Action Research Project on HR and/or OB related problem
faced by a company/industry.
Submitted as part of course MBAZG511
Course Instructor: Dr. Anjani Srikanth Koka
Date Submitted: April 10th, 2019
Narendra Prasad Atluri
BITS ID: 2018HB58532
BITS Email: 2018HB58532@wilp.bits-pilani.ac.in
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Sandeep Reddy D, Director, NUNC Systems Pvt. Ltd., for encouraging me to pursue my MBA in-spite of all the project dependencies I have.
I would like to sincerely thank our Human Resources department and particularly our Senior HR Executive Vaishnavi Reddy P for providing me with all the necessary support and data required to complete this assignment.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to our course instructor Dr. Anjani Srikanth Koka for providing us with the required knowledge and insights into the field of Human Resources Management and Organizational Behaviour. Thank you sir for simplifying the concepts and continuously engaging us throughout the session.
I would also like to thank BITS Pilani, WILP division for providing me with the opportunity to pursue my MBA.
Table of contents
1. Background 5
2. Problem Statement 5
3. Theoretical Causes of Problem 5
3.1 HR Challenges explained 6
3.1.1 Poor hiring choices 6
18.104.22.168 What caused the problem? 7
3.1.2 Lack of alignment of organizational and employee objectives 7
22.214.171.124 What caused the problem? 7
3.1.3 Poor employee engagement 8
126.96.36.199 What caused the problem? 8
3.1.4 Improper conflict management 8
188.8.131.52 What caused the problem? 9
3.2 Organizational Behaviour Challenges 9
3.2.1 Gender inequality and lack of diversity within teams 9
184.108.40.206 What caused the problem? 10
3.2.2 Lack of empathy 11
220.127.116.11 What caused the problem? 11
4. Initiatives of the company 11
4.1 Initiatives taken to overcome poor hiring choices 12
4.1.1 Results achieved 12
4.2 Initiatives taken to increase alignment of objectives 12
4.2.1 Results achieved 13
4.3 Initiatives taken to improve employee engagement 14
4.3.1 Results achieved 15
4.4 Initiatives taken to reduce conflicts 15
4.5 Initiatives taken to reduce conflicts between teams 16
4.5.1 Results achieved 16
4.6 Initiatives taken to address gender inequality 16
4.6.1 Results achieved 16
4.7 Initiatives taken to overcome lack of EI 17
4.7.1 Results achieved 17
5. Conclusion 17
6. References 18
1. [bookmark: _Toc5780474]Background
I have been working with NUNC Systems Pvt. Ltd., located in Madhapur, Hyderabad from Nov. 2013. We are a software services provider working with customers from varied domains like healthcare, manufacturing, automobile and agriculture. We develop Web applications (using Java/J2EE, MS.Net and PHP), Mobile applications (Android, iOS & Hybrid) and provide Infrastructure Services (Virtualization and Cloud Computing) to our customers.
From 2017, we’re trying to acquire new competencies in the fields of Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Data Science and Machine Learning. We’re now working on Oracle CRM On Demand and Salesforce projects as part of our push to gain competencies in CRM domain. We’re working on Web and Mobile chatbots to help Automobile dealers handle their customer support and sales activities to gain a footing in Data Science and Machine Learning space.
2. [bookmark: _Toc5780475]Problem Statement
Since its inception in 2011, just like any other organization, we too had to go through various phases of evolution. Until 2014, we’re operating in the start-up mode where the operations are small and there is lack of formalization of policies and procedures. As we started to grow, the projects became bigger and diverse, budgets and expenses grew and so did the risk.
The ensuing sections discuss the challenges faced by the organization in the past 8 years of its existence, the actions taken to overcome those challenges and the invaluable role the HR department played.
3. [bookmark: _Toc5780476]Theoretical Causes of Problem
During the transition from a start-up to growth phase, challenges are aplenty on both the Human Resource (HR) and Organizational Behaviour (OB) front. Coming from a technical background, the founders were under the incorrect assumption that the Human Resources position is merely symbolic. This in-turn led to mistakenly treat HR Department as a cost center as it does not explicitly add any revenue to the bottom line (earnings).
Owing to the smaller size of the firm and its operations (during the initial days), the core expectation of a HR is to track employee leaves, their time sheets and their reporting time to work. Though the firm started to experience growth in size and operations, the HR department has not been provided with the necessary tools to accommodate these shifts and become efficient. This has led to a few unpleasant experiences with customers, the on-site team and between teams within the organization.
The list below provides the challenges the company has faced on both the HR and OB front…
· Poor hiring choices
· Lack of alignment of organizational and employee objectives
· Poor employee engagement
· Improper conflict management
· Gender in-equality and lack of diversity within teams
· Lack of empathy
3.1 [bookmark: _Toc5780477]HR Challenges explained
3.1.1 [bookmark: _Toc5780478]Poor hiring choices
In simple terms, recruitment is understood as the process of searching for and obtaining applicants for jobs, from among whom the right people can be selected.
Source: Chapter 6: Recruiting Talent, Human Resource Management Text and Cases, K Aswathappa, 8th Edition
During the initial days of the company, there was no entry-level staff. Every member comes with a niche set of skills and a considerable amount of experience to apply those skills on the job. However, as the organization started to grow, it started looking for ways to efficiently utilize the amount of time a senior resource has. The conclusion was to have less experienced staff working on relatively easy tasks, freeing up time for senior engineers thereby enabling them to move on to more complex tasks.
To achieve this plan, the organization wanted to hire fresh – out- of – college graduates with the right skill set, invest in their skill development and have them contribute to the project. This is also profitable to the company as the return on an hourly payment for the work contributed by a junior engineer is more than that earned by a senior engineer.
For this idea to work, new hires must be bought in, trained and be made ready to contribute to the project. To implement this idea, an elaborate hiring exercise is planned, resumes are sourced and 10 entry level positions were filled. However, within 6 months, 8 of those 10 positions became vacant and the organization has lost a considerable amount of time and money it has invested on hiring and training them. On top of that, as more work came in as expected, it had to hire an experienced engineer at a premium to meet customer expectations.
18.104.22.168 [bookmark: _Toc5780479]What caused the problem?
Due to a lack of a formal framework to screen prospective job seekers not only on their technical and interpersonal skills but also on their attitudes, wrong hiring decisions were made.
3.1.2 [bookmark: _Toc5780480]Lack of alignment of organizational and employee objectives
Being in the business of selling Software Services, the objective has always been to maximize profits. However, to be able to maximize profits, the organization has to serve more clients or venture into niche markets where the competition is less and margins are high. To serve more clients, you need more human capital and that requires more investment in hiring, training and retaining. Moreover, the company has to have an effective pipeline of projects to keep the talent pool continuously engaged. This may not be possible all the time due to market swings.
The other option is to build core competencies and venture into niche technologies. However, this requires significant up-front costs in-terms of hiring and training the resources and allowing them sufficient time to gain the confidence required to deliver projects on time and within budget.
There were times when growth has been stagnant. There is no significant increase in the bottom line or in the competency level of the organization either.
22.214.171.124 [bookmark: _Toc5780481]What caused the problem?
The organization was not able to effectively communicate its vision and objectives to the employees. Employees had their own goals and most of the times their goals did not match with that of the organization.
3.1.3 [bookmark: _Toc5780482]Poor employee engagement
An employee is engaged if he or she is willing to go above and beyond what would typically be expected in his or her role.
Source: Chapter 10: Employee Engagement and Empowerment, Human Resource Management Text and Cases, 8th Edition, K Aswathappa.
A Forbes report published in Oct., 2017 states that only 15% of the employee workforce is engaged, 67% of the workforce is not engaged and 18% of the workforce is disengaged. Most of the employees in the “not engaged” category are not customer – focused and are less productive.
Gallup’s 2016 meta-analysis finds that firms with high levels of employee engagement report 21% higher profitability.
Employees are more inclined towards completing the tasks assigned to them. They do not have a positive emotional attachment to their work. They are not proactive, did not take the initiative to go the extra mile to understand the customer’s rationale behind a business need and come up with better ideas to help them. They are content with doing what they are told to do.
The organization has to suffer lost productivity, absenteeism and missed opportunities to provide value additions to the customers. A few of the employees are so disengaged that the HR manager has to send multiple reminders to follow up on basic day to day activities like filling their time sheets and log their leaves in the HR tool.
126.96.36.199 [bookmark: _Toc5780483]What caused the problem?
· Poor employee – management relationship
· Lack of employee rewards and recognition programs
· Lack of enough opportunities for professional growth
3.1.4 [bookmark: _Toc5780484]Improper conflict management
Conflicts arising in our organization can be grouped into the following two categories…
· Manager-employee conflict
· Conflicts between teams
Most of the manager-employee conflicts occurred either due to a lack of proper communication channels between the manager and his/her team members and differences in people’s personalities. The other source of conflict is the differences in perception. What the manager conveyed may not be understood in its true sense.
Conflicts between teams
Most of the times, conflicts arise between Development and QA teams. While QA teams complain about the quality of the end product, the Development team tries to safeguard their work by disputing the claims of the QA team citing project requirements. This lead to conflicts between teams.
188.8.131.52 [bookmark: _Toc5780485]What caused the problem?
· Lack of proper communication channels
· Difference in personalities
3.2 [bookmark: _Toc5780486]Organizational Behaviour Challenges
3.2.1 [bookmark: _Toc5780487]Gender inequality and lack of diversity within teams
A report published by McKinsey & Company in January 2018 titled “Delivering through Diversity”, reinforces the link between diversity and an organization’s financial performance. The report concludes that both gender and ethnic diversity are clearly correlated to company’s profitability. However, they are underrepresented.
The ratio of male to female employees in our organization is a paltry 9:1. The major reason for this is the odd work hours. Due to customer time zones, our regular work timings are fixed from 12:00 PM to 9:00 PM. This might get extended beyond 10:00 PM due to scheduled demos and/or un-scheduled meetings with the on-site team/customers.
As a result of this, due to security reasons, the management is not keen to hire female staff for Development, QA and Business Analyst positions. There were times when HR Managers could not shortlist highly qualified women employees due to this operational challenge.
184.108.40.206 [bookmark: _Toc5780488] What caused the problem?
Odd work hours
3.2.2 [bookmark: _Toc5780489]Lack of empathy
Being in software services industry which requires frequent customer interactions and the need to work with cross-functional teams, empathy plays a very important role in the success of the organization. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others.
Empathy is related to Emotional Intelligence (EI). EI is a person’s ability to (1) perceive emotions in the self and others, (2) understand the meaning of these emotions, and (3) regulate one’s emotions accordingly in a cascading model.
Citation: Emotions & Moods, Organizational Behaviour 16th Edition, Robbins, Judge & Vohra
Empathy could have a positive impact on the way the customers are treated, their needs are met and the way customer service is delivered.
Lack of emotional intelligence results in unpleasant situations between onsite and offshore teams. Neither the onsite team nor the offshore teams were sensitive to the challenges either of them are facing. Each of these teams were inclined towards meeting their objectives rather than pausing for a moment and making a genuine effort to understand the challenges other teams are facing and make a sincere effort to help them resolve those challenges. As a result, the offshore team has to deal with un-achievable project deadlines while the onsite team has to deal with missed project deadlines. While it difficult for the business teams to face the customer when the deadlines are missed, it is equally difficult for the offshore team to work on a project with un-realistic deadlines.
220.127.116.11 [bookmark: _Toc5780490]What caused the problem?
· Lack of emotional intelligence
4. [bookmark: _Toc5780491]Initiatives of the company
The ensuing subsections explain in detail the initiatives the company has taken to address each of the HR and OB related challenges the organization has faced and their outcomes.
4.1 [bookmark: _Toc5780492]Initiatives taken to overcome poor hiring choices
Along with the technical and interpersonal skills, the HR managers are tasked with gaining a better understanding of job seekers in the following areas…
· What motivates them to work?
· Why do they want to work for our company?
· What is their general attitude towards work?
· Why are they looking for a job change?
· What expectations do they have from the company?
· What are their future goals?
· What are their past job experiences (pleasant and unpleasant)?
· How can the job seeker contribute towards the well-being of the company?
The idea is to find a best fit between employee expectations and organizational expectations. The applications that seem to fit the most are processed for further screening.
While evaluating profiles for entry level positions, the job seeker attitudes are given higher priority over technical and interpersonal skills.
4.1.1 [bookmark: _Toc5780493] Results achieved
Over the past couple of years, the overall attrition rate of the company has come down.
While this may not be the only reason for reduced attrition, this did play a key role in hiring and retaining the right talent.
Reduced “Ghosting” – It is referred to as a phenomenon in which job candidates schedule an interview but never turn up to the interview. The other case is, the job candidates accept the job offer but do not report to work on the date of joining. By properly evaluating the interest levels of the job prospects, proper hires are made. We do not face situations where new hires reject the offer just days before joining the job or become un-responsive on the day they have to report to work.
4.2 [bookmark: _Toc5780494]Initiatives taken to increase alignment of objectives
The organization realized that it is important to align the organizational objectives with that of the individual employees so that all the teams within the company will be working towards a single goal.
· The organization has employed a growth mindset.
· Set short term and long term goals for itself.
· Project Managers and HR Manager were tasked with the responsibility of communicating the vision to the employees. The plan is to achieve a shared understanding of where the organization wants to be in the future.
· Teams were given group objectives. The group objectives are then divided into individual objectives and are shared to individual team members.
· Over a period of time, the organization was able to achieve perfect alignment between what the company wants to achieve and what each teams within the company and the individual employees within those teams are trying to achieve.
4.2.1 [bookmark: _Toc5780495]Results achieved
The organization was able to acquire or in the process of acquiring new competencies in the following technologies…
· Oracle CRM On Demand
· Data Science & Machine Learning
Rate at which new skillsets have been acquired by the organization
4.3 [bookmark: _Toc5780496]Initiatives taken to improve employee engagement
New Communication channels
· New channels of communication have been opened to enable open and honest communication with the higher management.
· This created a perception that the management cares about the employees and is willing to provide any support required.
Rewards & Recognition programs
· Every quarter, the best work done by employees within each project is recognized and rewarded.
· This has created an impression that the organization values the employee’s effort and considers them important for the project.
· Team lunches have been organized to improve the bonding between the members of the team.
· The organization made it clear that each member in the team is important, right from the entry level engineer to the Project Manager and that their contributions are valuable to the success of the organization.
· To further increase their engagement levels, the jobs have been designed to include time for learning new skills (training on new technologies) and the opportunity to apply them in their current projects when the need arises.
· The organization has made considerable changes to the job structure. Based on the team objectives (as mentioned in the above section), the Team Lead along with the HR discussed with the employee, understood their interests and goals and created a new set of objectives that they should strive to achieve in the coming year.
· These new objectives included what the organization has set for itself to achieve and what the employee wants to achieve.
· Training programs have been initiated to enable the employees achieve their objectives for the coming year.
· The appraisal system has been revamped to rate an employee’s performance not only on their core job functions but also on the rate at which they’re acquiring new skills and applying them.
4.3.1 [bookmark: _Toc5780497]Results achieved
· A positive company culture has been created.
· By clearly explaining what the company expects from each employee and providing them with the support they need (trainings) and the opportunity to apply their learning, the engagement levels have gone up.
· Adherence to company policies and procedures has increased.
· Improved customer satisfaction.
As Peter F Drucker said, Culture eats strategy for breakfast. A positive work culture is very important for the organization to effectively implement its strategy.
Effect of employee engagement and hiring policies on acquiring and retaining talent
4.4 [bookmark: _Toc5780498]Initiatives taken to reduce conflicts
· The HR Manager has implemented training programs for employees to understand workplace emotions, seek clarification, express their true emotions in a constructive manner thereby providing the other person an opportunity to understand their mistake and correct it.
· A set of guidelines have been put in place detailing the expected behavior.
· Instances where behaviors have deviated from the set standards have been recorded and appropriate feedback has been given.
4.5 [bookmark: _Toc5780499] Initiatives taken to reduce conflicts between teams
In instances where team members were not able to reach a consensus, the ticket will be directly routed to the respective Team Leaders for further scrutiny.
If it cannot be resolved among them, an escalation can be made to the Project Manager. If the conflict is regarding a business requirement, the Business Analyst, who owns the requirements, is called in to clarify the requirements and the dispute is resolved.
4.5.1 [bookmark: _Toc5780500]Results achieved
· Reduced animosity among teams and its members
4.6 [bookmark: _Toc5780501]Initiatives taken to address gender inequality
To leverage the importance of divergent thinking and diverse thought processes, the organization has identified a workaround.
It has recently started hiring highly competent women employees for QA and entry level positions. The Business Analyst or the Project Manager are given extra responsibility to get the status of the work before they leave for the day and share it with the customers.
4.6.1 [bookmark: _Toc5780502]Results achieved
While the percentage of women staff has increased, more time is required to measure the impact this decision has on the overall bottom line.
4.7 [bookmark: _Toc5780503]Initiatives taken to overcome lack of EI
· Sessions have been conducted to introduce emotional intelligence to employees and explain its importance. None of us knew about EI until that session.
· Employees were encouraged to think not only from their own perspective but also from the perspective of their colleagues.
4.7.1 [bookmark: _Toc5780504]Results achieved
· Realistic timelines were set and as a result, proper expectations were set to the customer.
· The amount of overtime spent has reduced drastically.
· The conflicts between the onsite and offshore teams have reduced.
Reduced overtime across the years
5. [bookmark: _Toc5780505]Conclusion
Owing to the various corrective measures initiated, the organization has adapted a growth mindset, was able to build new capabilities, increase employee productivity and engagement and reduce attrition.
All this could not have been possible without an effective Human Resources department acting as a bridge between the higher management and employees.
Having been with the organization for more than 5 years, the last couple of years have been more exciting and challenging due to the push to acquire new capabilities and work on diverse domains.
6. [bookmark: _Toc5780506]References
The Relationship between engagement at work and Organizational Outcomes -2016 Q12 Meta-Analysis: Ninth Edition: https://www.gallup.com/services/191558/q12-meta-analysis-ninth-edition-2016.aspx
5 Powerful steps to improve employee engagement – Forbes https://www.forbes.com/sites/brentgleeson/2017/10/15/5-powerful-steps-to-improve-employee-engagement/#7e5cd098341d
Delivering through diversity – McKinsey & Company: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/delivering-through-diversity
Book 1: Human Resource Management Text and Cases, 8th Edition, K Ashwathappa.
Book 2: Organizational Behavior, 16th Edition, Stephen. P. Robbins, Timothy. A. Judge, Neharika Vohra.
Skills acquired 2015 2016 2017 2018 1 3 5 4
Attrition 2015 2016 2017 2018 15 12 8 4 Hiring 2015 2016 2017 2018 20 10 12 11
Hrs. spent 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 140 220 350 600 500