Monday, November 21, 2011

The noise about Research in Human Resources in India

The noise about Research in Human Resources

The recent NHRDN Conference featured a session devoted to research in Human Resources. The presentations made indicated a curiosity in areas that needs sincere inquiry. However, I had some observations about 'research’ as a student of such disciplines. I was pained that attendance at these sessions dropped merely because it was placed for the last day of the conference.

After serving as a reviewer on journals, I have now a few jarring noises to make on the way research enterprise is brazenly unchecked. In fact, my gut for the notes here is agitated further by the collusion of academia in the 2008 financial collapse that shook the world. ( That is a 2 hour documentary, and not a scientific treatise in itself. Yet, the evidence it makes inspires me to write as below.

1.       A report does not research make. Method in inquiry does. Not any kind of method – but those that observe the canons of science.
2.       Print and electronic media like to splash opinion, given the mediocrity in discernment of science. Such a market of opinion is not the method, but merely the yearning for a voice. An opinion is a fact of opinion, not always the fact of methodical enquiry. Verifiable science too is generalizable under the certainty of specified conditions. Human Resources Development is more akin to a social science, where the laws of generalisation and universality are more circumspect. Moreover, the level of abstraction and inter-subjectivity in social sciences require a community of practice to safeguard research standards as also to promote relevant enquiry.
3.       A presentation does not make a research, and it is in fact impoverished by a lack of curiosity. Similarly, a book of collection of procedures from organisational practices does not make for a construct of scientific reality, howsoever symptomatic of a phenomenon or two they may be. Testing of constructs requires a temperament of methodical experimentation.
4.       The authority of an office is not to be confused for the authority of a subject matter. Social hierarchy often denigrates the merit of fact, especially if the conviction of enquiry and the method of communication do not help the cause of research. Scientific endeavour is no cakewalk. The art of enquiry is only eased with the practice of rigor. If you are a knowledge worker in a service industry, you may even experience the obfuscation of organisational truths when irrational procedures are foisted down the hierarchy in the name of standardisation.
5.       Several consulting brands claim to have a research focus. They also do not always acknowledge the bias of commerce in the choice of research and methods that drive research towards commerce. Practices in such commercial research would often be unconscious of compromise in research designs. Slavish to a numerical algorithm, or a framework, issues of collinearity and discriminant validity hardly matter to the ‘consultant’. Worse still, the research design gets less and less innovative and stuck between the fulcrum extremes of quantitative and qualitative planes. Contextual maps for coherent enquiry are required to make meaning of evidence in ways the subjects experience phenomena. So calls for indigenous research for example do not find takers, if science cannot be framed in service of that idea.
6.       If you intend to do a Doctoral Program in India, be aware that the quality of your investment in inquiry is not just dependent on the standards of the University or academic institution, but also on the larger ecosystem. A data-shy corporation, an oversensitive field guide or a weakly tempered supervisor can jeopardise your motivation for science itself. Research in educational institutions is hardly encouraged.  Be more prepared for the program than you care to for a job interview, for a cross examination from your side helps.

So much for now, I would think. A noise that cancels out another will not make music, I assume. If there’s a way in which educational institutions wish to up their research capabilities, I would like to learn of it. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Key Principles of Employee Development

I owe the following to Dr. Dan Harrison. While his points are succinct and distilled, I've tried to make the narration of development sportive. Indians follow cricket so furiously, that some popular characters may bring home the points. Hope you will enjoy these points stated as principles of employee development.

1. Ensure the right placement for the one who wishes to develop for performance at work. This makes development of the incumbent in the role practical. No point taking the gloves off Dhoni's hands to deliver dot balls as bowler in the slog overs. Inspire the incumbent in roles that offer what he or she enjoys doing.
2. Consider both technical and behavioral competencies. Without either, performance post-development will falter. It is not enough for Sreeshanth to tear down the green and pound the leather into the pitch. He should carry himself in ways that his conduct is deemed appropriate to the requirements of the game and that such be acceptable in his own conscious mind.
3. Consider all relevant job suitability factors. This reveals all behavioral factors that affect job performance, work satisfaction and retention. So to get Laxman to very very specially be special at all formats of the game would be risking a lot of his special talents.
4. Discover, acknowledge and utilize strengths. This provides encouragement and the motivation to develop. Dhoni could do more to discover young talent like Jadeja, Raina and Kohli as part-time bowlers. They will be thrilled to contribute to performance in inspired ways.
5. Work on Self-Awareness before working on others' development if you can. It helps to use the self as working model of development for others to value their own development seriously. Besides, experience is a humbling touchstone. Self-realization makes contribution or service more likely without having to quote one's own effort in development! One quotes one's efforts only when a committed learner asks for it.

In summary, whether performance or development, man likes to have the pleasure of engaging in activity he chooses to. Development is a future oriented effort for the employee. It is an investment if and only if the above principles are held together in the development decision. Focus on the developing employee's needs.

Secure her or his learning in a non-threatening  and enabling work environment. When an employee asks for development, listen to the intent in the ask. Distinguish a curious question from an internal commitment question. When an employee intends to develop to make impact (and not impression), the commitment to perform is assured. A curious question lacks the emotive tonality that accompanies a committed intent.

Am sure you can tell me more from your own experiences of the millions of dollars spent wastefully from developmental budgets, when unwilling, confused, disinterested or disoriented employees enter a learning situation!