Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A visit home...

Went home this weekend, after a while... and realized how much I've missed my family... mama, my sis, lil Tia... A longer trip the next time... I'm thinking have them come over and head out to the hills somewhere this summer... a throw-back to the trips we used to take when dad was around. Maybe not so much of gettin-in-the-car-and-drivin-where-the-roads-take us... more like booking-a-trip-and-being-sure-of-where-we'll-be-stayin... but a trip nevertheless, a holiday in the real sense... no work, no worries, a firm resolve to have fun and laugh together, something we've been missing I think for a while...
Funny how the fabric of life can unravel so quickly when even a single thread is pulled loose... when one vital link in the chain goes missing, the tale remains forever unfinished...
This collage makes my father's absence glaringly obvious to me... 'an unaccepted death', I'm told... is death ever accepted, or acceptable? I doubt.
Papa, your lil girls are all grown up, even the littlest one... but they haven't grown out of loving, needing and missing you yet, nor will they ever... love you Papa...
P.S: On a lighter note, learning now to edit pics with Picasa, and much much more... looooove what technology can do!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Nokia and Music Phones

Just a quick post on the theme of music on mobile phones. For some time now, Nokia has been increasingly focusing on music consumption on mobile phones. And here is some research to suggest that we are reading the pulse of the market right!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Corporate Blogging: Part II

My previous post about corporate blogging raised a few questions that Mohit has addressed here. Since my previous post, I have been reading up quite a bit on the topic (not surprising that bloggers love to blog about the advantages of blogging!) and also some corporate blogs that seem to be doing well. And I thought I'd share my views on the questions I raised, and maybe raise a few more this time... so here goes.

1. Why should my organization blog?

The answer to this is fairly obvious for Nokia. We operate in the technology space. We sell mobile phones, yes... what we also sell increasingly are mobile experiences, be it in lifestyle (the 5500 sport or the new stylishly slim 6300), music (5300 Xpress music, the Nseries music editions) or video (the Nseries, esp N93 & N93i with digicam capabilities & more).
For a brand that has such a strong association with communication and connecting, and has a stated public intent of riding the convergence curve through transforming to an Internet company, there are compelling reasons to start a blog.

2. What realistic expectations can my organization have about the benefits of blogging, and what obvious pitfalls or shortcomings should we be wary of?

Benefits: As Mohit pointed out, connecting to consumers as well as potential recruits (completing the feedback loop on the brand & employer promise) is the essence of blogging. The aspect I think we as an organization need to think through is how to go beyond mere dialogue to track and use the soft data that an interactive media like a blog throws up.

Pitfalls/ Shortcomings: I think the key point we need to keep in mind is that a blog is like an open dinner party with no guest list. Treating it like a media/PR event and looking to control the flow of communication can be damaging in the extreme. At best, we can outline some basic tenets of appropriate behavior for the blogger and set expectations straight in terms of the purpose of the blog.

Gautam's case analysis relates, in some ways, directly to Nokia's business. Crown music produces the kind of content that consumers use on their Nokia mobiles. And understanding a consumer's music consumption needs means first understanding the kind of music he likes to listen to and in what settings. If we take that example, then the benefits of a music association blog on Nokia's website become self-evident.

An example of how this plays out is this blog by Stephen Johnston, where he blogs extensively on technology advances against the backdrop of Nokia. The focus of the blog is technology, no doubt, yet I can see the benefits of such a blog by an employee as a window into what the organization is doing in the technology space & where it's headed.

3. Who in the organization should blog?

I agree that the most important decision makers will be credible. But I also feel that, especially for building an employer brand, it is just as essential to get on board some of the younger organizations members and some of those the organization believes communicate best its culture and values. Creating aspirational role models and giving people a realistic picture of where they can get in the near future will be more effective for this purpose than a CEO blog where the disconnect may be high.

4. What role does PR/ Corporate Communications have in this?

None! Except maybe to track the information/ feedback coming in from consumers.

5. What guidelines/policy should govern corporates bloggers?

Blogging guidelines, I feel, are required to ensure that an organization doesn't leave any loopholes for legal tangles. Situations & people are not always ideal or rational, and it is prudent for an organization to have a simple do's & don'ts guideline on what is bloggable content & what is appropriate blogging behavior. I think it is perfectly within the right of an organization to define these basic parameters as a corporate blog implies that the organization endorses the individual's association with it & entrusts enough faith in him/ her as a spokesperson.

6. How can my organization measure the impact & effectiveness of corporate blogging?

I am not aware of the technology available for tracking, but I can think of some very simple metrics that will allow an organization to track the effectiveness of a blog. Traffic, for example, and comments generated. Higher job applications, especially after posts that generated good traffic, if the blog falls in the careers section. Soft data in terms of positive vs negative comments/ feedback. And I think it is essential to track this data, to atleast identify if a blog is serving the purpose for which it was created.

So there's my two bits... any views?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Intervention Vs Activity

In my (very) limited career in HR, I have come across some very fundamental questions that even experienced practitioners seem to be struggling with.

Exactly when does HR move from an accessory that's perceived as a luxury to have, to being a business partner? In my opinion, that happens when HR practitioners move from an activity-based mindset to one of sustained 'intervention'. Let me clarify what I mean by that.

HR can be seen as playing much the same role as a psychologist/ counselor in a society. As society evolves and becomes more complex, the human issues involved also become more convoluted and individuals find it harder to deal with these complexities on their own. And turn to a professional. Similarly, as an organization grows in size and complexity, the human resource function moves from being a fragment of the mainstream manager's role to being the sole reason for existence of a set of professionals.

Now what happens when someone goes to a counselor and is put through a series of tests or activities, and presented with a comprehensive report that claims to provide a complete profile? He feels overwhelmed with the processed data he is receiving, and is quite likely to miss the point that the report does not address any of the initial queries he had in mind. Exactly the same thing that happens when HR becomes activity-centric and the complete calendar year is filled with training, workshops, assessments and surveys, and no one stops to ask whether any of these activities is having the desired impact.

An intelligent HR professional, when asked by the business to 'do a team-building workshop' will stop for a minute and say "hey, can I ask you a couple of questions to understand a little better what it is that you need and if there's a better way to get there?" Funneling down from there, it is easy to see why I choose to use the phrase 'sustained intervention'. What this means is that the solution to any people-centric issue that an organization faces is as multi-dimensional as the issue itself, and needs to be addressed at different levels, using different means, over a period of time. And the means can be anything ranging from intensive talent mapping, succession planning and retention strategies to a simple coaching session with a manager who seems to have difficulty connecting with his new team.

What I'm hinting at is the mindset change needed for the paradigm shift from being a solution provider ("box selling" in FMCG terms) to a solutioning partner ("experience selling").

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The HR function...

What are we, as HR professionals trying to achieve? I had a heated conversation with a friend today, another HR professional, and he used every logical argument at his disposal to convince me that ours is a highly dispensable profession. To be honest, the thought has occured to me quite often too. That HR as a profession requires no specialized skills that a sufficiently evolved line manager could not learn with the most basic coaching and/or reading and some practice. Why, then, do organizations have an HR dept?

The constant complaint line mgrs have about HR is that we do not understand business. A very small example. If I ask you, what does it mean if your attrition rates are higher than the industry average, what would your answer be as an HR professional? How would you view that question? That there is talent shortage, engagement issues, compensation issues--that you will have to turn up the steam or recruitment & selection, building an internal pipeline etc. If your answer has any of these phrases, we as HR have already lost the battle for a seat on the executive board.

Ask a sales guy what it means, he'll tell you that having a sales officer post vacant for a month will mean the loss of Rs XYZ crore value as business, as there's no one to sell. Ask a logistics guy, and he'll tell you that having a planning manager's position vacant for 2 weeks will mean delay & blocks in delivery of goods worth Rs LMN crore and added strain on an already overworked team. The business is looking for tangibles and HR is there to ensure those tangible results are obtained smoothly.

I'm not saying HR as a function is dispensable--the need for HR processes and systems still exists. But not the need for a dedicated set of individuals to perform the job. I say, hand the job back to line, make it a part of their regular targets and allow them time for HR activities. They understand the immediate impact & benefits of retention plans, succession planning and motivating the team, within the context of their business, much better than we do.

HR jobs have been created somewhat the same way as Keynes explained it. Someone in line decided to start digging up a hundred pits everywhere to jumpstart the economy, and HR was established as a function to fill the pits. And now, the pit diggers are so used to the fillers around that they don't want to, maybe even can't, stop digging the pits. The question I ask myself is, how long before the corporate world wakes up and realizes this, and what do we HR professionals do then? Start looking for an alternate vocation, I suppose... writing, maybe- another generalist profile to satisfy the 'generalist' in us.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The internet era

Some very interesting developments at work. Nokia's stated intention of morphing into an internet company is much more than just ideals to yearn for. The first visible steps we saw as employees is the IT injunct to allow access to certain internet tools, chief among them Skype and similar social software. The idea being that we cannot inculcate a passion and comfort with internet without allowing employees to explore... and if the passion doesn't exist, we can never build the mindset of being an internet company. Much the same way as holding an E61 in my hands everyday has, over time, made me comfortable with mobile technology and willing to try some new things.

Another instance of my heart brimming with pride to work for a company that follows through on what it says...

Monday, February 12, 2007

Corporate blogging and social media

Been a long while since a train of thought stayed long enough in my head for me to blog it... must say broadband at home makes it much easier to log on.

Was doing some research on the prevalence of corporate blogging, and the ways in which social media operates, when I realized that no amount of research would give me as good an understanding as actually plunging into it. To be honest, I am a highly unlikely candidate to carry out such an experiment--for one, I am borderline technology-phobic (much as I'm ashamed to admit it, that's the plain truth). The issue is the inherent inertia to make an effort to understand how the technology works. For another, I'm uncomfortable sharing personal details beyond the most obtuse references--and social media thrives on real, honest and believable voices. I have a fundamental disconnect with that extent of disclosure online. Call it fear of the unknown or just plain stupidity, it's the reason why my writing derives from my life & experiences but I do not claim that it is autobiographical.

A very interesting feature of social media is how certain unlikely issues or events are taken up by the online public and generate heated debates... in traditional media, public thought and reaction is moderated to a large extent by the concerns of business empires that publish the news. Online, it is difficult to predict or even explain how certain events or issues take over public attention.

Given the nature of social media, I see an immediate contradiction with corporate blogging as a PR/ Communications tool. Blogging and social media function on the tenet of 'dialogue', which assumes that the conversation flows both ways and there is room for feedback, collaboration and healthy disagreement. The focus is not on political correctness, rather on authenticity. Traditional PR/ Communications from corporates is a one-way information dissemination channel that conveys very specific, filtered information with extremely limited scope to question or seek additional information.

The moot question is, how do we marry the two? For, corporate blogging more and more is not a question of 'if', rather of 'when'. Some of the questions that I'm trying to find answers to are:
1. Why should my organization blog?
2. What realistic expectations can my organization have about the benefits of blogging, and what obvious pitfalls or shortcomings should we be wary of?
3. Who in the organization should blog?
4. What role does PR/ Corporate Communications have in this?
5. What guidelines/policy should govern corporates bloggers?
6. How can my organization measure the impact & effectiveness of corporate blogging?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic...

Also, please do check out my other blogs, Burnished Silence and Astral Conversations, which are more along abstract lines.