Thursday, October 25, 2012

Preface to the second edition of HRD Missionary

HRD Missionary

(Preface to Second Edition of the book "HRD Missionary" available from or

In a recent article titled “Why We Hate HR? Keith Haymmonds pointed out the following reasons:

1. HR people are n’t the brightest lot while the function requires bright people with business acumen. The best and the brightest don’t go to HR. HR doesn’t tend to hire a lot of independent thinkers or people who stand up as moral compasses. HR people may not even know answers to basic questions like: who is their company’s core customer? What challenges do they face? Who are the competitors? What do they do well and what they don’t? Who are we? What do they do well and not so well in their own company in relation to competitors and customers?

2. HR pursues efficiency in lieu of value. They are more activity and target driven than out- come and value driven.  HR people can readily provide the number they hired, the percentage of performance evaluations they completed, the extent to which employees are satisfied with their benefits, and the number of man-hours of training imparted etc. They rarely link any of these with business performance.

3. HR is not working for the employees but often to protect the organization against their own employees by ensuring that data are collected to help organization meet labour regulations and standards.  HR people pursue uniform policies against people who are heterogeneous and complex. HR departments’ bench-mark salaries department-by-department or function-by-function and job-by-job against industry standards, keeping pay -- even that of stars-- within a narrow band determined by competitors. They are un-willing to acknowledge accomplishments that merit more than 4% companywide increase and bounce performance appraisals back to managers.

4.  HR people do not get the ear of the top management for strategic issues. Whenever they bring strategic issues they are ignored and are used for hiring, firing, organizing picnics, celebrations, etc. According to one survey a number of organizations are likely to expand their outsourcing of HR activities like learning and development, payroll, recruiting, health, welfare and global mobility.

The article concluded: “the problem, if you‘re an HR person is this: The tasks companies are outsourcing—the adminsitrivia—tend to be what you’re good at. And what is left isn’t exactly your strong suit.”  

The above observations are similar to those made  15 years before the above article appeared  w lead to the book “HRD Missionary” In his Foreword to the book, Mr. M.R.R Nair observed “The HRD departments are happy doing “traditional” functions which get relegated as “Clerical or “Fire fighting”  tasks.” There are however shining examples of organizations adopting clear HRD philosophies.... and contributing to organizational growth and revival.

In a recent survey by TVRLS, line managers from different organizations assessed the effectiveness of the HRD function. The survey results when compared with a similar survey results done in 1991 indicated a definite decline in the effective performance of various roles. This study indicated a definite decline in the perceptions of the effectiveness with which the various HRD functions are being performed as perceived by the line managers. There was a definite decline in the effectiveness with which the HRD roles are being performed as compared to a decade and a half ago. The study concluded that, this is perhaps an indication of the raising expectation of line managers from the HRD managers as well as a reflection of the falling standards of performance of various HR Development activities. Monitoring HRD implementation and conducting Human process research are the two poorly performed functions across most organizations.  Creating a development motivation among line managers by organizing visits to other organizations for them was one of the least attended activities. OD and self renewal activities were also among the least effectively performed activities.  The study concluded that:  1. HRD Managers need to recognize the stake holder expectations and understand the overall business and strategic context of their function. As the expectations from HRD function are changing and they are expected to perform more value adding functions and activities. 2. The HRD function should focus on intellectual capital generation activities and at the same time ensure a good ROI on training and other interventions rather than merely facilitating in-house training activities. 3. The HRD practitioners need to equip themselves with capacity and competencies needed to build the HRD function as hands on, proactive strategic partner with practical contributions to organizational goals and performance effectiveness. 4. The HRD practitioners need to strengthen their partnership and credibility with their stake holders by involving them in policy making and communicating constantly.

Those who read the first edition of the HRD Missionary written nearly twenty years ago would have realised that these were anticipated in the book. The book argued for a missionary approach to implementing HRD.  I began writing this book while I was on a consulting assignment with Voltas and was working simultaneously with the Ministry of HRD to review NIEPA (now NUEPA). I noticed during many of my consulting assignments the new role of HRD created a decade and a half before the nineties was already getting to be either routinised or politicised and was enjoying power. Part of the complication came as these roles and departments were carved out of the Personnel Departments and fell into the traps explained in the book. A few of them like today were doing a marvellous job.  I felt strongly at that time that HRD has many difficulties: CEOs don’t understand how to use HRD, HRD Managers themselves did not understand what they are expected to do and many of them lacked even professional preparation to do right things. This book along with another jointly edited by Mr. M R R Nair, Director HR of SAIL and me (Excellence though HRD published by Tata McGrawHill)  were to serve as guides for those who wanted to become HRD managers.

Since the time the first edition of the HRD missionary was written went years ago a lot of things have happened in this country and worldwide.  In India, opening up of the economy and liberalisation, creation of the new economic environment, upcoming of IT and other services, emergence of many young entrepreneurs in various fields etc. are some of the highlights. Indian Industry has come a long way in the last two decades and Indian Industry has also become a worldwide noticeable industry. Unlike the earlier years Indian products and services got global prominence as all of them started competing in making quality products and offer globally competitive services. There is a sea change in the country. Speed became the order of the day as World Wide Web provided all information and services at the door step. Many organizations started downsizing in nineties and stabilising subsequently in terms of costs, speed, service quality and other parameters. The last one decade has seen two unexpected experiences (the dot com burst and the new economic crisis or worldwide recession experienced in 2008-2009), have come out of it and continued to do business as usual. Competition has become global. Technology has become cheaper and accessible to many. Finances are available in plenty most of the time as there are investors for good ideas and risk takers too. Talent had become more scarce and expensive and hence become a strategic variable. HRD has come under focus in the last one decade much more than before and competent and committed HRD managers have become scarce.  The emergence a large number of consultants and consulting firms and management schools specialising in HR are indictors of this HR boom in the last decade. Most CEOs have recognised the importance of the spotting, procuring, nurturing, retaining and d developing talent. HRD Managers had the difficult and challenging task.

 However as the opportunities grew HRD Managers also started job hopping. This has affected partly the HRD profession. HRD profession ended up as having two images-one in the eyes of themselves and the CEOs and another in the eyes of the other employees. Employees depended on HRD for their growth and maintenance. While HR administration was predictable and any one can do well with little training the more difficult and challenging task of nurturing and developing talent and creating a culture for effective utilisation of talent is complex, long drawn, needs  expert hep and sustained effort.  It is easy to arrange transport and visas and create good physical work conditions and predictable benefit schemes, it needs different skills base to plan, manage and develop performance, and motivate people, get their commitment to stay with the company, get them to enjoy work and show commitment and at the same time grow in the company. It is here professional expertise of HRD Managers and their sustained effort was required.

In many ways though the HRD Missionary was written before the new economic environment it seems to have anticipated the issues well. What has been said in this book remained truer in the new economic Environment. There has been great appreciation of this book from many quarters. Whenever I attempted to review it for re-writing it, I found that there is very little I could add. There was not much new happening that was not anticipated or explained in the first edition. So there was no need for a second edition for almost twenty years.

When I began to prepare the second edition now, I felt that many things remain the same and if any the situation of HRD Managers in those days exists with same intensity. In fact his seems to be the case all over the world as indicated by the article “Why We Hate HR?” written from across the borders.  The book therefore needed only an update as the issues remain the same. The need for HRD Missionaries if any has only increased as the number of non-performing HRD Managers has gone up as indicated by the study by TVRLS. I have updated the same by adding a few more to the list of HRD Interventions: 360 degree Feedback, Assessment and Development Centres, HRD Audit, HRD Score card, Employee Engagement surveys. The argument that HRD Managers should work with Missionary zeal and spirit remains the same. If any it has become more necessary than before. CEOs still do not fully understand the potential use of good HRD Managers. While they speak of Strategic HR and strategic thinking, they seem to put HRD Managers to very little of strategic use. It needs a higher degree of understanding, expectations on the part of the CEOs as well as HRD Managers on what a good HRD Manager can do to transform an organization. To do this HRD Managers need knowledge, commitment, and professional competence.

I hope this book will continue to inspire the new generation of HRD Managers and enables them to do right things and things right. I have dropped the second part of the HRD Missionary that gave a number of questionnaires as there are number of them and are available in more detail from other sources like the HRD Score Card 2500 (Sage, Response Books, 2008) and Training Instruments in HRD and OD (by Udai Pareek, Tata McGraw-Hill) etc.

In all my efforts to pursue HRD, Dr Udai Pareek has been a constant source of encouragement, and a companion. It was Udai who involved me in the L&T assignment at IIMA which lead to the conceptualisation of HRD Function and department. I continue to dedicate the second edition of this book to Udai.

T. V. Rao
January 21, 2010  

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