Interviewing : Basic Managerial Skills; V4 Issue 4

Effective interviewing is the key to identifying the best candidate for a job, and creating a positive impression on the candidate. Ineffective interviewing can be a put off for good candidates, lead to bad hiring decisions, be a waste of your time and efforts and negatively impact your company’s Employer Brand.

Tips for effective Interviewing

  1. Prepare:Understand the job description, skills required for the job and candidate’s resume details. Provide the candidate information about your company and job, beforehand. Thus valuable interview time will not be spent in understanding facts already available to both of you. Schedule adequate and uninterrupted interview time and appropriate space. Write down in detail the skills you want to hire for to help you make a decision when you meet the first suitable candidate instead of waiting to meet the “ideal” candidate.

  2. Build a rapport with the candidate:This is essential in being able to elicit high quality information from the candidate. You want the candidate to be able to demonstrate himself/herself at his/her best which is more likely if he/she is at ease with you. Being warm and opening the interview with a few easy, non threatening questions can help you achieve this.

  3. Create a positive experience for the candidate: Treat candidates well from the moment an interview is scheduled. Little things like giving directions to reach your office, offering water when they arrive, not keeping them waiting for too long, thanking them for coming etc can go a long way in creating that positive experience. Whereas discrimination, rudeness, inappropriate questions etc can all leave a bitter taste in the candidate. At least 80% of them will tell up to 10 people about their bad experience!

  4. Use a structured interview format: Research shows that the best way to conduct a job interview is by structuring all aspects of the interview process and content. Asking different questions of each candidate leads to a skewed assessment of who would best perform the job. Ask questions to get particular information, only in the context of a core set of questions asked of all candidates. To avoid the same questions being asked by multiple interviewers, record details of your interview.

  5. Ask the right questions:Be prepared with questions and the way you will ask. Open-ended questions such as "Tell me about X project and your role in it" will get a better response than closed-ended questions such as "So you were leading X project?” Avoid questions that address issues irrelevant to job performance. Understanding the context (i.e. degree of difficulty) of a candidate’s past job performance is critical in ranking competing candidates and choosing the most suitable candidate. Use evidence based answers drawn from past performance. Theoretical knowledge or speculative answers (‘would do’, ‘could do’, ‘should do’) have a low correlation to actual skills/attitude and performance. An interview should focus on specific and key role requirements of the job and not on finding reasons for rejecting the candidate.

  6. Ensure you have face to face meeting and fast closures: You learn much more about candidates when you interview them face-to-face than over the phone. It is important that the time between the initial contact with the candidate, first interview, second interview and the offer is less since good candidates get other opportunities and you can lose them.

  7. Avoid common interviewing errors: Some of the common interviewing errors apart from, not selecting candidates smarter than you, that you need to watch out for are listed below. Detailed note taking during the interview, being aware of possible errors and a reasonable period of time between interviews may help reduce some of these errors.
    • Leniency /Central Tendency/ Stringency ErrorRating all candidates as superior/average /poor.

    • “Similar-To-Me-Error”, Physical Attractiveness: Evaluating an interviewee favourably because he/she is similar in some ways to you or is physically attractive.

    • Stereotyping: Forming an opinion about people of a given gender, religion, race, appearance, or other characteristic without any evidence.

    • First impressions: Making a snap judgment based on people’s first impression.

    • Negative emphasis: Rejecting a candidate based on a small amount of negative information.

    • Halo/horn effect: Allowing candidate’s one strong/weak point to overshadow everything else.

    • Nonverbal bias: Undue emphasis on nonverbal cues like a soft voice that have nothing to do with the job.

    • Contrast effect: Strong candidates who interview after weak ones may appear more qualified than they are because of the contrast between the two.

  8. Sell the company and job opportunity during the interview: Most candidates are evaluating several jobs simultaneously. So, prepare a couple of powerful selling points that you will highlight during the interview. Don’t try telling the candidate everything before you have established that there is mutual interest. Provide candidates with information that will create an interest in them for the job and your company.

Competencies: Management Funda; V4 Issue 4


Your HR department has published a competency manual comprising of competencies for various roles for your company. You have seen it. It looks nice and sounds ‘very important’. But you just cannot imagine how you are going to use it. Before you dismiss ‘Competencies’ as HR mumbo jumbo with no conceivable value to you do read this article. In this article an attempt has been made to familiarize you with some basic concepts related to ‘Competencies’.

What are Competencies?

A competency is an underlying characteristic of an individual ie., it is a fairly deep and enduring part of a person’s personality. It can predict behavior in a wide variety of situations and job tasks. What is important for you to understand is that a competency is related to effective/superior performance in a job.  This means if you know the competencies required for a role, you can select, develop and manage people based on an understanding of these competencies. Following are the 5 types of competency-characteristics:

  1. Motives: they “drive, direct and select” behavior toward certain actions or goals and away from others. E.g. Achievement-oriented people consistently set challenging goals for themselves.
  2. Traits: are physical characteristics and consistent responses to situations or information.  E.g. Good eyesight is a physical trait competency of combat pilots.
  3. Self-concept: a person’s attitudes, values, or self-image E.g. Self-confidence, a person’s belief that he/she can be effective in almost any situation is part of that person’s concept of self.
  4. Knowledge: information that a person has in specific content areas.  However, knowledge at best predicts what someone “can” do not what he/she “will” do E.g. A surgeon’s knowledge of nerves in the human body.
  5. Skill: the ability to perform a certain physical or mental task.  Mental or cognitive skill-competencies include analytical thinking (processing knowledge and data, determining cause and effect, organizing data and plans) and conceptual thinking (recognizing patterns in complex data).

As the figure above illustrates knowledge and skill competencies tend to be visible and relatively surface characteristics of people whereas self-concept, trait and motive competencies are more hidden, “deeper” and central in the personality. 

Competencies are contextual. They are related to the organization, the function, the role, the level and the timing. Hence competencies developed in one context cannot be generalized to another. A competency with the same name can mean different things in two different companies. 

Example of a Competency
Each Competency has a narrative definition with a few behavioural indicators ie., ways of demonstrating the competency in the job. Behavioural indicators indicate the existence of a competency in a person.

A competency manual contains the definitions of several competencies applicable to different roles in the organization. These competencies could be of different types. The combination of these types of competencies is called a competency framework. For instance in one of the companies in the auto sector there are 7 common competencies called leadership competencies applicable to all employee for e.g., Customer Focus, 1 competency applicable to auto sector viz., Auto Passion and 3 to 4 functional competencies applicable to each unique role for e.g., Business Planning. Thus a person has 11 to 12 competencies to focus on.

Utilizing Competencies

For starters you need to have a thorough understanding of the Competency framework in your company. Then understand the competencies relevant for your role and if relevant, for the roles that report into you. Based on this understanding you can be more effective in the following:-

  • Self Development: You can follow these steps for developing yourself using competencies.
    a. Recognize competency exists and is important to do job well
    b. Understand what the competency is and how to use it/ do it
    c. Get feedback on own level of competence vis-à-vis superior performer
    d. Practice in realistic simulations and get coaching feedback
    e. Set goals and develop action plans for how you are going to use new competency behaviors in real jobs.
    f. Get follow up support from mentors, managers, trainers.

  • Career Growth: Competencies can help you chart your career growth. Look at the competencies for the next level of role or roles that you are interested in taking up. Plan to demonstrate those competencies. Also work on developing those competencies.

  • Selection: When hiring, assess the competencies of the candidates vis-à-vis the competencies required by the role. Surface knowledge and skill competencies are relatively easy to develop. Hence it is more cost-effective to train employees in these and recruit people with the required core motive and trait competencies.

  • Performance Management: Competencies differentiate a superior performer from an average one especially in complex jobs and in higher level technical, managerial, professional jobs. So when trying to determine midyear course corrections during a performance cycle, consider assessing whether the lack of competencies is hampering performance.

  • Training/Development: You can facilitate the development of your subordinates by helping them follow the steps given for “Self Development”.


Competencies are not very easy to understand. But once we do understand them, it gives clarity on a lot of people issues and provides some very effective solutions to the challenges encountered in selecting, developing, and managing people. All the best for building competencies for yourself and your team members!


  • Spencer, L M and Spencer, S M , 1993, ‘Competency at Work, Models for Superior Performance’, John Wiley and Sons, Inc.
  • Rao, T.V, ‘Certificate Program in Competency Mapping’, T V Rao Learning Systems Pvt. Ltd.
  • ‘Workitect’s Competency Dictionary’

Employee Speak: Dhruva Dubey, Vice President Human Resources, July Systems; V4 Issue 4

Meet Dhruva Dubey, VP, HR, July Systems

Dhruva Dubey heads the Human Resources function at July Systems. July Systems offers the industry’s No.1 mobile internet platform to media publishers, advertisers and enterprises. Pioneers in mobile internet, July Systems supports more than 80 of the world’s largest brands and delivers over 2.5 billion page views to 40+ million users. With offices in Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Bangalore, Mumbai and Kuala Lumpur, the company has a service footprint in over 100 countries today. With July Systems’ innovative MiTM Platform businesses can publish, distribute, market, monetize and personalize services for their consumers on the mobile internet and offer them rich and interactive experiences across 7000+ device models. July Systems’ is a privately funded company with a 100 member R&D team and a 200 member Delivery and Operations team.

Dhruva’s responsibilities include driving strategic organizational goals by creating strong HR systems and processes. Dhruva brings with him 10 years of rich experience in the area of People Management in a wide spectrum of industry verticals including Manufacturing, FMCG and Banking. Before joining July Systems, Dhruva worked with BTR Automotives, AXIS Bank and HSBC in multiple roles. He has successfully led large teams, made key contributions in setting up businesses and has been instrumental in contributing towards the business success. Dhruva has a Mechanical Engineering degree and did his Masters in Personnel Management and Industrial Relations from XLRI School of Business and Human Resources, Jamshedpur.

  1. How would you define a high potential employee?

    Most people confuse performance with potential. In my experience 70% of employees are not be able to perform in their new roles. There is a high probability of them then getting disengaged or resigning.  To me a high potential employee is someone who is able to perform at a higher level than others in the current role and has the potential to perform in a higher role through a vertical or lateral movement. I am including lateral movement since vertical moves are not always possible given the flat organization structures most organizations currently have and because lateral moves also require a high degree of learning. For instance in July Systems some roles are very difficult to hire from outside since they are very technical. So, a technical person may be groomed to take on a sales role. Basically high potential employees are people who show eagerness to learn new skills and grow continuously throughout their career. They don’t hold stereotypes of how their career would progress and hence are more open to new and challenging roles.     

  2. According to you what is the best way to identify high potential employees?

    One must first identify employees with consistent high performance ie., demonstrated high performance for a period of 2-3 years. Typically consistent performers will constitute 20% of the employees. Then one must cull out from this set of employees, those who satisfy certain other criteria like having demonstrated the ability to play a variety of roles, showing inclination to take on new roles etc. After that an objective process must be used to identify among them high potential employees i.e., those who demonstrate competencies for higher roles. In my opinion a 1-2 day assessment centre is a good tool to do this. Some may emerge as being excellent at one or two competencies and some may demonstrate an average level of competence on all competencies. There has to be clear criteria as to who are ones who will be shortlisted as high potential.

  3. Once you have identified them how do you plan nurture these high potential employees in July Systems?

    There are two ways to nurture high potential employees-through on the job initiatives and off the job programs. A 3 month rigorous off the job program spread over a period of 1 year will work well. These can include real time projects, short term assignments, internships, workshops and exposure to people who are doing this role. Individuals should understand the key success factors for the role they are going to play in future. It is also important to customize the potential development program to the person and the role he/she has been identified to play in future.

  4. In your experience what are the challenges in managing the development of high potential employees?

    One of the biggest challenges in managing potential development programs is the difficulty in measuring the ROI of these programs. Since there is considerable investment of time, effort and money there is an expectation that a huge pipeline of leaders will be created. But realistically speaking out of the identified high potentials only 5% emerge as leaders after about three years. Some of the high potentials will resign; some roles for which talented employees have been identified will no longer be there due to changes in the business. The results should not be measured in terms of volume, but quality. Even if a few CEO material individuals emerge that is really good. The key is to build realistic expectations at the beginning of the program itself.  

    Making the potential development a dynamic process is the other challenge. As you know one does business in a dynamic environment with markets, technologies etc evolving continuously making it imperative for the organization also to evolve its business focus. A standard potential assessment and development process then will not be able to cater to the evolving business needs. Typically the potential assessment and development process is designed to be static. Once it is institutionalized, it becomes difficult to change. Ideally the process needs to be in alignment with future business needs. This calls for a process review once in two years at least. 

    Generally we find once we have identified the high potential employees we don’t know what to do. High potentials want to see action. They want to be engaged. So it is best to identify not more than 3-4% of employees since they require a lot of effort and investments. Also if only 5% of employees have been identified for the potential development then there is bound to be a dip in morale among the rest. This can be taken care to some extent by making the program aspirational. There should be a clear distinction between these people and the rest for everybody to see. It is important to engage positively with people who have not made it now, but can do so in future. Communicate in advance about the criteria for selection, give employees feedback on where they lack and tell them that they can apply next time.

  5. How critical is the Managers role in nurturing high potential employees? What are the key contributions they can make to support the growth of high potential subordinates?

    It is absolutely critical. The success of every HR initiative is determined by the support it receives from the managers. We need the managers’ buy in and feedback on their subordinates to make the program a success. Managers need to engage with their high potential subordinates positively. The managers themselves may not be comfortable managing these resources. They may feel that the current work is getting hampered on account of the potential development initiatives. So, it is important that in parallel to charting out a development program for high potential employees, their managers are also educated about the same and given the required support. Managers can contribute by carving out larger roles for these high potentials and delegating more to them to make them grow.

  6. What role can Top Management play in nurturing high potential employees of their organizations?

    Top management has to be the sponsors and should play an active role. They should conduct a review of the potential development program once in 6 months. They are the role models for the high potential employees. So avenues for these employees to engage, discuss, debate and interact should be provided. It can be through participants going for lunch with them, presenting their projects, sharing their thoughts on important organizational issues etc. This will accelerate the learning and motivate the participants.

  7. With attrition levels being high nowadays, do investments in high potential employees pay off? Are retention levels higher among those covered by the High Potential program?

    Yes definitely, since the organization is engaging with these employees over a longer period of time retention among high potential employees on an average will be more than double that of other employees.

What is a Talent? : Activity Corner; V4 Issue 4

What is a Talent?

Any recurring pattern of thought, feeling or behaviour that can be productively applied is a talent. It is impossible to build strength without any underlying talent. Being able to identify your team member’s talent is critical to nurturing it. Read the statements given below that are related to “talent identification and management” and mark them as “True” or “False”.

  1. Nervousness cannot be really a talent for anybody.

  2. Spontaneous top-of-mind reactions to situations provide the best trace of a person’s talents.

  3. Yearnings (being drawn to some activity time and again) reveal the presence of a talent particularly when they are felt early in life.

  4. Sometimes a talent does not signal itself through yearning. Instead ‘Rapid learning’ offers the clue to the existence of a talent.

  5. Satisfactions (when he/she uses them he/she feels good) also provide a clue to a person’s talent. So if you feel good after shirking responsibility it is a talent.

  6. As a manager you need to treat each of your subordinate the same way when you are managing them.

  7. A weakness is an area where one lacks proficiency.

  8. One way to manage a team member’s weakness is by finding another person who is good at it who can give the required support in that area to the team member.


Score your responses by giving a point to every right response.

Spontaneous reactions, yearnings, rapid learning, and satisfactions will all help you detect the traces of your team members’ talents. All the best in identifying their talents and managing them for greater performance! To understand more about talents, read ‘Now, Discover Your Strengths’.

Your Next Move: The Leader's Guide to Navigating Major Career Transitions: Book Review; V4 Issue 4

Title: Your Next Move: The Leader's Guide to Navigating Major Career Transitions

Author: Michael D. Watkins

Publication details: Harvard Business School Publishing, United States of America, 2009

Number of pages: 220 pages

How ready are you to make your next move in your career? To make sure you are ready read “Your Next Move”, an excellent guide for leaders navigating career transitions. Its author Michael D. Watkins is a widely recognized authority on the subject of leadership transitions. In his earlier book “The First 90 Days”, a classic of the genre, he identified strategies implemented by all successful newly appointed leaders and the organizations that hire them. In “Your Next Move” he has further developed on that thinking.The book specifically covers eight classic career transitions viz., Promotion, Leading former peers, Corporate Diplomacy ie., having to use direct authority to building alliances and consensus, Joining a new organization, International Move, Having to Turnaround a division in crisis, Realigning a division and Managing a multifaceted Portfolio.

In the introductory chapter Watkins identifies some common elements of successful transitions. According to him the ‘Seven Elements of Successful Transitions’ are organize to learn, establish A–list priorities, define strategic intent, build the leadership team, lay the organizational foundation for success, secure early wins and create supportive alliances. Then he goes on to dedicate one chapter on each of the transitions. With case studies, Watkins illustrates the challenges associated with each type of transition. For example, Watkins says, that in the case of being promoted to lead your former peers, ““you think you know everyone, and everyone thinks they know you. But then those relationships were shaped in part by the roles you previously played. The protocols, perceptions, and interactions must all be different now.” He then provides the insights, strategies, and tools one needs to manage these critical transitions and continue climbing one’s career ladder.

For each of the transitions the book elaborates on the personal and organizational adaptations required for the leader to be effective.. It encourages individual leaders to examine their own skills and development needs and it explores how organizations can help those individuals manage their transitions. For example in the promotion scenario the author suggests that the individual would be required to balance depth and breadth, delegate more deeply, influence differently, communicate more frequently and adjust to greater visibility. To ensure employees are effective when promoted the author recommends that organizations should build and use good competency models and create career development pathways consisting of the right types of experiences like “stepping stones”. “Stepping Stones” refer to a“sequence of assignments each of which represents a significant stretch along one or two of the critical development dimensions but not so much of a stretch that the leader slips and falls.”

Each chapter includes real-world examples to demonstrate the author's practical advice. For instance he writes about the “shadow organization” the informal power structures and cultural idiosyncrasies that exist in every organization and that come into play most strongly during times of personal and organizational change. To work effectively within that shadow organization, he demonstrates how to build one’s own influence network, distinguish between professional relationships and alliances and make changes in leadership style at different levels of an organization.

While the book is focused on the individual development of leaders, it also throws light on the subject of transition from an organizational perspective, thus offering a good checklist for HR managers in charge of career development of employees. And undoubtedly this is a good reference book for anyone who is currently in a career transition, expecting a career transition or simply looking for ideas on how to navigate his or her current position better.

Nurturing High Potential: Feature Article; 4 Issue 4

One thing was very clear to Narendra the HR head of an MNC, early in the induction training of the new batch of campus recruits. The energetic Simmy was different from the rest of her batch. Her questions to her trainers were never ending, she had a perfect score on all her training assessments and she had started quizzing Narendra on the interesting assignments that she could work on. Narendra wondered whether he had stumbled into a high potential employee and if yes how was he going to develop her talents. Today, most HR heads and CEOs are grappling with similar questions. Who are the high potentials in my organization? How do I nurture them to become the future leaders of the company? They realize that unless they answer these questions the very success of the organization in future could be at risk.

Who are High Potential Employees?

They are the “fast-track” employees, those who expect, and are expected to progress, speedily through the ranks. You would naturally assume that the high performing employees are also the high potential employees. But, an article in Harvard Business Review called “How to Keep Your Top Talent” (May 2010) states that “only about 30% of today’s high performers are, in fact, high potentials. The remaining 70% may have what it takes to win now, but lack some critical component for future success.” And the litmus tests for discerning which high performers are also your high potential employees, are as follows:

  1. Ability – They need to have the ability to not only do what they are doing now, but to take it to the next level.

  2. Engagement – They must have “commitment to the organization to be prudent bets for long-term success.”

  3. Aspiration – They must aspire to more senior-level roles and “choose to make the sacrifices required to attain and perform those high-level jobs”.

Gritzmacher (1989) outlined the following key characteristics of fast-trackers:

  1. A unique perception of their occupation: seeing their role as making their organization into a global leader in its field (and playing an active leadership role in that).

  2. A broad-thinking style: seeing wholes rather than job-bounded parts.

  3. Time-consciousness: a drive to achieve the most as soon as possible.

  4. Independence: a creative urge to add value to guidelines.

  5. High commitment: a belief that the organization would be diminished without them and a drive to enact that self-perceived importance constructively.

  6. High energy: the ability to get supranormal amounts of work done and cheerfully come back for more.

  7. A need for creativity and variety: need for new and testing challenges.

  8. A varying interest in teamwork: the labeling of fast-trackers as the favoured can make team interplay difficult; also the need to move ahead faster than the pack can make them impatient with others.

  9. Continual improvement: a hunger to challenge and improve whatever they are involved in.

Considering that the High potential employees are going to be the leaders of tomorrow, it is very important to ensure they are given effective development opportunities. 

Developing the High Potential

The process of developing high potentials in an organization starts with the identification of the high potential and then assessing them on their leadership talents. Once this is done most organizations develop their high potential employees by putting them on a development program and periodically reviewing their performance and development. Potential Development programs have a set of interventions and practices which enable organizations to identify high potential employees and help them achieve leadership positions in organizations.

Some Examples of Potential Development programs

The Tata Administrative Services (TAS)

To build a cadre of future leaders, Tata Sons, the group holding company has institutionalized The Tata Administrative Service program. TAS selects and trains talented postgraduates from India’s leading business schools and institutions to grow leaders who can lead the various group companies in the future. TAS trainees grow through a rigorous process of learning across group companies and have individual career maps charted out. The first year is dedicated towards group orientation and learning, termed as “GOAL”. It includes two weeks of intensive orientation about the group and opportunities to interact with the senior management of the Tata Group. Training provides exposure to various initiatives, various facilities and future plans of TATA. Challenging projects are assigned to each Trainee. Exceptional candidates are recognized for merit. After completing the GOAL, the recruit is given a posting which matches his/her choice and organizational requirements. TAS gives the recruits exposure across various functions, group companies and responsibilities. Management expects the TAS recruit to be in a senior management position within 10 to 12 years, where he/she will be having a strategic role and considerable external contacts.

Infosys Technologies Ltd

Infosys has set up the Infosys Leadership Institute (ILI) for identifying high performers and giving them opportunity in improving the performance of the organization as potential leaders of the organization. Candidates for the 3 year leadership program are chosen based on past performance and assessment of leadership potential. ILI interventions are based on a “Nine Pillar” leadership development model. The Nine interventions are as follows:-

  1. 360 degree feedbacks: Aligned towards leadership competencies, they help to evaluate employee on critical leadership competencies and in making the personal developmental plan.
  2. Developmental assignments: They help in gaining cross functional experience and developing practical leadership skills.
  3. Culture workshops: They make sure that the culture and values of the organization is well ingrained in the developing leaders.
  4. Developmental relationships: These are basically mentoring programs, which provide the candidate with a mentor viz., a leader of the organization. This helps in gaining considerable knowledge and experience sharing.
  5. Leadership skills training: This focuses on imparting organizationally relevant leadership skills by veteran leaders of the organization. This also ensures top management commitment for developing future leaders.
  6. Feedback intensive programs: They are behavioural interventions based on informal and formal feedbacks from the experiences that the candidate has from the individuals with whom he/she interfaces.
  7. System process learning: This aims at giving a holistic picture about the organization as one system and sensitises about improving the system as a whole.
  8. Action learning: This provides opportunities for hands on experience in improving relevant and live organizational problems.
  9. Community empathy: In tune with the basic organizational value of giving it’s due to the society, the leadership program needs candidates to enroll for community development programs.


In Wipro’s “Life Cycle Stage Development Program” employees identified as potential leaders are given training according to their level in the organization.

  1. The Entry level program aims at building leadership capabilities in entry level employees with high potential.
  2. The New Leader’s program is for building young professionals into people leaders of the future.
  3. Wipro Leaders program targets high performers in the middle level of the organization. They also have the added responsibility of building leaders from the bottom.
  4. The Business Leader’s program aims at building competencies of the employees who have potential of building/ managing business units. Here the impetus is on providing competencies for revenue generation and business management.
  5. The Strategic Leader’s program’ aims at building top management leaders for future.

Wipro ties up with best known business schools to impart some of the critical skills. The focus is on strategic thinking, global focus, vision and building star performers. Wipro’s leadership development is based on their vision of having leadership in terms of business, customer, people and brand. Wipro has identified competency based leadership qualities. The critical competencies have been identified based on rigorous interviews, focused groups and critical incidents. The competencies required for top management, senior management and middle management are continuously identified and assessed across teams. 360 degree feedback is used to assess the leaders on the basis of Wipro Leadership Qualities. Based on the feedback, Wipro identifies the areas for development in each of the individuals. Training programs are organized and the leader is asked to formulate his/her plan for development. Leadership development at Wipro has high degree of support from the top management. Even the CEO, Mr Azim Premji participates in the leadership development activities.

Features of Potential Development Programs

There are some common features of organizations with best practices in nurturing high potential employees. They are listed below.

  1. Top management support: At ‘best practices’ organizations namely General Electric, Motorola, Pepsico, Federal Express and Johnson & Johnson, there is high degree of top management commitment especially the CEO, for leadership development.

  2. Linkage with the strategic necessity of the company: This factor determines how much leadership development is in tune with the organizational needs.

  3. Established processes for selecting the best talent as future leaders: A combination of past performance, credentials in terms of qualification and assessment of competencies through various methods like 360 degree feedback or assessment centers are used for a fair selection of high potential team members.

  4. Regular Talent Reviews are conducted: CEOs drive Talent reviews with the same rigour as Business reviews. In Talent reviews high potential performers are tracked and succession plans built around them. CEOs consider this as their key responsibility and personally execute the plans.

  5. Direct linkage of Leadership development with the values and culture of the organization: Leadership development programs consider the imbibing of culture and value as an important element.

  6. Use of internal resources: For instance senior leaders of the organization participate as mentors/coaches for the new candidates.

  7. Periodic educational experiences for candidates: There is institutionalization of a program of educational courses through colleges, management institutes and trade organizations. The chosen candidates for leadership development are given higher developmental opportunities and career enhancement advice. Executive coaching has proven to be a powerful tool in developing leadership competencies for the future. Recent studies indicate an ROI on executive coaching to be six times the cost of the coaching costs.

  8. Defined leadership competencies: Organizations have their own established leadership competencies which are linked to the culture and business environment. For example, the competencies identified for top management at Wipro are customer orientation, strategic thinking, problem solving, self confidence, global thinking and acting, commitment to excellence, aggressive commitments and building star performers and teams.

  9. Establishment of corporate universities (CUs) or leadership institutes: CUs like the Crontonville of GE have institutionalized processes which help in identifying the organizational leadership talent, which conforms to the needs and culture of the organization. CUs deliver training and interventions, which align leadership talent closely with the organizational strategic initiatives. CUs are utilized to have a focused approached towards identifying leaders and giving them specialized and customized training.

  10. Personalized and formal development plans and defined career paths for the candidates: Specific strengths and weaknesses of each of the candidates are identified and development plans are made. Identified high performers are tracked and reviewed even after the specific programs to understand their advancement in terms of career. Candidates typically are provided with a career path which include:-
    1. Exposure to experiential learning: This teaches them the much needed organizationally relevant business skills.

    2. Cross functional Training: Experience in more than one specialization is ensured through job rotation etc.

    3. Opportunities to take significant risks and full responsibility: Many organizations test their high potentials by identifying risky and challenging positions and putting their rising stars in these positions to see who can meet the challenge. Candidates are given real opportunities to contribute to the really significant heartbeat issues of the organization including the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them.



One of the challenges that have to be dealt with while managing the development of future leaders is the possible dip in motivation of employees who are not high potential employees. While some of them may leave on account of this, most can be retained by ensuring fairness. Transparency in the process of identification of high potentials and communication of the same is essential for establishing this fairness. It is also important that there are adequate development opportunities for all employees so that every employee can develop and reach their potential.


Coaching: Basic Managerial Skills; V4 Issue 3

Did you know that to be truly effective as a manager apart from the skills of managing and leading you also need to master one another valuable skill? This skill is Coaching. By being a Coach you can support your subordinates in their learning, and enable them to develop the skills, knowledge and attitude necessary to successfully deliver to their job responsibilities and goals. Coaching does not mean simply correcting today's problem. It means preventing the problem from resurfacing. As a manager, you can be an effective coach to your subordinates, by following a few simple tips.

Tips for Coaching


  • Coach the individual, not the group: Coaching relationship is built one-on-one and not in a group. Treat every team member as an individual and take time to learn their unique needs and unique set of strengths. Be in tune with his/her personal aspirations and interests. Capitaliz on his/her strengths. Use tailor made coaching approaches. For example determine your coaching method based on an individual’s learning style or preference for informal/formal learning methods.
  • Practice active listening: Good coaches listen completely. They resist the temptation to give instant advice or answers, even if they know them. They give people time to get to a point fully, and only then attempt to work out a solution. They know how to draw more out of people by offering encouragement while listening to them. They say things like “That’s interesting. Can you tell me more about that?”
  • Ask questions to facilitate learning: Ask questions, not to gather facts but to elicit solutions, feelings, ideas and new thoughts and to help people open up. Asking your subordinates questions challenge them to think harder and more broadly about issues, thereby enlarging their perspective and improving their reasoning skills. Questions can generate better solutions. Good questions are neutral rather than judgmental or critical. They help people see new angles on issues and explore new options for dealing with them. This means you should avoid closed questions, that contain the answer or which end discussions prematurely. Some examples of good questions are… What is causing you concern? How would you like to approach the problem? Who else should we include? Is there another way to look at this?
  • Provide constructive feedback: Provide clear, constructive and timely feedback in a manner that encourages learning. Catch people doing things right and praise them. Do not shy away from honest feedback about things that need strengthening, but give critical feedback in a non-threatening manner.
  • Facilitate developmental plans: Support your team members in identifying development gaps and making development plans. Regularly monitor and review developmental plans. Engage in development and career planning dialogues with team members. Make them aware about the different areas where they can contribute to the organization and at the same time meet their career aspirations.
  • Guide by sharing personal insights, learning, and experiences: Take every available opportunity to transfer your knowledge to your team members. Look for teaching moments. It could be a meeting or an email. Narrate your personal experiences or a success story. Model the behaviours you wish to instil in others.
  • Stretch team members without causing them to fail: Push them to do better. At the same time don’t break them by pushing too hard. Remove barriers to learning and find creative ways to encourage skill development. Create opportunities to enhance their skills and knowledge. For instance on the job learning, job rotation, challenging assignments etc can be excellent opportunities for individuals to reach their potential. Determine clear performance objectives and milestones based on mutual agreement. Leverage strengths of individuals rather than worrying about their weaknesses to accomplish the set objectives.
  • Be available when the employee needs advice, information, decisions, or support in problem solving: Having taken on the role of a coach you should make a conscious effort to make time for coaching.
  • Use coaching when appropriate: Using coaching when deadlines are tight or a crisis has arisen may not be appropriate. Precious time may be lost. However, if you do not use a coaching approach when a team member has made a mistake, the learning opportunity will be missed and the mistake may be repeated.
  • Don’t take the coach’s hat off: Lastly remember coaching should not be an event in your schedule. It should be a continuous process.

A Motivation Theory: Job Characteristics Model: Management Funda; V4 Issue 3

Do you agree that typically a motivated employee is a productive employee? Imagine then if as a manager you can design jobs such that it makes your people motivated. Would you not have a very powerful tool for enhancing your team productivity? Over the years a lot of people have developed different theories to explain what motivates a person at work. Two such people were Hackman and Oldham. They developed the Job Characteristics Model; a motivation theory which identifies five job characteristics impacting an employee’s personal and work outcomes.

Understanding the Job Characteristics Model

According to The Job Characteristics Model the presence of five core job dimensions ensures three psychological states. These psychological states in turn influence desirable work outcomes like quality of work, job satisfaction etc. Let’s look at them in detail.

Critical Psychological States 

The five core job dimensions stated below result in three different psychological states.

  1. Experienced meaningfulness of the work: The extent to which people believe that their job is meaningful, and that their work is valued and appreciated.
  2. Experienced responsibility for the outcomes of work: The extent to which people feel accountable for the results of their work, and for the outcomes they have produced.
  3. Knowledge of the actual results of the work activity: The extent to which people know how well they are doing.

Core Job Dimensions

  1. Skill variety: This refers to the range of skills and actsivities necessary to complete the job. The more a person is required to use a wide variety of skills, the more satisfying the job is likely to be. However, far too many might be overwhelming, too few, may prove boring. Jobs that require employees to make decisions and solve problems will usually be more satisfying than jobs with tasks that are routine and predictable.
  2. Task identity: This dimension measures the degree to which the job requires completion of a whole and identifiable piece of work. Employees who are involved in an activity from start to finish are usually more satisfied. For example, writing an entire report would be more satisfying than just formatting it.
  3. Task significance: This looks at the impact and influence of a job. Jobs are more satisfying if people believe that they make a difference, and are adding real value to colleagues, the organization, or the larger community.
  4. Autonomy: This describes the amount of individual choice and discretion involved in a job. More autonomy leads to more satisfaction. For instance, a job is likely to be more satisfying if people are involved in making decisions, instead of simply being told what to do.
  5. Feedback: This dimension measures the amount of information an employee receives about his or her performance, and the extent to which he or she can see the impact of the work. The more people are told about their performance, the more interested they will be in doing a good job. So, sharing production figures, customer satisfaction scores etc can increase the feedback levels.

The model says that internal rewards are obtained by individual when he/she learns (knowledge of results) that he/she personally (experienced responsibility) has performed well on a task that he/she cares about (experienced meaningfulness).The more these psychological states are present the greater will be an employee’s motivation, performance, satisfaction. The model is depicted graphically below. 

Hackman and Oldham’s Job Characteristics Model

You can also see in the figure above that the links between the job dimensions and the outcomes are moderated by the strength of the individual’s growth need. This means an individual with high growth need is more likely to experience the psychological states when their jobs are enriched ie., the scope of the job is expanded. And they will respond more positively to the psychological states when they are present.

Applying the Job Characteristics Model

So how can you use this model? Well, you can tweak the design of the existing jobs of your team members. You can even design new jobs such that the job holders experience greater job satisfaction and deliver results. More specifically you can do the following:- 

  • Combine tasks to increase skill variety and improve task identity. For instance make a person completely responsible for recruiting for a vacancy rather than for just sourcing of appropriate profiles for the same.
  • Assign larger, more significant tasks to people, so that they feel connected to and accountable for results.
  • Get people to see how their performance is contributing to the performance of the department, division and organization. Link their goals with the organization goals.
  • Increase participation of your team members in decision making, and delegate more responsibility in order to improve autonomy.
  • Open channels of communication to improve the frequency and quality of feedback.
  • Give your team members knowledge of the results of their work. For example get an electronics engineer who assembles a radio to also test it if it operates properly rather than getting only the quality control inspector to test it.
  • Share feedback from customers, clients, and other stakeholders with your team members.
  • Provide opportunities for providers of a service to meet the recipients of the service.


Apart from job characteristics there are other factors also that influence job performance. But you can surely make a start by designing the job effectively to motivate your team members. Just remember one important point though. When you are redesigning a job be sure to truly enrich the job and, not just give more work for people to do. So go ahead and try your hand at some designing and design some jobs that people will love to do and will do well.


Employee Engagement Practices Quiz : Activity Corner; V4 Issue 3

Google was founded by 2 mathematicians Sergey Brin and Larry Page. They owe their stupendous success to a culture of innovation and creativity. They realized in their early days that it is employee engagement that can set them apart from the thousands of other technology companies. Free, healthy and well cooked food became a key ingredient of their employee engagement strategy. Guess what they did to celebrate the day the company went public. No, they did not have a series of senior management speeches about its vision and bright future, but a free ice cream station for employees. 

If you are looking for more inspiration on employee engagement, you don’t have to look very far. Many Indian companies have initiated interesting employee engagement practices. See how aware you are of them.

  1. This is an Acronym for a wealth generation option given to employees under holistic compensation philosophy. This seems to be back in action, as the domestic information technology (IT) industry is witnessing an upsurge in attrition rate. Indian IT companies like Infosys, which had put this on the back burner during the global slowdown, are understood to be revisiting it now.
  2. Between 2000 and 2009, the Adi Godrej group had a young executive board (YEB) which worked closely with the group management committee. The Mahindra group has sustained this concept for eight years. It gives young people the liberty to engage with problems and aids lateral thinking. This initiative exposes top management to a young team that innovates and thinks differently.
  3. This concept is related to making employees co-owners. The Future group of companies headed by Mr. Ashok Biyani is acquiring talent like Mr. V. Vaidyanathan of ICICI Prudential Life, by giving them a stake in the business they will be spearheading.
  4. In this initiative, the company has periodic discussions with the employees to understand any issues/apprehensions faced by them. The discussion also focuses on what makes them stay within the company, the reasons why employees wish to continue working for the organization. This gives the company a chance to do more of those things that employees enjoy. Patni practices this.
  5. A lot Indian of companies today are committed to contributing towards the betterment of the community and society at large. Activities such as the Blood Donation Camps, Christmas Day celebrations with underprivileged children etc develop among the employees, a pride of association towards the company, encouraging them to become responsible citizens.This is about having a contract between business and society, which allies profitable companies with healthy communities because what happens to societies happens to business. What is this employee engagement tool?
  6. “____________is about capturing the essence of an organization in a way that engages current and prospective talent. It expresses an organization’s ‘value proposition’—the entirety of its culture, systems, attitudes and employee relationships, providing a new focal point for the company.” Manmohan Bhutani, Vice President, People and Operations, Fiserv India.
  7. This feedback is provided to an employee by subordinates, peers, and supervisors. It also includes a self-assessment and, in some cases, feedback from external sources such as customers and suppliers or other interested stakeholders. This kind of feedback for Vineet Nayar, the CEO of HCL Technologies is posted on their intranet for all employees to see. He does not believe that all wisdom percolates downwards and believes in bottom up accountability. Even presentations at HCL Technologies are posted on their intranet for everyone to see and comment.
  8. Many companies have started using this for recruitment. For recruiters this low cost tool offers them a broad perspective about the candidate. It tends to bring forth certain traits and personalities of a candidate which may not be reflected in their resume. It also widens the talent pool for the employers and also fastens the recruitment process. It increases the brand visibility of the recruiter. From the applicants’ perspective, this helps them gain deeper insight into the company about certain facts and information which may not be readily available on the company website.