Quiet Performers Get Their Day in the Sun

Cos find ways to recognise, reward low-profile but high-potential talent through special evaluation, nomination and feedback from peers and business heads

They are high on performance but prefer to lie low -getting things done and outshining others without making noise and demanding pay hikes. High performing low-profile talent is a prized asset in companies, and increasingly companies are looking to find ways to keep this pool happy.

Companies across industries -from mobile operator Vodafone, financial services firm Edelweiss Financial Services and travel portal MakeMyTrip to carmaker Maruti Suzuki and software firm SAP Labs -have either devised differentiated strategies to identify and acknowledge top performers who keep a low profile, or follow a pay for performance culture strictly on merit where personalitytypes don’t matter.

Vodafone, for example, has a programme called `Global Hero’ to acknowledge its low profile­high performers among managers, executives and frontend staff. Every quarter, Vodafone India recognises two such employees for their outstanding performance. And from among their eight quarterly `global heroes’, two are nominated to be their annual global heroes and are invited to London to be felicitated by group CEO and HR director along with global heroes from its operations across the world.

“Given the macro-economic environment and hyper competitive nature of this industry , the market for the right tal ent has perennially been on the boil. It has become incumbent for telecom operators today to be sharper in the way talent with the right skill sets in customer facing and frontline roles is retained, rewarded and recognised,“ said Ashok Ramchandran, director HR, Vodafone India.

Edelweiss, which has a three-pronged strategy to take care ofpromoting a lowprofile performer to leadership depends a lot on the culture of an organisation em ployees who like to keep a low profile or talk less, recognises low profilehigh performers through evaluation based on data and demonstrable achievements. “This helps to recognise the achievements of an employee while rewarding the performance with very little dependence on self-presentation,“ said Maneesha Thakur, group head, HR, at Edelweiss Financial Services.

Through Edelweiss Titans, employees, regardless of their hierarchy can either self-nominate or get nominated by their colleagues for living the Edelweissvalues. “These awards bring to the forefront employees who may not bevery high profile but are value champions as the nomination process requires employees to list out their achievements backed by data,“ Thakur said.

So, what’s the potential of low-profile high performers? Are they leadership material? The answer is, yes, they can be leaders.

Padmaja Alaganandan, leader of PwC’s people and change practice, cites the example of AG Lafley, chairman of the board, president and chief executive of Procter & Gamble (P&G), who is known to have maintained a relatively low profile in his second innings at P&G. Lafley had retired in 2010, but was called back by the company board last year as chief executive after his replacement Bob McDonald failed to drive sales and profitability of the FMCG giant.

But promoting a low-profile performer to leadership depends a lot on the culture of an organisation, Alaganandan said. “Some large organisations place a premium on traits such as a visible display of energy or assertiveness. This sometimes means they overlook or lose out on low profile good performers. Inclusive leaders need to focus on getting views and participation from allkinds of people, the extrovert as well as the introvert,“ she said.

Yuvaraj Srivastava, senior vice-president, HR, at MakeMyTrip, said that although low-profile performers are usually regarded highly by managers and peers, lack of communication from their end might lead to some dissatisfaction as all managers may not perceptive enough to understand their needs and wants.

MakeMyTrip identifies top performers across teams and job functions through cross functional feedback from peers and business heads. The company also runs training interventions through development centres to identify performers and those with high potential. “To identify the needs of this pool we hold both formal and informal sessions, and multiple connect sessions with leaders, skip managers and HR. Besides, we conduct focused workshops and discussionswhere they are encouraged to talk about their needs in a closed forum,“ Srivastava said.

At Maruti Suzuki and SAP Labs, talent is graded and awarded based on performance and potential.

T Shivaram, head of HR at SAP Labs India, said, “We know who are the high performers as well as people who have the potential. Since every employee is mapped, the talent process is independent of whether the employee is low profile or high profile.“

SAP Labs runs skip-level meetings, midyear reviews, year-end reviews and career development discussions with managers to understand the needs of its employees. Employees, who may not be as forthcoming on their needs, can use the skip level meetings to share their expectations with the skip level managers and the HR Business partners.

Maruti Suzuki has a fast track career growth path for high-performance and high-potential employees. Then there is the normal track for employees with good performance and potential and an extended track for good performance but low potential.“There is a sizeable population which comprises of solid citizens. They possess good knowledge, long practical experience and a stable career with the company . They have contributed significantly to the organisation but have limitations in terms of potential,“ said SY Siddiqui, chief mentor, Maruti Suzuki. “Most of them may be thus part of the extended track in the career growth matrix.“

The company also runs `stay’ interviews -a contrast to exit interviews -with existing employees. “These have helped us devise need based new HR policies and processes,“ said Siddiqui.

He doesn’t think low-profile employees could lose out on career growth. “The principle of equal opportunity, three career growth tracks and supportive development processes will enable all to compete for career growth,“ he said.

Source : The Economic Times

Date : 19/12/2014

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