Leveraging the Mature Workforce

aging workforce

As the world’s population is growing and ageing, the landscape of managing people resources is fast changing. The employed populations are diversifying as more women are joining the workforce, physical boundaries are diminishing on account of technology and the nature of work and workers’ expectations are continuously evolving. One key part of this evolution is the rise in the number of mature workers who are at the center of these changes, and strategies to harness their talents are essential for any organization moving forward.

Did you know that as per research data put together by HBR on the older and more mature workforce, the people who are 65 today have about the same risk of mortality or serious illness as those who were in their mid-50’s a generation ago.And the percentage of the population over age 65 who are at serious risk of mortality or life-threatening illness will grow by only about 16% between now and 2035. What this means is that with better health and life span predictions, the older employees are here to stay showing no signs of slowing down. And any employer who wants to engage a skilled, motivated, and disciplined workforce cannot afford to ignore them.

And yet, these workers are being ignored to some extent and this is due to apprehensions on the side of the employers mostly. One key reason for this is thatyounger managers have difficulty perceiving a work culture where they are managing a team member who is much older and more experienced than they are. It is important for managers to overcome this perception; finding the best candidate is about matching the right competencies, values and attitude, irrespective of age. Secondly motivators for older employees are very different. They aren’t as fearful of being fired (they’re already at retirement age) and they have less interest in fast promotions or a big payouts.

But it’s up to supervisors to change that and manage the dynamics of the relationship with older employees more effectively. There should be a clear expectation setting done on exactly how the talent &experience of the older employees can be utilized for achieving business goals and also pointing out their own roles and responsibilities for goalsetting & creating employee accountability.

Another thing which can be done by managers is to appreciate and applaud the contribution and experience of this employee set . While this is an important motivator for any employee, its even more so for the older age group employees. Research also suggests that putting older and young workers together helps both groups perform better. They make good allies in part because of their similar interests, but because of their different stages of life, they are less competitive with each other than workers in the same age cohort might be. That means that they are more likely to help each other and to form good teams.

The bottom line is that companies looking to leverage the strengths of the older workforce for overcoming the war for talent and driving business results must focus on increasing engagement for this section of the workforce ,as having an older mature set of employees not only provides resources who can hit the ground running and don’t need too much job training but they also are a perfect complement to the younger employee set creating optimal team synergies.


What are the answers to the ‘Diversity Challenge’?

women leaders

We at Catalyst are an all-women organization (at least as of now), and hence writing about women in leadership in the Indian Corporate space (or the lack of it!) is a topic close to heart. Recently, the Confederation of Indian Industry released a report indicating that women comprise only 16 percent of junior managers, four percent of middle and senior managers and a mere one percent of organizational leaders. Thus, while women are adequately represented in the Indian workforce at large, they remain barely present in managerial positions. This is inspite of ‘diversity in workforce’ being the buzz word of a number of corporates in the recent past.

There is no denying that women bring a lot of value to table especially in today’s world of collaboration and innovation. Many studies have indicated that women prefer a collaborative and inclusive decision making process, they are more flexible and empathetic and have better interpersonal skills compared to men. They also are great at multi-tasking and masters of opportunity management, making them valuable resources especially at the top.  Then why is it that women hit the ‘glass ceiling’? And what would it take to  retain them in the long run?

It is a popularly held misconception that a flexible and supportive work environment is enough to keep a woman employee engaged and loyal. While there is no denying that flexibility that accounts for a woman’s home responsibilities is critical to help her hang on to a job, to keep her engaged and drive performance would require much more.

Constant challenges and an opportunity to learn is a critical factor. Women typically tend to excel in fields that interest them from within and challenges their latent creativity and problem solving ability.

An open work culture which allows women to express ideas and question norms is another critical factor. Women love to explore and reinvent and a non-threatening work environment allows them to prosper.

Lastly, a participative team environment which allows them to indulge their nurturing self and build consensus allows them to be at their best. Women are excellent networkers and work cultures that value this skill tends to motivate them more.

Some popular steps taken by corporates are diversity training at the workplace, onsite daycare facilities and flexible schedules for women, changing the hiring strategy to a more diversity focused one and creating affinity groups at work to share common issues and learnings. However, a more proactive and deeper intervention is required if one is truly committed to a diverse workforce –

  1. Make the diversity initiative transparent – Progress on diversity initiatives should be shared on a continuous basis so as to create seriousness and commitment at all levels and departments.
  2. Relook your performance review system – Review metrics may have been created in the image of those who are already successful thus perpetuating an existing form on male dominant leadership. This may need a relook if you want more women managers at the top.
  3. Encourage participation in outside networks – this is especially important to expand the perceptions and knowledge of existing key decision makers.
  4. Very importantly, diversity as an initiative should not just stay with HR but should move into the ambit of business leaders just like any other important business initiative.

Doing the above is not easy. Diversity is a commitment which runs throughout the organization, starting at the top, and engaging professional (men and women) throughout their careers. This is what creates a real competitive advantage.

Leveraging Technology to enhance Recruitment Productivity

technolgy support

Over the past decade technology has changed the recruitment industry dramatically. Undeniably, recruitment industry has now been relying on technology heavily right from sourcing to background checks to references. Traditional recruitment methods are slowly fading away. 20 years ago recruitment world was a lot different. Mail, fax, and word of mouth were the most preferred methods of resume submission. Employers didn’t expect hordes of job applications for any open job as it was impossible to receive that many applications. Social media has changed the way we communicate. This change has also created a significant challenge to recruiters. This change has also created a significant challenge to recruiters. For recruiters it’s the hordes of applications they receive via their Applicant Tracking System plus the potential passive candidate pool available online via social networks. It’s extremely essential for recruiters to have the right strategy in place to attract the right talent in this extremely competitive environment.

Some clear benefits offered by technology are mentioned below:

Integration – By Integrating Applicant Tracking System with other systems, organizations can ensure that candidates don’t have to fill same information multiple times. Once a candidate provides his details at one platform, it should automatically flow to other process like BGC, On boarding etc. This will help in improve candidate experience and company brand image.

Reduce Time to hire – Onset of professional networking channels like LinkedIn has created a common platform for recruiters and candidates. It is best practice for recruiters to leverage these platforms to create their brand identity and awareness among potential candidate communities. Via these channels recruiters can create virtual talent pool which can save time and create more efficiency in the hiring process.

Improved Productivity – Advancement in technology has made it easier for recruiters to understand their success of the hiring process. Keeping track of yield ratio, time to fill ratio, interviews to offer, etc., will give a good overview of the overall success of the hiring process. Best part, recruiters don’t have to calculate these numbers and these are readily available in your recruitment technological tool.

Improved Quality – Jobvite’s 2014 Social Recruitment Survey suggest that leveraging social media improves candidate quality by 44 percent over those using only “traditional” recruiting techniques like phone screenings and filtering resumes based solely on skills and experience. Social media allows not only information about a candidate’s experience and skills, but a better glimpse into their lifestyle, values and their cultural fit, which is crucial for companies looking not just to recruit and hire, but also to engage employees and improve retention rates.

The Jobvite survey reveals that 80 percent of recruiters are using social media to evaluate a candidate’s potential culture match. The emphasis on cultural fit is a major reason recruiters are doubling down on social media as a tool.

The debate between modern and tradtional hiring methods


One may argue that the most important task that your company has to undertake is recruitment. Finding new talent in the market is incredibly difficult and HR managers across the country have tried different methods of recruitment in order to find the best possible candidates for their organizations. Overtime there have generally been two different types of recruitment methods that are employed by HR managers across the world as mentioned below.

1.Traditional Recruitment Methods

Organizations around the world have reaped the benefits of the traditional recruitment methods which have served them well and delivered employees which have played a key role in defining their organizations:

Local Paper Advertisements – The best way to spread the word about new jobs is through local newspaper advertisements. One can argue that this is the simplest form of recruitment and yet the most effective method of all as well.

Local Employment Office Postings -Many organizations have employed recruitment methods which are based on postings at local unemployment offices, where there are bound to be people looking for a job and you are likely to find all types and sorts of employees.

Temp Agencies-One of the most used recruitment methods is through temporary employment agencies that can shortlist potential candidates for your company and find you experienced professionals in your field easily.

Internal Hiring-Another way of recruitment which has been extremely successful over the years has been the internal hiring program, through which the company often promotes employees who are already part of the organization into the positions for which they are hiring. This is one of the safest methods of recruitment, since you know all about the employee and the level of work you are getting from them.

Employee Referrals-It is one of most popular methods of recruitment which not only helps get quality candidates but also retain existing employees. It has significant cost implications as the money shelled out as an incentive to employee when their referrals are finally selected are usually much less as compared to what is dolled to hiring consultants.

2.The Modern Recruitment Methods

The 21st century has seen a significant rise in technology and has seen modern day recruitment methods grow in influence and make a difference in landing candidates for organizations all over the world.

The Power of Social Media-It is quite common to use the services of social media, when you are recruiting today, since it is both inexpensive and allows you to form a vast pool of potential candidates, within a very short period of time. Social media websites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter have communities where potential employees submit their resumes and credentials in the hope of landing a job.

Smart Phones-Smart phones access to countless applications and virtually any web page. Job candidates the world over are glued to their phones. Interact in their space by optimizing your careers portal, providing ample information about your company online, and even leveraging older phone techniques.

Event Recruitment-This concept has been pioneered by CISCO. Sponsoring events and building brand value is a relatively useful concept. Companies sponsor events which are related to their ethic value, value which they wish to represent through their association.

Online Assessment-Many organizations are tapping into the huge potential of online assessments, which help in selecting suitable candidates through battery of tests. Some of the characteristics which can be easily assessed online are aptitude, technical competence, psychometric profile, job related behavioural competencies etc.

How Hiring Landscape has changed in Gen Y


Landscape of the Indian job market and the job seekers has changed significantly over the last 5 years. With more access to talent via job portal, active placement cells from colleges and staffing organisations offering end-to-end solution, the gap of talent search is getting narrower. But what is more important is the new face of the job seeker, they are 5 years younger than an average job seeker a decade ago, which only means paradigm shift in the aspirations of young Indians. This new brigade which is redefining what constitutes a great place to work is the Gen Y.

Lets first understand the portrait of a typical Gen Y person. They are ambitious, prefer loyalty vs quest, have multicultural ease and are networking by nature.

Few companies in today’s knowledge-intensive economy would deny that they compete on the caliber of their people. With this richer understanding of the Gen Y profile that now dominate the workforce, the challenge becomes clear. Companies whose employment offers align best with the shared values of Gen Ys will enjoy a major talent advantage. If we were designing a workplace from scratch today, or consulting to a big employer, we would insist on below crucial elements which are most important to Gen Y job seekers :

  1. Nurturing corporate culture.

Gen Ys view having strong friendships with co-workers and bosses as extremely important to them. There is much anecdotal support of workers staying longer in jobs simply because they loved the people they worked with — and did not want to leave them.

2. Job flexibility.

Gen Ys not only want flexible hours and schedules, but remote work options because of their perception of the never-ending intersection of work and life. They see themselves doing work everywhere — except in a cubicle. Jobs must be designed to accommodate these workers personal lives — not the other way around.

3. Challenging work.

Gen Ys, more than any previous college grads, are graduating college with a dynamic mix of academic and work experiences that have them positioned to contribute from day one. They are not interested in “grunt” jobs, or jobs in which they have to “pay their dues;” they seek challenging work from the start.

4. Professional and personal growth opportunities.

Gen Ys value lifelong learning. They also tend to get bored easily and seek out new things. They want employers that offer tuition reimbursement, sabbaticals, and other growth opportunities.

5. Volunteering options.

Gen Ys have been involved in service most of their lives and have a true commitment to bettering the world around them. Employers should develop organizational volunteering programs and options that allow workers to continue these efforts. Having an organizational culture that supports these values is essential.

6. Competitive salaries.

Gen Ys — especially younger ones fresh out of college — have more debt (both student loans and credit cards) than any previous generation, and they demand a salary that not only recognizes their contributions, but also helps them pay down the debt. Some employers even have programs in place to help these workers pay off student loans.

7. Advancement opportunities.

While Gen Ys are certainly not the most loyal bunch (but don’t blame them — blame those employers that downsized their parents), they do seek out employers that have a plan for their success. Employers should examine and create new ladders to guide younger workers through a steady progression in the organization.

8. Recognition programs.

Gen Ys were raised in a bubble of constant praise and recognition from their families, and so this kind of constant reinforcement and recognition is something they expect. But please, no Office Space “flair” programs; instead, implement authentic work recognition programs.

9. Business casual.

Gen Ys, as a whole, have more tattoos and piercings than any previous worker cohort — and that personal style also applies to how they dress and how they want to dress for work. While they can look great in business suits, many prefer a work environment in which they can wear comfortable clothing that expresses their individuality.

  1. Intrapreneurship programs.

Study after study show that Gen Ys have an extremely strong entrepreneurial focus — with many planning to start their own businesses (partly so that they can control their own fate). Employers can retain workers longer — while leveraging that entrepreneurial sprit — by developing incubator and intrapreneurship programs and opportunities.

More important than any program or set of imperatives is the insight that every new generation of workers brings with it particular values that reflect not its members’ youth but, rather, their fundamental makeup. Sometimes, lacking sufficient heft and arriving in subordinate roles, they—and their preferences—hold little sway. In other eras, like this one, they get what they want.

The organizations that thrive will be those that recognize their people’s shifting values and preferences—and that find ways to make the work meaningful on those terms.

How do Organizations identify Learning and Developmental needs.

classify talent

Many organizations roll out the same training year in, year out, and are surprised when people finish a course questioning its relevance to their role. That’s because the learning and development needs weren’t properly identified in the first place, wasting valuable time and resources.

Learning and development (L&D) professionals need to ensure that the interventions they make do three things: first, are built on the accurate identification of the L&D need; second, focus on the organization’s priorities which will bring a positive return on investment; third, provide a valuable experience for the participants, raising the level of their skills and their motivation to do things differently.

Given the current economic climate, in which many organizations have been through bruising restructuring and downsizing, a focused investment in L&D has the potential to restore staff motivation, engagement and retention.

Identifying the needs

L&D needs are identified through a formal or informal Learning Needs Analysis (LNA). The analysis can cover the whole organization, a specific group of people or an individual.

An organization-wide LNA involves the structured gathering of data about the current skills and capabilities in the business. Once analyzed, the data can be used to create an organization-wide L&D plan.

A focused investment in L&D has the potential to restore staff motivation, engagement and retention.

An LNA can also be carried out on a specific group of people. For example, a company wanting to expand into international markets will need to identify the new skills and capabilities required of its sales force. These can be formalized in a competency framework which details the specific behaviors required for success in the role. Each individual’s L&D needs can be determined through a self and manager assessment which forms the basis of the individual’s development plan. The data gathered may also reveal some development needs across the sales force which can be used to design group interventions. These could range from delivery of pitch to improved peer to peer coaching or cultural awareness.

Development centers are another effective way of identifying L&D needs. Properly constructed and executed, development centers provide a comprehensive and objective identification of strengths and development needs, and can be used to assess current skills or potential. As they are relatively resource-intensive, most organizations use them selectively; for example for high potential individuals, where they are used as part of the talent management process.

An individual’s L&D needs can also be identified through the ongoing performance management process. In everyday situations, managers have the opportunity to identify the L&D needs of the people they manage and they can use this information to provide guidance and coaching.

Rethinking Strength Based Development


Strength based development has been the dominant leadership development paradigm for a long time now. Its appeal is definitely powerful – I remember the time I took the Gallup Strengthfinder test and was mesmerized by its appeal and optimism. To be fair, I also found positive applications of the same in my worklife. In particular the tenets that make most sense are

  • Attempting to fix our weaknesses is hard work with limited returns
  • It is our strengths that have the leverage to move us to exceptional levels of performance

And hence the thrust on recruiting, developing and managing around employee strengths to build an ‘excellent’ organization.

But having run a business for over 5 years now, I do believe that the strength based development framework may be too simplistic and ignore a complex set of issues that running any dynamic business encompasses. Infact, focusing only on strengths may create a fresh set of problems centered around inertia and an inability to face ground business realities.

Specifically, I see myself questioning the following

  • Does strength based development lead to a ‘leadership complacency’ where the leader stays within his comfort zone and lacks the versatility to lead in an uncertain, dynamic world? In a narrowly defined stable environment, it’s the best thing to keep playing to your strength, but what if the playing field itself changes and your ‘one big strength’ becomes irrelevant, and worse yet, you have not developed yourself to keep adapting and building ‘new strengths’?
  • Is a leadership group which has been groomed based on an accentuation of their positives, resilient enough in the face of adversity and challenges? Can they reinvent themselves and redeploy efforts when circumstances change and motivate an entire organization to do so?
  • Are we not creating a homogeneous set of leaders at the senior level with similar outlooks, thus holding back the larger benefits of diversity?

Overall, while a strength based development strategy may be relevant for individuals in the talent pipeline, for the leadership team of an organization in a dynamic environment, it may need some rethink.  Just as organisations fail when they rely on the success formula that historically worked, leaders run into trouble when they assume their current strengths will always outdo their rivals. Bob Kaplan and Rob Kaiser argue in “The Versatile Leader” that a reliance on strengths produces a lopsided leadership outlook that makes for poor strategic decision making and misguided implementation.

Strengths have the potential for excellence – especially when used judiciously by leaders to build their teams by focusing time on best people, celebrating successes and building on established talent. But, I believe they also have the potential to skew our overall leadership priorities in a particular direction. What leaders in today’s business reality increasingly need is versatility and the objectivity to change, adapt and grow.