Saturday, May 27, 2017

Professionalization of Professional Bodies

Professional Bodies and Office Seekers

T V Rao

Professional bodies like the AIMA, AMA, ISTD, NHRDN, NIPM, ISABS, ISISD etc. have contributed a lot to the development of the respective professions and professionals. Indian Professional bodies, I am familiar with, have a great opportunity to contribute and have a long way to go compared to their counterparts in the west. For example, the American Society for Training and Development, SHRM, American Psychological Association, The American Sociological Association, The Academy of HRD, USA etc. have done enormous service to their professions. They encourage research, hold conferences, publish journals, conduct certification programs. In all this work, they involve most of the time the top-grade universities and scholars besides practitioners and executives. One thing remarkable about these bodies in other countries is the involvement of academics and scholars. In India whenever the academics and scholars were involved a good degree of research took place and over a period there seems to be a tremendous decline of the involvement of academics and scholars. Concerted effort may have to be made to engage the scholars to upgrade the quality of contributions of these professional bodies. Research and publications is the backbone of any profession. In the absence of them there is a risk of them turning out to be like clubs to meet the affiliation needs of those involved. Professional bodies should develop a plan of action and have self-renewal mechanism instituted to rejuvenate them and lift their quality and impact.

You Don't need to hold office to contribute to a Profession or a professional body

I have seen many enthusiasts’ wanting to be office bearers of professional bodies. I am a life member of NHRDN, ISTD, ISABS, ISET and AMA. I am not a member of NIPM nor AIMA. I conduct a HR Leadership event every year for AMA though I had never been an office bearer or on its Board. CK Prahalad used to come every year when he was alive, and gave a honorary lecture at AMA for the city of Ahmedabad. I always welcomed any invitation from and never refused to address any chapter of NIPM or NIPM itself whenever they requested me. NIPM even sponsored me for some global award even though I am not a member. ISTD also invited me several times for keynote talks etc. even though I was never an office bearer.  On the contrary, NHRDN for which I am Founder and first president never invited me for a keynote talk or as a key speaker in the last 20 years. They do invite me to attend their conferences or to say a few words, occasionally depending on the Chapter’s preference. This honor was given to me by NIPM and ISTD.

 In fact, I am not even on the Board of NHRDN for the last several years. I did not want to participate in the selection process of its office bearers except once in the last 15 years. Almost all decisions in the last 20 years have been taken without my involvement. About 18 years ago, when it was not picking up and activities were at the lowest, I volunteered to constitute a Renewal Committee and rejuvenated with the help of a large number of others including Aquila Busrai, Arvind Agarwal, P V R Murthy, Rupa Padki, Uday Pareek in 1999-2000. Once Arvind Agarwal was appointed the President in 2000, I withdrew and was like any other member.  My contention was, learning from Ravi Matthai, my time was over and it is for others to lead. However, this does not stop me from contributing to NHRDN as its member and founder President without  imposing my views.. 

Once in recent years, I requested for a small fund to recruit summer trainees to consolidate all the publications of NHRDN and put them together. Though the President agreed the Director General declined. I felt upset, but went ahead and spent my own money, hired the trainees and completed the task. The thousand and odd articles are now available on NHRDN portal. In recent times I saw members of some professional bodies taking up issues for positions on some of these professional bodies. I have also seen some members contesting elections and doing a lot of canvassing and after they get elected rarely turn up to events. Professionalism and sense of responsibility is missing among  some of them. I have also seen a few members who have taken it as a mission only to find faults in the governance system of these bodies. Good Governance is important. Transparency is very important. It is not enough to read out a code of conduct but it is more important to practice it and be available for examination of this practice. 

You don’t need to be a member of a professional body to contribute to it or to the profession it represents.  You can do it in many ways and you will receive the gifts you deserve. The most important gift your receive is the self-satisfaction that you made a difference. If someone is interested in serving a professional body as an office bearer, I would strongly recommend to these professional bodies to create positions to accommodate all those interested. Along with it there should be strict evaluation of their contributions and removal in the absence of their being able to fulfill their commitment to the body.  It is difficult to get volunteers who can spend time and if someone is willing please do not turn them away. Some of them may not know how to approach the body and some of them may even make the mistake of pointing out the legal validity of some of those who are elected.

Performance or Contribution Appraisal of Office bearers should be compulsory

Some members go out of way to canvass for getting elected for positions and once they are elected they don’t even attend meetings. I have come across one case when a President of a Chapter would not do anything and he would not also resign after having been elected as President. When an informal meeting as called and someone from the local university volunteered to take up the role, the president in office threatened the professor that he will be beaten up if he does not withdraw. The chapter never recovered from this and the city lost a great opportunity. I find it difficult to understand why some professionals go out of way to make issues and keep controversies alive. They should realize that they are harming themselves and the profession they represent without their knowing it. I also believe that professional bodies should not become mere legal entities in the name of good governance. What is needed is flexibility, creativity, sense of purpose and commitment to a cause. It goes without saying that these bodies should conduct their activities transparently, ensure all statutory compliance particularly in financial and accounting matters. 

If someone is not working they should be prompt enough to remove them and let the body function. Unfortunately, there is so much of local apathy to professional bodies in some places. In other places, there is intense competition to fight elections and take positions. Both have their downsides.
To avoid such things professional bodies should also have strict performance evaluations of all their office bearers every six months and even undertake a 360 feedback once a while. Performance evaluation by members (related members) is a must in professional bodies and the results should be transparently published.

In my view self-regulation is the key to success of Professional bodies. When office bearers take up positions they should publicly commit their time and other resources for building the profession and contributing to the body. Unless they do this they would be doing enormous invisible damage to the profession. It is not right and not ethical. 

1 comment:

  1. Very apt surgery of professional bodies and the aspirants of official positions in these bodies.