Mr. V.K.Talithaya is the President of Primacy Industries Limited an Export Oriented Unit at Mangalore. He is an HR professional both in Public and
Private enterprises. He has served with distinction in organizations such as Steel Authority of India, Metallurgical & Engineering Consultants, Deccan Herald group of publications, Kinetic Honda Motors, Bharat Electronics Ltd., Mangalore Refinery & Petrochemicals Ltd. A thinker and practitioner, known for his transparent and solution based approach for long term benefits. His areas of specialization are Human Resource Management, Transactional Analysis, Communication and Neuro Linguistic Programming.

Friday, 4 January 2013

By V.K.Talithaya

(In January, 2008, Ms. Suparna Ghosh, Manager – HR, ICRA Techno Analytics Limited,Kolkata, attended a programme I conducted in Admistrative College, Hyderabad on Transactional Analysis. During one of the casual discussions she asked me what I thought would make a good HR Manager. After returning home from the programme, I took up the task of putting my thoughts on paper. My views have not changed much since then. On the other hand I feel those thoughts are more relevant today.
 This is the letter I sent to Suparna)

Dear Suparna,
You asked me, what makes a good HR person? I promised to discuss this with you one of those evenings at ASCI. Unfortunately we could not find the time.

Firstly let me qualify what I am going to say with the caveat that I have limited success as a HR person, and whatever I say may not be fully valid in the kind of industry you are working. All my life I worked in hard-core manufacturing industry, where the perspectives are different. One thing, of course, is true – I have been a HR person of conviction, often not hesitating to call a spade a spade. Yet, I had no problem of conflict with my superiors, colleagues and peers, some of whom were people of great conviction themselves. I owe them grateful thanks for whatever I learnt.

A good HR person genuinely loves to be with people. Interacting with people is a highly energizing activity for her. She talks to people to understand their points of view, to tell others her point of view and to create a consensus. But she believes that others may have as strong conviction about issues as she herself has.

For her people are not just statistics or challenges to be handled everyday. Sometimes, she wonders if Peter Drucker was right in coining the now famous phrase ‘Human Resource’! Are people simply resource to be used and dispensed with? Emanuel Kant, the idealist German philosopher said, “Every man is to be respected as an absolute end in himself; and it is a crime against the dignity that belongs to him as a human being, to use him as a mere means for some external purpose.” The good HR person will always remember these words of Kant. If we have to put Kant’s words in today’s management language, what he meant was that unless every person has a stake in the organization or enterprise, he is simply a resource to be used and dispensed with. When he has a stake in the enterprise he is also someone who matters for the achievement of the objectives of the enterprise. Therefore, a good HR person will create this stake for every employee in the organization.

She has a very high ethical standards, especially on issues concerning fairness. She will not favour an employee at the expense of another. If someone else in the company does it she will point out that such practices will harm the organization in the long term. In other words, she is the conscience keeper of her organization. This is a difficult role. She will find herself in conflict with many people in the organization. I do not mean that she will have to pick up issues with others every day. On the other hand, she works her way gradually in making others accept her point of view. Rome was not built in one day. Ethical foundations of organizations are not built in one or two years, but they are clearly built by one or two or a very few strong willed, highly communicative individuals. You can be one of them!

When we talk of ethical standards it also means that when we take a decision concerning individuals in our organizations we have to not only communicate to the affected individual the decision, but more importantly the basis of the decision. Most decisions of HR managers affect people. Therefore, it is not enough if we, HR persons communicate what we did, but also, we need to communicate why we did what we did. Good HR persons need to reach out to people, the employees. This is what you call transparency. People talk a lot about transparency, but they do not practice transparency because they are not clear what it means in practice.

Finally, one last word. Being your authentic self – that is, not sinking often deep into your script is very important for every successful HR person. Stay OK, strive to maintain yourself at I AM OK YOU ARE OK. That makes a lot of difference. Like the satellite which tends to drift from its path gradually, and so requires firing from the ground control station to bring it back to its precise orbit, we also tend to waver to I AM NOT OK YOU ARE OK or I AM OK YOU ARE NOT OK. The firing to restore you to your precise orbit comes from positive thinking and you return to  – I AM OK YOU ARE OK.

With the best wishes.
Yours sincerely

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