Category Archives: Issues of HRM in Pakistan

New Trends in Pakistani HR Profession

Pakistani organizations are witnessing a continuous   change in systems, management cultures and philosophy due to the global alignment. Role of HR manager is shifting from that of a protector and screener to the role of a planner and change agent. Personnel directors are the new corporate heroes.

Organizations now need to prepare themselves in order to address people centered issues with commitment from the top management, with renewed thrust on HR issues, more particularly on training .To leapfrog ahead of competition in this world of uncertainty, organizations have introduced six- sigma practices. Six- sigma uses rigorous analytical tools with leadership from the top and develops a method for sustainable improvement. These practices improve organizational values and helps in creating defect free product or services at minimum cost.
Human resource outsourcing is a new accession that makes a traditional HR department redundant in an organization.

With the increase of job mobility, recruiting competent people is also increasingly becoming difficult; organizations are also required to work out a retention strategy for the existing skilled manpower.

Training and development extends beyond information and orientation training to include sensitivity training and field experiences

Compensation systems should support the overall strategic intent of the organization but should be customized for local conditions.
HR Managers should do the following things to ensure success-

Employ innovative reward plans that recognize employee contributions and grant enhancements.
Indulge in continuous quality improvement through TQM and HR contributions like training, development, counseling, etc
Utilize people with distinctive capabilities to create unsurpassed competence in an area, e.g.
Decentralize operations and rely on self-managed teams to deliver goods in difficult times e.g.
HR Managers today are focusing attention on the following-
a) Policies- HR policies based on trust, openness, equity and consensus.
b) Motivation- Create conditions in which people are willing to work with zeal, initiative and enthusiasm; make people feel like winners.
c) Relations- Fair treatment of people and prompt redress of grievances would pave the way for healthy work-place relations.
d) Change agent- Prepare workers to accept technological changes by clarifying doubts.
e) Quality Consciousness- Commitment to quality in all aspects of personnel administration will ensure success.

Due to the new trends in HR, in a nutshell the HR manager should treat people as resources, reward them equitably, and integrate their aspirations with corporate goals through suitable HR policies.


HRM professional’s life-cycle stage

An enthusiastic HR professional at an HR forum once told me that she felt encouraged by the ‘maturing up’ of HRM profession in Pakistan. She pointed to Unilever, Pakistan Tobacco and Engro Foods as examples. When I asked: Do these three organisations represent Pakistan’s 50,000 private and public limited companies, she remained upbeat. She said: “All Pakistan’s companies are opportunity for HRM. We shouldn’t see opportunities as problems.” As an appreciative observer of how HRM practices developed in the past 20 years, I’ve often thought about what the young lady said. Is the HRM profession ‘maturing’ in Pakistan? You can argue the HR profession left its “administration” eggshell behind 15 years ago.

You might say almost all business schools in Pakistan teach fairly standardized formal HRM. Professional HR forums and societies have formed to diligently discuss HRM. Companies take in 150-200 fresh HRM people every year. Companies want to retain high-performance employees. Surely all this tells us HRM in Pakistan is now a ‘mature profession’. The Question is: If it has become a ‘mature profession in Pakistan, then what makes CEOs of Pakistani companies interpret HRM so differently? Quick answer: Pakistani CEOs simply do not know what HRM is. I find it difficult to buy that. I have had the discussion one-on-one with many ‘seth’ and ‘modern’ CEOs during the past 10 years. Their understanding of HRM has usually been quite remarkable. Their fellow CEOs discuss it; they have read about it; they have attended courses abroad; they listen to HRM speakers; their employees tell them about HRM.

There is so much out there about HRM, I think it’s grossly misleading to assume that Pakistani CEOs interpret HRM differently because they don’t know what it is.

Consider this idea: Pakistan’s HRM profession is also developing along a life-cycle curve that can be defined on two dimensions. One is penetration of potential users. Way back in 1988, there were 21,000 Pakistani owned private/public limited companies in Pakistan. Although talk about HRM had begun, it had not penetrated any potential users among these. HRM’s Introduction stage began roughly in 1992-93. An informal survey I conducted suggested HRM had penetrated about 0.5 per cent of 30,000 Pakistani owned private/public limited companies in some form. The Introduction stage continued roughly up to 2000. Today, eight years later, the HRM profession is probably in its ‘Early Growth’ stage. I estimate that perhaps three and a half per cent of Pakistani owned private/public limited companies – some 2,000 firms – use HRM functions in one form or another ranging from standard recruitment procedures to managing training, to setting up HRM systems to truly strategic HR value-addition.

How long might the profession take to approach life-cycle ‘Maturity’? Given the nature and structure of Pakistani-owned companies, HRM’s penetration at ‘Maturity’ will be when it reaches at least 33 per cent of potential users. Since it took about 15 years to develop from ‘Introduction’ to ‘Early Growth’, my guess is the approach to ‘Maturity’ will also take another 15 years. By 2020, the HRM profession may penetrate about 20,000 organizations.

But penetrating potential HRM users is only the half story. The other life-cycle dimension for the profession is width of HRM integration. Any good marketing person would tell you: Penetrating a potential user market is one thing; achieving intensity of use is quite another. So, though HRM is currently present in about 2,000 Pakistani-owned companies, the width of HRM integration in these companies is vastly different.

The majority of these users – perhaps 85 per cent – have integrated HRM narrowly to personnel administration, recruitment, and off-the-shelf training. Some – perhaps 13 per cent – have widened HRM to selection, compensation policies, performance management and basic career planning. It is 40 odd Pakistani owned companies, the top 2 per cent that have relatively the widest HRM integration. If this analysis resembles on-ground reality, can one still say the HRM profession is in the ‘Early Growth’ stage? Yes, indeed

Challenges Fresh Graduates face before and after induction into the working class.

Young graduates should, spend their time to check the online resources for their job hunt. They should take internship breaks before going for the Masters Degree or even getting the relevant experience to the related field as an intern, trainee or volunteer. They should take time off to plan their career rather to get some part time job earning for their pocket money. Proper drafting can channelize their career prospects and even if they try for part time work they should know where to knock the door.

The current scenario suggests that in early stages peer group at educational institutions affects career choice, an example of herd mentality. For some it is parental choice or desire, while for others family trade is the decider. I have worked with individuals who found after taking the plunge that their career choice wasn’t quite what they wanted. After exploring the subject, some got new insights and decided they were okay with things as they were; others opted for something after their hearts, even if the income was less. It boils down to one’s individuals values and their compatibility with what they do.

Also there is a clear disconnect between what our country’s economy needs and what we are teaching our students in schools, colleges, universities and technical institutes and most of them do not want to venture into career counseling as it hurts their business prospects and they lack that mindset too. Hence, we do not have a thriving industry-academia business incubation culture which is the lifeline for developed countries and some of the under-developed too and one of their main reasons for progress.

Career Counseling is need of the time and needs to be a policy statement at all institutions of higher learning and at organizations employee counseling needs to be in place as well. This will not only increase retention but will also enhance employee productivity.


New entrants in the field of HR

Thinking of opting for Human Resources Management as a career? Great, but before making this career decision, you need a crash course in the real HR practices prevailing in our local business scenario. All those case studies in your books will now have to take a back seat.

Here’s what you need to do to start off as an HR professional:

  1. Intern for at least a month in a two or more different organizations and industries. The more DIVERSE organizations, the better exposure you get. Try observing all the HR functions within these organization to figure out what interests you the most. Get hold of any relevant project/assignment that you can get your hands upon.
  2. Interact with HR people from all levels (from junior management to department heads) and ASK all the questions that come to your mind regarding working in the HR arena, especially their personal experiences.
  3.  After getting a little taste of HRM, decide whether you can spend the major remaining portion of your life doing this.
  4. Once you join the league, keep your eyes on the challenges that may come your way from day one. The challenges range from ethical dilemmas, balancing the employer’s and employees’ interests to MANAGING our own emotional labor. Keep in mind that any entry level position in HR here in Pakistan can pose you with repetitive, clerical/data-entry sort of work. BE PATIENT as this phase will pass out eventually and you will get to do a lot of analysis and decision-making tasks as you gain expertise and exposure.
  5. Acquiring the RIGHT skills and keeping them up-to-date is vital in these times. Your key characteristics & skill-set to be a successful HR professional should include an excellent customer service attitude, a high emotional quotient (EQ), clear ethical values, ability to learn, UNLEARN and re-learn, analytical skills and most importantly a tech-savvy mindset so that you can implement the latest technologies to AUTOMATE HR processes. Always be on the lookout for the latest industry developments that can help your department achieve higher standards.


Power of Innovation at Work

Innovation is the process of making something new and of value. When we think of business innovation, two things typically come to mind:

 (1) research and development departments bringing new products and services , and ….

 (2) new systems and processes stemming from business process reengineering.

Innovation doesn’t have to be as complex as this. Innovation is something that every one of us, at every level of an organization, can participate in.

Innovation on a grand scale is what can allow companies to excel. Look at some of the most influential businesses: Apple, Microsoft, and 3M. How many people want an MP3 player other than an iPod? How many computer operating systems have most people used, apart from Windows? What do you call those little pieces of colored paper that have sticky edges?

These companies are all examples of business innovation at its finest. They’ve made it a strategic priority to be groundbreaking and creative. At some level, though, all organizations need to be innovative, and to evolve their processes and products continuously.

Businesses that don’t change risk being left behind. To avoid that risk, put the power of innovation to work. This could mean ensuring that you’re doing the best with what you have.

Do you monitor your employees?

A surge in the usage of media and availability of technology is an overwhelming, widespread fact. Today, our every move is technology-driven and media-centric, especially at the workplace where almost every action is governed by technology and media. This may give us a sense of limitless power and allow us to pursue tasks in a constraint-free manner. However, not all organizations today are that liberal with their provision of media usage.

‘Electronic monitoring’ in companies that may include observing an employee’s use of the internet or e-mail services, ensuring proper use of telephone equipment and voice mail, and audio surveillance of employees – is a trend that many employers are adopting, so as to have a firm grip on their employees’ knowledge, workplace flexibilities and more.

To a certain extent, employers should be permitted to enforce prohibitions on the usage of media but resorting to delicately and cunningly monitoring by means of tracking systems, tabs on emails (personal or work-related), etc stirs a sense of faithlessness and disloyalty in the mind of the employee. The HR manager of today must be careful while dealing with an employee who shows complete dependence on the social media. The HR manager may permit the usage of social networking sites but should have the right to object against any furthering of private/personal matters pertaining to the business.

Employers should devise HR policies to preserve the rights of associates (employees). The HR manager of today should practice varied methods.  Distributing policy handouts to employees, information-sharing through interactive online training systems are a few such tools to ensure just that. As a part of the induction and orientation of new entrants in the organization, it is advised to make the employee familiar with the processes and policies in the organization, whether it concerns the net usage or any other company procedure. Through this, the employee gets familiarized with the processes and policies, and employees are made to realize the need to secure certain information and also maintain confidentiality at all times.

So, electronic monitoring is not an absolute HR offense as long as the employee is made aware of the nature of monitoring that will be conducted.

The Recruitment strategy should be revisited in Pakistani organizations

The scarcity of talent is an imminent concern in Pakistani Organizations. Businesses need to adopt a long-term approach to ensure they have the right talent to achieve their business objectives. A robust recruitment strategy can ensure a company’s business strategy is supported by having talented people to execute it.

With fresh graduates from Business schools and many more experienced professionals around, why is Pakistani Organizations  still struggling to fill ‘mission critical’ positions with the right talent? “Even though the B-school campuses are churning out thousands of graduates each year, there seems to be a gap between the industry needs and the quality of talent available.

The main reason behind talent scarcity is the fact that the demand for talent is increasing in Pakistan , but the supply is limited as individuals lack ‘mission critical’ skills to some extent, and at some instances companies fail to attract qualified and skilled talent for one or another reason.

To bridge the gap between the industry and the academic sector, companies needs to:

  1. Work closely with students and several bodies such as educational institutions, government, privately-run finishing schools, etc.
  2. Take several initiatives to set up training infrastructure on their own.

As we know, the industry outpaces academia in keeping abreast of changes. How can recruitment practices be strategized for sourcing talent by organizations? The approach must be to:

  1. Target fewer educational institutions more intently,
  2. Build a strong relationship of mutual understanding through sustained engagement and use that relationship to meet a big chunk of our talent requirement.
  • We should try to make our interactions on campus as innovative as possible.
  • Our application process should be tailored to better understand students on a more personal level.
  • Our senior leadership team should spend a lot of time on campus interacting with students

 Businesses need to adopt an innovative approach to ensure they have the talent they need to achieve their business objectives. To develop a clear talent management strategy and to increase awareness of available talent and successors, organizations should conduct regular talent review meetings which prepare employees for a variety of business changes, such as mergers, company growth, or a decrease in talent needs. A talent review meeting should be designed to review the current talent status and future successor needs in the organization.

A victim of discriminatory behaviour at work?

There are so many forms and shapes of discrimination that, at times, it is very hard to distinguish when the line is being crossed. For instance, you might be paid less than your counterparts because you’re younger and assumed to be inexperienced; or maybe you’re treated differently because you are “older” though you’re fit as a fiddle and ready for work; maybe you’re not hired for client servicing because you’re “not presentable” despite the fact that you have talent; or maybe an incompetent employee earned the promotion because of a financial crisis she is dealing with and the boss is more empathetic towards her. Yes, discrimination comes in many shapes and forms and the only way to fight it is to recognise it. Age, gender, sexual orientation, physical appearance, disability, caste, creed and location are just a few of the factors inspiring such behavior.

So, what can be done to increase awareness and help ‘victims’? “HR and top management must publish a people management policy/procedure handbook that covers a descriptive stance of the corporation on its equality policy. Any breach of such a policy can be brought to the notice of the HR and management team members by the aggrieved person. “An open-door system backed by a well-defined policy will ensure that such incidents are automatically brought to the notice of the HR managers

“The victim, in such cases, must state very firmly that the behavior is not appreciated and should be stopped. If the behavior is repeated, one must approach HR. Following this, HR must investigate any complaints quickly and thoroughly. If any instance of harassment or bias is noted, the associate should be cautioned and if required, counselled. What is critical is to ensure that business leaders are also made aware of the potential damage from discrimination and the manifestations, so that they can recognize and nip it in the bud

However, many resort to ignoring the problem with the hope that it will disappear. “Often, employees wait till the situation has worsened. This causes problems since not all types of discrimination can be spotted by HR. HR can spot discriminatory behavior at the time of making employment offers, providing newer roles and during performance management. Most often, it becomes necessary for the employee to bring the matter to attention. In addition to this, it helps to talk to peers

 Despite several attempts by companies to eliminate such issues, it all begins with the employee’s willingness to take action. In many cases, just being assertive or using the right verbal/non-verbal gesture helps. To aid this, a culture of transparency needs to be created within organizations. Also, one must be aware of where the line lies and the repercussions of crossing it.

HR Manager Effectiveness in Pakistani Organizations

Here are some attributes;  HR Mangers in a Pakistani organization can adopt to become effective in their role:

  • Recognize yourself as the HR Manager. There are certain competencies which I have discussed in my article, made use of them. You are required to play a certain part in the organization, figure it out.
  • Scope your role properly that suits the organizational needs.
  • Identify your priority areas that will help you create the most important pact in the organization.
  • Identify the priority areas for the organization and align your efforts towards those areas.
  • Make a realistic HR plan.
  • Gain credibility with every action of yours as the HR Manager. Improvise organization processes and focus on employees’ skill and knowledge development.
  • Strive to gain knowledge in your sphere of work and develop your own HR Skills and competencies.
  • Speak more of the organization lingo and less of HR Language. You work with people who are not from your profession so it is better to learn the language the large part of the organization speaks.
  • Networking has become an eternal HR attribute. The better you’re at networking within and outside your organization, the more your effectiveness as the HR manager.

The new thinking on KPIs – and why we are working with the wrong measures

In Pakistan, there is no company   who thinks they have KPIs, which are measured monthly and quarterly.

Many companies are working with the wrong measures, many of which are incorrectly termed key performance indicators (KPIs).  Companies with 20 or more KPIs have a lack of focus, lack of alignment and under achievement.  , very few organisations really monitor their true KPIs.  The reason is very few organisations have explored what a KPI actually is.

Key Performance Indicators represent a set of measures focusing on those aspects of organisational performance that are the most critical for the current and future success of the organisation.

KPIs should be monitored 24/7, daily and a few maybe weekly. All good KPIs that I have come across, that have made a difference, had the CEO’s constant attention, with daily calls to the relevant staff.

 A good KPI will affect most of the core critical success factors and more then one balanced scorecard perspective.  In other words, when the CEO focuses on the KPI, and the staff follows, the organisation scores goals in all directions.

So if KPIs are those few measures then what are the performance measures we are using? KRIs are measures that have often been mistaken for KPIs include:

  1. Customer satisfaction
  2. Net profit before tax
  3. Profitability of customers
  4. Employee satisfaction
  5. Return on capital employed

The common characteristic of these measures is that they are the result of many actions. They give a clear picture of whether you are travelling in the right direction. They do not however tell you what you need to do to improve these results. Thus key result indicators provide information that is ideal for the Board, who should not be involved in management.

A good KPI therefore has a flow on effect and should tell  about what action needs to take place.



%d bloggers like this: