Prakash Hegde is a Principal Consultant with QAI. Prakash helps organizations enhance their HCM (Human Capital Management) practices and delivery processes. He has published papers and has been an invited speaker at conferences.
In this interview, Prakash shares his experiences in bringing People CMM® to organizations.
Q: Please tell us something about your professional history/ background
I started my career as an Engineer-Trainee in an engineering & project management consultancy firm. I spent early years of my career in design and implementation (and generally running around) in turnkey projects associated with chemical and petrochemical plants. Then there was an inflection point when I decided to do something different in life. This led me to take a break to add a MBA qualification to my resume.
The IT bug, the promise of more moolah, and more pleasant working conditions meant a switch in career, and I drifted into the world of Quality (ISO, CMM®, CMMI®, etc). In early 2001, my organization took up People CMM® implementation (post CMM® ML5). Since I was a part of the SEPG, I was drafted into the task force on People CMM® (not necessarily with my consent!) – and that was my first brush with this HCM model. My stint in QAI since the past 6 years has provided me the opportunity to pursue interests around HCM practices (in addition to Software Process Improvement and Project Management). With mentoring from more experienced colleagues, I have delivered on People CMM® and other HR enga gements for multiple clients across software, BPO, manufacturing, banking, and consulting industry segments.
When I reflect back on my career, the journey has been exciting with its fair share of thrills (experiencing different cultures in different countries, abiding friendships with folk in my client organizations) and anxieties (lost luggage, delayed flights and running into the training hall to face exasperated participants, contributing to increase in hotel occupancy rates and dealing with the associated repercussions of work-life imbalances :-)).
Q: In the HCM space, what kind of consulting do you do?
Well, I provide “end-to-end consulting” on People CMM® (classic consulting jargon :-)).
To put it simply, I conduct an assessment of the client’s current systems and processes to do an initial benchmarking with respect to People CMM® Level x (2, 3, 4, or 5) and draw out the roadmap for actions to be taken.
I also support the clients in redesigning and streamlining their HR systems, conduct implementation checks and audits, and provide training on different themes to help them reach various milestones of the People CMM® journey.
And then there are clients with whom I have been involved in focused improvement projects around building competency frameworks, designing assessment methodologies, conducting HR process audits, and setting up performance management systems using Balanced Score Cards and HR Score Cards.
Q: What industries have you consulted on People CMM®?
Most of my clients have been from the IT industry. However, in the last few years, I have also gained some insight into people practices and challenges in other industries like manufacturing, banking and insurance through the People CMM® engagements.
Q: Some HR experts say that People CMM® is only for IT companies – your views.
There is a perception among some HR experts that People CMM® is only for IT companies. This perception must have arisen due to the fact that the early adopters of People CMM® have been IT (Software and ITes) type of organizations. Also the fact that the “CMM®” frameworks have been traditionally associated with IT. That the Software Engineering Institute is the custodian for this framework may have further boosted this perception.
Many IT organizations with a large and diverse workforce have felt the need to put in place systems and structures to manage their workforce. And since the USP of the People CMM® lies in the fact that it promotes a “system based view of HR”, it found a natural home in IT firms. However, as awareness has spread through the HR community, people realize that People CMM® helps scale up, and streamline processes in any industry where it is necessary to attract, develop, deploy, and retain people to improve business results.
People CMM® has a structured maturity based approach to HR systems comprising around 500 good practices with competency as a key theme. It has moved beyond IT to banks, hospitality, manufacturing, insurance and consulting companies.
In my view, the next few years will see a lot more traction for People CMM® adoption as businesses realize the benefits of adoption and see this as a “natural and best fit” framework for scaling up talent management practices.
I also find that large consulting firms have a vested interest in their clients not implementing the People CMM®. (I have commented on this on an earlier post in AlignMentor, here. I repeat my comments).
HR consulting firms, both big and of the boutique variety, are engaged by organizations for specific interventions like competency dictionary creation, employee satisfaction surveys, psychometric assessments, and at times, for writing HR processes.
This work soon becomes an “annuity” kind of business for the consulting firms. The consulting firms tend to implement solutions locally. HR heads eventually raise concerns like “we are stuck” and “there are many overall integration issues and we are not able to reap long term benefits from such recurring investments”. Because these solutions are not embedded into a larger systemic framework of HR, they operate in silos and acquire a life of their own; and over time, become “vehicles set in motion that cannot be controlled”, even if the organization sees diminishing returns.
At the risk of sounding like an “evangelist” for People CMM®, I believe that People CMM® provides that overall architecture (and binding glue) for a HR framework that can integrate and align various pieces to business needs.
At times however, this can threaten the “localized” approaches taken by consulting firms.
I have seen organizations (while on the People CMM® journey) start to question the relevance of such local initiatives, as they increasingly view these through the prism of the overall HR architecture.
And that is why some consulting firms tend to down-play (and sometimes bad mouth) the use of People CMM®. I have also come across published articles where some consulting firms try to spread an impression that People CMM® is very IT-Industry specific, very certification oriented and does not provide value.
Since the model is a bit difficult to read and comprehend (requires “systems thinking” mindset to understand the essence), such “hear say” tends to gain credence.
The greatest advocates for the utility of People CMM® are those HR and business heads who have experienced a few cycles of the implementation. In my view, implementation of People CMM® provides a great opportunity for HR to do some serious spring cleaning of their legacy systems, tie up loose ends, and build solutions to address systemic pain points.
Q: What are the key challenges in P-CMM® implementation in the banking industry?
I will touch upon a few of the implementation challenges that I have encountered in banks that are using the People CMM®:
- Delivery of HR processes in retail banking. Retail units are spread across the country, in tier 1, 2 and 3 locations. Each location has very few employees, and so, it is not physically possible for them to be in direct contact with the HR folks. In such a situation, the reach of HR services and building employee engagement across the units is one of the key challenges.
- Getting the buy-in of the line functions (like Treasury, Investment Banking, Capital markets) for their participation in evolving competency dictionaries.
- Line management involvement in individual performance feedback, appraisals and people development.
- Instituting KM (Knowledge Management) practices.
- Putting in place effective mentoring programs.
- Delegation of authority as a conscious “thought-through” approach to enable agility in decision making.
- And of course getting bankers to attend people management related training programs, and sensitizing them on the need to take up accountability for staff development in addition to delivering their core banking services!
Some banks have been able to address the above challenges to a large extent by taking the overall guidance from the People CMM® framework.
Q: What are the key challenges in People CMM® implementation in manufacturing organizations?
I am listing a few key challenges faced in the manufacturing contexts:
- Getting line managers who have been in the system for 25 plus years to build people management skills and engage with the next generation workforce.
- Creating accelerated career paths for an impatient and aspirational new generation workforce.
- Old timers are not net savvy, and hence there is lots of paper based documentation. This increases cycle time for many HR processes like recruitment, performance management, promotions, and even identification of training needs.
- Implementing competency based practices as against the traditional experience based, hierarchical systems.
- Administering employee satisfaction surveys for unionized labor that form a significant and critical portion of the workforce.
- Top-down and bottom-up communication on HR policies and practices, and grievance handling is a challenge because of diversity in the workforce (management staff, non-management staff, and contract workmen spread across factories in interior regions).
- Managing risks related to “mass retirement” in a given year that may result in loss of key skills and knowledge derived from decades of specialized experience.
Q: From your experience, when organizations start with People CMM®, what are their expectations? How do you manage such expectations?
I would categorize my experiences into 2 categories.
- Organizations that think that they are already at level x of the People CMM®, because they have won some HR awards! Such organizations tend to expect to be assessed to Level 3 or Level 5 within a very short time.
- Organizations that believe they don’t need a rating but want to only use People CMM® to enhance their practices.
In scenario 1 above, we urge organizations to undertake a formal orientation program on the model with an expert, to help them understand the nuances and sub-texts of the framework. This orientation program provides a much better perspective to stakeholders in the organization on the People CMM® requirements and intent, and helps them do a mental calibration of existing practices with the new understanding so obtained.
This is followed by a diagnostic study (or gap analysis) of their existing people management systems. This includes conducting focus group discussions with the staff across the senior, middle and lower level cadres to understand the perception on people practices and delivery, in addition to examining documents containing policies, procedures and implementation data.
The diagnostic study helps organizations get an objective view of their strengths and weakness with regard to the requirements of the model. This forms the basis for drawing out a detailed plan of action to reach the desired maturity level.
I have seen organizations re-calibrate their expectations significantly on the time-frame required (basically they realize that they need a looong time!) to reach the desired maturity level based on the above interventions.
In scenario 2, organizations start off without any stated goal of formally reaching a level. As they progress and realize the early benefits by implementing the model, they pick up urgency towards completing the journey by asking for a formal appraisal. A formal P-CMM® appraisal resulting in a possible maturity level X level also acts as a boost to the implementation team and gives the team greater confidence, and recognition for the effort they have put in.
Q: From your experience, how long do organizations take to reach maturity level 3?
Approximately 12- 15 months for medium-sized organizations, if they already have most of the basic maturity level 2 practices. Overall the timeline depends on the scope, size, locations and ability to propagate and manage changes to workforce practices, resulting from the implementation of the model.
Q: Again, based on your experience, do the organizations manage to sustain their processes after the appraisal?
After all the change management and momentum built up towards an appraisal milestone, we have seen that organizations tend to slacken a bit in the months immediately thereafter.
In my view, what helps organizations sustain their practices are:
- Establishing an internal governance mechanism to review the state of implementation, through score cards and internal audits that includes senior management oversight.
- Having an external entity conduct periodic audits to check continuing implementation.
- Having an internal team that focuses on not only sustained implementation, but also checks on continued effectiveness of HR practices and undertakes next level of improvements.
- Of course, the fact that People CMM® appraisal results have a shelf life (3 years) also provides a sense of focus; no organization would like to be de-listed from the SEI published results database!
Prakash Hegde is a Principal Consultant with QAI India Ltd. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. You may also reach him via his LinkedIn page.
Thank you, Prakash, for sharing your experiences and insights!
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The views presented above represent the personal views of Prakash Hegde and are in no manner reflective of the official views of QAI, or AlignMentor, or any other organization.