It is a new world and the problems are unique. As organisations evolve with time, the business problems change even faster. If earlier, companies wanted people to follow well defined and designated processes, in the present age, they want people who can think beyond, think critically and laterally, and be real problem solvers.
People who can look beyond their designated tasks and functions, and take up challenges to solve a critical business problems will be the stars of today. This age demands that employees be problem solvers, irrespective of any certification, designation or role.
Sunil Ranjhan, director – HR, LG Electronics India
However, the potential of individuals to solve problems can be judged only when they are set free to choose between certain tasks. One cannot come up with innovative ideas and solutions if the task of problem solving is imposed on one. That means, workforce potential is not about what workers were recruited to do, or what they are certified to do, or even what organisations or leaders want them to do next. It is about giving workers more freedom to choose how they can best help tackle critical business problems as organisations and ecosystems evolve.
Sunil Ranjhan, director – HR, LG Electronics India, says “Today, we have evolved into an era of role crafting. The business dynamics have changed over time, and hence, changed the definition of workforce potential. Today, every individual needs to be a problem solver. Some level of freedom has to be bestowed on the employees to check how efficient they are at critical thinking. Unless people explore areas other than what they are certified with or hired for, the right potential can never be judged.”
George Thomas, CHRO, Essar Oil and Gas Exploration and Production
However, not everybody is equipped with the right skills to be set free to make decisions. Companies have to be extremely judicious about choosing whom to trust in such matters. Explaining the evaluation procedure in such cases, Ranjhan further explains, “Companies have to keep track of employee aspirations. The company goals should be at par with the employee aspirations in order to hand over some problem-solving task. Absolute parity is rare to find, but leaders have to craft roles around employees that match their profile and certification.”
Today, potential cannot be measured in terms of how a person is performing the designated function, but also how one looks at the other aspects of the business and accordingly makes decisions. A person who has that much potential can be used across various functions. An individual can become a leader only when he becomes a problem solver and shows eagerness to take up some other functions revolving around his role.
George Thomas, CHRO, Essar Oil and Gas Exploration and Production, says, “Truly potential employees express their interest to grow within a company. The more one performs tasks beyond certification, the better is the exposure and growth. Therefore, it is beyond doubt that the right potential workforce performs functions beyond certifications and designations.” Highlighting the benefits of having such people on board, he says, “Such people should be retained and encouraged to grow with the Company because they contribute to a great proportion of the Company’s growth. Retaining such people reflects a good HR Practice. It makes them realise that experimenting and problem solving may take them to a leadership level some day. However, analysis of whom to trust with such freedom is a critical function of the leaders. In this era, the best analysis can be done on the basis of the employees’ technical and behavioural skills.”
Manoj Rajimwale, group CHRO, Endurance Technologies
‘Workforce potential’ is a collective term. It comprises the competencies of each and every individual in the workforce. Individual potential varies from person to person. Similarly, ‘organisation’ is also a collective term for various functions being performed together to make some business out of it. Therefore, it is crucial that organisations also take decisions wisely about who can be assigned with some function beyond the role hired for. For instance, an employee looking after the logistics may have high potential to take care of any crisis arising around his role or take decisions on something that he is aware of, but he may certainly not be the right person to critically think about the issues arising in the human resources department. Therefore, going beyond the functions is also limited to a certain level, unless one becomes a part of the C-suite.
Elaborating this further, Manoj Rajimwale, group CHRO, Endurance Technologies, says, “Freedom to go beyond the designated function has to be bestowed depending on the functional competency. However, a highly potent workforce can never be controlled within boundaries. Employees with potential will always look forward to performing something new. Otherwise, their function becomes monotonous for them. The workforce with potential is always flexible enough to fit into any mould. People with integrity, themselves, come up to the leaders with varying and innovative ideas. As a boss, one has to be open ideas that suit the business needs, for there is no harm in accepting ideas that can help enhance productivity.”
The potential of employees can be judged by looking at their career graph and how quickly they have moved up to take up leading roles. As stated, only people with high potential and eagerness to solve problems in accordance with evolving business needs can become good leaders. Clearly, the definition of workforce potential is not confined to the certifications and assigned roles, but goes much beyond that.