Leveraging the Generation Differences in Leadership

April 21, 2011

Today’s workplace comprises of three generations of leaders.

Baby Boomers (BB) – those born between the years 1945 – 1960

Generation X (GX) – those born between the years 1961 – 1981

Generation Y (GY) – those born between the years 1981 – 1994

and we would soon see the coming in of the next group

Generation Z (GZ) – those born after 1994

Each generation comes to work with different needs. They have different views on how they should be treated, how they should be compensated, have different attitudes towards work, and have very different views on how they should be managed and led. Successful leaders have seen this and have not only adapted to embrace these differences but went on to leverage them.

It is critically important to get them to work together in a productive manner. A successful leader would need to focus on three very general aspects in particular.

1. Communication

2. Tech savvy

3. Work-Life Balance

Communication styles and preferences are very different. Businesses recognize email as the most common and preferred way of communicating, while situations would prompt the need for telephone or audio / videoconference or perhaps even face-to-face. BBs are usually more comfortable with face to face as they have gone through their years, participating in meetings. GX have grown up with voice mail and email and would often prefer this mode, as they would be comfortable with computers and smart phone devices. GY have grown up with technology all around them and would tend to prefer texting and social media. Often they do not differentiate between medium of communication whether work or personal. They perhaps would like to share their work ideas with colleagues too in this medium of communication.

While the message is the important part of communication, for it to be effective and well received, the choice of the medium by the leader may become the differentiating factor for success. If the recipient of the message is not engaged in the process, they are less likely to understand the message and respond with the required action. It would thus be smart for a leader to ask the team about how they would like to communicate and how they prefer to receive the information, and discuss how to build these preferences in the organization’s communication process.

Tech savvy is not the same as defined by these three generations. Today’s business needs effective use of technology as teams work together across geographic locations or even if they are working from the same site.

While GX and GY can be assumed to be more tech savvy than BBs, BBs are also upgrading their skills and integrating new technology in their work life, as they also believe that communication and tech savvy are interlinked.

Leaders could view differences in technology capability as an opportunity for training and development. Encourage the technology savvy GenY to teach or train the GenX and Boomer employees how to utilize software or other technology tools and techniques necessary to perform their roles.

Work-Life Balance has become a strong point of negotiation in the present day interviews, which gives us an insight that differing attitudes and expectations are prevalent across these three generations. BB grew up in an environment where loyalty and dedication was encouraged and rewarded. Being focused only on results, although beneficial to the organization overall is most likely to create conflict with GY employees. GY workers are more interested in work-life balance and will spend work time on their Facebook page, which is something BBs would probably only do at home and perhaps during weekends.

As a leader, if one could view this aspect of GY behavior, as a need to take a break from work, would probably be the way to go. The BBs and GX probably prefer coffee breaks instead. Integrating this need of GY like a break time would perhaps generate the desired outcome.

Tons of research show that each generation views work differently. Each generation has different things that motivate them. Even with differing communication styles, tools, and methods leveraging the diversity of these employee groups will increase productivity. Members of these generations will need to learn from each other and develop the capacity to accept various points of view. Bringing together these different generations has an additional benefit of establishing a “learning culture” in the organization, which lays the ground for ongoing growth and development.


The Business Analyst – A Leader without the Title!

April 11, 2011

Robin Sharma, a prolific writer in the leadership area wrote a book, and is one that I really like – “The leader who had no title.” As I was pondering about this book and also the quaint title, it dawned on me that a business analyst is really a leader without the title – and is always leading from within.

A definition of leadership that I read somewhere says – Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen. In my work thus far, I have often faced this challenge where I had to lead and found myself short on authority; nevertheless a bit of facilitation skill development that I had stood me in good stead, and helped me achieve the bit that I have, and now I understand it a lot better – what I started doing was to create an environment where people could contribute – contribute everything really; the business case, the vision, the scope, and most importantly their “real” requirements.

All traits of leadership is woven into the skills of a Business Analyst. We have to use influence to get others to work to accomplish a task – many a times these tasks may not be what they like doing; that too without the authority of position. Most people in leadership positions have the authority of position (designation) on their side to help them in influencing others. Business analysts are generally in a position of not having authority to help them influence, so they have to be very innovative and creative.

What does “A leader without a title” imply?

The role of a BA primarily is doing analysis, recommending solutions, and utilizing the right tools. In projects, it usually means eliciting the requirements to create a product or solution that is expected to delight users / customers, while making their tasks simpler, and also achieving benefit for the organization. Sounds fairly simple, is it really so?

The BA works with business users and technical teams simultaneously – and both groups see the BA as part of their team (and in some situations visualize the BA as a person on the opposite side), which poses interpersonal challenges to some degree.

Many a times I have heard BA’s using the phrase – “I feel like the meat in the sandwich, being crushed from both sides,” and I usually retort = “It is eventually the meat that provides the taste.”

Is this all – yeah – but to be able to do this a BA needs

  1. attentive and centered listening, and as if this itself was not tough, do this while challenging the brain to process information in parallel
  2. influencing people, dealing with hidden agendas, resolving conflicts that range from professional to political to personal
  3. influencing people to perform tasks (that they may not really always like too)
  4. interrogating people and yet building and maintaining relationships
  5. educating and training people – many of them would not want to be educated or trained in the subject

In short, a BA is expected to push people towards results using a high degree of influencing skill.

As Scott Adams says – “You don’t have to be a ‘person of influence’ to be influential. In fact the most influential people in my life are probably not even aware of the things they’ve taught me.”

In essence the BA is expected to do everything that a CEO or a leader is expected to do, and he has one additional handicap – no authority. The handicap reminds me of the ultimate leadership sport – Golf. It is all about handicaps, and you learn to play better than the handicap to win. The BA does precisely the same thing, lead better even without the authority. Truly, a leader without a title.

Imagine if corporates eventually got the BA’s to take on the mantle of a leader and also provide them authority – how much more effective they could be as a leader.

The Business Case for Mergers

April 9, 2011

Inorganic Growth,Why? Fundamentally, acquisitions create value when they enhance the strategic capabilities of both the companies, improving the competitive capabilities of either or both, resulting in improved financial results. There are companies that on their own probably would not be able to make it, but when combined, are able to create a better set of products and services than could have been otherwise provided to the market.

Acquisitions can help grow a company’s market position faster than internal development strategies. It can also provide a way to bring in new capabilities and leverage existing ones that would be difficult without the synergy of an acquisition.

Mergers and acquisitions are being used by firms to strengthen and maintain their position in the market place. They are seen as a relatively fast and efficient way to expand into new markets, and acquire new and useful technologies.

The main objectives for mergers and acquisitions could be summed up as below:-

  • Horizontal mergers for market dominance or economies of scale
  • Vertical mergers for efficient channel control
  • Hybrid mergers for spreading risk, cutting costs, creating synergies, or could also be a defense mechanism to survive against competition
  • Growth for global reach
  • Survival by developing a critical mass
  • Acquisition of cash, deferred taxes, or even excess debt capacity
  • Acquire a bigger asset base to leverage borrowing
  • Top line growth objective, financial gains and personal power
  • Adding a core competency to provide more combinations of products and services
  • To acquire talent, knowledge, and technology (lately, this is becoming a very important reason)

These objectives arise as a consequence of the following changes in the business scenario.

  1. Globalization
  2. Outsourcing
  3. Speed of growth
  4. Shorter product life cycles

Regardless of the reasons companies have for merging, there are some basic assumptions that are being made, and these include:-

  • Mergers and Acquisitions are the fastest and easiest ways to grow
  • Mergers and Acquisitions are likely to fall short of their initial goals
  • Mergers and Acquisitions are difficult to do
  • Creating synergies is a major challenge
  • Shaping and adapting cultures is a major challenge
  • Due diligence is necessary but not sufficient
  • Pre-planning can help increase chances of success

The merger climate is mainly governed by financial, strategic, and psychological motives, and the following specific factors, individually or collectively, can be considered to have facilitated or promoted the current wave of merger activity.

  1. Changing market conditions
  2. Increasing availability of capital
  3. More companies for sale
  4. Easing of regulations
  5. The need to share risk
  6. The existence of complex indivisible problems

Acquisition strategy has been described as an area of corporate strategy where inappropriate mathematical theory and a yearning for greener grass, has prevailed over common sense.

The objective of a merger and acquisition is to produce advantages for both the buying and selling companies, that is, the resultant entity should be greater than the sum total of the individual entities, that is

Value (A+B) > Value (A) + Value (B)

Motives behind Mergers and Acquisitions

Mergers and Acquisitions are considered to be rational financial and strategic alliances made to benefit the organization and its shareholders. Literature (Napier, 1989) suggests that merger motives are financial (value maximizing) in nature, or, in many cases, managerial (non-value maximizing) too. However, these two are often related. Besides these ways of presenting the benefits to the shareholders, there are some unrecognized psychological motives too, often initiated to satisfy the needs of an individual or a small group of individuals, rather than the long-term benefit to the organization. Some senior managers are motivated to instigate a takeover to be recognized as people with high desires to grow the organization and looking for new opportunities, and as an action against their own fear of obsolescence (Levinson, 1995). Out of a feeling of insecurity of their job, many mergers have thus been instigated. Career moves, egotistical needs to wield power, and empire building attitudes have been other un-stated psychological motives that have prevailed over the rational motives.

Categories of Mergers and Acquisitions

Mergers fall into four general categories – rescue, partnership, adversarial, and hostile takeover. In each category the resistance levels between the people of the two organizations are quite different – from full cooperation to complete resistance.

A rescue is a response to a financial assistance call, and hence the acquiring organization is normally looked upon in a positive light.

A partnership category, where most mergers take place, is when both parties actively desire to combine.

The adversarial situation is when only one firm has a strong inclination in the deal and the two parties invariably want different kinds of deals.

The maximum resistance is faced when there is a hostile takeover, when one party is actively trying not to go ahead with the deal.

The characteristics of the mergers in these different categories are as given below:-

  • Rescue
    • Major weakness in operations or management
    • Top management generally requested to leave
    • Requires tremendous attention by the acquiring firm to retain key employees
    • Cooperation tends to be high between companies
    • Significant issues often overlooked in the negotiations, compromises made later on
    • Management foes not have to sell the benefits of the deal
  • Partnership
    • Surprises or strong hand tactics are scarcely used
    • Goodwill and respect prevails
    • Top management is positive about the deal, but forgets to sell the benefits to the employees
    • Once the financial deal is concluded, management forgets the integration details
    • Communication is the key to the organization’s acceptance of the deal
    • Management packages and agreements with the key employees is critical
  • Adversarial
    • Negotiations become aggressive
    • Typical barrier of one against the other
    • Win-win situation needs both parties to work at it
    • The management of the acquiring company holds a better position
    • Job security issues intensify as uncertainty prevails during negotiations, with talks of layoffs and closures start coming out
    • Productivity drops significantly and resistance rises before the actual closure of the deal
  • Hostile Takeover
    • Communication cannot overcome gossip and internal coffee-table talk
    • Animosity high and left behind by the acquired company
    • Win-lose atmosphere exists
    • Key talent invariably are the first to leave
    • Human resource failures are dominant

– Sanjay Dugar

(E): dugars@dishacv.com

Building Human Capital at the Grass Roots

April 9, 2011

Could there be a better learning and developing platform for students other than institutes and education bodies? That is indeed a much debated question. There is one section of society that would defend the sanctity of the present day education system; while you have the other segment, that talks about revolutionizing the system through e-leaning methodologies, virtual classrooms grounded in practical application and live projects.

Rapidly changing social systems, dictate the need of the hour – to adapt to a whole new world of learning and development. Less than two percent of colleges across India have initiated the change process in they curriculum with the focus on the student becoming a contributing member of society rather than idolizing the system of education as a reservoir of knowledge.

Knowledge by itself holds little value, unless it finds practical application in the real world. Much like a genius whose inventions hold little meaning unless it can enhance and improve the quality of life at large.

Looking at the lopsided development of our education system with its focus primarily on knowledge dissemination with little scope for practical application in real time situations, students today lack the critical soft skills (behavioural competencies) needed for success on the job. Thereby widening the gap between academia and the corporate world. According to NASSCOM, each year over 3 million graduates and post-graduates are added to the Indian workforce. However, only 25 percent of technical graduates and 10-15 percent of other graduates are considered employable by the rapidly growing IT and ITES segments.

There have been umpteen studies carried out, constantly showcasing the importance and need of competency based training within colleges. Yes, colleges have begun paying heed to this call, which has given rise to whole new problem – an outburst of pseudo finishing schools, training institutes and even retired professors claiming to be experts on Behaviour Transformation and Remodeling. How many of them truly have the competence, skills, knowledge, experience and credentials to mould behaviour is something one wonders? Thorough checks must be done as to their experience and capability; many of them have little expertise in behavioural analysis, professional counselling, profiling and instructional design methodologies. The programmes should be structured and well planned for they are to bear fruit.

Creating a future generation of responsible, global, empowered Indians is no joking matter; it requires a consistent, comprehensive and sustained effort. This goal will not be realized if students never or only occasionally participate in such life skills management programmes. This should be an ongoing process till all the aspects of confidence, motivation, positive attitude, planning and prioritization, goal setting, stress mitigation and conflict resolution are imbibed and inculcated within every student, equipping them with the much needed tools to deal with the ever changing corporate world. It is only then that education within institutions would truly become holistic and empowerment of students will no longer be an issue.

However, academic institutions alone cannot achieve this objective without contribution and partnership from the industry. The industry has to take the fore front and spear head such initiatives. They have to clearly state their need with regard to the kind human capital they require and take active measures in grooming them. In the absence of which, we will have students who are technically brilliant but lack fundamental people management skills, which have become critical in today’s ‘flat world’.

Disha as an organisation aims at being a vehicle for promoting Life Skills Management initiatives and Competency Based Training across academic institutions through out the country through its unique soft skills program called Mind the Gap (MTG) coupled with its online battery of assessment tools aptly called Intelligentia. Success is not innate, it is an acquired attribute; people who are successful quickly figure out which habits they need to rid themselves of, and which behaviours to develop and emphasize in order to reach the pinnacle of success.

But knowing how you’re supposed to be isn’t enough.  Success is a slippery slope; for every right step you take, you can easily lose your footing on the next.

MTG is not just any intervention package, it is a process through which individuals become aware of their strengths and weaknesses, skills and abilities, interests, values, goals, and aspirations. It is aimed at helping students attain a comfort level in situations where the topic is “self”; in negotiations where they have to be prepared to articulate their personal and professional needs and finally, in charting out their careers and aligning their goals with the organisations vision, wherein, knowing where they want to go depends entirely upon knowing where they are.

This Human Capital initiative of Disha in its applications extends the abilities of students by taking them beyond traditional forms of assessments to a whole new world of learning and development, empowering them with a cutting edge equal to none other; and positioning them in a league of their own.

The Role of a Business Analyst

April 9, 2011

A “Business Analyst” (BA) is a role that can mean different things to different people. In some companies, the BA plays a technical role with very little business knowledge; while in other companies, the BA has a full understanding of the business with very little knowledge of the IT systems and architecture.

In today’s times – the BA has come to become a person of great value to an organization, and who is a generalist capable of functioning competently in diverse roles. Typically, these people have a broad educational background and a diverse skill set with a wide range of work experience in different jobs and industries. In essence, they are able to visualize the “big picture” – that is – understand the business from different perspectives, as well as the technology side of what can be effectively used to improve the business.

The Business Analyst Skills in a broad perspective comprises of the person being a Business Planner, Systems Analyst, Project Manager, Subject Area Expert, Organization Analyst, Financial Analyst, Technology Architect, Data Analyst, Application Analyst, Application Designer, and Process Analyst.

As we drill down deeper into the specific roles of a BA and understand the essential skills required for each of the roles, it would give a clear picture.

The major roles of a BA, as defined by certification experts are:-

1. Define and Scope Business Areas
The BA must be sure that the project scope is clear and complete before the start of detailed requirements gathering. The BA may be given the scope pre-defined by the project sponsor or may be responsible for defining and documenting the scope as part of the requirements gathering task.

Defining and documenting the project scope requires the BA to understand why the project has been initiated, and the objectives of the project. An important contribution of the BA to the project is the analyzing of the business problem without “jumping” to a solution.

In addition, a complete project scope will name and define all the stakeholders that will be involved with the project, including people, systems, internal departments, and external organizations.

Other important components of the project scope documentation include the project viewpoint, project assumptions, and business risks. These components give the BA the information necessary to prioritize and focus the requirements gathering.
Finally the project scope should include a high-level description of the business processes. It may also include a list of items that specifically will not be included in the scope. This gives the entire project team a complete understanding of the work that the BA will be doing during the detailed requirements gathering phase.

One additional task required of the BA, is the creation of an organized system for maintaining project information. A glossary should be started along with a filing system for maintaining all of the information that will be gathered during the project.

Essential Skills Required:

a. Facilitation skills to bring multiple groups together to scope project and get consensus
b. Ability to document the project scope using business terminology
c. Project scope documentation techniques

2. Elicit Requirements
The most important task of a BA is to gather the detailed requirements that clearly and completely define the project. We use the word gather because the BA must be sure to ask the right questions of the right people to gather accurate requirements. Further, we use the word elicit, since the BA must be able to get people to say all that they have to and not leave anything as assumptions.

It is critical that the BA initially gathers Business Requirements and completely understand the business needs before defining a software solution.

The BA must assess the type of project, the people involved, and the volume of information required; and then determine how and where to find the requirements. BAs have a variety of techniques available to them including interviews, facilitated information gathering sessions, surveys, questionnaires, observation, and existing documentation from which to choose. In addition, the BA will often have many people with whom to talk and several existing automated systems about which to learn.
Gathering complete, detailed requirements is an iterative process that involves the BA asking questions, pondering answers, asking follow-up questions, and bringing divergent opinions to consensus. It also involves prioritizing the requirements to assure that the most critical issues are addressed by the project solution.

Essential Skills Required:
a. Asking the right questions
b. Active listening
c. Interviewing techniques
d. Facilitation techniques
e. Documentation
f. Ability to categorize requirements

3. Analyze and Document Requirements
Requirements are analyzed and documented using an iterative approach. As each of the requirements is documented, additional questions will arise requiring the analyst to probe deeper. There are many different approaches to documenting requirements. The BA is responsible for following their organization’s standard documentation format or for creating their own. When developing a documentation format, the BA must consider the best format for communicating with the information technology team and the best format for communicating with the business area experts. Both groups must be able to read and review the document and clearly understand the requirements. Some requirements are more appropriately documented in textual descriptions, others in diagrams or graphical displays. The BA must also determine the appropriate level of detail for the documentation.

Ideally, the entire organization uses a consistent documentation format and approach. This makes the review process easier for people working on multiple projects. It also allows the organization to constantly improve the format as quality enhancements are discovered. The BA is often the person leading the development and maintaining the standard documentation format.

Typically there are many requirements. To organize them and make them easy to review, they are divided into categories or groupings. It may be good to categorize requirements into Business, Functional, and Technical.

Essential Skills Required:
a. Analysis Skills
b. Understand the system development methodology
c. Utilize modelling techniques
d. Categorization skills
e. Prototype user interfaces
f. Develop a textual template for requirements

4. Communicate Requirements
The BA should be the best communicator on the project team. The role is to act as a liaison between the business area experts and the technical team. This role requires the BA to “speak” both languages. The BA must also work very closely with the Project Manager to ensure that the project plan is adhered to and scope creeps / changes are approved and documented.
As the requirements documentation is being created, the BA will conduct informal and formal requirements reviews. These review sessions increase the quality of the document by finding missing or unclear requirements. It is important that the information is presented to the business and technical audiences in a manner that is most appropriate for their understanding. Summaries of the requirements or various graphical representations may be appropriate as part of the reviews. Understanding your audience is critical to the successful communication of the requirements.

Essential Skills Required:
a. Run effective meetings
b. Active listening skills
c. Precision questioning techniques
d. Conduct formal and informal presentations
e. Write clear emails, memos, and status reports
f. Conduct a comprehensive requirements review
g. Change management
h. Write review summaries

5. Identify Solution
The BA should work closely with the Business Area Experts to make a recommendation for a solution and work with the technical team to design it. This recommendation may include software changes to existing systems, new software, procedural or workflow changes, or some combination of the above. If software automation is part of the solution, the BA should assist with the screen design, report design, and all user interface issues by providing detailed functional requirements.

If a software package is going to be purchased, the BA works with the Business Area Experts, IT personnel, and the potential vendors to discuss the requirements and verify that the package selected will meet the needs. The BA may also be responsible for writing the Request for Proposal (RFP). Detailed business and functional requirements should be completed to accurately reflect the needs for the software and a thorough review should be conducted.

Essential Skills Required:
a. High level understanding of the software design
b. Ability to evaluate vendor software packages
c. Ability to estimate solution costs and benefits and build a business case for implementation

6. Verify Solution meets the Requirements
The BA should remain involved in the project even after the technical team takes over. The BA reviews the technical designs proposed by the design team for usability issues and to assure that the requirements are being satisfied. Once the solution is developed into software, the BA is uniquely qualified to assess the software and determine how well it meets the original project objectives.

The BA should work closely with the Quality Assurance team and to assist with the entire testing process. Testing is based on requirements, so the BA’s intimate knowledge of the requirements allows accurate design of test cases. If there is no Quality Assurance team available, the BA can still assist with User Acceptance testing, the time when the Business Area Experts are asked to approve the software for implementation. As the software is tested, the BA ensures that it is clearly documented and reports defects and variances from requirements.

Essential Skills Required:
a. Basic understanding of system design concepts
b. Knowledge of software usability principles
c. Understanding of testing principles
d. Ability to write and review test cases

– Sanjay Dugar

MD, Disha Consulting Ventures Pvt. Ltd.

(E): dugars@dishacv.com

Soft Skills, Competencies and Skills Softer than Soft Skills

April 9, 2011

For the last decade now HR Professionals have been harping on the importance of soft skills within organisations and all for a good cause or so it appears. Probe a little further on the topic and ask them what these so called ‘Soft Skills’ mean, how do they measure them, can they be quantified into monetary terms to determine the ROI and you will draw a blank.

Go to the next level and ask this very learned group the difference between Soft Skills and Competencies (if there is a difference at all) and the silence would speak for itself. The latest buzz in this fraternity today is talk about ‘Skills Softer than Soft Skills’. Wow, now that would be truly amazing, if one only knew exactly what that meant.

In order to get clarity on these popular nuances I embarked upon a study, which involved a series of interviews with Subject Matter Experts (SME) – OD consultants, Behavioural Analysts, Trainers / Facilitators / Coaches and even Academicians. Their views have been capsulated and presented here to help the HR Fraternity talk the same language and mean the same thing.

Difference between Soft Skills and Behavioural Competencies

Soft skills are primarily personality traits that can be groomed, enhanced or even repressed with the help of behavioural interventions (training). These skills develop gradually over time and are hugely influenced by cultural overtones. Knowledge, thus resulting from these varied experiences becomes the defining characteristic of the individual.

When the element of intent or attitude is added to knowledge and skills it becomes a competency. The distinction between the two is subtle but one that cannot be ignored.

A behavioural trait can be a soft skill as well as a competency the distinguishing criteria is attitude or intent.

For e.g. Presentation Skills can be both a competency and a soft skill. The individual might possess the relevant knowledge to make an effective presentation; he might also have the necessary skills due to past experience but if he does not have the right attitude (i.e. he does not like making presentations) then he lacks the competency though he possess the soft skills.

Having a clear understanding of these two intriguing concepts can help HR professionals in not just profiling employees within their organisation but also determining the kind of intervention different employees might need.

The Pentra Model © depicted below clearly spells out how employees can be profiled based on their knowledge, skills and attitude and the interventions they might require.

Can Soft Skills and Competencies be measured?

Traits can be defined but never measured; their effect however, on personal and professional life can most definitely be measured to a large extent. Soft skills and competencies can be quantified and reported in monetary terms (which is of considerable value to organisations) by using a combination of parametric and non-parametric techniques. These techniques could range from psychometric instruments to structured observation to shadowing to behavioural event interviews to 360 degree feedbacks. ROI in qualitative and quantitative terms become a yardstick of organisation development.

However, due to time constraints and large investments required most organisations do not go through the rigor involved before and after a training intervention. Gap Analysis, organisation benchmarks, employee baseline prior to the intervention and post intervention measures are seldom carried out. What organisations often fail to realise is this investment would go a long way in organisation development and becomes a key factor of measuring‘Organisation Maturity.’

Skills Softer than Soft Skills

Having understood the difference between soft skills and competencies it now becomes imperative to determine the true meaning of ‘skills softer than soft skills’. These are qualities imbibed in an individual from early childhood and have very strong societal, religious and cultural influences. These then should be aptly termed as ‘core skills’ as they define the very being of an individual. Examples of these core skills would be values, beliefs, principles, concepts of transpersonal wellbeing and actualization.

Today organisations are attempting to mould values and belief systems of employees through a variety of interventions to match the organisation’s vision and mission. I cannot stop myself from asking if this is ethically and morally correct? And would they ever be successful in achieving this? If the answer is yes, then organisations are no longer building human capital but have got into the business of human cloning, which is the first step in the rapid downward spiral. Serious cause for concern, I would think.

Of course this is a hugely debatable topic and there are a variety of opinions, and yes each has its merits, but just imagine through behavioural intervention if everyone miraculously had the same values, principles, belief systems etc then there would be no difference of opinion, no clashes as we would have successfully managed to annihilate the very uniqueness that defines us.Paradoxical isn’t it?

– Noor Fathima




Difference between Assessment and Development Centers

April 9, 2011

There are a lot of articles on the web illustrating the difference between an Assessment Center and a Development Center and it is shocking to see the amount of incorrect information that is currently circulating on the topic. This article thus helps to correct the misnomers regarding these two concepts widely misused and abused by the industry in general.

An Assessment Center (AC) refers to setting up a complete assessment lab within the organisation. A variety of assessment techniques could be used to determine the existing potential, performance, skill level and attitudes of employees within the organisation. Assessments can also be used to predict future performance of employees and very often if done correctly determine not just organisation but industry trends. Trend Analysis is a sophisticated measure of organisation maturity; tragically very few HR professionals know how to calculate this even though they have sophisticated Assessment Centers within their organisation.

Commonly used Assessment Methodologies include:

  • Standardized Psychometric Instruments
  • Organisation Surveys
  • Structured Observation
  • Simulations
  • Behavioural Event Interviews (BEI)
  • Shadowing
  • 360 degree feedbacks

Which methodology to use or what combination of methodologies to be used to address current issues within the organisation is of critical importance. Furthermore choosing right parametric and no-parametric techniques for analysis is of prime importance. Thus while setting up an assessment center within the organisation the HR team must have a thorough knowledge about the various tools, techniques and analysis.

Today the market is flooded with a variety of assessment tools that can be used in training. However, choosing the right tool to measure the right competencies is a tricky process. Reliability, validity and other psychometric properties must be thoroughly studied before a tool can be adopted.

It is also very important to keep in mind that psychometric tools should NOT be used in isolation. They are always used as a battery of instruments in combination with other Evaluation Methodologies.

Please refer the diagram below to get an idea of the various types of Psychometric tools available in the market.

Assessment Centers are used during:

  • Recruitment and Selection
  • Training and Development
  • Performance Appraisal
  • Succession Planning
  • Program Evaluation
  • Organisation Development
  • Career Scaping
  • Campus Placements

Development Centers (DC) provides an end to end solution for building and sustaining capabilities within the organisation. An ‘assessment center’ is thus a part of the development center. Once inputs are got from the assessment, skill gaps identified, organisation benchmark determined then based on the current challenges and pain points employee engagements initiatives are untaken. Interventions are developed, standardized, piloted and finally implemented. It is important to follow an ‘Instructional Design System’ like the ADDIE (Analyse, Design, Develop, Implement and Evaluate) technique  while setting up an in-house development center.

Typically a Development Center would comprises of:

  • Assessment Center (AC)
  • Skill Enhancement Interventions (SEI)
  • Refresher courses / programs
  • Coaching (either one-on-one or group or online)
  • E Leaning
  • Post Assessments
  • Return on Investment (ROI) calibration

An accurate measure of the smooth function of a DC can be seen in evaluation stage, which focuses on application of learnings to the work environment, determining the current organisation maturity level and reporting in tangible and intangible forms the ROI to the organisation. Tragically very few organisations have a well oiled DC in place.

Organisations today, find it not just easier and economical but also reliable to outsource the running of DC for their employees to well established OD Consulting firms, which have a strong, background in organisational behaviour and psychology.

It is predicted that organisations globally in the next 7 years will witness a marked transition in their style of working – moving rapidly from ‘Full Employment Model’ to the ‘Project Life Cycle Model.’ It is in this changing world that the role of Development Centers would become even more critical than ever. New competencies, frameworks, metrics of performance and working will undergo dramatic change and it will be fascinating to observe, analyse and witness the birth of a new era in ‘talent development and management.’

– Noor Fathima