Sandeep Apte (Pune, India) is Founder Director at PERSONA Human Resource E Systems Pvt. Ltd. PERSONA HR is a management consulting organization which specializes in working with people. With vast experience in the domain of behavioral competence, PERSONA HR, creates & designs Selection Processes and Performance Management systems for organizations. We also facilitate team building & leadership processes in organizations. PERSONA HR has extensive experience working for Manufacturing companies, Service sector companies, Agriculture sector organizations, IT/Software companies, BPOs, NGOs, Academic Institutions, State Governments, United Nations & even political parties. Sandeep himself is a renowned expert in Behavioral Event Interviewing (BEI) and has trained just about 5000 people to conduct interviews. A life & career coach to scores of people across the world, Sandeep enjoys doing that! Sandeep is basically a writer and has written for all media – from newspapers & magazines to feature films, documentaries, television, and also the internet. Passionate about old Hindi Film Music – research on the life and career of Shankar Jaikishan from the year 2001. An avid cinema buff – Sandeep loves watching classic movies from all over the world. He loves to meet people and make friends! His e mail addresses are firstname.lastname@example.org or sandeepapte@g mail.com. (click here for Italian version)
Davide de Palma: Das Humankapital, is a blog that wants to promote the development of human capital. What do you think is important to promote the development of human capital?
Sandeep Apte: First of all, I must thank you Davide, for inviting me to share my views on Das Humankapital. This is an excellent endeavor and to my mind – Das Humankapital has extraordinary significance for our times. To begin, let me respond from a ‘global’ or rather ‘universal’ perspective …
Actually Davide, I wonder how Karl Marx would have felt about Das Humankapital! Sure, it is a germane addition; to include the HUMAN factor which Marx had omitted! 😉 When I studied management at the Institute of Management Development & Research (IMDR) in Pune, India1, one of the key lessons I learnt was that the business of life is NOT just about business but is really about life! The major focus of all our actions has to be about people and their life – in fact, life on this earth in its totality. We HUMAN beings have a major responsibility about this NOT because we are apparently the most conscious beings on this planet, but because our human foolishness could easily lead to total destruction!
In fact, I was surprised when you invited me for this interview. ‘Why does someone from faraway Italy want to interview me?’ I wondered. Then I realized that this might have greater significance than what is apparent. We live in times, where we need to share our experiences & ideas across our world, more than ever before. This sharing is important and the spirit of sharing is significant and holds the key to our future – the destiny of mankind. Please allow me to elaborate and share this perspective in our discussion.
Globalization was the buzz word, as the 20th century faded out and in the 21st century, information sharing across the world, in real time, has become a reality. We need to utilize this ability creatively, in a constructive fashion. Every decade that unfolds in this century, presents our world and our times with an opportunity – to now go beyond being just a global marketplace. The call of the times is to now make our planet earth a truly ‘universal’ place for human beings to live with universal human values of liberty, equality & dignity. To LEAD A LIFE of honor & be happy! A 21st century renaissance is happening as we speak. Yes! That may not be apparent; we may not be fully aware of it, even as it unfolds in our lifetime!
For instance, it is astonishing how some Italian personae have played a key role in the destiny of India! No, no! This is not about Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, an Italian citizen who was destined to have the premiership of India almost thrust upon her! We travel much farther back in time to 1857 – to meet Giuseppe Garibaldi who ‘became an idol and role maker for the Indian nationalists during the Indian freedom struggle from 1857 to 1947 and even after India achieved the independence from the British rule.’ 2 & 3 Now Garibaldi did not write a blog 😉 but his exploits were written about in the media of his times and just this sharing of information influenced and inspired the Indian freedom struggle!
Giuseppe Mazzini – the beating heart of Italy too had a resounding impact not just on India but also on Europe and across the world! “Mazzini was a great and good man; Garibaldi was a great warrior; from their lives we can learn much” remarked Mahatma Gandhi. It is remarkable how Mazzini’s concept of the United States of Europe actually became a reality more than a century later, when European nations actually began to SEE the benefits and had to work towards the unification of Europe.
In 1909, Mahatma Gandhi had averred “Garibaldi was a great Italian General, but he drove the plough and tilled the land just like an ordinary peasant, whenever he could get respite from fighting.” Gandhi’s approach on constructive work in times of peace, clearly indicates what he personified and exemplified to inspire movements for non-violence, civil rights and freedom across the world.
The times of Garibaldi & Mazzini were also the times of ‘polenta’ made from Indian ‘mais’ or corn, a crop which had made its way from India to Italy! Johann Wolfgang von Goethe mentioned it in his epic work ‘The Italian Journey’, which W.H. Auden observed was ‘not only a description of places, persons and things, but also a psychological document of the first importance.’ Today, Italian cuisine is relished all over the world; even my city Pune has a large number of Italian restaurants!
This journey of food too has unfolded over centuries – from diffusion of agriculture to the diffusion of a universal culture, a fascinating global phenomenon that reflects the psychological transformation in the universal mindset of today & tomorrow! The key transformation which this first decade of the 21st century has augured is the evolution of this universal mindset. Stated simply, people across the globe can and want to now reach out and come together to shape their own destiny and the destiny of our world.
Davide de Palma: What is leadership for you?
Sandeep Apte: That is a nice question Davide! And a very difficult one to answer in today’s world! Leadership has always been and fundamentally is about VISION. What the leader SEES is what CAN BECOME a reality. Mazzini’s vision offered an inspiring template for the leaders of yesteryear, today & tomorrow! Our world – our entire planet earth must be seen as ONE!
Remember, globalization is a natural consequence in the quest for expanding the marketplace. Who makes this global marketplace? PEOPLE! In fact, one may say PEOPLES of all nations all over the world. Now if one only sees this mass of humanity just as a consumer, that vision is myopic; if you see the peoples of the world as consumers of arms & weapons – that sort of a vision is distorted and spells inherent trouble.
Science and technology has ushered an era of progress, but at a great cost, by taking a heavy toll of our earth and all the natural resources the earth can offer. That balance can only be restored with a vision which sees these resources as abundant NOT scarce, AND as a treasure, a heritage to be SHARED! The leadership of this global world MUST SEE this. In this century, the rich man has no choice but to consider the starving, poor man as his brother, who has the right to lead a dignified existence on this planet – and ACT!
We can see some clues about how this is unfolding. When instead of Gross National Product you begin to measure Gross National Happiness or Sadness you can see the shift. Consider this example from a prestigious business magazine published in ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’. For decades, they have enjoyed measuring money & publishing lists of the richest men in the world and now they are measuring the ‘Happiest and Saddest Countries of the world’!
What does the happy nation SEE when the leadership of that nation looks at the rest of the ‘not so happy’ world? Would that nation offer a nutritious meal as ‘aid’ to a starving brother? Or demonstrate more compassion and work towards making sure, that to eat and survive is a fundamental human need, in fact, a right! If leaders of this century do not SEE this – they will go terribly wrong, so they better get it right sooner than later!
As with nations, so with organizations! Organizations with global ambitions need to SEE this need, FEEL that compassion and ACT! Recently, many organizations in India, have spruced up their ‘CSR’ – Corporate Social Responbility functions. Some legislation has also helped! There have been many instances of organizations with the vision and sensibility to have done it all on their own. One of India’s greatest industrialists J.R.D.T at a averred “To be a leader, you have got to lead people with affection.” Organizations in India and the world over need to realize the fundamental truth of these words. The elementary question is “How do I LEAD MY LIFE?’ And what follows is important too – how do I share & contribute to my organization, my community and to our world?
In organizations, leadership contexts have DRAMATICALLY changed in the 21st century. The emphasis on the word ‘dramatic’ is deliberate here because it is very meaningful and significant. Leadership is now about ACTION! Work processes have become increasingly ‘people driven’. The focus has shifted away from technology. To be sure, organizations continue to make products and services, but now it all adds up at the end of the chain, to the nature of CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE, which your brand or organization delivers. Leadership now is more about ‘conducting’ the ‘people process’ that comes together to deliver the customer experience. And customer experience is all about the ACTIONS which an individual or the team or the organization takes to make that experience happen.
Davide de Palma: What is talent for you? How do you recognize it?
Sandeep Apte: Human talent is basically about raw human energy and the direction where the energy is deployed in a situation. This energy can manifest in any form – physical, mental or emotional. Think of the little kid who sings very well? Or one who can run really fast? Or who can crunch math easily?
In the 21st century, talent is at a premium! Technology has made differentiating products and services Fdashumankapital.wordpress.com.nts have increased in every sphere of human endeavor. The globe is not just a village in terms of communications, but also the talent market is now truly global. Opportunities abound across seven seas. Great talent has a value today which is unprecedented. Check out the mind-boggling salaries of the crème de la crème of CEOs!
In his path breaking book ‘Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else’ 4, Geoff Colvin writes ‘Today, in a change that is historically quite sudden, financial capital is abundant. The scarce resource is no longer money. It’s human ability.’ Such a point of view suggests that talent management is a ‘process through which employers of all kinds – firms, government, non-profits – anticipate their human capital needs and set about meeting them.’ Now we thought that was good ol hiring! Even Bill Gates has been reported to have said that ‘If you took the twenty smartest people out of Microsoft it would be an insignificant company, and if you ask around the company what its core competency is, they don’t say anything about software. They say it’s hiring. They know what the scarce resource is’!
How does an organization look at talent? As a leader, you have to SEE yourself as a composer & the conductor of a large musical orchestra. You have a hundred musical instruments before you. How can you get those instruments ‘ALIVE’, and playing the score you have composed? (Mind you, NOT working but PLAYING!). How can you get them to play the most sublime melodies and harmonies?
Now consider yourself as an individual team member in that orchestra. How would you play your musical instrument? Again the point demands repetition – it is PLAY and NOT WORK! You need a musical composition and a score! And the conductor has to make sure everyone plays beautifully! Remember all those instruments would play exactly what is demanded 100% because in music, a single error can mess up the greatest symphony!
Talent flourishes only when organizations CREATE the right situation conducive to expression of that talent. As with organizations, so with nations!
How does one recognize talent? By figuring out the quantum of energy a person deploys to the area of interest. Geoff Colvin highlights one key factor, which results in talent expressing itself – deliberate practice. What is deliberate practice? “Deliberate practice is hard. It hurts. But it works. More of it equals better performance. Tons of it equals great performance.”
The evidence of talent is not difficult to unearth. A talented person would have worked very hard or say played very hard with her métier. The physicist Richard Feynman put it the best, when he talked about his métier “Physics is like sex! Sure, it may give some practical results, but that’s not why we do it”! That is the primary reason why organizations need to create and design the right CREATE the right situations conducive to expression of that talent. Only in such environments talent will blossom and flourish!
Davide de Palma: What tools should endeavor to find the right man in the right place? The process of selecting a candidate as is structured in your company? What do you look for from a candidate? In your opinion, what is the basic skill for a worker when is candidate in your company?
Sandeep Apte: Yes Davide the process of selection MUST be structured. You might meet many people who very firmly believe that they have the ‘vision’ or the ‘insight’ to spot talent in a candidate at first sight! Such people would often tend to run a very biased and idiosyncratic selection process. The late Prof. Pulin Garg of IIM, Ahmedabad always used to espouse ‘Structure brings Stability.’ Pure words of wisdom which should be the template in any organization. You need to structure your selection process so that your point of view and that of your organization is strong, rooted in your needs and robust.
Many factors are significant while designing the structure of a selection or a performance management process. How does an organization define its core business? What is the core competence needed to deliver the customer experience? Does organization have a structure that helps in delivering that customer experience? Along with stability, the structure must also be geared to deploy the strategy of the organization. Many large organizations get so bulky that the process of enabling & delivering outstanding services keeps taking a heavy toll on the organization’s resources and people! Even the finest of talent would find itself at a loss in such structures and would be able to do little about it. Design that structure, design it for enabling customer experience and then the effect is like magic – delivering the same service becomes a delight for your own people – the same people!
Every job in every function needs to be clearly defined. The competencies needed of a person to deliver an outstanding performance on the job also need to be spelt out based on the organization’s own experience. This is a key process and a dynamic one at that, because an organization also needs to change with changing situations in time.
Hundreds, if not thousands of people need to be hired in people intensive domains like Information Technology, Business Process Outsourcing and most services. Over the last decade and more, one has seen all kinds of criteria ranging from the sensible to the expedient being deployed especially in times of fast ramping up by organizations. Only a beautifully designed, structured selection process can deliver excellent results in such situations.
Sure, there are many instruments and tools available which can help you measure certain skills, basic threshold competencies or personality profiles. Such instruments are useful but have limited value. Nothing can substitute real person to person interaction. Simply stated, an organization MUST be in real, close touch with its people. Captions of photographs of employees taken at annual functions and shareholder meets, often refer to the organization as a family! This metaphor clearly suggests that people in the ‘family’ need to be in personal contact with each other. In fact, organizations are more than families they actually are communities in their own right, and play a key role in their society, their world.
By far, interviewing appears to be the most popular tool in organizations the world over. But often for the wrong reasons! It is not because an organization WANTS to stay in direct contact with people but to be safe & secure! In many organizations, seniority & sheer experience is the qualification, by which people find themselves conducting interviews with fresh talent. Often that may not be the most sensible or smart thing to do. Experience might bring wisdom but also might bring along biases, idiosyncrasies and big egos which can distort a selection process! This writer has personally met hundreds of young talented people who confess that they cringe at an interview the moment they hear the line “Tell me something about yourself …”!
When an organization has to hire hundreds of people, such a process can be full of errors, which are discovered months or even years later and by then an organization would have paid a heavy price not only in terms of wasted resources but also would have deeply eroded the motivation and morale of its people. Let me assure you that this is not a scenario which is an exception but is actually very common!
Professional interviewing to identify evidence of competencies and selecting the right talent is a skill that needs to be learnt. After all, these are decisions to buy one of the most expensive resources in this world – HUMAN resources! J Creating a team of professionally qualified interviewers is the first key step to make sure that you are infusing your organization with selected people who would be effective in their work and deliver outstanding performances. Key questions that an organization needs to answer are: Do you have a good team of recruiters? Are they recruiting for the competencies needed for that particular job? Are they taking informed decisions? How do you know that they are doing a good job?
Competence in Action is what you need to look for in a candidate for a job. When you focus on a person’s life, you have to look for ACTIONS which demonstrate a set of competencies. How does one find it? Look at the life and career of that person carefully and surely you can find evidence of the competence by a variety of methods. The quantum of energy a person deploys to the area of interest is significant.
‘Personal interests are not simply the product of performing well at something, but of defining competence in terms of surpassing one’s own idiosyncratic standards of excellence that may remain private yet nonetheless compelling.’ Martin V. Covington drives home a universal aspect of human endeavor. What drives a person to investing huge effort in a particular area of interest in a particular and compelling manner, often with extraordinary effort against all odds? This drive which is the ‘motive’ force that moves the person to act holds the key!
This ‘motive’ force is the underlying treasure of talent, which needs to be clearly identified. Behavioral Event Interviews are extremely powerful to identify motivating factors. If you identify the related competencies, the entire experience of finding the right person for the right job can be very fulfilling not just for the candidate but also for you!
Davide de Palma: What means working in Personnel Management? What is policies that serve to enhance the workers? What are the policies of personnel management to retain talent?
Sandeep Apte: Actually Personnel Management or Human Resource Development is one of the most challenging career options and in many ways a noble and elevating profession in today’s world. This is one area where one can actually make a difference to the life & career of a person & organizations in real terms.
I can state this from my own personal experience. As a journalist, one can write about a particular subject and highlight an issue. As an advertising person it is possible to influence a set of people to feel, think or act in a particular fashion – like trying a new brand. In Personnel Management, the very nature of the engagement is much more substantive. Your intervention can actually make a big difference to a person’s life & career, or to the success of an organization!
Having worked with hundreds of people, over the years, one realizes that as human beings we might be ambitious, money minded or even petty at times. But we also are beings who can create a universe from nothing, touch so many lives and actually enjoy this process of life as an elevating, fulfilling experience. The Personnel Management profession offers a vantage location to actually make such a life happen!
Yes indeed people do work for money. But people do NOT work ONLY for money. Research has proven that time and again. A person works to feel fulfilled, complete. A person NEEDS the right context and conditions, which help expression of talent. As people professionals it is our job to try and make that happen, usually against all odds! When we manage to do that – the process itself becomes the goal!
Lest anyone gets the impression that what I say is naive, or idealistic let me reassure you, gentle reader that one does realize that life is difficult and we are living in difficult times. In our own country, there are so many issues that need to be addressed positively, constructively. And that does not seem to be happening.
India is getting younger every day and we will soon have the largest pool of young talent in modern history of mankind. Politican leaders are very keen to anounce India as a superpower to the world! And almost at every step one can feel that we are just not geared to shape this extraordinary pool of human capital we have! That remains the greatest challenge. Often one is reminded of Jesus – are the blind leading the blind?
Not all of us are destined to lead nations. But most definitely all of us can do our bit to make a difference to people around us. Getting to do that professionally, responsibly is a blessing! Our job is to create and provide a context for the talents of people to blossom and flourish. Incredible it might sound, but that can be achieved by our little actions or even words. The greatest talent – the superstar, the super sporting hero as well as the so called ordinary talents, struggling with ordinary challenges of life – all respond to the voice which spurs them on, which encourages and applauds their efforts & achievements. You never know when such voices can have an unprecedented and everlasting influence – like Garibaldi influenced the freedom struggle of India!
Let me conclude with the lines of Sant Dnyāneshwar a saint from Maharashtra who lived in the 13th century.
May the wishes and desires of all the living beings be satisfied & fulfilled! Sant Dnyāneshwar averred.
A truly universal prayer for all beings for all time! Spare a moment for such a noble thought and you will experience that life IS different …
Thank You Dr. Davide for this opportunity. It was a pleasure to meet you! Good Luck! J
1. Institute of Management Development & Research (IMDR) in Pune, India. www.imdr.edu
2. Region in Indian History edited by Mahendra Pratāpa, Saiyid Zaheer Husain Jafri.
Lucknow University. Dept. of Medieval & Modern Indian History. 2008.
(Garibaldi shaped & deeply influenced the leadership of India – a vast array of leaders with diverse points of view across the socio-political spectrum of the times. Consider this list – Surendra Nath Banerjea, Lala Lajpat Rai, Bipin Chandra Pal, Aurobindo Ghosh, Vinayak D. Savarkar, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Subhash Chandra Bose, Jawaharlal Nehru and even Mahatma Gandhi!)
4. Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody by Geoff Colvin. Else Publisher: Portfolio Trade (May 25, 2010)
5. Handbook of Competence and Motivation. Edited by Andrew J. Elliot & Carol S. Dweck. Foreword by Martin V. Covington. The Guilford Press, New York. 2005.