The HR ‘split personality’ simply isn’t working

Sometime during the year

Dear Employees,

For the development of budding managers, we are launching a 360 degree feedback program.

Thank You, Talent Management Team


Later in the year

Dear Employees,

We are thrilled to announce a tie-up with a so-famous-university for continued education of our top talent.

Thank You, Learning & Development Team


In the same year

Dear Employees,

To keep our teams motivated to do good work, we are launching a peer-recognition program.

Thank You, Employee Engagement Team


Sounds familiar?

HR was meant to be a single entity; the arm of business that engages with people. However, somewhere down the line, HR developed this split personality – a composite of recruitment, compensation, talent management, business partners, OD, learnings, engagement, etc. What makes it a split personality (and not a multi-faceted personality) is that:

All facets of HR operate disjointedly, having very little connection to each other.

Take for instance a very common phenomenon in organizations, i.e. attrition. When more people start leaving, the employee engagement team swings into action, rolling out interventions to “make employees happy”. Or, the compensation team rolls out “retention bonuses” for “key talent”. In parallel, the recruitment team naturally has more numbers to rehire. However, almost never does it happen, that the recruitment team is involved in conversations on why people are leaving.

Pause for a while, to marvel at the manner we operate in.

I will say it again. The part of HR which is responsible for bringing people into the organization, has no involvement or in-depth understanding of, why people are leaving the organization! This is what I mean by HR having dis-integrated into multiple sub-functions operating in silos. The biggest tell-tale sign of this dis-integration is that:

HR has become, a function of “interventions” and “check-boxes”, instead of a function that creates impact.

If you have attended any town-hall presentation of HR, the slides are mostly around a list of “HR initiatives”; something like this:

  • Learning team conducted 300 trainings
  • Business partners facilitated 50 team building activities
  • Engagement team organized “employee coffee conversations”
  • Talent management launched “leader connect”

However, the key questions remain unanswered:

  • Why did you take these “initiatives”?
  • What problem were you solving?
  • Why were these the best solutions?
  • How are the initiatives connected to each other, and to an overall goal?
  • What’s happening to the “initiatives” taken last year?
  • What is the impact – how does it affect the employee’s life?

No wonder employees and managers feel awkward, when you have to go in for the “annual ceremony” of performance conversations. If you never had a discussion in the entire year, good luck with having any meaningful conversation about what happened 12 or 6 months ago! Further, it is not surprising that the “learning goals” you chose a year ago, make no sense during the appraisal discussion.

Or, even the training programs you get nominated to, just because you and your manager need something to fill in the “developmental goals” section.

We at Dockabl, follow a simple practice for the development of our team. We don’t have the typical blanket workshops for everyone. We practice micro-dosed, on-demand learning. While on-job, any team member who feels the need to quickly learn a skill (say something to do with programming on Coursera), they ask for it, and we enable it. It has a direct impact on business outcomes. It helps the employee perform better, get rewarded better. They feel nice getting better at their job. Everything gets connected to each other – learning, performance, reward, motivation and engagement.

It’s not that organizations need to crack some Da Vinci code of HR, to get this right. Organizations simply need to crack common sense.

Common-sense that reminds us, that an employee is one human being. Also, that each employee is unique. So, a set of silos, blanket interventions driven by silos sub-functions, will simply not work.

The key handy-man enabling the HR split personality, are the legacy systems and tools.

Any HR professional in the industry using some of the most popular systems will know that they hardly provide any insights or analytical capabilities to answer questions such as:

  • Why is the employee unable to perform – what can be done to change that (currently these are gut-based solutions, dependent on the managers’ individual wisdom)?
  • Where exactly are hot-spots of problems, addressing which should be our top priority?
  • Are we demonstrating any kind of bias while appraising or rewarding employees (as diversity gains priority, these questions will become critical)?
  • What kind of developmental opportunities do we need to invest in (Currently, this is one of the most unscientific, whim and trend-based decision in organizations)?
  • Can I build a 360-degree employee-view far ahead of the 9 box – can we factor in performance journey (not just ratings), data on key values demonstrated, potential, demographics (helps understand diversity), etc?

One of the top challenges for businesses today is engaging the millennial and Gen Z workforce, amidst making sense of the technology onslaught. Days of interventions like joining bonus, retention bonus, fun and games are over. Unless HR is willing to acknowledge this problem and fix it, it cannot survive the next wave of change in the industry. As they said in the movie, Split:

“The beast is real”.

Digital-divide between workplace and home, no one is talking about

Have you seen those sci-fi movies, where the characters keep moving in and out of parallel universes? That is almost how office-going people are living today.

One of those universes is outside the workplace. Here you can run a good part of your life on the phone. You have choice. You can expect speed. If you don’t like, so much as the look of an app, you can simply discard it. In this universe, your experience matters.

The other universe exists inside workplaces. This one feels like a time travel, 10 years into the past. It is difficult to figure out the login to the tools and navigate the complex and unpleasant interface. Not to mention, you can access it solely on your laptop and sometimes only on your office network. If you happen to work remotely, on field or client site, then your woes just increase. The entire thing takes so much effort that you avoid it for as long as you can, until HR serves its last stern warning. Your experience as an employee? No one cares.

We talk about the digital-divide between urban and rural areas. It is an irony how we suffer that very divide, every single day, between the technology eco-system an employee experiences inside workplaces, and the one they experience outside it; while we pat ourselves on our back for being technology-driven, innovative companies. It is not surprising that a KPMG study on the future of HR, found that only 40% of HR leaders admitted to having a digital workplan in place.

However, we will not get away with this for much longer, for one fundamental reason; that is, the employees of today are driven by experiences. There used to be a time, when people selected companies based on the brand name, stability and such factors. Today we select companies based on the kind of experience they will give us on a daily basis. Earlier, we relied on official websites for information on the company; its revenue, global presence.

These days, hardly anyone gets on the website because those are no longer the criteria for deciding on a workplace. We get on social media and read comments of ex-employees; we get on Glassdoor; we read comments and posts of the company leaders on LinkedIn – and follow the very hiring managers who interviewed us. This is because we care for our experience within the organization. Today a local start-up offering great employee experience may be preferred over a global brand. I have travelled across the country to hire from colleges. Over the years, I have noticed a distinct shift in the way youngsters perceive companies, based on how digitally enabled the selection process itself was.

My colleague and co-founder of DockablSamarth, wrote about the millennials not willing to play along the status quo of talent management systems. Millennials and now Gen Z, are surely the torch-bearers of seeking a better digital experience at workplaces. However, today the oldest millennial is already 38 years of age. All earlier generations have adapted to the digital eco-system outside workplaces, just the same as millennials. Therefore, I believe that the expectation of a better digital experience exists among all cohorts of employees.

Finally, the talent eco-system itself has shifted. Workplaces operate in the gig economy, where portfolio careers are becoming a norm and frequent job changes are no longer considered blotches on the resume. Employees, especially key talent, have choices and they are not hesitant to exercise it. CHROs must factor in this talent risk and the associated cost, while ignoring the digital experience of employees.

The digital divide between workplaces and outside it, is real. If organizations really care for talent, they must seriously consider bridging this gap. And for that, CHROs will need to step out of their alternate universes and step into the parallel world the employee lives in.

Employees Don’t Need to Become Better at their Jobs. Managers do.

Everyoneand we do mean everyone, wants employees to become more productive (in fact, that’s one of the key selling points of our own performance management system, so we’re guilty here too.) So we keep talking about training & motivating them to be better at their job.

Unfortunately, we’re looking at the problem  at a symptomatic level. We’ve focused so much on the employee & his/her performance, that we’ve mostly ignored the real underbelly of the situation – What’s up with our manager? Many of our large companies are stuck in a feudal, hierarchical system where the manager decides what the employee does, based on a ‘set in stone’ job description. Moreover, the manager controls the levers when it comes to the employee’s career progression, which gives the manager too much power and can endanger the employee’s career growth if the manager isn’t actually good at his job.

Finally, we have to consider that no one is actually teaching managers how to manage. The average 2-year MBA program will have maybe one course on how to effectively manage, train and build your team. And once people graduate, companies assume that these graduates will be great managers, because they’re coming from the top B-schools. So within a year or so, a fresher with an MBA degree is put in charge of a team – with little or no study into whether he has the capability, the empathy or the team skills to lead that team.

This is going to change fast, as startups and even larger companies become agile, nimble and data-driven – and we need to train managers to quickly adapt to the coming reality, where the employee, and not the company, is in the driver’s seat. So the question is how to get better at managing teams – without having to go through 18 leadership seminars (“For only Rs. 75,000, you can attend a full-day workshop with eight bored speakers in a swanky hotel basement! You might not learn much, but hey, at least there’s gulab jamun and vanilla ice cream for dessert. And you get to keep the ball pen.”) and 34 self-help books.

So How do we Manage Teams Better?

1.    Get a good Performance Management System, right now! (And we’re not just saying that because we’ve made a really good system, honest) Without a good PMS, you’re running blind when it comes to understanding your employees’ strengths, weaknesses, focus areas, skills & interests. It’s incredibly easy these days to gather relevant data and use it to improve decision-making.

2.    Restructure Career Progression. Don’t assume that “more work experience = better manager”, and build hierarchies and never-changing departments where everyone does the same role for 2-3 years before getting promoted. Structure your company around strategic goals and objectives rather than traditional departments. There are people who can manage large teams, and there are those who can’t (at least without a lot of training.) Don’t assume that if I can manage 3 people at age 28, this means that I can manage 300 people at age 38.

3.    Make goals specific, clear and actionable – and ensure that all Managers know the goals. A manager who doesn’t understand the company’s priorities will not be able to set goals for his own team-members. We spoke to Avantika Susan Nigam, the Total Rewards Capability Lead for Asia, Middle East and North Africa at Pepsi, about permeating organisational goals through the organisation. She told us, “You are only as good as the information provided to you. It’s the organisational leadership’s responsibility to make sure that the organisation’s goals and priorities are clear, and communicated clearly and often. The more you communicate it, the more employees and managers will internalise those objectives. Managers can display behaviours, but they can’t be held accountable for what information they have or don’t have.” A good goal-setting system will make this task much easier.

4.    Have strong feedback and recognition systems. If you’re saving your feedback for the end-of-the-year appraisal cycle, you’re doing it wrong – your team members might not stick around till then. We spoke about this in detail in our last article – make sure you’re acting quickly, getting feedback from multiple sources, and dealing with your subordinates in a fair, transparent and open manner.

The work ethic has changed rapidly over the last few years – and the work environment needs to catch up fast. People are taking more ownership of their careers, and see employment as a mutually-beneficial transaction rather than a long-term loyalty-over-all-else relationship. If your management style reminds them more of a henhouse than a smartly run operation, they’ll be gone soon.

If you want a game-changing tool that truly empowers your managers, Contact us today!

Using data to improve performance and productivity – and balancing it with employee privacy

Talk of “Big Data” is everywhere – but the field of HR is one of the last few holdouts that isn’t rapidly using analytics to improve processes. Talent Management programs (specifically performance reviews, appraisals & employee recognition) still rely on inputs from very few people; it’s either just the immediate boss or the boss plus 2-3 colleagues. Add the recency effect (ref. Samarth’s last piece) and it just compounds these problems.

This is going to change quite rapidly because the startups that use data analytics to help their clients have started looking within and realised that they could be running a much better, faster & stronger organisation through the power of analytics.

An employee stands to gain control over his career, through the use of technology and data in performance management. Now, let’s look at how better use of data will help organisations:

  1. Improving employee recognition and review systems by adding more data points and contributors. Data will allow a 360-degree view in ways that have been impossible till now. A good system that allows for recording of immediate feedback will make appraisal systems more reliable, transparent and trustworthy.
  2. Driving hiring and career decision-making. Data-driven insights will enable decisions on promotions, career progression, skill set enhancement, critical talent retention, culture fitment and value alignment. These are “riddles” that will be demystified with the power of analytics.
  3. Identifying star performers. Ensuring that organisations identify A-level talent, ‘the stars’ who drive the company forward, is vital to success. In the words of Aditya Berlia, Co-promoter of the Apeejay Stya Group, “A-level people work faster, they have a fast learning curve, they’re more productive, they’re the most committed, and they have the biggest impact.” Data based inferences will help an organisation improve the selection capabilities, i.e. identify and onboard more star performers from outside & within the system.
  4. Integrating different systems to build one common view. People Management in large organisations is highly fragmented – recognition, employee engagement, performance management, comp & ben etc. sit with different teams for the required expertise and focus however, they end up becoming silos of operations. A seamless platform would present one view of the organisation with multiple inputs to answer questions such as, “Who deserves my ‘Performer of the Year’ award?”
  5. Making the company more productive and dynamic, focusing more on solving problems in an agile manner than on building hierarchies and departments. Once employee data is readily and clearly available to managers across the organisation, they will quickly assemble teams for projects based on skills and project requirements, rather than building a hierarchical structure around it.

Technology will have a significant impact on the structure and organisation of the workplace of the future; a topic for another article because it needs a deeper dive.

Wait, so much data – what about privacy concerns?

Yes, that’s a lot of data, and we’ve seen in the recent past that people aren’t exactly super careful with others’ personal information (Mr Zuckerberg, we know you’re reading this, and yes, we’re referring to you. Also, we’ve already bought those blue shoes – you can stop showing us their ads now.)

Awareness of privacy norms is increasing and as an increasing number of millennials join the workforce, the expectations that their personal data is safe with the company is paramount. The organisation of the future will have to balance the need for transparent & accessible information-based system with the employees’ expectation of privacy. There will also be legal requirements & compliances and of course, a major data breach will be extremely painful for a company’s reputation. But first and foremost, it’s about basic respect for personal information! So how should companies look at securing data? Here are some simple guidelines:

  • Treat data as a liability, not an asset. An employee’s medical and career history isn’t the employer’s to use as he sees fit; it must be handled very carefully. Collect only what is needed; keep only as long as required and anonymise where individual information is not core.
  • Secure everything. No passwords in text files. No confidential information stored in Microsoft Excel. Strong data encryption. A strong firewall.
  • Restrict access on a need-to-know basis. The HR and Accounts team shouldn’t have open access to everyone’s complete info; there should be processes in place to allow access and access should be logged.

This is more a cultural shift than an IT exercise; privacy and security should be a habit, not a once-a-year mandatory training video that everyone plays in the background while checking Instagram on their phones. Over the next few years, we’re going to be collecting, processing & analysing much more data than ever before. It is our colleagues’ right to ask that we keep it safe.

If you are interested in implementing a cutting-edge talent management system, Call us today!

Employees of the future will finally take control of their careers – Thanks to Continuous Performance Systems

Performance reviews, as they exist in most companies today, are broken. They’re a complete disaster for most employees, and we’re pretty certain most managers hate them too. A lot depends on the employee’s personal relationship with the manager, so there’s massive potential for bias. The review system also gives too much power to the manager. We’ve worked in companies where the review could be summed up as: here’s how you performed, here’s your raise, here’s your promotion (or not), unfortunately, my hands are tied, I fought for you as much as I could, next year will be better, you’ve gotten a better-than-average increment, you should be happy, NEXT EMPLOYEE, PLEASE COME IN.

They’re also prone to ‘recency’ bias – a word that Microsoft Word underlines in red when you type, so it’s not even a real word, but any serious HR professional will tell you it’s a huge problem. No manager can remember everything an employee did through the year (let’s face it, we ourselves can’t remember most things we did through the year), so they judge their employees’ performance based on tasks they did in the last month or so. A lot of managers hate the system for the same reason – they’re also human, and they’re being asked to “rank” or “grade” the people they work most closely with, based on incomplete information.

So the current system leaves employees feeling powerless, like cogs in the wheel with no control over their growth, and voiceless against the management. Sounds great for morale, doesn’t it?

More Power to the People

The single greatest motivator for employees would be to give them more control over their career trajectory and their growth within the company. In the current system, especially in large organizations, this is a tough sell – everything is geared around role descriptions that stay static for years. Employees have to be slotted into specific roles, with predetermined responsibilities, compensation and to-do tasks. No two people are alike, but multiple people are expected to perform the same job in the same way as everyone else.

It’s also understandable. Focusing on individual careers is really, really hard – and HR can’t be expected to keep track of everything that everyone is doing, or what they would rather be doing instead.

So the best way out? Give more power to the person who understands someone’s career plans best – the employee herself. Anindya Shee, VP of Talent Management and HR Tech at Cipla, says, “We need an aspiration-linked, strength-based approach to career and performance management. Organizations will need to do much more to take cognisance of people’s choices, interests and skills, and the sooner they realise and start doing this, the better.”

So how can we do this?

Make the feedback useful for employees. We spoke to Gina Lewis, Group HR Advisor at a large Indian diversified conglomerate, and she says, “Employees want feedback that is accurate, real-time and constructive. Performance systems in most companies however, fall short of these expectations. They have instead become a means to fulfilling one important “to-do” for managers and HR – i.e. helping them determine how to distribute their annual compensation budget. There is very little “management of performance” for the individual in this process.”

Speak to more people. The current system relies too heavily on the opinion of the manager, who is just one critical stakeholder. A robust performance management system should include inputs from departmental colleagues, from sub-ordinates, from senior management, from other people that this person regularly interacts with, from customer surveys. You’re thus reducing the importance of any one person’s view, and improving data reliability.

Allow for Immediate, real-time Feedback. If I’ve done something good in June, don’t make my colleague wait till March to bring it up. Let her log on and note it today itself. A system that allows for immediate recognition will eliminate recency bias, and the additional data points will make the review far more reliable.

Make it transparent to the employee. The employee should be able to see the kind of feedback she’s getting. It’ll help her understand the areas she’s good at and the areas she needs to improve upon, and also help her build a solid case during her performance review discussion. It’ll also give her manager better and more complete information – to have a better discussion on what it’ll take for the employee to progress faster and reach the next level.

A good employee performance system can be extremely empowering for individual employees, and help them plan their career path better. It’ll also help the company plan resourcing better, and over time, build data on the kinds of employees it needs, in terms of skill sets, personality traits and culture fit. Of course, some companies will be slow to embrace such a system, and others will be much faster – and transparency in career development will be a selling point for companies when they try to attract the best talent.

Disclaimer: We make one such really good performance management system, that uses tech to make recognition and feedback seamless, social, easy and accessible. Call us today!

A prelude to Dockabl Insights

Hi! Welcome to Dockabl.

We’re a team that is building a platform that enhances productivity at work, enables continuous performance & development and drives engagement in an effective manner.

We decided to create Dockabl because we saw a clear problem:

  • Organizations are setting goals at highest levels but the work being done by departments, teams and individuals isn’t properly aligned with these goals. So, there is a lot of wasted effort, lost productivity and loss of morale
  • Employees today aren’t getting relevant feedback on their performance, they can use. They need feedback that is accurate, real-time and constructive. Unfortunately, organizations are using performance management as a means to distribute their compensation budget
  • Organizations aren’t able to get their head around the millennials and what it would take to keep them productive, interested and engaged
  • We are still taking critical decisions about our business and talent based on what a few folks think up in the boardroom, most of the organizations aren’t even aware of the power of analytics and insights to fuel decision making

We decided to fix all of the above and more, by creating Dockabl. A tool that makes the process of goal execution, ongoing feedback, career progression and recognition easy & intuitive.

During this process we’ve been speaking to plenty of founders, HR experts and CXOs. We will be sharing some of the best insights we’ve gained from talking to the top brains in the country in a series called Dockabl Insights. It will feature practical advice on things that affect us the most while setting up teams and managing people.

  • Addressing the white elephant in the room: Go Lean or Go Loaded. The debate between niche platforms and enterprise solutions.
  • Do managers of today lack engagement techniques or do they micro manage too much?
  • How to maximise your returns as an employee by using an HR Tech tool.
  • 5 things that say you’ve invested in the right HR platform.
  • Are you leading your data-driven organisation based on your intuition? Maybe, It’s time to change.

At Dockabl we like exploring concepts in the most inclusive and diverse way. Through our posts we invite our readers to join us on this journey of discovering insights from deepest trenches of the corporate jungle. As we see it, this engagement will enrich the Dockabl end-user’s experience as well as yours.

To know more about Dockabl, its team or to sign up for a demo, visit

To contribute and engage with Dockabl Insights follow our page

Employees Don’t Need to Become Better at their Jobs. Managers do.

Great managers sometimes lose their best employees. Usually, it’s inevitable.

The reason people leave isn’t always black and white.

Sometimes employees leave because they’ve simply gone as far as they can within your company. Sometimes they want better pay. Or sometimes they just want to try something new.

But sometimes they leave for other reasons.

Perhaps they have concerns or frustrations about the business, a product, their team, or your customers — and these concerns impact your team’s work. And it seems like management isn’t paying attention to them.

How can you fix that?

Maybe you need to find yourself an orange box.

What’s so special about this orange box? Nothing yet. It’s just a cardboard box covered in orange crepe paper. And there’s a hole on top.

But here’s the magic of this box: it can help you find out what your employees are thinking.

Michael Dearing, founder of Harrison Metal (an early-stage investment firm), said while he was at eBay, he figured out that the best way to quickly figure out what was going on inside the minds of his teammates was to establish an anonymous question-and-answer process.

Every week, people stuffed the orange box full of 100 percent anonymous questions. Those concerns and frustrations went straight to leadership, unfiltered.

Dearing would then read and answer those questions verbatim during their weekly all-hands meeting in front of everyone. (Sometimes this would be done via email.)

“The orange box helped me see their thoughts and speak to them faster than any other mechanism,” according to a brilliant video, Questions from the Orange Box, posted by Harrison Metal. “Anonymous Q&A helps build a workplace where leaders mean it when they ask for questions. And where leaders speak to colleagues honestly and publicly.”

Although, theoretically, anyone can ask question during an all-hands meeting, many choose not to. It can be intimidating to ask leadership tough questions in a clear and compelling way.