Monday, February 04, 2008

Career planning -need for a paradigm shift?

I cant but hope the news item is only speculative!!
Most of the people in my generation would have given their right arm to be part of "HLL' !! The seventies and eighties saw the creme' joining Hindustan Lever as management trainees- and the career paths were legendary. The marketing blue eyed boys, weaved their way from field sales to brand management-after stints in market research & promotion- and created new product launches-some got the plum international assignments...
To see this article in the morning newspaper Hindustan Unilever to slash jobs is really distressing!!
But anyone with their eyes open -saw it coming. Can we call any single "Indian brand" launched from the stable in the last decade? Any memorable ad jingle in the recent past?
The article very aptly chronicles the transition...since the days India liberalised ;
- In the late nineties, HLL (as it was known then) faced an unexpected growth slowdown in its key markets of home and personal care and foods. This resulted in a situation where the company was unable to provide ample growth opportunities for its managers.
- the company decided to focus on 30 brands from its stable of 120 brands accentuated the problem of too many managers and too few sought-after jobs.
- Today, in the new Unilever system, a tighter integration with the parent has meant that the local entity is now seen as an activation centre, which means executing brand plans formulated outside India rather than on setting the more sought-after brand development and innovation agenda. "In several ways, HUL has almost just become a branch office for Unilever” .
The student in me is reminded me of the hey days of the Big Blue IBM, Xerox, and others whose relevance seemed to fade away with the changing needs of the world.
Are there any learnings for us? It is a cliche-that change is the only constant.
I for one, would advocate to anyone starting off their careers, or planning their next change-"it is what you do that matters -and really not so important where you do it"!! You are known by the contribution to the role/company -and so, it is very essential to be aware of the learning/growth opportunities each opportunity provides.
Maybe in the old economy-it was a safe bet to join the biggies-and be assured of the secure job and perhaps the company to chart out a decent career path for you. Today, in the intellectual economy, it is upto us, the individuals, to play a proactive role in choosing the right platform to learn/contribute. The brightest would be better off joining 'todays lesser known Davids'-and doing strategic initiatives than doing 'maintenance' or 'marginal roles' in the larger "Goliaths' where for a major part, you are lucky to be executing some tactics locally planned.
For the HR fraternity, it is more than apparent that we choose the 'horses for courses' approach. In any company, not all jobs are "developmental"in nature. So should not we be mentioning it to the job aspirants accordingly, while hiring? Else, we are only postponing the 'imminent attrition' once the smarter ones realise the lack of challenging roles to stretch!
Some of the larger Indian business groups have a very good system in place- to identify top performers -and put them on a fast track for plum positions in middle management and groom them for 'department head' positions. And then a couple of years later, further finetune the outstanding & consistent ones among them- for 'leadership positions'- and perhaps even kick start new SBU's, and keep in sync with the changing eco-system.
One needs to be re-inventing oneself -to stay ahead of the curve. I shall be glad to hear from all of you..


Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

I agree with this articles. I echoed the same thoughts in my blog recently. what a coincidence.

Anonymous said...

One of the paradoxes of jobs is that a cash cow, like Levers, with high market share and low growth offers great jobs but low job security.

A cash cow can afford to train you, pay you and give you great family benefits. They are also primarily defensive - they are at the top already - and spend most of their time reorganizing to keep their position. Hence, they drop you as fast as they hire you.

The good side is that other cash cows will be glad to hire you. When you are young, firms No2. and 3. in your sector will be glad to hire you too. Later they may be wary that you have never functioned in a situation where resources are short.

If you don't need benefits, the best bet is to head for the stars and be rewarded in cash bonus'. If you are young and can or need to take a risk to make capital gains, chase the question marks who will be substituting stock options for money. And if you are really broke, go after a dog. They pay the most, but you will thereafter have a career managing dogs and they can be in dangerous places too.

I am still recommending Levers to people on the basis of their presence in developing countries. I'm persuaded that the next opportunities are at the base of the pyramid. Gen Y like jobs which are "more than profit". Learn with Levers . . .

How to manage career instability, make a cooperative and when of you is asked to leave, all go together??

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