--BY JAGDISH PRASAD AGRAWAL
Thousands of pages have been written on this subject by experts universally published in management journals and books; classes have been conducted in all MBA schools on the issues confronting human resource managers the world over. Still it remains an unsolved, tangled and perennial subject for managers to debate on for all the time as human nature is complex, evolving and varies from person to person. Though attempts have been made to tame the human spirit of dissent and rebel in the army and also on the production floors through assembly lines, the issues of how to make the most of this invaluable resource are subjects of fresh research in human behaviour and the impact of external factors on it for a long time. The skill required for taking the best from the people in the organization is mostly unavailable in Nepali business environment and the necessity of acquiring the same does not fall into the priority of top management.
What is a human resource supposed to do in a business organisation at different levels of management? Does gender and age make difference in their scope of work? It will be interesting to examine these issues more meticulously. The answers to these questions have also been evolving but the last decade has witnessed a paradigm shift in the nature of their responsibilities. Technology has played a key role in this shift. However, in today’s world which is awash with money, the short supply is that of human capital with skill and capabilities that can translate good ideas into ventures of successful commercial product and services.
Entrepreneurs are not managers. Their qualities are totally different. In an article in HBR, Timothy Butler says “Entrepreneurs are not always more creative but they enjoy pushing boundaries. They are not risk seekers but find novelty motivating much like artists. They want to author and own projects and they are natural sales people”. Entrepreneurs thrive in uncertainty and possess persuasion skills. This entrepreneurial skill may not be required at the top in every organization. Most organizations are collaborative efforts which require sharing of information and power and the entrepreneurial approach may not suit there. The traditional patriarchal rigidity at the top may also not be effective in today’s business environment which is more participative and proactive. In Nepal’s circumstances, the top management has to fuse Nepali values of trust, patriotism and loyalty with modern techniques of delegation and team work. A top manager in any organization has to be able to lead the changes and make the vision of the entrepreneur happen. He should be able to build the team, motivate it, direct it, co-ordinate and control it. He should be able to command respect of his colleagues through his fair and ethical dealings.
This turning around the culture of management has to happen at the top for which the designated manpower has to be groomed accordingly by intermixing with the top managers from multicultural background. Age does count a lot as experience comes with working in different situations over the years but the gender has lost relevance as women have been found to be more adoptive and equally skillful in leading the changes in corporate cultures. The quality of a generalist is more suitable to lead the company than that of a specialist who may not be willing to work in a team.
It is not enough to know what we require. The next big step is to build an in-house structure in the business organization which can take care of man-power requirement of not only today but also of tomorrow. Though the responsibility of self development is upon each member of the team, the top management has to be committed to ensure an environment conducive to the development and welfare of its human resource. It will provide every opportunity for them to grow and achieve self-development and high level of efficiency and effectiveness at their work. This laudable objective, though being appreciated at the board level, has not trickled down to enterprise level in the form of a suitable structure which is capable to translate these ideas into action. This will happen when business organizations in Nepal will start to grow multi-dimensionally and will need multicultural people to man evolving and expanding new missions. The policy and element of an effective HRD in a Nepali business organization can be structured in the lines presented on graph 1 and 2 in previous page, with adaptation as per specific requirement.
It will be essential that any programme of human resource development at business level organization has to be framed in consultation with middle level managers. Internal communication and interactive session with them to identify issues and applicable solutions will fetch everybody’s commitment. Developing training programmes, implementing them and getting the feedback to modify them is an ardous task which will require patience at every level. The necessity is that human resource development has to be an integral institution of the organization with a long term perspective and goal. Human resource development is not just manpower administration in a company; it is rather the future of the company as well as the person.
Nepali management scenario suffers from the lack of need analysis. Since the businesses are more family-owned, the element of good human resource development policy framework is conspicuous by its absence in most organizations. Hence, the development of manpower on the job is unstructured and devoid of career-enhancement. There is poor programme design, lack of programme evaluation and unimaginative training method. Hence, the productivity of manpower has remained stagnant. It is in human nature to resist change. However, change is the fact of life which cannot be ignored and it is the quality of human resource which can trigger it, lead it and make it happen. There will be problems, but those have to be overcome.
Nepali businesses are facing tough competition in terms of import of goods and services from abroad and our similar products and services do not enjoy a comparative edge over them. This competitive advantage solely depends on the manpower development which should be able to outperform others in terms of productivity, quality and cost. The human resource development in Nepal has to be such that it is more technology savvy than others. This will be possible only when our youth choose to go for higher studies in professional vocation and education. It has to be imparted in Nepal and those who go abroad have to come back having acquired the skills and capabilities.
Equally important is the role of middle managers. They are the backbones of any business organizations as success and failures depend much upon them. They have to have the skills, concept as well as social interrelationship in equal measures. Being in the middle, their main asset has to be communicative skills; they relate to their seniors and engage with their subordinates in our hierarchical management system. In today’s flat organizations, they provide the key ideas. But the middle managers have not been given the power that they deserve. They have not been given the financial responsibilities they require.
Hiring quality managers at the middle level and retaining them is a big challenge. The short supply is acute and hence the turnover in an enterprise is enormous. Though we have plethora of schools imparting management education at different levels, the products of these schools require experience and hands-on training before they can take up managerial responsibilities. They aspire for middle level management jobs from the outset but the enterprises do not find them skillful. Competence structure at various levels of management is graphically projected here (Graph 3). As one goes up, the social and conceptual skills become more important.
The status of supervisory manpower is the worst of all. They have very low formal education and no special skill in supervisory function. There was very little formal training available to them for supervisory skills. They resist change as they view any change as insecurity for them. They require more of technical and interrelationship skills as they have to not only monitor quality but also productivity at the job level. The top management is aware of this mismatch between demand and supply and ready to invest in upgrading the skills of their supervisory staff but the motivation on the part of the supervisors is lacking. They resist training because even if you don’t perform, you are in. Secondly, because of the hierarchical system of management, these supervisory level inefficiencies get hidden in layers.
Of course our national record in terms of human development index is praiseworthy but we have so far neglected skill development as an edge for competitive advantage of our products and services. Protection is still the hallmark of our industrial culture.
In order to be able to compete in the 21st century business environment, the government of Nepal has to shift its primary developmental strategy to skill development also. Competition, skills and merit have to get ascendancy in assigning responsibilities and awarding promotion in public services. Fair and ethical practices in public services will send message to the private sector also to take imaginative steps to upgrade skills of their manpower at every level of management. The private sector will then take stock of their talent pool. Once they gain confidence that manpower can be their competitive tool, they definitely will gather facts about their human capital and engage in analytical HR. They will be willing to invest in their employees to prepare them for future roles. Once talent is at the centre-stage and the private sector can reap benefits out of it, the issues of human resources at the business enterprise level will start taking care of themselves.
The writer is the chairman of Nimbus Group.