What are your insights on business trends and changing landscape?
Earlier, there were people who said, I will do a nine-to-five job and then rest of the time is mine, the way I would like to use it for my personal aspects or for my passions. And then that led to an era where every organization was saying, we will be rating people for their performance over and above the set goals. And at this point of time, suddenly the norm started shifting, people had to do more. And then there was also a lot of peer pressure that they were going through at that point of time, then COVID hit the world, making people sit back reflect and then think about what’s really important for them. While that happened, silently a number of new technologies came in, and started changing how work gets done. This left a psychological impact on people.
My own reading of this entire concept is what we are seeing as quite quitting, or career cushioning are all surface level issues. At a deeper level, people want to be more purposeful of what they are doing. They want to stay relevant. People like me want to be able to have the ability to earn for myself and my family and have an identity for myself in the long term. I think these issues were not very prevalent earlier. Now, we will need to start addressing the bigger picture right now. And in the process, I think I need to learn more. Therefore, I want to create more time, but how will I create time? I have the same 24 hours, and therefore let me just do whatever it takes to keep my job. But I will start allocating time for learning. So quiet quitting is like, “Okay, I’ll do what it takes for the job and then career cushioning is like I will start thinking about a future that I want to create. And I’ll start investing time and money in that.” So, I think that’s how it’s all emerging.
How should organisations balance a multi-generational workforce?
I don’t believe it is generational. It just starts emerging at different points of life for people. People used to spend 30 years in the same organization, same kind of career, to maybe when someone started working for these three, four years, five years in an organization. And now, if people stay for 18 months to two years in an organization, then we are grateful, there is this transformation that’s happening. If you look at it, in the earlier scheme of things, when people had 30 years of career, after 15 years or so they started looking for meaning they started searching for the purpose, because life stages also moved along. But they were probably looking for some of those outside of work. A few of them were trying to search for meaning in work. But life has changed so much that in a 24-hour day, people end up spending over 12 hours in their work, though we say it’s eight-hour work, nine-hour work. It’s never that nowadays. But then we are also globally networking across different countries. Technology has made some of these capabilities available. The other aspect is about the financial need, which has transformed. When my parents were working, and I was growing up, I know that they had to earn to make ends meet. When I started working, I knew I have to earn to secure a future. But when my daughter is going to work, she knows she already has a secured future. So if you look at Maslow’s hierarchy, you may be familiar with them, the lowest of social needs, security needs, all of those, this generation would have already crossed and then they are looking at meaning, self-esteem and everything much early on. And then you have these generations that are in 40s and 50s. So in fact, I wouldn’t say that it is easier for organizations to start looking at these aspects, while devising new programs and policies. On the contrary, organizations are actually looking at how do I retain paying money benefits? And then how do I have programs whereby I can enhance my brand? You see, there is this gap that’s getting created with people wanting something, organization giving something and then the gap is just getting wider. So there has to be some level of focused effort because this is a common phenomenon that’s emerging quite clearly in the last couple of years, at least.
QUOTE IN FOCUS
“We just think of big moments of failures or successes, but the everyday lens is important.”
There is a gap between hiring talent and seeing them deliver results. Why do you think this happens?
There are multiple reasons for this. Number one is that skill life is shrinking; it has shrunk from 15 years to five years. For example, I think around 2018, in the US, there were about 1.5 million jobs, around sales, IT, HR, and a few other functions that were posted. There were, on an average, 18 skills required to perform these jobs. Fast forward in 2021, again, same set of jobs were posted. Now, the number of skills that were required were 21, you could think it’s just only three. But that’s not the truth, half of the 18 skills of the year 2018. We’re not relevant, which means in 2021, somebody who had to perform similar jobs, had to learn 12 new skills to perform the job that existed just three years ago. It’s about the pace of the change in skills, and our ability to cope up with those skills. Our ability to anticipate which skill is going to come up tomorrow, and where should one invest in. So, number of these elements are playing together to make it a very strong case that we are not able to find the right talent right now. Because what’s needed is emerging very quickly. And then who we need is known. Or we know, but then we have our past baggage saying I want 80% fit, 90% fit, I think organizations leaders will have to flex saying, okay, I’m okay with the 40 50% fit. Rest of it, I’m willing to invest in training, because there’s just no option and you have only so many people available. Even if it’s available, there’s a serious change in the supply demand equation, and that’s causing this.
How did you create that habit of storytelling, Janani?
Storytelling and creating stories started much early on in my life as a student. At six or seven, I started writing articles for my school. And then growing up in college, I used to be an editor for the college magazine, I used to do those things, because I just used to write and love writing. I later started seeing that that was one of my fundamental ways of creative expression. At some stage, I thought if writing helped my mind in reflections, then why not I write about it more often in a way that’s consumable. That’s how my journey of writing snippets and all started a few years ago, but I have been writing for a long time. An additional aspect I would call out is, I try to look at anything from an everyday lens because life happens every day. We just think of big moments of failures or successes, but the everyday lens is important. And then you can take inspiration from anything, it could be a bird flying, or a child speaking, or it could be a leader speaking on stage, or it could be somebody doing the job extraordinarily well. I find inspiration in everything and I try to write about all of these.
How should professionals create their personal brands and amplify their voices?
It’s a very important question that we will need to ponder upon in this age. A few years back, I attended an author’s workshop. That’s when I had a big realization that earlier authors used to just spend a book and then give it away, and somebody used to publish, they used to get some royalty from that. But then authors were not anymore authors only they had to be marketing people for themselves. And they had to have a strategy. It’s not about just selling the book, but it’s selling an idea, isn’t it? What’s more encouraging for somebody to feel motivated. So that’s when I realized that it’s not enough for anybody to be the best in their world. You need to have somebody talk for yourself, which may be fewer in number. Are you ready to talk for yourself? What do I want to be known for? Which part of me should be known to the world and can serve the world? Which platform am I using? It could be a completely different content if I’m using something or if I’m posting something on Instagram versus LinkedIn. So, I have to be mindful about which platform I am using and what should be my content. Everybody is a brand in that way. So to your question on brand, what is the brand that one wants to be known for? And what are series of steps that they should take to make sure their body of work is known?
How does one overcome self-limiting beliefs and the fear of being judged?
I have also struggled with this at some stage. There is this thinking of what will people think about me if I’m going to write this? I think people go through an ambivalence between whether people will like something they write and whether the content is aligned to the writer. Anything that I write will first be for me, anything that I can relate to, from within. Even if a few people can relate to it or 100 can relate to it, it’s okay. While one has to post consistently, it cannot be a false post made out of the pressure that something has to be posted. So sometimes, if it’s once in three weeks, I’m okay.
Now, when it comes to speaking, I think a lot of people go through this public speaking fear, or, especially when COVID happened when everything had to move virtually, a lot of people did not know how to conduct themselves. It’s about when you get onto the stage, and start thinking, “What is this person thinking about me?”, we are completely shifting our focus from what needs to be delivered, and how we are delivering.
So, we need to pause and think, what’s in my control versus what’s not in my control? What’s in my control is when I’m on the stage, I own the stage. And if I’m the owner of the stage, I’m going to own my content, I’m going to own my delivery. If people are able to relate to it fantastic, if they are not, I will learn. I think that’s the attitude with which we should go. Because we can’t really control what people may think about us while we are speaking. Actually speaking, people don’t think much, because everybody has their own battles. But one needs to also focus on what content is helpful for the audience and strike a balance.
How can we balance organisational and individual goals?
In my current organization, when we did the culture exercise very recently, we did the exercise at three levels, at individual level, at a department level, and then at an organizational level. And we asked questions around what differentiates you as compared to your competitors at each of these levels, right? And we said, aspects related to trust, integrity, ethics, all of those are given like don’t even have them as part of your list. So the journey of this was important. As an individual, you could have different values, we acknowledge that. But as an organization, these are what we are finally standing for. And the expectation is, each one of you are aligned to this. Few have a misalignment. Organizational values exist as do individual values and they can be transformed beyond a point, if there is a disconnect, especially at a manager and ABA level, then they can leave. And that may be the right thing, they will also have to find a place where they find fundamental alignment to themselves.
HR Head, Quantela
A human resources leader with an Engineering background, Janani has won laurels like BW HR 40under40, World HRD Congress – Top Most HR Leader, Asia’s 100 Power leaders in HR. A leadership development coach, a certified yoga instructor, a trained vocalist and veena artist as well as a teacher, Janani Prakaash is currently the Global Head of HR for Quantela Inc. At Quantela, she is responsible for all aspects of HR including but not limited to Talent Acquisition, development, engagement, retention, culture building, and change management owing to business model changes and mergers and acquisitions.
Read on to know what her thoughts are on continuous learning in this exclusive interview she gave for Global Coaching Lab (GCL)