What and Who Needs Sharpening?

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Knowledge without doubt is the key for competitiveness and the tremendous growth companies have experienced. Sunder Rajan, Director- HR, Flextronics Software Systems was speaking at Sharpening the Saw , an event conducted by TAPMI in association with Businessgyan.

When I started my career, I reported to my executive director that he needed to go for training, He called me up the next day and I almost lost my job. That was the state of mind at that point of time if we asked our bosses to sharpen their saws. Today, I can tell my boss to acquire certain skills and it would be taken healthily. A phenomenal transition has taken place in the last two decades. But there is more to be done. 


Ten years back, on the HR front, we had a lot of tragedy - tragedy in the sense that either people accepted us for their needs or they used us for their business requirements. They never recognized us as a function or a profession. But today, the demand for the honest HR professional is much more than the number of professional qualified HR people available.


While we have programs for the whole organization, we also need to concentrate on the high potential, high performance resource at every level including the CEOs.


Also, we need to be more futuristic. We need to do more planning than doing and not the other way round. There is a big gap between delivering a program and giving results and seeing whether the input has been digested and subsequent contribution has been made. Thus, we need a futuristic plan and we need to be ready. Readiness does not mean preparedness for today. It also implies being prepared for tomorrow.


We might have intellect, talent or experience but that does not mean that is all. Like software is applied in various domains, similarly, we need to apply all these capsules to various situations. But these situations do not come as and when we want them to come. We may need all these for corporate alignment, company mergers, efficiency promotions, speed enhancements, etc.  


We need to have a learning culture in the organization and the leader should inspire others to learn. Otherwise the training either becomes a fashion or a mundane routine. The passion to improve others and ourselves is missing. Unless there is an inspired learning culture, learning can not be a habit in the organization. Thus people who are charged to deliver, are also happy to do so, only then can they motivate recipients and in turn utilize them.

Managers may not be leaders and also leaders may not be mentors.


‘Managers as trainers' is another important factor because there is a fulfillment of certain need on either side. The trainer has the need of self improvement and the subordinates have the need of learning. Also, only if something is home grown, it can be taken forward. The best we have in the organization, (it can either be in skill, knowledge or expertise), should be made as trainers. By doing so, the organization will become better, the cost of training will go down and the culture of learning will go up.

Learning needs to be totalistic and proactive. 


learing-diamond Culture and leadership alignment is another important factor in an organization. There are a lot of non-alignments across functions because of various reasons like experience, wisdom or knowledge gap. Thus the managers need to learn to acquire skills to reduce this by a self-learning process.


One may get leadership by designation but the true leadership is only when you are able to impart knowledge and experience and demand respect in return. Mere jargons and titles will not carry us long.


Another tragedy we have faced is that there is a big gap between business knowledge and solving problems. One of the major problems we are facing today is that we need a cycle of time for learning and the turn over of professionals is so high that there is no holistic learning in the organization. Learning needs to be developed as futuristic and intellectual than to be reactive. Money is not the ultimate motivator to retain people.


There are three dimensional requirements for learning. The first is the domain. We must be sure of what is our function and our job is and we should do learning in that particular domain. Second is cross functional skills. In an organization, we work as an integrated team and not as individual consultants. The third is the people's skills. 


It is not necessary that managers are the leaders and also leaders may not be mentors.


An important question arises over here - what is necessary to learn? The need to learn has to match with the time, the methods and also the climate and environment of the organization.


To conclude, it is essential to remember that the prerequisite for a leader and a mentor is that unless he has an appetite to learn, he cannot create an appetite for learning.  


Reported by Prachi Kasliwal consulting correspondent for Businessgyan. 


Issue BG64 July06