Guest AuthorPrarthana Sethumadhavan


By | Sakalya Holistic HR Solutions | Services across HR Consulting

In all of today’s households the absence of a maid servant can be your worst fears come true, especially for the women in the household. Nothing is of more paramount importance than they appearing at your doorstep at, their regular designated time on a daily basis. Well our household was no different! We had a healthy Attrition Rate, and finding a maid who could actually stick around seemed to be an equivalent of searching for that something that is always elusive. Well the talent pool to choose from to begin with was extremely limited to the number of maids frequenting the society or our place of residence; all of the above, pretty much like Organizations today, if I were to bring down organizations to the smallest of the micro levels.

Well, with such a limited talent pool, your particular image or lets call it a brand becomes paramount. Maids are extremely cautious and eager to gain maximum market intelligence before applying for your permanent vacancy! ` How is the employer?- she wants to know— Kind ? Benign? A shrew? A hard taskmaster? willing to grant leave? Not cutting the salary in case of taking leave? What are the work hours ? What is the level of flexibility? How many members in the family? How often do guests frequent this household (to calculate the extra work load!) ? How many maids have already left their housework? What are the reasons for the same!! Armed and fortified with so much of data prior to even considering your open vacancy, she makes a decision if whether at all its worth her while to take it up. If you are really lucky, she may be in dire need of a job and will consider your home, if not, its quite a bit of a tempting to make her even consider the same , given her own time commitments, family considerations and constraints. Does this ring a bell for Organizations today fighting an ongoing war to Hire Talent/ Skills and the difficulties in finding suitable experienced Talent for multiple vacancies at all levels? Potential Hires, Talent come to work for you if the conditions and the price offered, suits them and they can see some profit in taking up your opportunity.

Well if maids have their considerations … so do we- the Employers! Does she come on time? Is she a good worker? Does she need to be supervised for her to give an acceptable quality of work? Is she regular? What is the time commitment that she can give to the tasks in our house? Does she work in too many houses and have major responsibilities which will determine her time and inclination to work, what is her age?, Will she be capable of handling all the duties assigned in a comprehensive and efficient manner are some of the questions that we need answered before we can consider hiring them, bringing to light the sheer dichotomy of aspirations between a proposed employer and employee. The twain shall never meet right from the start! A successful hire happens when each party believes that they have given the least of the mental tradeoffs that they were willing to give up before the Negotiations process for the job even took place.

The next step – The Induction and Orientation of the maids in our household is an elaborate process in terms of what they can do and what they cannot, what is the Culture, likes, dislikes and the acceptable and unacceptable way of doing things at my place. My mother often steps into the role of a Supervisor, giving clear instructions regarding the expectations related to work, behavior expected and due deliverables at the end of the work hour/ day. This works well at the initial stages, but hey presto!, a couple of months into the system our maid is back to her old comfort zone and ways. She has her own way of doing things – Her favourite rant -`others do not have such expectations from her in the other houses that she works in and she cannot stretch beyond this point to do what you are expecting her to do!! A gentle nudge once in a way is done initially by my mother, fearing that she may lose the maid, and more importantly she will spread false rumours about us, thereby making finding another maid a living nightmare.

Feedback in organizations too is always a sensitive issue especially performance related. It has the capacity to arouse emotions to the highest imaginable possibility along with an elephantine memory of the perceived slight received. Fearing the conflict and deterioration in Interpersonal relations that will adversely affect the morale and quality of work, my mother valiantly puts up a brave front, and does the differential duties herself or the same is assigned to any other available resource in the house! At all costs the maid should not go!! This is pretty much like how organizations treat key and niche resources in their set ups, the employees, who on the other hand do not hesitate to throw their weight around!! We gently tiptoe around them, knowing that they are erring either in some duty or the way they handle their people or other stakeholders because replacing them and bringing up to speed the new resource to our learning curve and expectations would be equivalent to orbiting the Earth on foot. This always gives an undue leverage to the party to exploit . We are incapacitated by our own inability to self sustain should the need arise. We end up encouraging dead woodism in our homes and organizations.

Then comes Diwali or the Annual Appraisal time. Dreaded by employers and eagerly awaited by employees. Our maids have already communicated via a silent signal that they are expecting a bonus and an increment and this is a message that is communicated subtly well before the actual event. There is a clear understanding that services for post Diwali will be totally subject to how we have met with these unsaid and undeclared expectations, never mind the performance and carrying on of duties throughout the year, the lack of improvements despite several nudges and polite feedback and the absenteeism. The signal is always clear. If you want us then you need to pay us what is our due because that’s what is happening across all other households, and all maids are getting hefty bonuses and clothes and utensils and the works. ( a true reflection of employee expectations from their employers ) And so we pay, and should we ever so much as deny them what they think we had no right to, they no longer feel obligated to come and work for us and we need to start the whole process again. Save ourselves the trouble, is what we say to ourselves year after year. Exits generally are ugly ( if careful care and consideration is not taken) and erode all the goodwill in the relationship that we created in the span of the time that we were together in a professional relationship.

Besides all of the above, house maids today are very different from the people who came to work in households maybe 30 years back. Today they are equivalent to Knowledge Workers! One can no longer treat them casually, and we need to make conscious efforts to show courtesy and respect and interest in their needs and welfare. They have also brought in the concept of value added services to a new high. Every activity that is not in their original Role / Job Description is an additional activity and thereby worthy of extra pay. Where earlier all jobs were under the purview of ` to be done by the maid’ , today the jobs are clearly defined and the going rate for each of them is fixed. You can only increase the going rate , you cannot reduce the same or you won’t find any maid to come and work for you for any length of time. Salary and benefits are compared in the peer group and additional demands are made against Benchmarked Compensation And Benefits. Perks and Benefits that you give is all fine, but at the end of the day, what concerns them most is what their Net Take Home Salary is.. pretty much reflective of how people make their employment decisions. How much money will my Bank Statement Reflect?? This is the single most driving concern for all individuals on a monthly basis.

Today, however after much ado, valiant searches, conflicts and all the maid issues that most people face, ( and in the case of Organizations –human issues faced on a macro level ) — we have a harmonious relationship with those who come and work for us. While all of the of the above is, and can be applicable in a quirky turn of events, what we have got is a loyalty and a small sense of security that they will not leave our employment. My maids ( both of them) know that we understand the problems and challenges that they face in their lives and are willing to make allowances for the same when they are genuine and beyond their control, we trust them to come and do their jobs, we have asked them to share the responsibilities in case of absenteeism of one, but we pay each of them the salary without cutting the cost for a pre agreed period of time. Planned Leaves are informed beforehand so we can manage the work load or assign or cut down the same for the period of absence. We look to maintaining Transparency amongst both the maids who work for us and do not set one against the other or favor any one in particular. Both of them are valued for their contributions and unique roles played out in our house hold.

We look to developing them, and listen to their innermost desires and growth needs (one of my maids is learning spoken English) and in return for the opportunity to learn she is ready to do all tasks that she was never assigned, as her way to show gratitude and indebtedness. This is a fine example of Intrinsic Motivation to take on additional roles and responsibilities – ( a bane in corporates!).

Both the parties (the employee and the employer) are secure with each other, knowing that our understanding is perfect and we can each provide the other- The Parachute, if things go tough for either of us. Understanding, Empathy, Communication , Compassion and the secure knowledge that we are there for each other define our relationship. With all of this, even in case of a separation, we separate with Goodwill, knowing that even if not together we can count on coming back should the need ever arise

This is as close to an Octet that we get in relationships of any kind.. Little lessons in life, applicable to the smallest unit and to the largest enterprise.

The Key takeaways that I would like to reiterate is that there is a War for Talent or the Right Workforce whether it be a micro or a macro unit. Creating a right brand image that can attract this limited Talent force is important. A progressive culture where there is autonomy and decision making helps to retain talent. Compensation and Benefits are areas where there will always be a perceived gap between the core existing reality and expectations. Handling this boat requires deep understanding of workforce issues and tailoring the compensation and benefits as per the requirements. Appraisals, increments and performance management are areas that again require sensitive handling. In the end, what wins is Human Relationships of dignity, respect, and stretching beyond strict professional relationships and ` being there’ and being a part of the employees’ life in a holistic way. Neutering Insecurity in Organizations will help and go a long way in building and maintaining healthy relationships at the workplace as also in Retention. Observing basic Human Behavior and responses can help greatly to understand the same at all levels.

Republished with permission and originally published at Sakalya Holistic HR Solutions’s Linkedin  

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