by money. So they don’t jump like rabbits every quarter. Go ahead and read the rest of the entry if you feel you can make a difference by going that extra step to take are of your talent.
A few takeaways from the program:
Top 3 reasons why people quit their jobs:
- Performance Review.
- Rapport with the supervisor - according to me this is the most detrimental factor. People don’t leave companies, they leave their managers.
- Personal Aspirations - lack of opportunities for cross border deputations, trainings and so on.
There was this interesting case where apparently the only budget the CEO of that company monitors is that spent on recognition and parties. I know you are dying to know which company that is…Frequent “Rewards and Recognition” is by far the most influential factor in keeping the morale of employees high.
How do you know when people leave?
No Sixth Sense. If people are absent from work citing reasons such as “uncle is unwell”, “my car has broken down, gotta take it to the mechanic”, then you know its time to leave and interviews are on! When a highly active employee who brings up issues all the time look withdrawn and wears that “doesn’t really matter” and “don’t care” attitude, you know its time for you to take care.
When do they leave?
Employees generally start looking out for options when they have been working for 2-4 years. Having started as freshers, expectations are low 0-2 years and the desire to learn is high. When aspirations increase, the urge to explore the market is high. If you’ve not taken the plunge then one tends to stick on. Again people with 40-45 years of age start looking out when they know they can’t get into the big league in their own organizations. This also coincides with the time, most personal obligations have been met such as kids starting college.
What motivates people?
there is no straight answer to this. Ask people what motivates them. Talk to them. But here are a few pointers:
- Show career paths to people.
- Invest significantly in competency building.
- Monitor the levels of employee engagement.
- It is not just the HR manager’s role to keep employees satisfied. It is primarily that of the Operating Manager’s
Yet another person interviewed said, CEOs of today are social architects. The era of charismatic leaders is over. This is an era of leaders that pay attention, listen to you and thrive at making the workplace far more democratic, vibrant and participative.
This is the part I liked the best. How many of you remember your exit interviews? Were you already being treated as someone from their “yesterday”? Do not call people who walk out of your doors as ex-employees. They are your Brand ambassadors. The new mantra - “Forget Lifetime employment, it is lifetime affiliation” now.
On a closing note, an ex-employee of a company who joined a competitor said, “They could’ve kept me, but they never asked.” So don’t stop yourself. Ask them to stay only if you believe in that person and do it in a way that would appeal. Remember its not a bargain. Bargains are short lived!
After 3 weeks of forced break from blogging, I’m back. It feels GOOD to see the blogger screen again. No web-based e-mails, no regular dose of blog sites, no NY Times at work. It wouldn’t feel like the day has started at all. Stupid Websense. Websense blocks just about every website ever made. Ok not really. Blogs are catgorized under “Message boards and Clubs”. How nice! Its work, work and only work .. how boring can that get. The absence of broadband connection at home made it worse. But now I have one.
I feel alive again…more sooner.
As a kid, I would fake tummy aches and dysenteries and lock myself in the toilet when the school pickup car would pull in our driveway to pick my brother and I. My antics for avoding going to school. This would be followed by my mom’s persuasion turning into bribing (chocolate at the end of the day). When nothing worked, she would storm in drag me out, pick me up and just thrust me into the car. I can’t recall going to school without tears flowing down my eyes even for a day. Its strange because I was exceptionally good at studies …
Fast forward. 20 years later. I do the same thing even today. Umm, not exactly. My mom doesn’t drag me out and shove me in. But the morning drama continues to this day. “Don’t-want-to-goto-work” blues. There is one common string though between my childhood and now. I changed schools every year as we moved a lot and I studied in a dozen of them. Before I could make fast friends, we were already at a new place.
As I switch jobs (voluntarily) again, I’m going thr the same trauma now. The first few days at work are never easy. It is an info overload. Everything changes. From formals to casual clothing to formals again. Friends, your fav corner at work, coffee corner, that comfy chair, library, your housekeeping guys, work culture, the buildings you pass thr during the commute every morning.
First day usually means getting to know a bunch of jargons, being introduced to 30 odd people over a span of 30 minutes. Just when I thought I got all the names and the respective faces right, its time to leave again. Its kinda funny because I tend to relate people to the clothes they are wearing on the first day. So if the guy is not wearing a green shirt the next day, I would totally be confused.
First few days at work is all about connecting with people. Making/breaking relationships. You tend to form a social network of sorts. Introducing yourself a bunch of times that at the end of it you almost forget your own identity. There have been times when I have fumbled for my name.
On the contrary, last few days I believe is tougher because you are in the middle of nowhere. It is an awkward situation because people know you are leaving and you have to answer this question smartly , “Where are you going to?”. I hope this is the last time I do it….
Book Excerpt: The Art of Project Management, is featured on Slashdot. This book is authored by Scott Berkun and the sample chapter was an interesting read. You must be thinking, “Not again. Not on Project Management”. So much has already been written and will continue in the years to come on the Art of Project Management. Despite that, projects fail everyday. Projects are executed in the same manner as they were probably 5 years ago. Sure reading how to execute projects will not make you a successful one overnight but reading about other’s experiences, I believe, will enable you to react to situations better. Probably.
I have come to believe that the journey is more important than the destination itself. The successful delivery of the project does not essentially mean the project’s success. The stages of a current project (this journey), will determine your future successes and if your dream team will hang in there.
Some takeaways from this article :
- Master the many ways to say no
- Prioritization - The challenge of prioritization is always more emotional/psychological than intellectual, despite what people say.
- The challenge with questioning others is that it can run against the culture of an individual or organization. Some cultures see questioning as an insult or a lack of trust.
- Sheer quantity of effort can be noble and good, but always look for ways to work smart rather than just hard. Be relentless in spirit, but clever and savvy in action.
- This is so true. When projects turn emotional, they lose a sense of purpose.
Another great read on a similar topic - When clients (and bosses) go bad…
Custard Apple also known as Seethaphal in India, is my favorite fruit. It doesn’t taste even a bit like Apple (which btw I dislike) does. So I don’t know why the name Custard Apple.
Many people I know are put off by the not-so-inviting exteriors of the fruit. The rugged bumpy green lumps of the fruit is much in contrary to its delicious and soft interiors. The Custard Apples that we get in Pune in abundance are so yummy that I indulge myself and my sweet tooth every evening. Turns out it fares well nutritiously too. If you have a big backyard, then spit the black seeds there and you will have a beautiful custard apple tree.
“Friends”… ’til the End: The One with All Ten Years
David Wild I saw this book at the Crossword Sale on the front rack. It was so inviting that I finished the Joey section of the book. Priced at Rs.699 it is a great buy (though I didn’t get the book but ended up buying a CD). It has amazing pictures of the 6 F.R.I.E.N.D.S with a story of how every episode was made, some secrets and interviews as well.
Not so long ago, a group of highly sought-after 27-old somethings left their lucrative jobs with an established firm to pursue a dream. They gave up a run-of-the-mill job to create something of their own, a career they believed in and to work for themselves. True to the saying, their actions showed “People don’t leave companies — they leave leaders.” But there was a slight difference. What do you do when leaders leave? The leader left and the followers tagged behind. A tiny ripple effect was in order!
The leader had a dream, a vision. A dream of making a quick buck. There was a high demand for their skills in the market. The entrepreneurship bug bit them..the greed to capitalize on it marred the strategizing process. This was soon to be a dream come true story of one tiny cohesive group lead by an able leader that overcame all the odds to pursue their vision together. The perfect script for a successful startup firm with all the essential ingredients - passion, freedom, millionaires overnight was ready. Or so it seemed. Until the story turned sour…The startup plans were shelved for lack of a VC and they joined another organization as a “group” ofcourse! Needless to emphasize, you become a mini organization when you go as a group and the voice is expected to be “one” - that of your leader.
Transitions are never easy. Neither was this one. Too many odds, too little time, too many convincing sessions, too many sacrifices and in the heart of hearts you know you are rejecting good advice but you still do it. This was one such thing. There is no growth without taking risks after all. It was all hunky dory. The group seemed stronger than ever atleast superficially….when trouble began. Personal interests took precedence over groups’ vision. When there is no personal money involved, there can never be true commitment if there is no passion. Passion for money is not passion for work. (So long my shirt is not out there to dry.. I will never work too hard … thats THE fact.) The killer earthquake (easy 9-5 job from competitors) struck once, twice luring everyone…some quit! For some the journey is on..
But there are others who truly believed in that dream that are holding on to it..someday may be they will succeed. They realize one thing ..with great power comes great responsibility. There is only one way to go now - UP and the determination to make it work!
Some lessons to learn ..
1. Too many voices leads to noise.
2. A written commitment is always better than high flinging statements in a cozy restaurant over a sumptuous dinner.
3. If you’ve chosen a leader, you’ve got to believe in his mistakes as much as in his successes. It takes a lot to stand by in failures than clap hands and flash smiles during success stories.
4. It is not just your leader’s vision, it is yours as well.
5. Attitude - getting the right kind of people with the right attitude is detrimental.
6. Delegation and Initiative - It is team work.
7. Transparency - This is very very important. Any DECISION taken has to be one after a collective consensus of all involved.
8. Cohesiveness - depends on a number of factors ranging from the size of the groups to peer pressures to personal expectations. But this is one important thing that holds a group together. If you lack the personal chemistry amongst yourselves, there is a lil likelihood of success.
9. Self Motivation - A leader can only motivate so much in realizing that dream. You got to believe in it yourself to be self motivated.
On a closing note,
Girte hain sheh-sawar hi maidain-e-jung main,.
Woh tifl kya giraingay jo ghutno ke bal chalain !!!
This Sunday evening, we hung out with our house owners and their kids at a neighboring “farm”. Miniscule fun parks are called “farms” here. Don’t ask me why. They are not big and cool enough to qualify for a theme park like Essel World (or Six Flags) but are bigger than the clubs to which you get an annual membership at a ridiculous price just to wait in queues for hours to play an hour of tennis every time. So these farms are kinda nice in a way because they are not crowded and you don’t have the guilty feeling lingering in your head every Sunday morning “Oh my gosh. I paid 15K for the club membership that I haven’t used in months.” Too lazy to get up I make a mental note to do it positively next Sunday and pull the sheets over to get another 30 minutes of precious sleep. And that Sunday morning never comes until the next year when you pay the annual memebership charges again. And lasts just a week. Anyways that’s beside the point. So you see how these farms can offer great entertainment for lazy people like me for a meagre 100 bucks one evening when you feel like going on outing.
This one was quite different as they had some fun things to do apart from the regular features of a club like tennis court, swimming pool, a dine-in restaurant and such. L Farm had a person who could engrave your name on a rice grain, a lady that would braid your hair using threads of different colors, yet another that would apply beautiful mehendi in 10 mins and in house astrologer - well actually palm reading. However the ones that I enjoyed the most were pottery, shooting, the magician’s tricks and ofcourse watching the lil kid R twist and turn on the dance floor to the tunes of Kajra Re. That was fun.
The kids C and K obviously belong to the Generation Z and they are smart. The magician was closing for the night when we entered his den. But on our request he was kind enough to unpack his bag and he started with a few familiar tricks. All his tricks worked and he had our attention. We were just observers until now. For the next trick, he called the lil kid C and gave a silver ball in her hand. Asker her to keep her palms open and promised her he would make the ball disappear in 10 seconds. He did the predictable joo boom baa and asked “Beta, do you have the ball?”. C happily nodded. He did joo boom baa again and asked triumphantly, “Beta, the ball is gone now right?”. She shook her head in refusal. Confused if his magical powers have waned, he removed the black cloth from the top of her palm and stated in disappointment, “you should not hold the ball tight. Leave your palm open”. C was quick to respond “That is not magic. You make it disappear this way”. Anyways she obliged and the lo the ball went. C says, “I saw you taking the ball with the cloth. That’s not magic”. The magician disappointed said, “you are smart”.
Now it was the turn of the elder one to join the younger one on the stage. The trick was simple. The younger one had to put a pink cloth in black jar. The magician would pass it on to the elder one and she had to pick the cloth. The trick was successful but the elder kid says, Uncle I saw you pull a lever that made the cloth go down”.
Sensing trouble, he sends them both to their seats. But the kids don’t give up. After a few tricks, he resigns and says, “kids you are smart. Lets stop now”. It is not that when Gen X and Gen Y were the same age would not have understood what was going on, but this generation is quick to respond and doesn’t really care where the stage is right to point out. It was funny!
Quote for the Day : A man travels the world in search of what he needs
…. and returns home to find it.
George Moore (1852 - 1933)