Saturday, January 15, 2011

Psychological contracts of engagement

The setting was truly inspiring. The introduction & the 'vote of thanks' were made by two XLRI alumni -each with over 2 decades of industry experience. Both referring to a Mentor -also another XL alumnus and their senior, who was instrumental in shaping their thinking in the formative years!!

The presentation was a teaser-to provoke one to think, and trigger the HR practitioners to stretch -but the icing on the cake, was the Q&A session that lasted longer (than the talk) as the patient speaker shared his wealth of experience!!

I was extremely lucky to have been present at the latest Formula One HR Consulting "Meet the Mentor" series of sessions conducted by NHRD Hyderabad, when Mr P M Kumar, Business Chairman, Group Corporate Development of the GMR Infrastructure was the Mentor. Coming from an authority –who has been closely involved in charting out a succession plan for Family businesses, he waxed eloquent to help us define 'institutions' as distinctly different from mere organizations.

While he did briefly allude that even families can learn from businesses, he was essentially conjuring up a platform for building leaders of high integrity and commitment to build institutions of integrity.

To me, as a recruiter, the takeaway was the way he described the way an organization ( that usually sees individuals operate out of ‘economic’ and ‘professional’ contractual obligations) to evolve into an institution –had to tap into the potential of building and nurturing a predominant ‘psychological’ contract or a ‘sense of belongingness’ being rooted in the engagement!

One could classify the hierarchy of members into 5 levels : associate, professional, institutional, co-founders, and Founding members *. (*the traits of each of these levels are very succinctly explained in the presentation-a copy of which is embedded here for reference. )

And the success of the talent management system depended on how one could promote conversions from each of these levels into higher level of commitments.

Yes, the speaker did hint how these traits could be easily tracked-and identified even as one was interviewing a newcomer into the organization. And quipped that one could get an inkling of the same- the way a prospective employee engages in the salary negotiation-is apparently a great indicator of the innate nature of the person! Would she/be bothered about the larger needs of the organization, compared to the immediate personal interest?

Reflecting on the the types of memberships, here are a couple of scenarios that I could immediately relate to-

-Haven't we all come across several instances in our own workplaces? Some join with a clear agenda of a stopgap arrangement. Some others come to leverage on the brands impact on their resume. Some want to learn a few competencies/new skills. A better salary. Maybe a balanced work life. Yes, one can so easily identify the varying shades of the ' membership' in our team , right? Whatever their initial motivation is, the challenge for any employer is to engage the persons, and see how best one can enhance the contribution or commitment.

- Why do we compare different folks in our team? I shudder to think that even as an individual, one shows different traits -across the various different engagements we have!

Let me take my own example. Am associated with a range of different organizations or clubs. Affiliations. Trusts. Alliances. Circles. Confederations. Cooperatives.Unions. Consortium.Guilds.Even outfits. And even as one reflects on the subtle variances of the vocabulary-it is not the 'same me' who is consistently effective in each of those bodies. In some places I am an active volunteer, somewhere I am a passionate founder-and a casual visitor at most others!

Isn't there some larger purpose in getting an increased engagement level from the same person? Often I reconcile trying to rationalize as I pay for the membership-and equate the value I derived! Some places I am content being seen as encouraging the event by just being present.In some places, by not being a hurdle to those contributing :)! Surely in some -in the firm's formative years, I did spend considerable time-and can afford to be hands off for a while?

And when one juxtaposes the employment perspective- it is revealing that all employees are paid a salary for being part of the organization. Yet- the engagement levels are disproportionate :)!

How do we address the conundrum?

As recruiters, can we make an impact in hiring potential 'institutional members'? Only then can we think of improving the conversion rates of 'associates' into 'professionals' and then upgrade the 'professional members to institutional members' and so on -and so forth!

I shall be glad to have more help identify potential institutional members. As usual, I welcome the offline comments to help shape careers!

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