Don’t ask me that question!

Asking personal questions during an interview enables us to gain an insight into the person’s life and understand what truly drives him In modern management, we are supposed to look at people only as a set of skills A person may pretend beautifully in an interview and give all the right answers and we may end up hiring a senior professional who can disturb, even destroy, the organisational structure Darshan or gazing upon people with empathy to get an insight into their lives is a key tool in management
In many parts of the world, you aren’t allowed to ask any personal questions during an interview. You cannot ask the candidate questions related to gender. You cannot ask about their sexual orientation or country of origin. You cannot ask about their age or their religion. You cannot ask where they reside or commute. You cannot ask about their marital status or children or family in general.
Why? Because there is a very real chance that the person may sue you if he does not get the job stating that she did not get the job because she was discriminated against because of age gender nationality marital status family status race religion residence. If you wish to be a `global’ company, in all likelihood, you have to follow these rules. They are supposed to create a world that is fair and just. They also create a world that is impersonal.
In modern management, we are supposed to look at people only as a set of skills. We hire them for their skills and we pay them for skills provided. Period.Nothing more. Nothing less. We don’t hire the person. Just what she can do and deliver. Is that the right way to look at a human being? Apparently the courts say it is, because cases of discrimination are rising in countries with vast number of immigrants: people are being denied jobs because they are women, or gay, or black or brown or yellow, because they are from Iran, because they are Muslims or Hindus, because they are disabled or be cause they have to take three trains and two buses to reach the place of work.
So to stop discrimination the interviewer is not allowed to ask people a set of questions. They are really not allowed to do `darshan’. Darshan or gazing upon people with empathy to get an insight into their lives is a key tool in management. We need to understand who exactly we are hiring.Resumes can be doctored. Investigative reports can give a lot of data and a lot of gossip. But they rarely tell us about a person’s personality and how it will manifest in the context we are in. Is the person we are hiring a rule-following Ram or a rulebreaker Krishna? Is he a shape-shifting Vishnu or an indifferent Shiva? A control freak like Daksha or a self-indulgent king like Indra? A person may pretend beautifully in an interview and give all the right answers and we may end up hiring a senior professional who can disturb, even destroy, the organisational structure. We may, like Sita, end up with a Ravan. It is too huge a risk to take.
Darshan demands looking at who a person is beyond what he has achieved and what knowledge and skills he brings to the table. It demands looking at his career graph: what stage of his career is he at? Has he achieved something already or is he still restless and wants to prove himself? Has he failed at his last job or has he been hugely successful? Where does his restlessness and drive come from? Often this comes from being an outsider on grounds of age, gender, sexuality or race, that one is not allowed to probe. Darshan also demands looking at the family graph: what are the family responsibilities he shoulders? Does he have debts?
Are there ill parents? Young children?
These affect relocation prospects. These affect ambition and drive. A person who has too many responsibilities may not want to take too many risks in his life.One who has no more family responsibilities may like to take it easy. All these factors impact business. These are root causes that affect human behaviour.
Of course, if you really want to know, you can probe the interviewee gently and manipulate the conversation such that there is voluntary disclosure. The trick is not to ask pointed questions in cultures that are anti-darshan, that equate darshan with being hostile, intrusive and an invasion of privacy. We must remember that in many parts of the world, empathy may be desirable, but darshan is forbidden. In USA for example, you could be arrested for staring too long. And cynics can easily turn darshan into an excuse to ogle.
The funny thing is that humans yearn to be seen. We want to be seen for what we have achieved, admired for what we do and don’t do. More importantly we want to be loved for what we are. But institutions are designed to reject this basic human need; they believe indulging in this desire only leads to abuse. The only form of unabashed looking that is unequivocally allowed remains the closed circuit TV at work and in public places for security reasons, and of course psychological tests that peep deep into the secrets of your mind and personality.

Source : The Economics Times
Date : 28/8/2014

Top-up Schemes Can Help You Enhance Medical Cover

Experts say such plans ensure a higher sum insured at a cheaper rate. They, however, warn that one must go through the fine print to make the most of such schemes, says Preeti Kulkarni
Three non-life insurance companies -Tata-AIG, Apollo Munich and Religare Health -have rolled out health insurance plans with deductibles and top-up covers in the last two weeks. Insurers attribute the growing demand for higher sum insured to rising healthcare inflation. “Many people wish to buy higher covers of around `. 10 lakh because of the increasing cost of medical expenses and hospital charges, but they are unable to buy due to expensive premiums. Top-up covers offer policyholders the comfort of higher sum insured, while charging a lower premium,“ says KK Mishra, managing director and CEO, Tata-AIG General.
Diminishing employers’ group insurance coverage is another reason. Individuals who are covered under their employers’ group health scheme are a key target groups for such products. “Customers enjoy employer-provided health insurance, but due to cost pressures caused by growing claims ratio, insurance companies have been downsizing their group insurance portfolios by lowering the sum insured levels or introducing new sub-limits,“ says Antony Jacob, CEO, Apollo Munich. Moreover, many are concerned about losing the cover due to retirement or job switch. “Hence, there is a need for low-cost policies that can be switched into full-fledged plans at the time of retirement or when the need is felt,“ he adds.
Top-up covers or plans with deductibles could be cheaper than regular policies by up to 50%, depending on your age and sum insured. Some companies also offer add-ons at a miniscule cost (see table). Similarly, opting for a combination of regular plans and add-on instead of a single high-value policy could result in savings on premium. “Such products are ideal for individuals or families who are either already covered under a standard health insurance plan up to a specified sum insured, but want to enhance their overall coverage or are able to self-finance their healthcare requirements up to a certain limit,“ says Anuj Gulati, managing director and CEO, Religare Health Insurance.Top-ups and Deductibles Essentially, both work on the same principle -they come into the scene after the policyholders pay a part of the claim burden either from their pockets or their individual health cover (base cover, in insurance lingo). “Fundamentally, there is no difference between the two. Top-up plans `top up’ the already existing insurance policy of the customer and there is an inherent assumption that the customer already has a basic insurance cover (indemnity cover) in place,“ says Sudhir Sarnobat, CEO, medimana, a health insurance consultancy firm. Similarly, you will have to foot a part of the bill before the insurance company takes care of its share of the claim payout in the case of covers with deductibles.“This also means that one may not have to have an insurance policy in place to cover those out-of-pocket expenses. Barring these wordplays, there is no difference between deductible policies and topup policies,“ he says.Top-up vs Super Top-up While top-up covers can make up for your low base cover at a cheaper rate, you need to be careful while choosing one. Before buying a top-up or policy with deductibles, ascertain whether the fine print lets you make the most of the cover. “If the deductible applies to every claim, it is termed as a top-up cover, whereas if it applies on an annual basis it is referred as a super top-up cover,“ says Gulati. In simple terms, ascertain if the top-up comes into play after the aggregate amount claimed during the year exceeds the deductible limit or it is restricted to a single claim.
Sarnobat says a super-top-up is preferable as it takes into account multiple hospitalisations (or in case of a floater policy , claims by other family members) during the

Source : The Economic Times
Date :21/8/2014

Rush of IIT Offers Hints at Good Year for Grads – Devina Sengupta & Sreeradha D Basu Mumbai:

At IIT Bombay, job announcement forms given by cos are double that of last year

The first flush of pre-placement offers (PPOs) now being handed out at India’s leading IITs are pointing to a coming bumper placement season this year.
At IIT Bombay , job announcement forms submitted by companies are already double of what was seen at the same time last year. The number of PPOs at other IITs is also rising, offering yet another piece of evidence of a resurgent job market.
Companies make pre-placement offers based on performance of candidates who have interned with them. Many companies like Goldman Sachs and RIL now use this route more, as it helps them gauge candidates better, over longer periods of time and in real work situations.
Such internships at IITs end in August and the first PPOs are trickling in now.The flow will gather momentum by mid -SeptemberOctober and will continue till December 1, when the campus placement season begins.
Facebook started its campus hiring this year by offering international posts to students of IIT Bombay and IIT Kharagpur. Although the social networking company has not disclosed salary details to the colleges, it is expected to offer at least $120,000, which was last year’s package.
Microsoft has also rolled out PPOs at IITs, after offering ` . 79.5 lakh per annum pay packets for Redmond-based posts at non-IIT campuses recently. Deloitte is offering `. 21.3 lakh for domestic profiles.
Others who have offered PPOs, include Schlumberger, Directi, Adobe, Reliance, Shell Technology , Cadbury , Qualcomm, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, HUL, ITC, Samsung, VMWare, Samsung Research, LinkedIn, VizExperts, Works Application, Goldman Sachs (Tech) Intuit, Futures First and P&G. The companies can come again for campus placements to hire more.
Companies also use PPOs to get an early advantage in the war for talent at the placement season in campuses.
“This year looks very promising. The political & economic ecosystem looks very supportive,“ said Mohak Mehta, placement manager at IIT Bombay . Mehta said recruiters from Japan, Singapore, SouthEast Asia & Middle-East have shown special interest this year. The college has received 30 PPOs and is not expected to take long to cross last year’s total of 90 PPOs.
Monday’s count of PPOs at IIT-Kharagpur shows 51 offers, said Sudhir kumar Barai, professor-in-charge, training and placement of the institute. Expecting a return of big hiring, IIT Madras and IIT Roorkee have made changes in their placement methods to fit in more companies.IIT Roorkee will introduce parallel slot system where three slots of six companies each will hold interviews on the first day .So, 18 companies can pick their employees simultaneously compared with mere 3-4 recruiters per day hiring last year.
“This reduces hassles of managing company preferences for initial slots and more hires can take place. We did a dry run of parallel slot system during internship placements this year and it was a success,“ said NP Padhy , professor-in-charge, Training and Placement IIT Roorkee.
IIT Madras will start their placements in `graveyard shifts’ from 12 at night to 7 am on December 1. This will be done to navigate international time zones and have international companies recruit via calls and Skype.

Source : The Economics Times
Date : 21/8/2014

The Work Habits That Will Make You Successful

It doesn’t matter whether you are just starting out on your career or if you have years of experience behind you – making sure you have the right attitude and approach is vital.

And having the right attitude does not come about by accident; it comes from establishing the very best working practices and habits.

When I am looking to employ or promote people, one of the key qualities I always look for is a thirst for excellence. The very best people, in any walk of life, are those who are constantly challenging themselves and are setting themselves new targets.

And if you want to be one of those characters who is always looking to move forward and better themselves then you need to have the kind of working habits in place that will lead tosuccess. Here are a few examples:


There is an old saying that says if you’re standing still, you’re going backwards, and this is especially true in career terms. Are you somebody who is happy with your current skill set, or do you actively look to improve? If it is the latter,then you are exactly the sort of person most bosses look for. Put yourself forward for training courses, learn new skills – the more you push yourself and expand your skill set, the more valuable you become to your current and potential employers.

Commercially minded

This is basically about being proactive and removing yourself from your individual bubble. Think about the wider aims of the business you work for. Where could things improve, where could even more value be added? By having the overall vision of the business in your head, you will find new ways to generate revenue, brand awareness, or any other goals senior managers might have.


There is nothing better for a manager than to see his or her employees actively taking ownership of projects. Equally, nobody wants to be seen as someone who passes the buck. If something falls under your remit, ensure you are the one who sees it through – even if you inevitably have to delegate certain aspects of it.


I have spoken before about having the ability to ignore what I call the ‘noise’. This means being able to prioritise between the essential and non-essential, and focusing your energies on things that add the most value. Too many employees tend to get caught up in the ‘nice to have’ activities rather than things which are more critical to the business. The other advantage of prioritising yourworkload is that the quality ends up being far better. If you have ten things you need to get done, I would much rather you produced outstanding results on the most important ones, rather than mediocre results on all ten.


Throughout my career I have always been in the habit of regularly assessing my work and personal performance. At regular intervals I will analyse what I’ve done, how my businesses have performed and what I need to do differently. By having thisability to reflect – and sometimes criticise yourself – you are making sure lessons are learnt every step of the way.

Source : LinkedIn

A 3-year Motor Cover may Save You Many a Hassle

According to experts, other than the possible discounts on premium, a two-wheeler rider can avoid having to renew the cover every year by opting for a 3-year deal,says Preeti Kulkarni

You will be soon able to buy a motor insurance for your two-wheeler for three years at one go. The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (Irda) has recently allowed insurance companies to launch three-year third party motorinsurance policies for two-wheelers. You may be able to buy a comprehensivethree year cover, too, after the insurance companies file their products and the pricing mechanism with the IRDA and obtain the necessary approvals. It may be a while before longer tenure comprehensive policies hit the market.

As per law, vehicle owners must buy third party liability covers, but owning a damage cover (which, along with the third party cover, makes up comprehensive motor insurance) is optional. Saves Trouble & Some Money too “Many policyholders forget to renew their policy on time and they realise this only after they are caught by the traffic police during vehicle checking or in the worst case scenario, after they meet with an accident,“ says Mukesh Kumar, executive director, HDFC ERGO General Insurance. If you have trouble remembering the dates or attending to the chore despitereminders, a three-year policy could be the solution to your problem. “Owners often forget to renew their vehicles insurance on due date on an annual basis. It is estimated that over 40% of motor vehicles, including private vehicles, in India are uninsured,“ says re uninsured,“ says Arvind Laddha, CEO, Vantage Insurance Brokers.

Remember, driving without a third party cover is against the law and you may land in serious trouble if you meet with an accident. Also, it is a cumbersome process to get an insurance cover if you let your policy lapse. “After the lapse of a policy, renewing the insurance is a big hassle since most insurers want to inspect the vehicle to en sure that the vehicle has not met with any accident during uninsured period,“ says Kumar. You could also save on premiums if you buy a three-year third party liability cover at one go. This is because the Irda raises third party insurance tariffs -which are regulated -every year. This financial year, the rates were raised by 20%. This apart, it is likely that insurers will dangle the carrot of discounts to entice two-wheeler owners into buying long-term comprehensive policies, whenever they are launched.

“Premiums could come down as savings on insurers’ administrative costs can be passed on to customers,“ adds Ajay Bimbhet, managing director, Royal Sundaram Alliance Insurance. Laddha also says insurance companies will offer either a lower premium rate or better benefits, or both, for long-term policies. “They are likely to do this as they have an assured renewal pool for a longer period,“ says Laddha. No Clarity on No-claim Bonus According to experts, lack of clarity on no-claim bonus (NCB) could be a potential dampener for three year comprehensive motor products. Since NCB translates into direct discounts on premium, it can offset the advantages of buying a long-term policy. Laddha, however, believes that insurers will front-end the NCB in the form of discounts in premiums.

However, before signing up for a three-year comprehensive policy, you should enquire with the insurance company as to how it plans to deal with this aspect. If you are convinced about thevalue that a longer tenure policy brings to the table, you can evaluate products when they are announced.

The procedure for buying such products is unlikely to see many changes. You will have to complete the proposal form, with your personal and vehicle details and furnish relevant documents. The purchase can also be made online, with most insurers offering the facility on their websites.

Source : Economic Times

Date : 20-08-2014

HR’s tryst with data

People analytics is HR’s chance to be strategic
The Human Resources (HR) function’s tryst with data is very old. Ever since the organised way of doing business started, managers have been concerned with this clichéd question ¬`how to find the right person for the right job at the right time and cost?’ And the answer to this is still evading them.
So what is HR or people analytics or workforce science? HR or people management has traditionally been seen as an `art’, relying on use of gut or intuition while making people or HR-related decisions in organisations.However, recent developments have highlighted the benefits of using data while making people decisions, thereby giving them a semblance of data-based objectivity. This scientific approach to HRM in organisations has given birth to a new field called HR analytics, which lies at the intersection of data algorithms and intuition in making people decisions across the employee lifecycle. It is generally defined as systematic collection, analysis and interpretation of data to improve talent management decisions. It is equally important to know what is not HR analytics. Generally, it doesn’t include simple headcount or employee engagement score or attrition data. It is much more than these.
For a long period, HR has been striving to get a seat `on the table’ along with finance, operations and marketing functions to become a strategic function in any organisation.In its quest to become `strategic’, at the basis level, it has been demonstrating its value-add to business by showcasing metrics focusing on `efficiency metrics’ like lowering HR cost per employee or reducing cost of per hire, etc. Some other organisations have gone a step ahead and showcased ‘effectiveness metrics’ like employee engagement or satisfaction increase or employee retention increase to highlight HR’s value-add to business. However, Clevel executives have been sceptical of these metrics and these have been generally labelled as metrics for justifying the existence of HR without any tangible link to either topline or bottom-line performance. So this gap of showing how HR metrics link to business metrics has always remained. HR needs to move up the ‘measurement or metrics value chain’ from efficiency – effectiveness metrics to ‘business impact’ metrics to demonstrate the link between HR and business metrics. These impact level metrics require the use of advanced statistical modelling techniques and complex algorithms to perform two key types of analysis – predictive and prescriptive analytics.
Predictive analytics will inform C-level ‘what will happen’ – for example – who will quit next and prescriptive analytics will inform C–level ‘what can be done to prevent that attrition’.
So this kind of HR analytics purely based on data catches the attention of C–level executives and hence, provides an opportunity for HR to become truly strategic.

Source: Economic Times
Date: 19th August 2014

5 WAYS TO – Deal with a Difficult Team Member

A non-cooperative team member can be detrimental to overall performance, adversely influencing the behaviour of the rest of the team. Rica Bhattacharyya finds out how to deal with such a person.

1 Spot Signs Early Observe signs early on. – “Procrastination, blaming others and not trying for self improvement are signs of a non-cooperative team member,“ says Sudhir Dhar, associate director and head -human resources and administration at Motilal Oswal Financial Services.

2 Tolerate or Counsel Them – One approach is to live with the fact that you are stuck with a bad apple, says Ruchi Sinha, assistant professor of business, organisational behaviour, ISB. The other option, she says, is to diplomatically give them feedback and use motivational techniques.

3 Build a Social Contract – Social contracts between team members have a motivating influence, says Sinha. “Teams can develop a document that lists all the key behaviours expected from members,“ she adds.

4 Manage by Delegation – One way to handle non-cooperative members is to assign them responsibilities where they can work in silos. “Else, give them tasks that can be worked on independently thereby reducing the amount of face-time required with such members,“ says Sinha.

5 Report Them to the Higher-Ups – If all these interventions have not helped, the best option is to report the member to the team leader for a re-assignment. “At times, prevention is better than cure. The teams need to develop better ways to screen members,“ says Sinha.

Source: Economic Times

Date: 12th August 2014

Leaders Must Invest More In New Hires

Building a top-class team is the best legacy any leader can leave behind. Seems simple, but is an onerous task. We could offer a dream opportunity, a few extra slivers of silver and serenade a prospect till he says, ‘I do’. Hiring then becomes the easier part.
The idea is to help a new hire settle down well, be successful and most of all, be happy and fulfilled.

Of course, organisations have their own variants of on-boarding practices. Some are comprehensive, some not even skeletal. Some are purely digitised and lack the human touch. Others are left completely to human intervention.

The initial six months are key to the fledgling’s long-term survival. When not managed well, talent finds its own pathways.
And we are back to square one, hiring again. The financial costs are the lesser worry. Losing your brand equity in the talent market can be very debilitating. It hurts the personal reputation of individual leaders as a talent magnet, destroying far greater value than what one would like to acknowledge.

How can a leader ensure the honeymoon leads to a long and strong organisational relationship for the new entrant?
Never ignore the honeymoon period For every new person joining an organisation, it is akin to a young girl going to her ‘sasural’ (in-laws), full of hope but equally anxious at leaving an ecosystem behind. The on-boarding experience and the mornings thereafter cannot be left to a junior HR resource; nor can they be assumed to be secured by a cookie cutter technology surrogate. It needs your deep commitment.

Very often, I have found supervisors tempted to throw the new hire at the deep end of the pool to meet some immediate firefighting needs. That is poor strategy.
Sending unprepared soldiers to battle is not setting them up for success. It is crucial to ensure they understand the organisation, its people, its history and folklore. It is as important to make them feel accepted by the environment as it is to grow them out of their last company and wear the new colours with pride.
Inculcate pride and passion On a recent vacation, I experienced how people down the value chain can champion their organisation with passion and pride.
Some of them were new to their roles. Impressed with their energy and enthusiasm, the HR practitioner in me probed fur ther. It was obvious they all connected their roles with a larger purpose. They understood what customer delight would do for their organisation. There were not too many forms and documents; there was plenty of storytelling. They acknowledged that they had seen their seniors practise it.
Give people space Some managers like to micro-manage, which many fresh recruits, exposed to a different cultural reality, could baulk at. If everything had to be done the same way, why was the new person brought in? The first strain gets created right then. No one is wrong but it is important not to assume everyone new will enjoy a culture that may be normal to older managers. Give people space and time.
Have regular conversations Several managers don’t put in enough effort or time to reach out to a new recruit for an honest conversation. Of course, there are task reviews, and we assume that because the person us getting on with the task, all is well. Actually it may just be the opposite. Delivering a set of tasks may not mean the person is enjoying being there.
There could be too much fluidity in the new expectations, or the person could be missing old friends and work norms. Maybe the new culture is aloof or even suffocating. Or, home pressures could be preventing him or her from fully delivering.

Small issues not explored in time may result in your losing the precious talent you may have assiduously wooed. With new recruits, emotions are raw and sensitive.
Regular, easy and open-ended conversations are both a barometer and the therapeutic release to clarify and reaffirm. It looks so doable but is rarely done.
Give out praise and recognition It is important to understand the psychology of a fresh hire. However credible the track record, there is anxiety . It is useful to look for opportunities to acknowledge early wins.
Ask for feedback and ideas It is always useful to ask the fresh hire for feedback on practices in your firm or your function. The fresh recruit senses best in this period, and remembers some wonderful practices of the earlier job. It not only helps tap into fresh ideas to improve our own systems but more importantly makes the recruit feel valued.

Hiring and helping settle in quality hires is fundamentally every leader’s job. There cannot be an alibi. Nor can one aimlessly delegate this job. It sets the tone for a positive organisational culture. It makes the difference to the organisational brand.
Technology, HR, peers can all pitch in but the honeymoon must be every supervisor’s accountability. It needs your intent, emotion and time. You can then hope to dream your talent will be for keeps, not a premature separation.

The author is president and group CHRO, Reliance Industries

Source : Economic Times

Date : 1-8-2014

New India provides for fire claim

New India Assurance has made Rs 350 crore provision for a claim arising out of a fire in HPCL-Mittal Energy Limited’s Bhatinda refinery in June this year. In June 20th this year there was a fire in the Guru Gobind Singh refinery in Bhatinda which is owned by HMEL -a joint venture between Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPCL) and the LN Mittal Group. The fire had started in one of the pipelines of the vacuum gas oil unit.

Although the fire was brought under control the unit was shut down for repairs.

Announcing the results on Thursday , New India Assurance chairman G Srinivasan said that the company had to make a provision in respect of one large property insurance claim but refused to divulge client details.

Industry Sources, however said that the claim was in respect of the fire in the HEML refinery where the lead insurer was New India.

Srinivasan said that the company has recorded a net profit of Rs 311 crore in the first quarter an increase of 19% over the corresponding quarter last year. Buoyed by the surge in business from the Middle East, New India is opening a regional office in Dubai. The general insurer has also sought permission from the government to sell non-life policies in Canada.

Source : Times of India

Date : 1-8-2014

Govt rules out stake sale in PSU insurers

The government has ruled out selling shares in state-run insurance companies, following fears that a new provision in the Insurance Bill may result in stake sale in public sector general insurers.

The Bill introduced in 2008 had proposed amendments to the General Insurance Business (Nationalization) Act to allow GIC and other companies to raise their capital to meet regulatory requirements and expansion needs. Now, a new clause is proposed to be inserted saying, “Provided that the shareholding of the Central government shall not be less than 51% at any time.” Government officials told TOI that the provision was not meant to provide for stake sale in GIC or the four general insurers — New India Assurance, United India, National and Oriental Insurance — but enable them to raise more equity through fresh issue of shares, which will expand the capital base.

Soon after the amendments were circulated to lawmakers on Thursday, members fromTrinamool Congress demanded that the

government put in place safeguards to ensure that the fund-raising is only to meet specific purposes and does not turn into a tool to raise money by stake sale by companies.

During UPA’s term, there was discussion in the disinvestment department on selling equity in some of the public sector general insurance companies. But there was no progress on the issue and the idea did not move beyond discussion stage.

In the run-up to the Narendra Modi government’s first Budget, some financial sector representatives such as Kotak Mahindra Bank vice-chairman and MD had suggested that the Centre could raise funds by listing Life Insurance Corporation, but the idea clearly did not find favour with the administration.

Source : Times of India

Date : 1-8-2014