The New Wave

If we trace the history of the business environment, trading
patterns and markets were stable, technology was static, customers were passive,
the speed of getting to market was secondary, competition was limited to sectors
and regions, and hierarchies were generally accepted. But that is not true any
more. Since the 1960’s, the US and much of the rest of the world has been
almost continually buffeted by change. Customers demand that businesses do it
better, faster, and cheaper. Employees want to control more than the ‘stop’
button on the assembly line.

“Attracting, managing, nurturing and ultimately retaining talent have emerged as critical challenges for HR”

The 20th century saw nations around the world become part of
the global village, with trade barriers between them reduced or removed
completely. Events of the last five years of the previous century have focused
our attention on knowledge industries.

A look at the trends in managing people in this dynamic
industry reflects that attracting, managing, nurturing and ultimately retaining
talent have emerged as critical issues in lieu of the enormous opportunities
spun off by the market. The new avatar of talent is the knowledge professional
who is innovative, business savvy, quick on the uptake, has an instinctive
ability to network and possesses unbridled ambition. Professionals today are
propelled by an urge to experiment and scan new avenues that can spur their
creativity. The knowledge professional will gravitate to an organization that is
flexible, has strong values, robust performance ethics and provides challenging
work on latest technology. This has led to companies proactively taking measures
on three fronts. First, companies create an organizational ambience where talent
can bloom. Second, they put in place systems that help unleash the potential of
this talented workforce and third, they build a reward and recognition mechanism
that provides value for people. 

Profound systemic changes have been seen in the way companies
are structured. The concepts of leadership and managing people have undergone a
radical rethink. Cubicles, hierarchies and rigid organization structures of the
past, have now given way to an open work environment, a flat structure with
informality being a general rule that leads to the empowerment of individuals.
Today, work itself is centered around projects, which have virtual teams working
on them. This work structure has led to a culture of flexi time and round the
clock accessibility to the workplace. Also catching up fast is the trend of
workstations at home, remote access and video-conferencing. In order to stay a
step ahead of the aspirations of their people, companies are continuously
striving to provide an intellectually stimulating environment. Few examples
being, in-house libraries, continuous upgradation of knowledge and skills,
knowledge sharing and building relationships with academia thus enabling
knowledge workers to pursue multiple careers within a single company. The times
to come will see sabbaticals forming part of the organization culture, corporate
universities dotting the new horizon and competing companies bunching together
to set up knowledge networks. 

Companies are constantly striving towards enhancing the
quality of work life and also the personal life of its employees. In-house
health clubs, yoga and meditation centers to relieve stress, sports and cultural
activities, employee get-togethers with invitations to come over with families,
day care centers and other such perks are being provided.

With the increasing size of the companies, the top down
communication model of yesteryears has been replaced by bottom up, cross level
communication. Open house sessions, mentoring and online chats have emerged as
communication enablers. 

The new economy has given rise to a culture of working in
teams. Since working in teams is not a passing fad, companies are now designing
compensation structures, which reward team performance in addition to individual

To conclude, change is here to stay, and we need to
understand that all the practices that work today may not necessarily work
tomorrow. The tools for managing human assets will be derived from expectations
of customers and changes in market conditions.

BY Radha Shivakumar The
author is manager, human resources, Tejas Networks.

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