How To Successfully Lead a Culture Transformation

Having led a few Culture Transformation programs in my career, including the one that I am leading in my current role and organisation, in my experience and perspective “U” as the leader of change and culture transformation “R” most critical to its success.

I believe, the following to be rudimentary and essential for a successful cultural transformation.

1) Indepth “As-Is” analysis of the current organisation culture – Understanding clearly what works well and why? and what’s not working well and why? What’s needs to change and why?

2) Clearly articulate a case for change and transformation. Define the “From-To’s” Detail and describe the values and behaviours of leaders and workforce that you want to see as an outcome of your intended culture.

3) Cast and define the culture proof points in terms of; a) voice of customers and other stakeholders about your organisation, b) stories and coffee machine talks within your organisation, c) How the Hero’s of the new culture will look like and what will be their values and behaviours, etc, etc.

4) Design and roll out a structured and innovative culture transformation program (with varied initiatives keeping in mind the organisational complexity in terms of company’s geographical spread, employee levels, etc). Be an executive sponsor and appoint a full time program manager to manage the culture transformation. Manage it like a proper program and not like an initiative or a small project.

5) Develop a robust change, communication and engagement – management plan. Involve and include all stakeholders. Make sure that the stakeholders understand their role in making it happen and own the transformation.

7) Lead from the front – Facilitate and shape an organisation-wide dialogue, listen to employees, challenge them, support them, create and nurture a”Network of Culture and Change Champions” they should be your critical mass… your extended team.

8) Design a measurement framework and process for monitoring progress and success of your transformation program. Change and transformation specific surveys based on Net Promoter Score (NPS) methodology are very effective. In addition, conduct dip-stick surveys, coffee corner discussions and keep measuring and feeling the pulse of the people and the organisation.

9) Refine what’s not working and reinforce what’s working. Do not add additional or new initiatives – bear in mind the change fatigue and keep it simple but engaging and exciting.

10) Celebrate success, recognise the new culture Hero’s, emphasis and reward them for the desired behaviours and values that they role model. Share success stories via the Hero’s and inspire others to follow the role models.

Culture building in organisations is a journey, your perseverance and commitment to the program as a leader will define its success. Make sure you manage expectation and not fall in the “overnight result trap”. Continuous improvement is key, as soon as you think your program is successful and the job is done – you will need to ready yourself for the next sumit or phase of the journey.

In my opinion good leaders lead and manage people effectively, but great leaders do that and build a culture.

Culture can become a ‘secret weapon’ that can make extraordinary things happen ~ Jon Katzenbach

Get off that dead horse….

I was well aware of the idiom; “Beating or Flogging a dead horse”. Which means wasting time persevering with something that’s foreclosed, concluded, decided or dead.  While ago, I saw a viral email (source unknown), which shared the wisdom and notion of the dead horse theory, which is probably based on the same idiom. The viral email and its contents were as follows:

Dead-Horse-Theory

The tribal wisdom of the Plains Indians, passed on from generation to generation, says that:

“When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.”

However, many leaders and organizations relent and persevere with the dead horse and more advanced strategies are often employed, such as:

1. Buying a stronger whip.

2. Changing riders.

3. Appointing a committee to study the horse.

4. Arranging to visit other countries to see how other cultures ride dead horses.

5. Lowering the standards so that dead horses can be included

6. Reclassifying the dead horse as living-impaired.

7. Hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse.

8. Harnessing several dead horses together to increase speed.

9. Providing additional funding and/or training to increase the dead horse’s performance.

10. Doing a productivity study to see if lighter riders would improve the dead horse’s performance.

11. Declaring that as the dead horse does not have to be fed, it is less costly, carries lower overhead and therefore contributes substantially more to the bottom line of the economy than do some other horses.

12. Rewriting the expected performance requirements for all horses.

And, of course…

13. Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position.

I found the above satirical viral email (source unknown) rather interesting and thought provoking. Attempting to put the above in context, let me begin my post in which I will present some of my perspectives and opinions on  how the corporate world keeps beating some of the dead horses instead of dismounting them.

In the corporate world the dead horse theory is often seen at play in many areas but some of the prominent areas in my observation are; Strategy, Policy, Processes, Technology and People.

How often have you seen a dead and an irrelevant strategy being defended and persevered, dead strategies which aren’t delivering results or are making the desired impact. I have seen it a few times and I have confronted and challenged it as much as I can. Must say that, if not always, I have often succeeded in convincing people to stop beating the dead horse (persevering with the dead strategy) and instead mount a new one. About a decade ago when I used to work for a top company in the Asia Pacific region as their HR Business partner, I remember challenging my talent acqusition team on the old and irrelevant strategies of attracting talent from Engineering and MBA Schools. The old strategy included focussing on pre-recruitment season talks at the campuses, recruiting a few interns and some graduates. The war for talent had intensfied and if we had persevered with our old strategies then we would have lost the plot. The new strategy was not about just recruiting talent, it was all about building a employer brand which was valued internally and externally by the talent, it was about engaging with the talent in campuses throughout their academic period and not just before the recruiting season. Mounting a new horse did pay off as we were successful and managed to attract and retain very good talent. I often find many companies complaining about the war for talent and how the talent shortage is affecting their business. I say, look at your strategies and if they are a dead horse then  dismount and ride a new horse. Complaining and persevering with your old strategies is like beating a dead horse and it won’t help.

POLICIES and PROCESSES is another area, where we keep beating the dead horses. We often criticize our governments for its lack of sensitivity towards the needs of its people and how slow and beuracratic they are when it comes to changing policies and processes that are irrelevant. Now think about your organisation, do you see policies and processes that are dead and how long do we take before we revise or change them and make them relevant? Google as a company is a case in point where they have become a Top Employer in such a short time and it’s coz of their culture, ethos, people related polices and processes – they are very relevant to the needs of today’s top talent and hence they are able to attract and retain top talent. It’s more than just the free gourmet food that they serve to their employees, be it their paternity leave policy or their process of making work more meaningful, it’s a whole range of things. They fortunately don’t have a plethora of legacy polices and processes and hence what they have and ride are new horses in the area of their people related practices. It will be interesting to see how they stay ahead and don’t get caught up with their own legacy as they grow, mature and age. But this is one company which is a true benchmark. Read this blog on what makes Google a top employer as assessed and declared by Glassdoor in their annual list of “50 Best Places to Work,” http://goo.gl/04e3pE

TECHNOLOGY is another classic area where we live with and flog irrelevant and dead technologies and coz of various reasons we don’t upgrade the technology or the skills required to upgrade it. This causes serious efficiency and productivity issues as compared to competition and sets many companies back. Enterprise-wide, integrated, efficient, secured and standard technology platforms across the company is every corporations goal. But the pace at which the technology is changing and evolving, it’s rather hard to decide when you dismount the dying tech platform horse and mount a new one. And the horse of technology comes at a cost, which is difficult to capatilisze coz of its shorter life cycle even when compared to fashion. In my observation as compared to the cost of technology the bigger issue is the know how and competence of the leaders about the changes, evolution and real benefits of newer technologies. Hence most are often beating a dead horse of a technology platform, thinking it’s alive.

When it comes to PEOPLE – how and when to consider them a dead horse. The corporate world’s leaders and their beliefs, thinking, philosophy and ethos is basically divided in three categories. 1) There are leaders and organizations with a harder view and approach and as per them when people reach their level of incompetence (Peter Principle http://goo.gl/yGPUYe) then those people (“Dead Wood”) should to be separated and exited from the organisation – either on grounds of non-performance or in a wave of restructuring and downsizing. 2) Then there are those who have a more softer and socialistic view and approach and they believe that people can never be termed as “Dead Wood” or Dead Horse – until they retire or literally die. 3) Then there are those who have a blended view and approach of the earlier two explained, they are neither too hard nor too soft and socialistic.

In my perspective PEOPLE whom we term as HUMAN RESOURCES are the most valuable resources of any organisation and it’s the responsibility of any good organisation and its leaders to invest in developing and growing their people and keep them employable. However, the responsibility of the PEOPLE towards themselves and their organisation is to ensure that they take a lead and co-ownership of their development (Knowledge, skills, values and attitude) and ensure their own employability.

In my opinion a person can be termed as a dead horse in an organisation when they are consistent non-performers and makes no effort or shows no willingness to improve their performance and skills. People who are dis-engaged and are uncapable of engaging others and creating value for their organisation are like horses that are about to die. Last but not the least, people with lack of integrity and or unacceptable standards of ethics are serious dead horses. Organizations and leaders should definitely dismount these type of dead horses and find and mount good ones.

Would love to hear your views, opinions and perspectives on this.

 

Can Culture Eat Strategy for Breakfast?

I came across this statement which said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. It resonated with me and I thought of writing a blog post based on my experience and learning’s on how organization’s go about identifying, building, measuring and communicating their culture.

We have learnt a lot about strategy and there is a lot of experience, academic research and content around it. However, in relative comparison to strategy, culture as a subject needs to be understood a lot better. From my experience and learning, I would suggest that “Culture is an Organizational Capability” There are four big buckets of organizational capabilities and most organizations have traditionally focused on the three big buckets; “People”, “Processes” and “Technology” the fourth bucket “Culture” is probably yet not focused upon much. Most progressive organizations and their capability building models that I have seen (whilst working for some top companies and of other benchmark companies practices) have figured out well how to identify, build and measure capabilities in the first three buckets and not so much yet in the “Culture” bucket.

To begin with it helps tremendously if you first agree within your organization that next to People, Processes and Technology the fourth bucket of Capabilities is “Culture” Once you agree then your capability building framework will require you to look at “Culture Building” in a holistic manner. Some may argue and say that “Culture” is a sub-bucket of “People”, as people are the ones who construct, live, represent and communicate an organization’s culture. It’s not an invalid argument, but from my perspective culture goes beyond just people (Behaviors and Style), for example it involves the ways of working, physical environment and design of the workplace, social mechanisms and rituals of an organization, stories that are discussed etc. Hence it may be immensely helpful to look at “Culture” as something beyond just people capabilities (knowledge, skills, competencies, behaviors and attitudes).

Culture is a modern history concept based on a term first used in classical antiquity by the Roman orator Cicero “cultura animi” (cultivation of the soul).

However, one of the many definitions of organizational culture is the behavior of humans who are part of an organization and the meanings that the people attach to their actions. Culture includes the organization values, visions, norms, working language, systems, symbols, beliefs and habits. It is also the pattern of such collective behaviors and assumptions that are taught to new organizational members as a way of perceiving, and even thinking and feeling. Organizational culture affects the way people and groups interact with each other, with clients, and with stakeholders. And now you can see the rationale why some argue that Culture is all about just people. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organizational_culture

Anyway my perspective is a bit different, but it strongly builds on this traditional definition.

How to go about building a strong organization culture, which, despite the sustained uncertainty of the economic and social environment and the ever changing strategy – can become a major pillar of strength. My 10 recommended practical steps for leaders and organisations are as follows: 

1)    The first step should be to assess and identify what your current organizational culture is. It takes finding out what your culture is and how you culture is perceived by internal (employees) external people (customers, talent, investors etc). There are various tools and methodologies that are there to identify your culture. One of the most powerful techniques is facilitated focus group discussions, which are similar to identifying the brand identity of the company. Also you need to asses if your culture is something that’s kept in mind by people when designing strategies, processes, systems, workplaces, policies etc

2)    Ensure that there is a clear articulation and shared understanding of the organizations vision, mission and values. Then compare the “Current Culture” and clearly articulate the “Required Culture” for achieving your vision and living the values. Do a proper gap analysis and planning of “FROM” – “TO” This is most effectively done via the process of LSIP – Large Scale Interaction Process. If this is done in isolation and only at the top of the organisation or just by the HR function it well could be a false start.

3)    Avoid evolving complicated culture building frameworks, keep things simple, build on and align to existing capability building framework of the company, with clear alignment to the vision, mission and values of the company. Having a clear plan of initiatives and activities to build culture is more important than having just frameworks and models. Ensure the the main components of the culture you are building are well integrated into each and every strategy, process, system, practice, policy design of your company.

4)    Integrate culture building strongly with the company’s existing learning practice and function, design and detail initiatives and activities (learning offerings, coaching, mentoring etc) and make them leader led. Avoid too much of classroom and e-learning offerings around culture building – leverage the 70-20-10 learning principle. Don’t make culture building a separate and an isolated activity.

5)    Whilst designing and activating culture building interventions, don’t focus only on soft part – people and their behaviors and styles. Focus also on designing and changing the hard part – workplace design, policies, social mechanism’s (meetings and its structure, rewards and recognition platforms, etc), hierarchy (Org structure and its levels), rituals (how is success celebrated, how is news communicated, etc).

6)    Make Leaders lead the culture building, but make everyone responsible and accountable for it and celebrate reward and recognize success stories and role models. Don’t make the mistake of making just HR responsible for Culture building, its every leader’s responsibility. HR should facilitate the process.

7)    Have a clear measurement methodology, process, tools and techniques for knowing and understanding how progress is being made and what needs to be further improved. Custom designed surveys and NPS (Net Promoter Score) are two powerful methodologies.

8)    If your organization culture is your strength and a differentiator, then make sure you have a good communication plan (internal and external) to further strengthen and build on your employer branding.

9)    Use your culture building plan to profile, attract and develop talent which will help you strengthen and build the riht culture. Dovetailing your culture building plan with the talent assessment, development and acquisition strategy of the company is very important.

10) Last but not the least, culture building needs investing of some money and lots of leadership commitment and their personal time. Without this investment you will achieve little.

In my opinion and perspective, if you get the above 10 steps right, you will be able to create a culture in your organization, which will eat your competitors strategy for breakfast!!

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Here is some content that, I have aggregated from my favorite HBR Blogs on Culture, I have learnt a lot from reading them and critiquing them in my own mind. Hope you enjoy reading them too:

Michael Watkins on “What Is Organizational Culture? And Why Should We Care?” suggests that, If you want to provoke a vigorous debate, start a conversation on organizational culture. While there is universal agreement that (1) it exists, and (2) that it plays a crucial role in shaping behavior in organizations, there is little consensus on what organizational culture actually is, never mind how it influences behavior and whether it is something leaders can change…. read on http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/05/what-is-organizational-culture/

John Coleman on “Six Components of a Great Corporate Culture” suggests that, what makes a culture? Each culture is unique and myriad factors go into creating one, but I’ve observed at least six common components of great cultures. Isolating those elements can be the first step to building a differentiated culture and a lasting organization….  read on http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/05/six-components-of-culture/

Carolyn Dewar and Scott Keller on “Three Steps to a High-Performance Culture” suggest that, senior executives tend to think about corporate culture as a topic that’s hard to measure and hard to change. As a result, many choose not to invest in it despite all the evidence that, when skillfully managed, culture can be a powerful and enduring source of competitive advantage…. read on http://blogs.hbr.org/2012/01/three-steps-to-a-high-performa/

Deidre H. Campbell on “What Great Companies Know About Culture” suggests that, even in this unprecedented business environment, great leaders know they should invest in their people. Those companies who are committed to a strong workplace culture tend to perform well, and now they are featured prominently in a new ranking recently released by Great Place to Work Institute. Among the top performers on the 2011 World’s Best Multinational Companies list are culturally-strong technology companies such as Microsoft, NetApp, SAS, and Google….read on http://blogs.hbr.org/2011/12/what-great-companies-know-abou/

Amy C. Edmondson on The Three Pillars of a Teaming Culture” suggests that, today’s leaders must build a culture where teaming is expected and begins to feel natural, and this starts with helping everyone to become curious, passionate, and empathic. She says, building the right culture in an era of fast-paced teaming, when people work on a shifting mix of projects with a shifting mix of partners, might sound challenging – if not impossible. But, in my experience, in the most innovative companies, teaming is the culture….read on http://t.co/5wkbbaou2G

Jason Sylva on “The Culture Cycle” James L. Heskett‘s book The Culture Cycle describes how an effective culture can account for up to half of the differential in performance between organizations in the same business. Heskett discusses how to calculate the economic value of culture through the “Four Rs” of referrals, retention, returns to labor, and relationships with customers… read on http://blogs.hbr.org/2012/06/culture-cycle-the-unseen-force/

How to Leverage Social Media in HR & Employer Brand Building

This is a Guest Blog By: Zenobia Madon, GM Talent Acquisition, Philips India (@zenobiamadon), Hussain, Mohammed Mansoor, GM Talent Acquisition, Philips India (_mansoor1) and Gautam Ghosh, GM HR and Social Media, Philips India (@gautamghosh). Am honored to publish it as an contribution from my colleauges, who make me proud and are leading the way on the topic of this blog at Philips India 🙂

Our experience with Social Media & Employer Branding (Brand building) has been very interesting and fruitful. During our 2012 annual HR strategy workshop – Yashwant Mahadik (@indianyash) shared his learning’s, forecast and vision about Social Media & HR and encouraged the team to come out with ideas and strategy to leverage Social Media in HR. Over the recent years, Philips India HR team has significantly transformed HR in the company and we have developed and built some top-class HR practices and programs to create value in business and the time was just ripe to leverage Social Media to share and learn. In response to Yash’s challenge and vision – Philips India, HR team’s journey in the space of Social Media started about a year ago – we realized that Social Media platforms are a great way to share what is happening at Philips India with our target audience. Objective was to share some of our exciting and cutting edge, practices, initiatives and events at Philips India with an aim of communicating our value proposition and continue to build a strong employer brand. Social Media is an exciting new white space, some of us also looked at it as an unknown animal with green horns.

Very quickly a core team sprung up to champion this initiative. We began our journey this time last year, with the launch of our We are Philips India Facebook page, (which was launched by (@AbhijitBhaduri) and we to refreshed our presence on LinkedIn and leveraged our company’s global relationship with LinkedIn – to not just recruit from it, but also learn and share from this platform. Then we planned on leveraging other platforms like Twitter & WordPress.

The more we indulged in leveraging social media the more we learnt that, “it’s not an easy task” – you need certain capabilities to do it effectively (and not many of us had those capabilities – what we had in plenty was enthusiasm and drive). Then we explored partnerships and support from Digital and Social Media agencies, most of them were rather inexperienced in context of leveraging Social Media for HR and especially in the area of Employer Brand building. We also realized that there were not many benchmark organizations which had leveraged social media in the space of HR and employer brand building. We therefore decided to chalk out our own path. Decision made was that we will build the capability in-house and learn as we go!!

We initially experimented with different initiatives on Social Media both for the internal (our employees) and external audiences and got some great learning’s (things that work and things that don’t). We also realized that while we had a lot of information to share about the exciting times at Philips, we needed to be cautious about what value add it would do to our external audience and how engaging it would be for them. One thing we were clear, we wanted to build our presence organically and via content creation.

At this point in time @indianyash hired and attracted our co-author of this blog post – @gautamghosh to Philips India and he started off by building awareness and capability of Social Media in the HR team and the senior business leaders. @indianyash was very clear in his steer that, we will build the capability by learning and doing it ourselves. Oh boy!! we did it or are doing it and its so much fun!! We, won’t elaborate on this part much, as a blog from @indianyash himself on this topic seems to be in the oven 

We then moved on to Twitter and the excitement and the learning journey was accelerated. We created a Philips India HR Twitter account and got the entire HR team (70+) on to Twitter. The team getting on to Twitter was awesome fun and the turning point. We had all of kinds – we had some early adopters who took to twitter like ducklings take to water and there were some cautious ones who observed and watched and gradually got on to it. The twitter world welcomed us with open arms. Very quickly, we all got hyper connected with the rest of the HR and Social Media stalwarts on Twitter.
We attended our first twitter #tag chat on invitation from @indianyash who was chairing it for the month of April 2013 (#IndiaHRchat hosted by our friend @tanvi_gautam) which was a fantastic experience. The pace of the chat, exciting discussions and multiple re-tweets which some of us received was invigorating. The #tag chat which was scheduled for an hour seemed to pass in a jiffy. We were dumbfounded by the millions of impressions we made and now we look impatiently forward to the next one every month. This encouraged the team to further explore twitter and we learnt a lot about Twitter.

Within a few months we were very familiar with the various platforms and started leveraging Social media for our HR initiatives. We designed & introduced a one of its kind initiative, #PhilipsHRtalks on 22nd April which was a huge success and created a lot of buzz. The session trended on Twitter, we got about 935,000 impressions and the video of the session which was shared on Youtube has got over 2000 views.
It is encouraging to hear from Industry leaders and HR thought leaders how impressed they are to see the @HRPhilips – HR team at Philips lead the way in leveraging Social media in HR. We also found it extremely easy to get visibility amongst our Global team, on some of our initiatives via both Twitter and ConnectUs (our internal social networking platform). The momentum and transformation was such that we all started to utilize our internal company social networking platform eagerly and effectively.

Another recent initiative which we conceptualized and launched recently is #CampusJournos, which is currently in progress. CampusJournos is an exciting initiative launched by Philips India to engage with MBA school students across India via Social media. The initiative is completely managed by us in-house, it is hosted on WordPress and is promoted via Facebook and Twitter. We have received an overwhelming response to Campus Journos from the MBA students across many business schools in India, since launch. We have received over 67000 views and 305 entries in its first week of Launch, which is very heartening for us. All this at no extra cost or budget.

In addition to above, we have vibrant and engaged alumni networks, who contribute actively to social media conversations about Phillips. We have encouraged active networking and peer-to-peer discussion around topics relevant to personal or professional development. In fact at Philips, Philips Alumni Group is an example of leveraging social media for re-attracting regretfully lost employees and this has been one of our robust channels of recruitment. In addition, our active involvement on select Philips LinkedIn Groups (e.g. Innovations in Marketing, Innovations in Healthcare) has helped us engage & learn from likeminded passionate functional experts. We do realize that we can further leverage LinkedIn and we are at it.

At Philips, we believe that every employee is a brand ambassador. And the best way to build or strengthen our brand is via employees – who can contribute to building the brand – inside out. To that effect, we encourage @HRPhilips to be active on social media sites such as Twitter and share their perspectives on a wide range of subjects. This exercise has been one of rich learning and fun – and has also provided the world-at large a glimpse into the knowledgeable and informed Philips employee and its rich culture.

We make no mistake in accepting that, we are still learning and it’s a journey. But the excitement and fun we have had in the past one year and the success we have tasted enhances our belief how powerful Social Media for HR can be!! This is written on behalf of @HRPhilips full team 

How to Best Design and Manage Summer Internship Programs for Strengthening your Employer Brand – Part 2

Part 2 – What Students must do to make internships more valuable:

This is in continuation of the Part-1 which was published three weeks ago.

Today the first month of summer internships for MBA students in India is over and now remains only a month more to go, here are my perspectives and opinions on what the students should do to create value for the organization in which they are interning and also for themselves.

My advice is not on obvious things such as; work hard and stay on top of your project deliverables by making sure your project management skills are being honed, etc. This to me is basic, threshold and hence a given, my advice in particular is about the attitude and dos and don’ts that need to be adopted and exhibited by inerns to create more value:

1) If you haven’t yet started, then, make sure that you have the draft structure of your final presentation and report ready. Don’t leave it until the last weeks. This will help you to start converting you work into a good presentation and report. As you complete your project start to populate it into the draft PPT and report that you may have created.

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” ~ Dwight D Eisenhower    

2) In the past one month you must have met a lot of people in the company you are working and lot of other people in the industry coz of your interactions with them. Make a list of people with whom you would like to build solid connections and then work on building them. No harm in upfront telling those people, how much you value their support and how you would like to stay in contact with them, even after the internship. It will help if you can make time to have informal meetings and discussions with these people over a coffee or a lunch – tell them about yourself, your dreams and aspirations. One caution, don’t go overboard and spend most of your time; networking. Key is to have a nicely focused shortlist of people with whom you want to build solid connections and then spend some time in building those connections. This is also your opportunity to befriend and make solid connections with your fellow interns from other schools. Peer connections are as valuable as any other connections you make during your internship and MBA education.

 Start with the end in mind ~ Stephen Covey

 3) Take a balcony moment and assess what you are learning. At times we get so focused on what we are doing that we forget to hard wire what we are learning. Learning is the most important objective of any internship; ensure you stay focused on it. I recently learned that, to go faster at times you have to slow down, come out of the dance and take a balcony moment. This interval or mid-point of your (two months) internship is a perfect time to slow down a bit, review your progress, assess its effectiveness and re-plan the next phase of execution.

Taking a break for sharpening the saw at regular intervals helps you to cut more effectively and faster ~ Stephen Covey

 4) Your next big milestone is the final presentation that you will give to the senior management of the company. Most company’s give 50% weightage to your final presentation (solutions that you will recommend to the complex business challenge you are working on) and that’s the “what” part. Remaining 50% is for “how” you have worked, behaved and gone about completing your project. So if you are keen on getting placed in the company where you are doing your internship then give it your best shot and present yourself well on both parts; “what” you delivered and “how” you delivered it.

 Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about dancing in the rain ~ Unkown

5) This is my last and most important piece of advice. It’s about what you should do when you get an offer to join the company or what to do – if you don’t get that offer. Of course this should matter to you, only if you are keen to work with the company that you are interning with.

If you get the offer then it’s easy, you are delighted with yourself and congratulations will be in order from all quarters. Enjoy that moment, go back to your school focus on your remaining studies, pass with flying colors and you will most probably join that company, this time, next year. But, when you get that offer – do think hard if you really want to join that company and wish to make a career there. If in doubt discuss freely with your confidants and only if your are totally sure – accept that offer otherwise decline it and try for other jobs and companies that may be of interest to you. It has to be your decision!

What if you are very keen and you don’t get the offer? Now this is a difficult situation. I have often found many interns dismayed and are left feeling dejected and low. Some even get aggressive, angry and start to blame their mentors and guides for not being of much help etc. Some start arguing and disputing the feedback they get and some begin to plead for a reassessment and re-consideration.

Well, let me tell you one thing. Most progressive and professional companies have a very robust assessment process (which involves multiple people and data points) and their decision is often very objective and final. So, in my opinion those who do not accept the company’s decision and start to behave negatively – often land up denting their own image. Therefore,  resilience, maturity and dignity lies in and comes from internalizing the failure as compared to externalizing it. Adopting a positive attitude will help you overcome your disappointment and enhance your chances of greater success in times to come.

Remember one thing, your not getting that offer can be due to various reasons. I have seen many good interns, who despire their super performance on what and how – not getting an offer due to the recessionary economic cycles. During a depressed economic cycle, companies tend to hire fewer number of people. However after the economy bounces back the same companies and leaders go back and look for those interns who were good and are now placed and working somewhere else. Therefore, as explained above please remember the impressions and connections you make can and will serve you well throughout your career or vice versa.

Irrespective of the outcome, as they say; count your blessings and be grateful to the company , all the people who have helped you with your internship and internalize your failure and externalize your success. It’s a key characteristic of a good human being and an good professional. Wishing you great success and a big career. Like life, a career should be big and not necessarily long. So go out there and make it big!!

Dictionary is the only place where success comes before work ~ Mark Twain

My next and concluding part is on what the MBA Schools must do – and I am sure it will raise a good debate and discussion between the three key stake holders (Companies, Students and Schools). Please let me have your comments and feedback on this blog. Thanks 🙂

How to Best Design and Manage Summer Internship Programs for Strengthening your Employer Brand – Part 1

Part 1 – What Companies must do to design and make internships more valuable:

April/May is the season of summer internships in India. Most first year MBA students are on their eight weeks of summer internships – doing projects in companies. These eight weeks are by far the most important eight weeks for many first year MBA students in India. For the past 20 years or so, I have observed and found that – for first year MBA students this is the first big test of their potential and capability. For companies in India this is one of their biggest employer brand strength test of the year, a test of their brands ability to attract top-notch talent from the MBA schools.

The run-up to this internship season begins some times in September/October every year and during this time, most MBA schools and their student placement committees go all out to invite top employers to come and select their students for internships. Almost every MBA student aspires and makes efforts to get selected for an internship in their dream companies, which are most often the top employer brands of India. Every company aspires and goes all out to select the best students for internships. It is indeed very competitive on all fronts and the competition continues to intensify with each passing year – and the ocean of competition is more red then ever. In my opinion companies can do a lot to build strong employer brands by leveraging this opportunity. Not easy and not many get their summer internship programs right. Average or bad internship programs leave many students disillusioned and I have seen employer brands getting eroded due to this. So what must companies, students and MBA schools (the three key stake holders) do to create a blue ocean and ensure that the young and aspiring MBA talent of India is best engaged and developed and everyone benefits from this process. I am writing this blog in three parts; first part is on what companies must do and second and third parts will be on what students and MBA schools must do, respectively.

In my opinion the companies must do the following:

  1. The internship program should be aimed at attracting MBA talent in the form of interns, assessing them (whilst they are interning) then selecting them and offering them challenging roles in your organization. The program should be your company’s important strategic initiative of acquiring talent and building your talent pipeline. This program has to be one of the top Strategic Talent Acquisition initiatives of the company and it should have total top management commitment and sponsorship.
  2. Design and execute robust internship programs, which are aimed at giving the student a rich professional experience. Majority of MBA students In India are fresh and don’t have much prior work experience. Hence this is their first stint or professional work experience in the corporate world. Therefore, whilst designing the program bear their aspirations, background and experience in mind. Ensure that projects are designed and detailed even before you go to the campuses for recruiting interns. Projects should be real, live and aligned to the strategic plans of your company. Each project should be very dear and near to the top management of the company. Organizations end in mind regarding the project should be to get advice, inputs and fresh perspectives on a strategic business challenge/issue. Whilst doing the project the student should be able learn and gain knowledge in the area and function of that project. Projects should ideally be from areas and functions where you plan to attract and recruit talent
  3. Interview and select students for the projects. Short list students based on your project requirements and match your projects to the students learning aspirations. As soon as you have made the selection and if the student signs up – share the project details and begin to engage them. This makes them feel valued and they appreciate and see the professional depth of your company. With the advent of technology it’s possible to engage students with their guides and managers. Many students when informed about their projects in advance do lots of good ground work and it helps them hit the ground running. But make sure you don’t overwhelm them and allow them to focus on their studies and school activities.
  4. Design and execute a top-class induction and orientation plan for the interns during their first week. This is their first experience on the ground of your organization and it has to be absolutely delightful. Logistics and on-boarding support system for the interns in your organization should be top class. Ensure that all issues such as accommodation for those eight weeks, IT support, workplace details etc are sorted out well and on time and on day 1 the intern is not grappling with it and instead is focused on learning. Not an easy task but when planned in detail it’s possible. Having a buddy (preferably an employees who is close or similar to the interns profile) assigned to every intern is a very powerful support step throughout the internship program.
  5. Ensure there is a good formal and informal review mechanism in place to assess how the intern is doing and if they need any extra support. The guide/manager should be totally committed to their intern’s success and should make time to guide them and mentor them. The final presentation of the interns should be treated like a celebration of success rather than a report out. Senior management of the company should participate in this celebration whole heatedly and learn from the interns report out and give them constructive and objective feedback.
  6. Make decisions to offer Pre-placement-interviews (PPIs) or Pre-placement-offers (PPOs) and communicate the same within a month to the college and students as appropriate. Students who don’t land-up with an offer and if they want more feedback on why they didn’t make it – makes sure that the project guide and the HR Manager should provide them that feedback. Always remember that, your interns are your company’s ambassadors for life. So it’s up to you, to create good ambassadors for your company who will always promote your brand or you will land up with detractors of your brand.

In conclusion, I say, designing and executing a top-notch internship program is your company’s big opportunity for strengthening your employer brand and the health and depth of your talent pipeline. Make sure that you invest well and commit fully towards it – if not then best is to not have an internship program in your company, because it’s like a double edged sword and it can also erode the equity of your employer brand.

In all my working years as an HR leader of an organization – I have personally designed and closely supervised these programs and have put my best people to manage them and it has always paid back. Part 2 and 3 will be posted soon. Please read and leave your comments and views.