Why organisations should ‘understand’ their employees

12:13 PM May 12, 2018 | Ravi Valluri

The ‘patriarch’ of the organisation should empathise with the employees, appreciate their problems and correctly assess their strengths and weaknesses, writes RAVI VALLURI

It would be a worthwhile activity to disambiguate the word ‘devotion’ with respect to an organisation as we unravel the dilemma of human resources development in an organisation. An organisation is a structure (either formal or informal), established to achieve the prescribed goals or objectives as laid down by the top management. As such there ought to be no ambiguity in the minds of the employers or the employees about the targets.


Devotion and organisation


Devotion in a human being is the commitment to fulfil the parameters which are outlined. It is here that the skill of the top brass will be tested. The challenge is for them to upgrade and enhance the degree of commitment among the workforce, such that they do not get distracted or confused by perceiving their growth to be distinct from that of the organisation. Exalted devotion amplifies the performance of the individual simultaneously augmenting the capacity of the organisation.

This cycle empowers both the individual and the establishment and in turn, provides a fillip to human resources development.

Gargantuan organisations

In this age of rapidly and furiously changing technology, a question that would naturally pique the curiosity of the average person is, ‘How do huge, monolithic organisations function? What makes them tick?’ Let us attempt to answer the questions taking the examples of the Indian Railways and the Indian Defence forces.

The Indian Railways is rightly called the lifeline of the nation; seamlessly connecting all corners of the country. In the last fiscal, 1146 million tonnes of cargo was loaded and carried across the length and breadth of the country by various freight cars. Further, on any given day on an average of around  24 million people travel by various trains, from the suburban to high speed Gatiman Express.

We incessantly face challenges from within and without. Encircled by hostile neighbours, challenging geo political situation, inhospitable terrains, not to mention the numerous terrorist, radical and Naxal organisations which have struck root within the country and outside and espouse the cause of dismemberment of the republic. The Indian Armed Forces maintain vigil and protect our frontiers against the visible and the invisible enemy.

Chain of command and discipline

There is a single directive and chain of command from the General Manager to the gangman patrolling the tracks of the Indian Railways. Similarly, in the armed forces, it is their coherent chain of command which ensures their smooth functioning, their very survival. Inbuilt in the system is a discipline which guarantees that both the organisations work 24*7, 365 days a year.

Without this regimen of discipline and a direct chain of command which dispenses directions, these two organisations will cease to exist as we see them today and would plunge into anarchy.

 Cogent communication

Discipline and devotion get ingrained in any organisation in case the ideas of the leaders are successfully conveyed to the rank and file of the institution; seeping into every nook and cranny of the network in an uncorrupted manner.

Any idea, no matter how great, would be inutile if it is not transmitted effectively and understood by organisational members. The process of uninterrupted communication singularly serves four major functions. It enables control, motivates the employees, ensures emotional expression and transmits information.

Communication can also be perceived as a process or a flow of information. However, misadventures are encountered when there are deviations or when blockages occur in that flow and the derivable lie unaccomplished.

Leadership styles

There are as many definitions of leadership as there are leaders and their philosophies. There are democratic, participative, delegators, dictatorial, compassionate, stubborn, wager, imaginative, think out of the box and also coercive leaders.

It is indisputable that the leader in order to be effective ought to acquire qualities of empathy with the workforce, effective communication. It is also imperative that he or she possesses greater information and knowledge than the foot soldiers. Lastly, a leader must be an inspirational figure and lead from the front.

As an old adage goes, lead or get out of the way.

Empathy and devotion

Successful leaders hone their skills and learn the craft through various processes and often through trial and error. Some strategies pay immediate dividends. Results are expeditiously visible to members of the organisation and various stakeholders. At other times strategies take time to ripen. However, the leader should be singularly focussed to achieve the milestones, always ensuring devotion to the organisation even if immediate benefits to the individual are not apparent. The ‘patriarch’ of the organisation should empathise with the employees, appreciate their problems and correctly assess their strengths and weaknesses; but with an eagle eye look for recalcitrant employees to crack the whip at an appropriate juncture.

Leadership is ultimately all about the ability to influence the organisation, the stakeholders and various formal and informal groups and mobilise the human resources of the company to achieve the corporate goal.

Understanding organisational culture

An important angle in human resource development in any organisation is to discern the riddle of its organisational culture. Organisational culture primarily means a system of shared meaning held by the employees. This is what distinguishes it from other organisations and establishments. The organisation, its men and material are innovative and risk takers, engage in detail tasking, embrace the philosophy of outcome orientation, appreciate people orientation, the cynosure is on team orientation, over a period of time develop an inbuilt aggression which exudes positive energy to accomplish corporate goals, exult self-confidence and keep at bay antipathetic and gloom-ridden tendencies and maintains stability to scale the summit. These are tools which harness the underlying principle of human resource development.

“We recruit for attitude and train for skill,” writes Atul Gawande the American surgeon and author of the iconic, Being Mortal. Indeed, words that sum up succinctly the role of human resources development.

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