Sunday, May 08, 2005

Bulla! Kii jaana main kaun hoon ?

Last week was hectic for me and hence I missed out on writing. During the two weeks got to listen to the latest Rabbi song "Bulla! Kii jaana main kaun hoon". This got me thinking a bit and I started thinking more around what do I do as an HR consultant ? Let me trace back a few years for a context.

Having brought up in a Marwari family in Calcutta, the only higher education we knew about was Chartered Accountancy. Most people in my immediate family would drop off after college and join their family business or pursue CA and start their own practice. When I got a call from a management college (XLRI, Jamshedpur)there were a lot of questions about why I was not pursuing CA. The only solace was that one could get away by saying MBA is better than CA.

During one of the breaks on my trip back home, one relative asked me what was it that I was learning and I confidently said Human Resources, then was asked what would I do when I qualify in HR, I was dumbfounded. Based on what I was learning in OB and PM I tried imagining what I would be doing when I join an organisation but completely failed to find an appropriate response. My safeguard was to tell everyone I am doing an MBA and will become a manager, this helped me sail through embarassing questions about what my education would lead me to.

Then landed up in my first job where I was Manpower Development Executive. Most of my cousins and friends from college easily got away by saying I have my own business, I am an accountant, I am a forex trader, I am a soap seller etc etc. I had to get into major explanation about how company had to assess manpower needs and then identify possible availability options and build a pipeline of talent and so on and so forth. Imagin saying all this in Hindi or Bangla. I am sure my parent hoped I was working in an oil company and helping setup an oil pipeline for them, they had never heard of a talent pipeline.

Social outings became very taxing when I took up HR consulting as my chosen career. Imagin being asked "Kahan kaam karte ho (where do you work)?" Hewitt. "Company kya banati hai (What does the company make)?" Kuch banati nahi hai hum HR Consultant hai(We don't make anything we are HR consultants). This is a time when HR consulting was synonymous with recruiting. The reaction immediately would be "Achcha aadmi supply karte ho (You supply men)?". Thank God, in India we are not very sensitive about gender equalities, else this could be a very embarassing moment.

No No I am not a recruiters I do HR consulting. "Achcha to kaam kya karte ho (So what do you do)?".

In these moments how I wish I had become a chartered accountant and not have to explain what I do. Of late I have started giving simple explanation that Main logon ki seva karta hoon (I am a social worker) and pray that people will not ask me Kaise (HOW)?.

Which leaves me wondering most of the time "Bulla ! Kii jaana main kya karta hoon". Any thoughts anyone.....?

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Fringe Benefit Tax

I am not an economist so probably don't understand the logic of having Fringe Benefit Tax the way it has been planned. I have heard numerous interviews now of various Finance functionaries and the Finance Minister himself and have yet not got convinced of the need.

The last argument given is that it only adds a max of 1% to 1.5% additional tax to all organisations, so they should not complain about it.

My understanding why this tax has come into being is to generate revenue for the Government's expenditure. So the corporates have to pay this money this way or the other.

To me a simple solution staring at me is that the corporate rate of taxation be made 31.5% instead of 30 and do away with the FBT. This is equivalent to what the corporate would in any case pay to the Government and will cover the fringe benefits that are provided by various employers. I am sure most corporates would be happier paying the additional tax in lieu of FBT. And just to make the Government happy we can call the additional tax as the Fringe Benefit Cess (just to cater to the emotional attachment the finance ministry has to the term Fringe benefits).

But then I guess you would have to be a brilliant economist to ignore such simple logical solution. Lets raise a toast to simplifying our tax structure with an official tag line of "Nothing simple about it".........

Monday, May 02, 2005

Kya Consultant hai hum...

I have been in this situation many times in the past and faced with it as close as day before yesterday. Let me put this as a transcript of the conversation between a consultant and a client.

Client : We need to have an objective, fair and transparent performance evaluation system.
Consultant : For that you would have to set quantifiable or measureable targets for people in the organisation and then measure performance against those
Client : But we cannot do this, its difficult to set such targets for our organisation or people. (The reasons could be anything)
Consultant : Hundreds of companies are doing this so should not be a big problem for you.
Client : You do not understand our company is in a very unique situation and its impossible to do something like this.
Consultant : There are many tools which are available to help you do this, lets use tool XX
Client : So how many companies have used this tool in the past and successfully

Here is where I want to tell them about this circular reference error that you get in excel. First you tell me what applies to others doesn't apply to you as you are unique. Then to apply anything to your organisation you first want to know who else has done it. Make up your mind.

I am told there is a new book in the market House of lies - How management consultants steal your watch and then tell you the time. Haven't read it as yet and am sure there are enuf crazy stories about bad consulting there like the other books in the market on the same subject.

The truth in many cases also is that the client nearly always has a watch and does not want to see the time or believe the time shown in their watches and thats where we consultants make a living. I have been in a situation where a summer trainee presented a brilliant report to my organisation on what we should be doing, but we junked it. The report got presented by a consultant next year, and the same report, as our summer trainee joined that company from campus. My organisation went ga-ga about the recommendations and wanted to implement it immediately. I guess, many of us moved to consulting after facing similar situations in our organisations.

95% of the time (I have no way to scientifically prove this) the solution to all problems posed to the consultants probably lies in very obvious commonsensical solutions. I have been guilty of suggesting those obvious solutions to clients because there is nothing else and in many cases being told "Oh so how did you add value, we already knew this". The urge to find complex solutions to simple problems always leads organisations to push consultants to come up with something out of the world and the consultant has to hide behind jargons to make simple solutions sound interesting and unimplementable which client would not have thought of.

I have always faced this request, we want to be the best employers so tell us how. I have always said we would have to do certain unique things that would differentiate you as an employer from what others are offering and we would have to find things which make sense in your context. To everything that you want the client to do, they ask, so who else has done it.

I guess they are confused about whether they want to be the best employer or the best follower of best employer practices.

So all you consultants out there, don't lose heart. We have enuf number of potential clients who will give us their watch and ask us the time and then ask us to find out what is the time in other people's watches as well, just to be sure.........