Guest AuthorPrabodh Sirur

The corporate Oxytocin I witnessed from close quarters

By | Prabodh Sirur | In search of Postitive Intranets at In search of Positive Intranets

The essence of the staff management concept:

Some employees have a need to nurture other employees; It pays to connect them with those who have a need to be nurtured.

The history of Staff Management in our company, Logica

Three things happened at that time (mid nineties) in our UK offices. 

  1. Huge grad recruitments: The company started recruiting graduates in large numbers for the first time; there was a need to handhold these fresh grads.
  2. Orphaned onsite consultants: A large number of our technical consultants were placed on client sites; there was a need to keep them connected with the company. They did not know what was happening back home in our company.
  3. Inexperienced managers: Many technical people were promoted to take care of the growing population. Many of them wondered why people management was required at all; everyone, they thought, is supposed to be self-driven and should not need any spoon feeding. There was a need to support these first time managers.

To address these needs, the company decided to take help of some senior managers who had an inherent need to develop others

It was a voluntary task. And this task was over and above the person’s day job; not a full time role.

The good part

We received a good number of volunteers who were experienced senior managers. We created a community of these corporate citizens.

They were given an additional title called “Staff Manager”. It was a coveted role and not everyone could become a Staff Manager. They had to have a high interpersonal intelligence.

The staff manager role carried lot of respect; they could meet any senior manager of the organisation including the CEO thanks to their titles as Staff manager.

All employee communication was routed through the Staff managers. The Staff managers were often invited when framing people initiatives and people practices. They were invited to select the high performance awardees. They were a great storehouse ofinformation about great practices in the company; and also about the toxic managers in the company!

The Staff managers had consultees across businesses. This helped them understand the overall business better and helped them, personally, to grow in their own careers.

The most important part was that this gave an opportunity for them to satisfy their need to nurture others.

The challenges

Like any function, the Staff management function too had its own challenges. I won’t bore you with all my challenges; but you will find the the following few interesting:

Time pressures

These Staff managers slowly became the permanent managers for employees because of the nature of our business – managing software projects for clients. This meant that an employee moved from one project to the other and had a different Line manager with each such move. Naturally, the career development needs and their performance management tasks moved from the Line Manager to the Staff Manager. This became a big time management issue for them.

Caught between two managers

Many a time, a Staff manager would approve a training for his/her consultee but the Line manager would not relieve the person because of business priorities.

A poor performance rating/ below-expectation salary raise would not be owned by either the Staff manager or the Line manager in some cases and the employee would be ping-ponged between the two to resolve the employee’s grievance.

The word ‘voluntary’ became a big hurdle

The Staff manager role was a voluntary task. Many Staff managers would withdraw from this role if they had a difficult project at hand. I would then struggle, especially at the appraisal time, to allocate his/her consultees to other Staff managers. Some would leave the company without handing over their consultees to other managers. That too was a challenge.

Most of my time was spent in managing grievances rather than focusing on the spirit of Staff management which was – connecting people  connecting those who had a need to nurture others and those who wished to be nurtured.

I forgot that Staff management was more to do with the potential of our employees than the performance. I was busy in the today whereas the concept was more about our tomorrow.

Of course, there were many golden moments

In spite of all the hurdles, there was a large number of managers who continued to contribute in all earnestness.

Many Staff managers had regular performance review meetings with the Line managers of the consultees and worked closely month-on-month with their people to bring out their best.

Many came forward to train the new Staff managers and employees.

Some developed so much of a bonding with their consultees that they became part of their families. They were invited for their family gatherings and fun-times; also during some tough times.

I have seen so many beautiful moments of this noble relationship.

Before concluding, I have to tell you this story.

This was some time in 2004. Rakesh was in sales in our Financial domain and was a great performer. We met once when he was in India. He looked a bit uneasy the way his career was going. He wanted to come out of sales and work on the business side. I spoke about Rakesh to our India CEO – Mike Weston. Mike, himself a great Staff manager, created a new role for Rakesh for a year – a role of a full time Staff Manager for my Telecom unit.

Surprisingly Rakesh accepted.

For Rakesh, it was a big career risk and for Mike, it was a loss of a great sales guy.

The role gave Rakesh a great insight into a totally new business domain and the people side of it. After a year, he was moved to run the Product Centre. Rakesh grew to become the Senior Vice President in our company; He was recently honoured with our highest global award called the ‘Builder award’. No mean feat in a 70,000plus company. I somehow feel that his stint as a Staff manager contributed to his success. The step Rakesh and Mike took was not a career risk.

Republished with permission and originally published at Prabodh Sirur’s Linkedin


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