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"MUSKAN" – The Smile – Mission HR

The metamorphic journey of HR and its evolution from labour recruitment and control mechanism to missionaries upholding the cause of employee welfare and holistic development, reflects the ascent of management from a struggling art form to a philosophy dedicated to the cause of stakeholder Nirvana. A cursory Examination of the law and practice of employer–employee relations confirms this development in our country itself. Though law, its practice and application in many organisations regulate the process, from recruitment to retirement of an employee, its practice often goes beyond the narrow confines of regulatory provisions. Whether driven by enlightened mutual self-interest or by the bottomline, the dynamic HR professionals seem to go much beyond the regulatory letter and spirit.

While attempting an analysis of modern trends in HR, one is at a loss to demarcate its territory. The growth of the business and commercial enterprise from a one-man mission to mega corporations employing, thousands of personnel worldwide, is in itself a proof of the outreach of HR umbrella function. There is no doubt that like the proverbial banyan tree , in every organisation, all functional arms of management are integrated from root to the fruit. The roots provide the nutrition, which is converted by the sunlight absorbed by the leaves through photosynthesis. While one may compare the rising nutritional sap of the plant with money (finance) , the plant achieves substance, direction and growth only through the sunrays and the raindrops nourishing the plant to grow. It is this bounty, the sunrays and the raindrops, which may partially resemble the HR function, as it allows the institution to survive and grow to withstand the elemental challenges.

The role of HR is critical to the survival and growth of an organisation, but one wonders whether the management professionals and pundits are committed to the study and empowerment of the HR function as the most central function and the soul of management. While no one has questioned Peter Drucker upholding of marketing as the soul of a business enterprise, HR must share the pride place with innovation as it facilitates indulgence of the human spirit. If we take a close look at the ascent of knowledge and learning organisations, we are presented with a million proofs of HR interventions directly contributing to the bottom line. Be it Microsoft/Infosys/ GE/ IBM , handpicked dedicated teams of professionals have led their grand march to global successes. Therefore, developing critical HR focus is the primary mantra for success of management professionals.

But then how do we measure the impact of HR in success of an organisation? Are all Fortune 500 companies the role models of successful HR functionaries? This may sound similar to the description of the richest man being the most successful person on this planet. But then the world would be keen to know whether he is also the happiest person. For, if successes and riches do not result in delivering happiness, in these materialistic times, then we must all be missing the wood for the trees. Or are we ourselves lost in the pursuit of Maya , chasing shadows in the dark?

It may appear odd at this stage of our evolution, but poets, prophets and artists have long delivered the answers to such questions for the mankind. When we watch the smiling images of Buddha , from Bamiyan to Gaya and Bangkok, the proof is there for the whole world to see. While we may spend some more centuries to unearth the Da Vinci Code , only the stupid need to be told the reason why Mona Lisa is smiling. The enigmatic smile and eyes shining bright are a proof indicative of the state of happiness – Anand as the mystics would put it.

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If HR function has to lead the march of organisation and the science of management for attainment of Corporate Nirvana, then we cannot afford to wait for statistical dissection or sensex bulls to pass judgement on our performance. We have to realise that the litmus test for the success of the HR and the corporate functions is the smile on the face of the stakeholder. It is not enough that only the investors or the vendors or customers smile – the employees and the management must also deliver with a smile on their face. If the smile of one is at the cost of the other stakeholder, then it cannot continue to deliver - a house divided against cannot stand forever. Muscular stress apart, aesthetics and environmental purity necessitate a pleasing disposition.

But are the modern brand champions aware of the power of the smile.? If it were so, then the smile message would have gone past the toothbrush world of make believe. NIKE would have said "Just Smile" instead of "just do it" and Johnny Walker would be praying to "Keep Smiling" instead of "Keep walking". It is not a question of semantics but of substance, form and spirit. Unless we identify and associate Smile Anand and integrate it as a key deliverable in the management philosophy, we may not be able to attain the elusive Corporate Nirvana.

The aim of the present workshop "MUSKAN" – The Smile – Mission HR" is to analyse the awareness of the corporate world towards this concept. In a customer friendly world, are we doing enough to meet the aspirations of the internal customer? Are our corporate actions transparent enough to bring a smile on the face of the stakeholders? We propose to take up these issues with corporate professionals, thought leaders and academicians in this workshop.

But there should be no doubt about the final objective – to approach the world of business with smiles reaching out to the last link in the chain and to perpetuate the reign of the Smiling Gods.

In conclusion I would like to refer to the solemn words of Lord Krishna, from Bhagwat Gita wherein he refers to the Cosmic tree – ' Brahma – Vrksha' , as it resembles the modern day corporation drawing its nourishment from above and its branches going downwards:-

Urdhvamulam adhahsakham, asvattham prahur avyayam

Chandamsi yasya parnani, yas tam veda sa vedavit…..

- Chapter 15.1….

With roots above, branches below, the Asvattha is said to be indestructible; the leaves of it are hymns; he who knoweth it is a Veda-knower. Downwards and upwards spread the branches of it, nourished by the qualities; objects of the senses its buds; and its roots grow downwards, (generating) the bonds of action in the world of men.

The modern mega corporation closely resembles the cosmic tree, a living organism united with the supreme – the customer – its roots nourish from the power of the customer above, its branches extend above and below bonding the society in the service of humanity. Or is it nourished by the human spirit, which blossoms spreading the smile, its fragrance all around ?


Prof. Vijay Page
Director General
MET Institute of Management

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