101 HR Problems- 3
Updated: Aug 12, 2020
"Dr Ashish completed his masters and doctoral studies in Chemistry in the USA a couple of decades ago and worked in a well-known global pharma research lab since then. About nine months ago, he took up an interesting assignment in India to set up a state-of-the-art research facility and lead a team of about 200 scientific staff.
He called his HR SPOC for an urgent meeting with a single point agenda.
Dr Ashish opened the meeting saying, “As my HR support, can you please come up with a way to terminate people quickly once the decision is made by the Lab Head? I want to make the life of a Lab Head easy without having to continue with people once they don’t like them!”
“Dr Ashish, I can understand the urgency to get done with the decision. But we need to have a clear reason for such terminations. Either non-performance, misconduct, any unethical practices in the research lab ... we need some valid reason which is documented by the Lab Head”, HR SPOC explained.
“I know you will come up with all these bureaucracy. Why cannot we pay their money and get rid of them? Let us say even if it is due to the whimsical nature of the Lab Head. As someone paying their salaries, why cannot we as an organization terminate employees, if we don’t like them?”
HR SPOC faces these type of conversations every once in a while and feels often stressed out."
One of the many solutions:
These are the symptoms of several underlying problems. It is an indication that significant work needs to be done in areas like:
l Organizational values towards the way people are treated
l Orientation to local compliance as per the rule of law
l Competence of people managers in handling teams and their performance
Unless these above areas are addressed, such requests from business heads and functional heads keep popping up and HR SPOCs will keep handling such sensitive conversations. To work on these areas and to build a culture where people are respected and non-performance is handled in a professional way, HR needs to get a buy-in from the top leader - MD or CEO or President. Such sponsorship is essential to bring about a cultural change. What if the top leader is not keen? It will be almost like a dead-end for the HR. It depends on the influencing skills of the HR team to negotiate with the functional heads and business leaders from issue to issue.
As an immediate action, the HR SPOC can listen, acknowledge and appreciate the need that Dr Ashish expressed. Gently reiterate the process needed to handle employee exits, but keep the solution open by proposing to seek an authentic legal opinion. Approach a credible legal expert and seek the view in writing. Share the same with Dr Ashish and also explain the implications to the organization, to the leader like Dr Ashish, Lab Head and HR if there were to be any non-compliance.
Having said that it is equally important for HR to help the organization to deal with any dead-wood. It is all about serving business interests through fair practices.
This situation was my real experience; names changed to respect privacy. The purpose is to reflect on the problem and how to approach the same; I tried one solution, but I strongly believe that there are many other or even better solutions. This blog is meant to share my experience and invite your views. Together, we can learn more!