The other day I was talking about this column to an acquaintance. I was telling them about the various themes that we dwell upon—offices, policies, co-workers, human resource (HR) departments, Sodexo passes—and the conversations that this leads to amongst readers—“He gets paid to write this every week?”
“So you don’t like human resources departments is it?” the acquaintance asked me.
“I think they are a pox upon this planet. A bubonic plague upon the heart and soul of the modern workplace. My dislike for them runs deeply indeed.”
“So, who will do their job then? You tell me! You hate them so much. But do you have a viable alternative?”
Suddenly my acquaintance was sounding quite passive aggressive. Or, indeed, aggressive. “I haven’t thought about that,” I said fearfully. “I will do so at the earliest opportunity.”
“You better, boy. Because I used to handle HR myself. And I thought I did a damn good job.”
Now, this acquaintance may or may not have been my father. And this turn of events may or may not mean that my brother is going to get both the house in Thrissur and the coconut palm plantation in Guruvayoor in his inheritance. While I will be left with, at best, nothing, and, at worst, one of the uncles.
But for the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about this. And I have arrived at what I think is a ground-breaking new concept: “Sidin Vadukut’s Revolutionary Model For The Human Resources Department Of The Future.” For convenience and ease of reference I am calling it “Concept Nayantara”.
This new department will be based on a system of ratios. Each member of the HR frontline staff must have at least 10 minutes available every working day to handle the problems of each employee under his or her purview. This means that he can handle six employees every hour. Now, of the eight hours available in each working day, the HR rep must set aside half the working day for such 10-minute interactions. The remaining four hours are set aside to follow up on the issues raised in those meetings.
Thus each HR rep must handle no more than 24 employees. The moment you think of hiring a 25th, you must hire an HR rep first. This is not to say that the HR rep must interact with each of his 24 wards on a daily basis. Of course not. Mother of God! No!
But if a situation arises where all 24 wish to speak to their rep, they will have at least 10 minutes each.
The next radical idea is work timing. The HR Department of the future must only come into work after lunch. So that the HR rep’s first four hours, meant for interactions and complaints, overlap with the employee’s last four. The reasons for this are obvious.
By the end of the working day, the employee has slowly accrued a list of HR-related botherations. And then, around 5pm, when it is all getting too much to handle, he/she looks across to the next cubicle and sees the HR rep fresh and enthusiastic and just bubbling to solve problems. Who, by the way, now has an entire four hours of peace and quiet in a half-empty office to get things done without employees constantly bugging them for updates.
Next we come to job competencies. What must fall within the purview of the HR rep of the future? My suggestion: Everything. Admin, payroll, finance, training and even, brace for it, information technology. Either the rep must handle these directly, or be the conduit through which other third parties are approached. In other words, the HR rep is the employee’s single-point contact for every non-work related problem.
Need more Post-It notes? Mail the HR dude!
Can’t figure out a mysterious deduction from salary? Call the HR guy!
Embarrassing business card that states you’re the “Ass. Manager - Back orifice operations”? HR man is at your beck and call!
BlackBerry on the blink? Should have bought an iPhone.
LCD projector not working despite trying every laptop of every employee present? Burn it.
Why should employees waste their time dealing with different people from IT and HR and admin and payroll and finance and…
What the HR rep will not be involved in is hiring. In fact, the department itself will not be involved in hiring at all. Even the individual HR reps will be interviewed and hired by the 24 employees he/she will be interacting with. Employees themselves will be hired by respective teams. HR will only come in at the last possible stage when contracts and salary accounts are involved.
And finally, appraisal. Given that the HR rep’s job is to keep you the employee happy, you the employee will appraise the rep’s performance. Each of the 24 employees will rate the quality of their rep’s work.
Yes, some people will call Concept Nayantara too radical. Some might even say it is brutal. But for the sustained excellence of the modern workplace, I believe this brutality is unavoidable. I hope many companies will investigate my concept closely.
Cubiclenama takes a weekly look at pleasures and perils of corporate life. Your comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
To read Sidin Vadukut’s previous columns, go to www.livemint.com/cubiclenama