Emerging Issues and Challenges in Management!
Emerging Issues and Challenges in Management # 1. Managers and Technological Changes:
An organization’s technology is the process by which inputs from the organization’s environment are transformed into outputs. Technology includes tools, machinery, equipment, work procedures, and employee knowledge and skills. In the present competitive world, technological breakthroughs can dramatically influence organization’s products, services markets, suppliers, distributors, competitors, customers, manufacturing processes, marketing practices and competitive position.
How Technology can Impact an Organization?
i. Recent technological advances, as we well know, in computers, lasers, robotics, satellite networks, fibre optics, biometrics, cloning and other related areas have paved the way for significant operational improvements.
ii. Manufacturers, banks and retailers, for example, have used advances in computer technology to carry out their traditional tasks at lower costs and higher levels of customer satisfaction.
iii. Consider the case of an old economy giant, Ford Motor Company, which is morphing into a new economy animal using web-based technologies to the best advantage. Thanks to the Internet, the old days of being able to concentrate only on the nuts and bolts of the business seem to be over. The winners are going to be companies that move closer and connect well with customers.
iv. Take the stunningly successful case of MP3, a freely available standard for the compression and transmission of digital audio. The big guns of the music business like Sony, RCA and the rest were so confident about their control over the music industry that they could not see the threat posed by a tiny player like MP3(dot)com, which quietly spun its own B-web.
The company did not try doing everything: the B-web had a combination of content companies (like MP3); manufacturers such as S3 (maker of the Rio MP3 player); distribution technologies (like Napster); and, of course, hundreds of thousands of teenagers who swore by the music, but could not pay for it.
v. Thanks to the internet, customers can now comparison-shop for cars online and purchase cars online from a number of distributors, negotiating a deal on terms that are extremely favourable to them. Most consumer electronics and book retailers have to compete on the Internet in addition to location-based competition. The Internet is altering economies of scale, changing entry barriers and redefining the relationship between industries and various suppliers, creditors, customers and competitors.
When a firm is able to get past competition by creating superior value at lower cost — as compared to its rivals — it is able to enjoy competitive advantage for fairly longer periods of time. To enjoy such a position, managers need to exploit a firm’s strengths thoroughly and develop capabilities and competencies, so that rivals find it difficult to copy or imitate it.
Competitive advantage requires a fit between a firm’s internal strengths and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats. To obtain a competitive advantage, a firm must have competencies that allow it to create a higher perceived value than its competitors or produce the same or similar products at a lower cost or to do both simultaneously.
Superior competencies help a firm create higher perceived value and/or achieve a lower cost structure. For example, McDonald’s outstanding success all these years can be attributed to its ability to put its resources to the best use, carry out its value-chain activities in a coordinated way in sync with a carefully crafted strategy in order to deliver superior value to customers at a lesser cost.
To remain at the top, firms must constantly innovate; come out with novel products that offer superior value to customers at an affordable price. Introducing new products helps firms create more value for customers. At the same time, innovations in manufacturing (like lean manufacturing) and business processes (re-engineering) allow firms to lower the cost structure. This is where technology and innovation come to play a major role in building a sustainable competitive advantage.
As new technologies are developed and implemented, there is an urgent need to upgrade existing employee skills and knowledge. Additionally, there will be growing demand for workers with more sophisticated training and skills especially in emerging sectors like telecommunications, hospitality, retailing, banking, insurance, biotechnology and financial services.
For example, service sector employees require different skills than those required in manufacturing. They need strong interpersonal and communication skills, as well as the ability to handle customer complaints in a flexible way.
New technologies have made it possible for fewer people to do more work than before. Companies have realized the importance of replace people with machines—known as automation—long ago. The physical work is cut into pieces and converted into digital commands now-a-days, thanks to the introduction of computer information technology in manufacturing processes. As a result of this, many jobs are disappearing faster than one can even imagine. Coupled with the need to go lean and clean, most companies are showing the door to people who fail to acquire new skills quickly.
Downsizing—the process by which an organization lays off managers and workers to reduce costs—has become the order of the day. In a tough competitive scenario, companies are forced to adjust the number of employees needed to work in newly designed technological work spots—which is therefore known as rightsizing.
The way the work is being handed, thus, has undergone a radical transformation over the years. We are no longer talking about job losses due to economic downturns. We are talking about lean and fit organizations that are able to run the race with competition and emerge as winners.
i. Recruit new full time employees
ii. Offer incentives for postponing retirements
iii. Rehire retired employees part time Attempt to reduce turnover
iv. Work present staff overtime
v. Sub-contract work to another firm
vi. Hire temporary hands
vii. Re-engineer to reduce needs
viii. Outsource an entire function
ix. Use technology to improve productivity
x. Re-allocate people from elsewhere in the organization
xi. Re-allocate work tasks among current employees
i. Do not replace employees who leave
ii. Offer incentives for early retirement
iii. Transfer or re-assign excess staff
iv. Use stack time for employee training or equipment maintenance
v. Reduce work hours
vi. Lay off employees
vii. Freeze hiring
To remain cost competitive, many firms are also engaging in an increasing amount of outsourcing. Outsourcing is simply obtaining work previously done by employees inside the company from sources outside the company. If an external source has expertise in an activity that is not strategically critical to our business and is able to do that cost-effectively it is better to outsource it. You can benefit in the form of excellent quality, reliable supply and low cost.
You can also focus exclusively on doing what you are good at (the so called mission critical activities)—thereby enhancing your own competitive advantage. For example, Dell outsources the manufacture of its computers. It concentrates all its efforts on enhancing its Web-based direct sales capability and does not dilute its energies on other aspects of the game. Outsourcing, not surprisingly, is a big hit with many global firms. Companies such as Nike and Reebok have succeeded by focusing on their core strengths in design and marketing and contracting all their footwear manufacturing to external suppliers.
The rapid advances in technology have led to the relocation of work from the office to the home. Telecommuting—also known as teleworking—has become the order of the day-where employees work at home, usually with computers and use phones and the Internet to transmit letters, data and completed work to the home office. Companies have been able to increase their applicant pool through this mode and employees have also been able to live further away from cities and gain considerably due to savings in rents, transportation and other costs.
Internet and information technology have enabled companies to become more competitive by cutting costs. Manufacturers, banks, and retailers have successfully harnessed computer technology to reduce their costs and deliver goods and services to customers at an amazing speed.
The cumulative impact of new technology is so dramatic that at a broader level, organizations are changing the way they do business. Use of the Internet to transact business has become so common-place for both large and small companies that e-commerce is rapidly becoming the organizational challenge of the new millennium.
Managing virtual corporations and virtual workers in this technology-driven world is going to pose tough challenges for managers in the years ahead. A virtual organization is a network of companies or employees connected by computers. It is a highly flexible, temporary organization formed by a group of companies that join forces to exploit a specific opportunity. After all technologies are changing so quickly and skills are becoming so specialized these days that no one company can everything by itself. So they join forces to form a virtual outfit, consisting of knowledge workers from different parts of the world.
Virtual workers work from home, hotels, their cars, or wherever their work takes them. Managers need to develop new skills in order to deal with knowledge workers who work on common projects on a temporary basis without any face to face interaction. Virtual, teams have to be built from scratch paying attention to their unique requirements. The concept of employment needs to be replaced by the concept of ‘partnership’ especially when most tend to work independently away from the permanent employees or owners of the organisation.
To compete with global players, firms have realized the importance of remaining lean, fit and flexible. Companies have learnt, after having seen the ups and downs in economic cycle quite frequently in recent years, the art of living for the day. There is evidence of temporariness in almost everything and anything organizations do today. Jobs are redesigned, more and more tasks are handled by flexible teams, and non-core activities are shifted to sub-contractors and temporary workers.
Workers are made to update their knowledge and acquire new skills in sync with the changing dynamics of the workplace. Most employees are made to learn everything so as to slip into roles that are loosely defined. Global competition is putting pressure on most companies to shut operations of businesses-almost instantaneously—that have failed to live up to expectations of customers. In a dynamic world characterized by variety, complexity and unpredictability, companies have to run the show in a flexible and spontaneous manner.
The relationship between the employer and the employees has undergone a radical change in the 21st century. The employer has a compelling reason to bring down costs, remain competitive, and offer the best products and services to get past competition. To attract talent, he is willing to offer a challenging job, come out with an attractive compensation package and bombard the prospective job seekers with benefits and concessions that were never heard of before. But not job security.
When there is an economic downturn or when the employee is not contributing enough the employer wants the headcount to be cut down to size, without any hesitation. The employee, on the other hand, is looking for a rewarding job, full of challenge, excitement and fun. He is constantly on the look out to get past rivals and reach a top position—sometimes, by any means. The moment he finds an irresistible opportunity outside, he is prepared to shift gears and change positions.
In this competitive environment, traditional ideas such as commitment to the job, loyalty to a company and remaining faithful to a work group do not seem to excite anyone in the job market. It is more or less a contractual arrangement now between the employer and the employee—in place of a lifelong commitment of service to each other. Both parties exhibit a pronounced preference for flexibility in thinking as well as actions. The employer is willing to pay more for quality.
The employee is willing to go that extra mile to improve his career prospects. The employer has to invent ways and means to attract talent. Training opportunities, profit sharing plans, extra bonuses, two way communications, flexible work arrangements are all part of that strategy. This is where HR managers are expected to play a strategic role, using their “soft skills” to good advantage.
They have to go beyond the rule book, find out what the employees want, customize job offers that are in sync with expectations of job seekers, put talented employees on jobs that are challenging, motivate people to give their best, develop employee skills and knowledge constantly, and explore creative paths to enrich campus atmosphere.
Managing knowledge workers is not going to be easy, especially when every company knows that talent is going to be the key differentiator between a successful company and an unsuccessful one. (‘What it means to be a Strategic HR leader in the 21st Century”, SHRM Foundation, 2003)
Emerging Issues and Challenges in Management # 2. Globalization and Managers:
The world is shrinking in all major respects. People, goods, capital and information are moving around the globe like never before with faster communication, transportation and financial flow, the barriers between nations have disappeared and the world is becoming a borderless market. In the 21st century, global companies seem to virtually dance all over the place. They are not constrained by national borders. Most corporations cover lot of ground while trying to exploit an opportunity in any part of the globe now.
The process of interconnecting the world’s people with respect to the cultural, economic, political, technological and environmental aspects of their lives- has become the order of the day. BMW builds cars in South Carolina. McDonald’s sells hamburgers in China. Coca Cola has over 80 per cent of its sales outside of its home market. Nestle has 50 per cent, Proctor and Gamble 65 per cent and Avon 60 per cent. They source and coordinate resources and activities in the most suitable areas, to offer cost-effective products and services to customers all over the globe.
Businesses can hire, source and sell wherever they want now. For many of these global corporations, with the entire world as a market, national boundaries have become virtually irrelevant. It is not without reason that IBM dropped its organisational structure based on country and reorganized into 14 industry groups. In a border-less world, success in business increasingly depends upon offering products and services that are competitive on a world basis, not just on a local basis.
If the price and quality of a firm’s products and services are not competitive with that available elsewhere in the world, the firm might be racing towards extinction. Global competition, whether you accept or not, has become a reality in all but the most remote corners of the world. The world, in short, has become a small but a very complex and dynamic neighbourhood.
Managing a global corporation in the 21st century, however, could be truly challenging.
Global Operations have:
i. More functions- Global corporations raise money in one market, buy raw materials in other markets, manufacture in a different location, obtain components from another country and the products are being sold in several other places. The corporation has to tackle multifarious design, production, distribution and servicing problems in addition to internal issues.
ii. More heterogeneous functions- there are bound to be vast differences in the way each of the above functions is being carried out, depending on country-specific cultural differences.
iii. More involvement in the employee’s personal life
iv. More complex external influences, such as from societies and governments
v. More cultural differences (with completely different languages, foods, values, beliefs and ways of doing things).
vi. Different approaches to management, since the population of expatriates and locals varies.
In a borderless world, the job of a manager has undergone radical transformation.
The reasons for this are fairly obvious:
a. Working with People from Different Countries:
Organisations that operate in the global marketplace often employ all three types of employees— cited above. The use of host country nationals, however, is increasing because they are usually the least expensive to employ. They need not be relocated or undergo training in the culture, language or tax laws of the country where the company carries out its operations.
Both expatriates and third country nationals, on the other hand, would have to be relocated and undergo training relating to local languages, customs, traditions, business norms and practices etc. To work effectively with people from different cultures, managers need to pay attention to the needs of expatriates and third country nationals—how their culture, geography and religion have shaped them and how to adapt management style in sync with requirement.
b. Movement of Jobs to Low Cost Countries:
In a global economy, jobs tend to move to low cost countries—much to the discomfort of local community leaders, labour groups, and politicians. To compete and survive in the economic jungle, global corporations are made to shift gears and change hats quite frequently in sync with competitive pressures. Global managers, thus, face the difficult tasks of balancing the interests of their organization with their responsibilities to local groups from time to time.
c. Managing Talent:
Global corporations require employees with transferable skills- employees who can adapt to different cultures, customs, values, social practices, political systems and management approaches-employees who are willing to work with colleagues with a different mental make-up altogether.
They require people who understand the local customs, habits and societal norms very well and able to comply with a complex set of unique, country-specific rules and regulations. They need to build a deep reservoir of talent to compete with tiny local players, national champions and global competitors to succeed in the 21st century.
Cascio summed it up appropriately- “attracting and retaining top talent will require more than just huge paychecks. Organizations will need to create the kinds of cultures and reward systems that keep the best minds engaged. The old command and control hierarchies are fast crumbling in favour of organizations that empower vast numbers of people and reward the best of them as if they were owners of the enterprise”
d. Work Culture:
To remain at the top, corporations need to invest time money and energies in building a strong work culture empowering people to think and act like real owners, carry out tasks creatively and experiment continuously to cut down costs—all in an atmosphere of great fun. You have to connect people to their passions and make them work for a higher purpose (the way the world works, lives and plays) rather than merely to collect a pay cheque.
e. Stakeholders’ Expectations:
Corporations have to deed with diverse forces in this shrunken globe—suppliers, producers, distributors, service providers, customers who are connected to each other in some way or the other—and begin to exploit opportunities wherever they come. The lesson for managers is clear Get ready or get lost. In the present day economic jungle, companies which are able to attract and retain talent will only emerge as star performers.
A global manager has the international awareness and cultural sensitivity required to work well across national boundaries. Often multilingual, the global manager thinks with a world view, appreciates diverse beliefs, values, behaviours and practices and is able to map strategy accordingly. (Scher- merhorn, Hunt, Osborn)
a. Adapts well to different business environments
b. Respects different beliefs, values and practices
c. Solves problems quickly in new circumstances
d. Communicates well with people from different cultures
e. Speaks more than one language
f. Understands different government and political systems
g. Conveys respect and enthusiasm when dealing with others
h. Possesses high technical expertise for a job.
Emerging Issues and Challenges in Management # 3. Managing Talent:
One of the most visible changes that has impacted organisations in the past decade or so has been the growing realization that people are the most important assets of an organisation. Without their positive contributions, the organisation will never be able to realize its dreams. They are the backbone of an organisation and they are the primary sources of a firm’s competitive advantage. It is now widely accepted that a firm’s success is determined by decisions employees make and behaviours in which they engage.
The strategic potential of people, therefore, must be utilized thoroughly in order to deliver extraordinary results. Simply delivering results is not enough; you need to be the best in meeting the expectations of your own employees and also the external public. It has never been more important for organizations to foster and tap the strategic potential of people.
Managing people as an organization’s primary asset has inspired modern managers to become increasingly more effective at developing programs and policies that leverage talent to align with organizational competencies and at executing organizational strategy. MacDonald (2003) states that “creating the next generation work environment— highly collaborative and capable of not just fostering, but also encouraging, the instant, seamless movement of ideas and expertise will present both intellectual and technical challenges for us as professionals”
Talent management implies recognizing a person’s inherent skills, traits, personality and offering him a matching job. Every person has a unique talent that suits a particular job profile and any other position will cause discomfort. It is the job of the Management, particularly the HR Department, to place candidates with prudence and caution. A wrong fit will result in further hiring, re-training and other wasteful activities.
No matter how inspiring the Leaders are, they are only as effective as their team. A team’s output is healthy only if the members are in sync. To achieve such harmony, the key ingredient is “putting the right people in the right jobs”. While there is no magic formula to manage talent, the trick is to locate it and encourage it.
Let us examine the issue more closely:
i. Recognize Talent:
Notice what do employees do in their free time and find out their interests. Try to discover their strengths and interests. Also, encourage them to discover their own latent talents. For instance, if an employee in the operations department convincingly explains why he thinks he’s right even when he’s wrong, consider moving him to sales!
ii. Attracting Talent:
Good companies create a strong brand identity with their customers and then deliver on that promise. Great employment brands do the same, with quantifiable and qualitative results. As a result, the right people choose to join the organisation.
iii. Selecting Talent:
Management should implement proven talent selection systems and tools to create profiles of the right people based on the competencies of high performers. It’s not simply a matter of finding the “best and the brightest,” it’s about creating the right fit – both for today and tomorrow.
iv. Retaining Talent:
In the current climate of change, it’s critical to hold onto the key people. These are the people who will lead the organisation to future success, and you can’t afford to lose them. The cost of replacing a valued employee is enormous. Organisations need to promote diversity and design strategies to retain people, reward high performance and provide opportunities for development.
How Managers can create the ‘Fire in the Belly?
Intrinsically motivated employees faithfully perform their task because it gives them a feeling of accomplishment. These individuals are not seekers of monetary rewards but instead find satisfaction in the job itself. So, as long as you can satisfy the esteem needs of these individuals you will keep them happy.
Keep in mind that money is not the main motivator for everyone.
Just follow these valuable steps for inspiring the intrinsically motivated employees and cut some company expenses:
I. Meaningful Work Assignments:
Intrinsically motivated employees want work that is challenging and meaningful. They tend to get bored and lose focus if they are not doing work they feel is valuable to them or to the company. Meaningful work makes them feel that they are a valuable asset to the company. To keep these individuals motivated, delegate meaningful task, then compliment them when they successfully complete them. A simple verbal thank you will work just fine.
II. Personal and Professional Growth:
They are happy when they can grow within the organization and will put forth great effort to apply what they have learned in the current position. They will go above and beyond the call of duty. Overall, opportunities for professional growth help to boost their esteem.
III. Remember Employee’s Birthday/and Years of Service:
Although intrinsically motivated employees do not seek after monetary rewards, it is a good idea to celebrate their birthday with them. This will make them feel that you really appreciate them. A birthday card, a cake, and may be a small gift work just fine for them. You should also honor and celebrate them during an awards ceremony, after they have been with the company for a certain number of years (e.g. 5, 10, 15 years of service). This shows your appreciation for their loyalty to the company. And it also gives them more motivation to continue to work for your company.
IV. Praise and Recognition:
These individuals are motivated when they receive praise and recognition for their work. Make it a point to recognize them for their work and praise them in private or openly. You should also involve them in decision-making for company projects arid give them praise and recognition for those ideas and suggestions that are put into practice.
V. Job Security:
Job security is very important to these individuals. They are not interested in leaving the company to get another job that pays more money; instead they seek longevity with your company. They are very dependable and rarely take time off from their job. They will strive to align their goals with the goals of the company with great enthusiasm.
VI. Cost Effective for the Company:
Concluding, intrinsically motivated employees are less expensive to employ than extrinsic workers because money is not the main motivator. As long as you satisfy their esteem needs, they are happy to work for you. Managers should keep in mind that a happy employee is a productive employee.
The war for talent will continue. It is not easy to find people with requisite skills, knowledge and experience in the market place readily. To compound the problem further, you need to find people with the right kind of mental attitude. As long as there is a cultural mismatch, employee attrition rates will keep rising in the years ahead.
Managing layoffs would be a matter of great concern as this will cause serious heart burn among employees leaving the firm. The survivors would look at every move of management with great suspicion. Modern managers, therefore, need to perform the balancing act, keeping the ever changing dynamics of the work place in mind. Cost pressures will compel managements to weed out inefficient people, in a labour surplus and capital hungry country like India, this is easier said than done. Workers will put up strong resistance to any such moves and the recent violent attacks on supervisors and HR managers should force everyone to exercise caution and restraint while showing the door to employees.
Companies will be ready to do anything possible to get the best results out of people. Because they have a compelling reason to remain at the top in this era of global competition. They have to deal with competitive attacks from any corner, from anywhere, from any player—small or big is not going to make much of a difference, as long as they leave a gap to be exploited by others to advantage. This is where managers could play a major role that of aligning business strategy with operational dynamics.
Emerging Issues and Challenges in Management # 4. Dealing with Workforce Diversity:
Global competition is forcing companies to hire people from local, as well as international markets. People with diverse backgrounds (in terms of race, religion, caste, region, age, education) and cultures are now working under one roof. The differences in age, education, religion, and cultural background demand a lot of flexibility in work practices.
Employees are made to adjust to a new work culture and environment, learn work habits and adapt themselves to fit in with organizational practices on a daily basis. They have to change hats, shift gears, and even change colours as they are made to run the race crossing several emotional hurdles that come on the way.
In short, the new workplace is full of exciting opportunities (in terms of meeting new people, learning their behaviours and adapting to the new environs accordingly) and challenges – all emerging out of workforce diversity.
Workforce Diversity in India:
Workforce diversity refers to similarities and differences among employees in terms of age, cultural background, physical abilities and disabilities, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation. Workplace diversity, is essentially concerned with the differences that people bring to their jobs on the basis of gender, age, race, ethnicity or professional background. India is a multicultural country.
People with various religious backgrounds live and work together in various kinds of environments. Cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad attract talent from different parts of the country. Through a policy of reservations, the Government of India has tried to draw the less advantaged and under-privileged sections of society into the mainstream.
Let us look more closely into the issues of workforce diversity in India:
i. Age and Workforce Composition:
Thanks to the opening up of the economy, especially after the 1990s, the composition of workforce in most organizations is changing. The 21st century is unique in that it accommodates three different generations – Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), Generation X (also known as ‘baby busters’, born between 1965 and 1979) and Generation Y (born after 1980) and is struggling to come to terms with multifarious expectations of workers in various industries.
a. The baby boomers, who were battered by economic shocks and survived layoffs, restructuring exercises and re-engineering efforts, have either retired or will be retiring soon, leaving a vacuum in the labour markets all over the world. They had to fight for everything ranging from privacy to freedom of speech.
b. The baby busters have grown up in the times of rapid change. Members of Gen X are more practical, focused and future-oriented. They demand interesting work assignments and thrive on open ended projects that demand sophisticated problem solving. They want control over their own work schedules and seek to refine their skills so as to be relevant and useful.
c. Gen Y is the fastest growing segment in the workforce now. (India boasts of 550 million people below the age of 25 years). Members of Gen Y have grown up amidst more sophisticated technologies. They want their work to be meaningful and interesting. They place a premium on their lifestyle and seek to strike a balance between work and life. They look for workplace perquisites as natural entitlements.
Challenging work, company’s culture and environment, relations with co-workers and leadership roles are some of the important things that are closer to their hearts than perquisites, benefits and bonuses.
Divide between the Young and the Old:
2. Relevant skills and knowledge
3. Aggressive, immature, adventurous
4. Mobile and flexible
5. Less inclined to stay, if rewards do not match expectations.
6. Demand interesting, challenging work assignments
7. Fights for space, comfort and rewards
1. Experienced and mature
2. Somewhat rusted skills
3. Seeks secure jobs and steady incomes
4. Less mobile and not willing to relocate quickly
5. Passionate about work and willing to stay for longer hours
6. Less inclined to learn new skills/ techniques
7. Takes it easy and gets along with colleagues and routine.
Millions of baby boomers find themselves without a job now for a variety of reasons now—such as lack of requisite technical skills, compulsory retirement, recession, and closure of unviable units. These workers need support, help and assistance from the government like their counterparts in the developed world—to lead a dignified life.
ii. Gender and Women at Work:
Women employees today constitute a major share of the workforce. In India, over 500 million are employed in various streams due to a combination of factors such as women’s emancipation, greater equality of sexes and increased literacy rate. In the software industry, nearly 35 per cent of the workforce comprises women, though the figure is not so high in other sectors.
The initial reluctance of employers to give jobs to women seems to be a thing of the past (due to increased financial burden in the form of maternity benefits, creches, prohibition of women in night shifts and in hazardous jobs, etc.). Women handle both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ jobs now in areas such as accounting, hospitality, banking, insurance, airways, police, teaching, beauty care and even driving. The principle of equal pay for equal work has more or less become the rule now in most industries (barring plantation, construction industry, etc.).
The Equal Remuneration Act of 1976 specified equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender and prohibits gender discrimination in hiring practices. The phenomenon of the Indian women ‘breaking the glass ceiling’ is being increasingly highlighted in the recent times – thanks to the entry of women into the boardrooms as well. For women at work – especially in India – the problem of striking a balance between family demands and workplace pressures still remains.
The journey to the top is not going to be easy without a certain amount of support from the employer. Additionally, female employees often have to face the problem of sexual harassment at work, which has become a very challenging issue for the HR professionals all over the globe.
iii. Minorities/Backward Castes:
The traditional Indian image of diversity has been one of assimilation. A kind of a melting pot wherein differences based on caste, race, religion, economic status were blended into an Indian puree. The socially deprived and economically poorer sections of society never really raised their head protesting against national leadership as to why they continued to remain at the bottom of the ladder even after six decades of Independence.
Even after 50 years of reservation, SCs/STs have not yet made to the senior management of most public sector units, with the number of SC/ST directors on their boards not even averaging one per company. According to a study by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI, 2008), a shocking 81 per cent of all reserved seats in technical institutes such as ITIs remain vacant, while 88 per cent of all reserved seats in IITs remain vacant.
The minorities, too, did not demand a fair share of the fruits of the so-called economic progress till recently. In fact, most sections of society have never realized the importance of using their ‘voting right’ as a powerful weapon to bring about radical social, economic and political change in the country. The situation is changing, however, in recent times, as minorities become more aware of their situations.
Managing a Diverse Workforce- Challenge:
Managers encounter a number of challenges while managing a multi-cultural organization, as explained below:
i. Lower Cohesiveness:
Diverse groups, typically, are less cohesive than homogeneous groups. There is a lack of similarity in language, culture, and experiences, which could lead to mistrust, miscommunication and attitudinal differences. This may reduce cohesiveness and affect productivity negatively.
ii. Communication Problems:
Diverse groups carry a lot of emotional baggage in the form of misunderstandings, inaccuracies, inefficiencies. You have to explain things again and again to achieve clarity. Members may fail to keep pace with the manager and come back with lots of questions. In any case, the whole process is reduced to a feeble walk.
iii. Mistrust and Tension:
As a result of limited interaction and low familiarity with members belonging to a particular community, region and race, people may not like to share their feelings and opinions freely. People generally get along with others who are like themselves. The way an employee dresses, speaks and conducts himself or herself may become the subject of discussion in office corridors, in places where there is a clear dividing line between people.
We tend to see the world in a particular manner (stereotyping) based on our background and experience. Such a jaundiced view could have negative or positive connotations. As a result, we may stereotype women as not loyal to their careers, older workers unwilling to learn new skills, minority group members as incapable of doing things differently and so on. Unless managers are aware of their stereotypes, either their own or those held by others, the stereotypes can directly affect how people in their organization are treated.
In an increasingly multicultural business environment, managers need to develop appropriate skills and strategies to overcome diversity related problems.
The skills and strategies are as follows:
a. Communicate Clearly:
Communicate to employees the issues that relate to the organization or company, such as goals and objectives, policies, corporate culture and common practices. In a multicultural organization, transparent communications would most probably help in resolving knotty issues.
b. Compel People to Work in Teams:
Create teams of employees to work together. Give each employee her job description and the skills required to complete the project. Mix the teams by involving an employee from each group that fits the necessary job description and skills. This will provide an opportunity for each person to learn from and try to understand one another. Assign a team leader to each group as well as one other person to help the team leader mediate if problems arise.
c. Get Feedback:
Feedback from various groups helps managers in formulating appropriate strategies. In male-dominated offices, sexual harassment has become a problem in recent times. In order to curb such unhealthy tendencies, managers must interact with women employees and elicit their opinions on how to improve relations between males and females. Companies must develop and communicate a strong policy against sexual harassment.
d. Build Awareness:
Awareness building is designed to sensitize employees to the assumptions they make about others and the way those assumptions affect their behaviours, decisions and judgment. At middle and higher management levels, charges of harassment could invite harsh punishment and lead to termination of employment, followed by lawsuits. To protect the image and reputation of the company, managers must highlight the rules in this regard so that everyone understands the policies of the company clearly.
To avoid charges of discrimination, managers must do the following:
i. Ensure that all types of applicants are sought without any discrimination (recruiting).
ii. Use valid and non-discriminative selection tools and devices (selecting).
iii. Emphasize that all employees without exception are eligible to use training and development-oriented facilities (training).
iv. Apply performance appraisal systems without any bias or prejudice (appraising).
v. Reward employee performance, emphasizing the principle of equity (compensating).
vi. Fix work schedules in a flexible way so that female employees, dual-career couples, disabled workers can participate in all organizational activities without any problem (scheduling).
e. Provide Diversity Training and Skill Building:
Diversity training and skill building programmes attempt to identify and reduce hidden biases and develop the skills required to manage a multicultural, diversified workforce effectively. The training could help people learn more about their similarities and differences from others.
Men and women can be taught to move and work together so as to gain insights into how their own behaviours affect and are interpreted by others. Some companies – like Motorola – even go to the extent of offering language training for their employees as a vehicle for managing diversity. Skill building, on the other hand, aims at imparting interpersonal skills such as active listening, coaching and giving feedback to participants.
f. Adopt Flexible Organizational Practices:
Another way to accommodate diversity is to come out with flexible work schedules and arrangements. Differences in family arrangements, religious festivals, and cultural events may be accommodated in a flexible manner, keeping individuals and groups in mind. Benefit packages could also be structured in a similar fashion like full insurance cover for employees having a bigger family, allowing the employees to schedule vacations to coincide with those of their spouses’, parental leaves of absence, time off to care for sick family members, etc.
Emerging Issues and Challenges in Management # 5. Keeping the Organisation Dynamic and Flexible:
Organisations need to be more agile and flexible in the years to come. They have to turn leaner and leaner as years roll by. Every attempt must be made to cut the extra fat wherever it is found. Flatter organisations, cross functional teams, decentralized structures will bring in the requisite flexibility needed to survive the ups and downs in a business cycle.
HR managers will have to give their best while trying to strike the rapport between technology, resources, people and ideas. Investment in human capital (refers to the knowledge, education, training, skills and expertise of a firm’s employees) would prove to be very rewarding. Without significant investments in human capital, organizations will not survive and flourish in a competitive world.
Events in today’s world are turbulent and unpredictable, with both small and large crises hitting the corporate world with frustrating regularity. Under the circumstances strategic management of change is the need of the hour. Managers should put their best foot forward and build organizational capabilities leveraging on their core strengths and develop a strategy that would put the company ahead of competition. They need to be flexible in their approach and actions, while trying to overcome the hurdles on the way.
The scarce resources—physical, financial and human resources- at their command must be put to best use. Success in the new workplace, of course, depends on the ability of managers to strike collaborative relationships with internal as well as external forces. To get the best out of people, employees need to be empowered fully.
More importantly, they must stay connected with customers and employees at all times—taking care of their needs, aspirations and expectations in every conceivable manner. Good managers are aware of the fact that they are in a competitive struggle to survive and win. To survive and win, you have to gain advantage over your competitors and earn a profit. The fundamental success drivers in this regard would be innovation, quality, service, speed and cost competitiveness.
As we all know, products do not sell forever. In fact, they do not sell for nearly as long as they used to because so many competitors are introducing so many new products all the time. Under the circumstances, every firm has to innovate or be prepared to die. You have to be ready with new ways to communicate with customers and deliver the products with innovative features to them.
Innovation is today’s Holy Grail and is the most important source of competitive advantage (an edge or strength a firm has over rivals). When resources are rare (such as competent workforce) and capabilities are exceptional (brand management strengths of Proctor & Gamble) and competitively relevant (design engineering strengths of Mercedes-Benz) a firm is able to sustain its edge over rivals for a long time.
Remember, Apple has had phenomenal success with iPod but the batteries in the first three version died after 4 months, instead of lasting up to 12 hours, as expected by buyers. Apple’s settlement with consumers cost the company a fortune—close to $100 million. So innovations mean nothing unless you deliver what your promise and promise what you can deliver! Many experts believe that organisations unable to produce high quality products won’t be able to compete and survive in the present day global scenario.
Quality, after all, is nothing but living upto the expectations of consumers. It is the ability of a product or service to reliably do what it is supposed to do and meet customer expectations. To this end, manufacturers all over the globe must constantly find ways and means to improve quality and achieve zero defects in manufacturing. This means that the end product must stand the test of times in terms of performance, customer service, reliability, conformance to standards, durability, aesthetics and many more things specified and unspecified by consumers.
Until a few years ago, Indian industry was roundly criticized for paying insufficient attention to the quality of goods and services. Today, things have come full circle and the quality movement is at a feverish pitch. Companies such as BPL, Wipro, Carrier Aircon, Maruti, Thermax, Bata, Philips, Titan, etc., trumpet their steadfast devotion to quality in their advertisements.
Quality has become the most important word in the corporate lexicon and companies have realised the importance of investing in processes that contribute to better quality and customer relationships. The term ‘quality’ refers to a sense of appreciation that something is better than something else. It means doing things right the first time, rather than making and correcting mistakes.
According to Edward Deming, TQM is a way of creating an organisational culture committed to the continuous improvement of skills, teamwork, processes, and product and service quality and customer satisfaction. TQM is anchored to organisational culture because successful TQM is deeply embedded in virtually every aspect of organisational life. Global corporation now-a-days are serious about quality issues. They strive to exceed not just meet customer’s expectations.
Service means giving customers what they want or need, and when they want it. It means meeting the needs of customers in every conceivable manner—always. Look at what Best Buy is doing to get people to the stores. The chain’s loud music and high—tech features had been aimed at young men. But the store found that women today influence 9 out of 10 electronic purchases. So Best Buy lowered the volume and the lighting, trained its staff to discuss what customers want the technology to do for them, rather than merely pointing out each item’s bells and whistles. The chain is also trying to hire more female sales-people.
It means rapid execution, response and delivery of results—that often separates the winners from losers. How fast can you develop and get a new product to market? How quickly you respond to customer complaints? If you are able to do these things better than your competitors you are on a safe wicket. GM needed 40 hours to assemble a vehicle in 1980s.
Ford is able to do this now in less than 15 hours. From the product concept stage to making the car available in the showroom, Toyota used to take 30 to 40 months in 1980s, but today it does the same in less than 20 months! Speed is no longer another objective of modern organisations. It is actually the survival mantra.
e. Cost Competitiveness:
It means keeping costs low enough so that the company can realize profits and price its products at levels that are attractive to consumers. A low cost position means that the company can undercut competitors’ prices and still offer comparable quality and earn a reasonable profit. Comfort Inn and Motel 6 are low priced alternatives to Four-Seasons or Marriott. Enterprise Rent A Car is a low priced alternative to Hertz.
Dell’s phenomenal rise to fame is entirely attributable to its cost competitiveness. To this end, every company must put resources to best use. Often, little things can save big money. So the aim should be to eliminate wastages of all kinds and saving every rupee. Investments in R&D are the only way through which companies can offer incremental benefits to customers.
f. Work Climate:
Global corporations have a compelling need to create a positive work climate in order to deliver excellent results matching the expectations of customers. To this end, of course, they are not leaving anything to chance. They are taking every care to address the work-life balance issues carefully.
Work-life Balance is a concept that supports the efforts of employees to split their time and energy between work and other important aspects of their lives. It implies a daily effort to devote time for family, friends, community participation, spirituality, personal growth, self-care, and other personal activities, in addition to the demands of the workplace.
There are various reasons for the imbalance and conflicts in the life of an employee. From individual career ambitions to pressure to cope with family or work, the reasons can be situation and individual specific. The speed of advancement of information technology, the increasing competition in the talent supply market has led to a ‘performance-driven’ culture creating pressures and expectations to perform better every time.
Also, many a times, many people find it difficult to say “no” to others especially their superiors. They usually end up over-burdening themselves with work. The increasing responsibilities on the personal front with age can also create stress on personal and professional fronts. Constant struggle and effort to maintain a balance between the work and personal life can have serious implications on the life of an individual.
According to the 2012 National Work Life Study, 81 per cent of the respondents have admitted that their jobs are affecting and creating stress in their personal lives. The pressures of the work or personal life can lead to stress. According to several other work life balance studies conducted at various points of time, it has been found that such a situation can take a toll on the person’s health, both physiologically and psychologically.
Heart ailments, cardiovascular problems, sleep disorders, depression, irritability, jumpiness, insecurity, poor concentration and even nervous breakdowns are becoming common among the victims of such imbalance. Pressure, stress or tension in work life can lead to bad social life and vice versa. Many experts have given different solutions to this problem.
Factors Complicating the Work-Life Balance:
i. Hectic Schedules:
With hectic Schedules, high pressure work assignments and deadly targets. You have to race against time to get notices and be in the reckoning. Otherwise you will be labeled a ‘poor performer’.
ii. Intense Competition:
In recent years, the lives of executives have been thrown out of gear completely, thanks to the intense competitive environment, the proliferation of information technology and instart, 24X7 connectivity. Thus, there is an urgent need to strike a balance between an executive’s career and ambition on one hand, and pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development on the other hand.
iii. Very Little Time to Relax:
The 50-70-hour work weeks have become common these days. Not only that, it’s simply not sufficient to work, you need to work hard and work smart to get ahead of others, and executives are burning their candle of energies too soon.
iv. Run that Extra Mile to Deliver Results:
To deliver results, you are forced to run that extra mile very fast, sacrificing family, relationships, friends, community work, leisure, pleasure and everything that brings meaning, happiness and fulfillment to I life. (Remember the famous words- “What’s this life, full of care, there is meaning, happiness and fulfillment to life, full of care, there is no time to stand and stare!”).
v. Weekend Parents:
In the case of dual career couples – a common phenomenon in the 21st century – parents are unable to devote time to their children, and are reduced to what is popularly known as “weekend parents”.
vi. Mental Wrecks:
Workaholics who are unable to Strike a fine balance between work pressures and personal and family issues often go on to suffer from heart ailments, cardiovascular problems, sleep disorders, depression, jumpiness, irritability, insecurity, poor concentration and even nervous breakdowns.
vii. Unhealthy Habits:
A time will come when they lose emotional balance, get irritated over petty issues, indulge in verbal abuse and when stress begins to work on their nerves they begin to destroy their personal lives through excessive smoking, drinking and gambling. No one knows how many kids are home after school, without an adult, but the number is in the millions. These children spend time on video games, TV and the Internet – with damaging impacts on their psychological growth and development. It is not a healthy sign from the employer’s point of view also.
viii. Stress and Burnout:
Executive stress and burnout would lead to lot of problems on the behavioural front. The race for grabbing space, facilities, opportunities and media attention does not end usually high performance. It actually breeds anger, frustration, and resentment among colleagues leading to a kind of tug of war for everything. The resultant political behavior would bring down overall performance substantially.
Western countries make it mandatory for businesses to extend work- life balance to their employees. In addition, active groups such as the Employers for Work Life Balance in the UK and Centre for Work Life Policy in the US support the cause and ensure a fair play in the larger interests of millions of workers.
Globalization has made an employee’s life very tough in India in recent times. They have to work under three different time zones—conforming to the time of Europe, US and Asia— and in many cases, working night shifts has, more or less, become a routine. In service industries, extensive travel has become the order of the day. The onslaught from technology in the form of cell phones, internet and e-mails has literally converted ordinary employees into economic slaves of industry.
The entry of educated women has brought in additional complexities into the work spot—in the form of creation of creches, anti-sexual harassment drives, medical facilities to elders and children at home, maternity leave, etc. Telecommuting facility extended to employees in MNCs and large Indian companies such as H-P, Mindtree, Wipro, Infosys and IBM has eased the pressure a bit.
But, as things stand today, no employee can proudly declare that he or she is free from all kinds of work-related problems and tensions at least one day a week, companies such as TCS, Microsoft India, iGate Global Solutions, HCL Info systems, HSBC, Marriott Hotels India, Godrej Consumer Products, Google India, Max New York Life, Eh Lilly, Canon India, Sapient, Infosys are trying their best to correct the situation. They are trying every trick in the book to cheer up stressed and over-worked employees through novel policies and funny ideas.