Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Women Friendly Work Environments

Meet Arti. Arti is a young mother in her early 30s with two little children. She works as a project manager in an IT company. She is passionate about her work; she has rapidly risen up the ranks in her company. She completed her engineering a decade back and began working as a software programmer. She fondly remembers the nights she would spend at work trying to troubleshoot a bug in her application.

She was passionate about her work and thrived working these long hours. Most of her best friends were buddies from work. So she not only enjoyed working, but also enjoyed the late night movies, dinners and so on. A few years back, she got married. She had a supportive husband, so she continued working long hours. The company also expected more from her now and gave her new responsibilities, she loved taking them up. Then she had a baby. For the first time in over a decade, she took three months off from work.

She found it very difficult to join back after three months. She was puzzled, I love my work, I love what I do, and why is it that I don’t want to join back? She pondered quitting once every week. She started getting stressed about the smallest requests from her clients. Her company felt that she lacked motivation now. But that was not the case. She was still passionate about her work. But somehow a child seemed to have changed things for her. And when she decided to have a second child a couple of years later, she decided to resign.

I am sure this is a situation that most working mothers can relate to:

  1. A desire to quit, especially when the child is sick or work pressure is too high.
  2. A tendency to feel stressed at any new demand, a visit to a client or an additional new project turns out to be too stressful to handle.
  3. The annoyance at the fact that your husband has not had any change in working style after the baby.
  4. The fact that you love your work and would really love to do more, just that time is never enough.
  5. You do love the financial independence and the decision to resign is scary, what would you do with all the free time and will your skills become redundant when you join work again?

Most companies also struggle to understand this sudden change in their star performer. So what can companies do to create a women friendly work environment?

  1. Maternity leave of six months: Give women the flexibility to join back at the workplace when they are emotionally ready to do so. Give them the option to avail of unpaid leave.
  2. Opportunity to work half-days: Let them continue to work for half-days as long as they desire, if they wish to do so till their child turns 4-5, let them. It is much better to have them for a productive half-day than a stressed full-day.
  3. Flexi-timings and work from home options: Women are adept at multi-tasking, so they can be perfectly productive working from home. Encourage them by giving them such options.
  4. Sabbaticals: This option should be given to both, men and women. Let people take unpaid sabbaticals away from work for a few months to a year, have a policy where they inform you six months in advance so that you have adequate time to plan for this change.
  5. Fixed working hours: Create a culture that provides a good work-life balance. Encourage people to have hobbies outside of work. Encourage people to be productive at work and discourage people from staying late at work.
  6. Hire women with grown-up children: There will be many women with grown-up children who are ready to re-enter the workplace. Encourage such women, while you may need to spend some time and money in training them, the investment will pay off in terms of the commitment and dedication displayed by such women.

Points 3, 4 and 5 are applicable for both, men and women. We have implemented measures like these at Kern and have been really happy with the results.

Every mother wants to be around her children during their precious growing up years, at the same time, wants to contribute at work; these small measures can result in a win-win for both, women and their employers.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Is Training Primary or Secondary?

I had an interesting discussion with a colleague a couple of days. We were discussing why training budgets are always the first to get slashed by companies in a downturn. Has learning ever been secondary for any of us? If the answer is No, then why should training be secondary?

It is surprising to see the number of companies who have cut down on their training budgets. Even more surprising, you would assume that companies would focus more on achieving good quality training on their limited budgets. What we have seen is just the reverse. Companies are opting to do a few mandatory days of training in a year through some outsourced trainers. Obviously if that’s the way training is delivered, then training does not achieve any results. Which then leads the company to conclude that ‘training does not work’. A vicious circle!

We have been asking our clients to experiment with alternative methods that provide innovative learning platforms for employees. It is a great time to experiment with social media for corporate training, use blended and self-paced training material and other innovative, inexpensive techniques to train employees. For example, for one of our clients, just putting up some posters at different locations helped drive learning. For another client, we defined a set of simple activities for the sales staff to implement on the job. This ensured high retention and application of concepts. The key is to ‘Be brave to try something different and innovative to achieve more out of our limited training budgets’.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Beating Recession (For Individuals)

Since we are officially in the greatest depression since the 1930s, I think this is an apt post. So what can you do if you have recently been laid off?
1. Relook at your career goals
a. Are you certain you are in the right industry? You may have been a banker all your life, but if you think your chances of landing a job in this area are limited, be open to new possibilities.
b. Do you possess the required skills to excel in your job? Enrol for an evening class, online classes and brush up on your skills.
c. Be realistic: If you have been a manager, a job may require you to start as an executive again. Times are tough and it’s not easy to get a new job, so go ahead and take it up and give it your best.
d. Network: Try to meet people from the same industry. Offer to work on projects for free, publish articles, give free seminars, establish good equity that will help you in future.

2. Cultivate a hobby
a. Have a hobby that will help ward off depression and keep you occupied. And please, watching TV does not qualify as a hobby.
b. Do gardening, take up a sport, learn to play an instrument, anything as long as it gets you out and keeps you moving.

3. Keep some money coming in
a. It can be very disheartening when you have been used to a paycheck from so long.
b. Take up a job, could be at a restaurant, library, bank, even the beach or a park if that interests you and keep some money coming in. You get to meet a lot of interesting people and life will be exciting too.
c. It will help appreciate people who live on much lesser than what you have been earning all along and will help put life into perspective.

4. Volunteer
a. Millions of hands are reaching out for help each day, so volunteer your time and energy.
b. You can volunteer to teach, support, guide, mentor, the possibilities are endless. So find out the available volunteering opportunities in your area and get started.

5. Attitude
a. In the end, just remember that life is short. Maximize every day and live it to the fullest. Capture different life experiences.
b. Do every task to the best of your abilities. Share your knowledge and skills at every given opportunity.
c. Remember, no one can make you happy, finally happiness is in your own hands, so go ahead and make the best of today and now.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Attention Trainers and HR Managers: Web 2.0 is here!

Firstly a very happy new year to all of you.

Let me share an exciting development at Kern. We are organizing a workshop on how to use Web 2.0 tools (such as wikis, blogs, podcasts, and virtual world) for learning and training purposes. This workshop is designed for HR Managers and training heads who implement training in their organization.

Overview of the workshop
  • Understand Web 2.0 – the changing face of the Internet.
  • Discuss training using sharing, collaboration, co-creation, user generated content, social networking
  • Explore the use of tools such as wikis, blogs, virtual worlds, podcasts, videocasts, social networking to design effective training
  • Discuss case studies where trainers have effectively used these tools for training purposes
  • Experience learning and training in the Virtual World
To register for the workshop and know more details, you can contact Vaishnavi Shankar email: vaishnavi@kern-comm.com and office phone: 040-40171313.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Innovation at Kern

If you were to ask what is the single driving force that pushes all Kernites to excel, its innovation. We have always prided our ability to take decisions that distinguishes us from the others and allows us to deliver exemplary value to our customers. We have never believed in doing something just because 'everybody does it'. If we do something, it's because we believe in it.

For instance, a few years back when we started Kern, everybody designed websites. However, we never felt the need to design websites just because everybody did so. Similarly, when we started our learning solutions division, people thought that eLearning was only about technology. eLearning companies had only technical teams with zero instructional designers on board. We turned it around and said: "eLearning is for learners. Every decision in creating a course is determined by a thorough study of learners. We believe we can design an effective course only when we understand our learners—their needs, wants and motivations. Our learning strategies drive the tools and technology used to create eLearning and not the other way round. While technology is important, technology sans instructional design is like constructing a building without an architect."

And it is precisely this relentless focus on innovation that has helped Kern carve out a niche in the midst of multiple usability and elearning companies in India.
  • Kern won a Brandon Hall award in just its fourth year of operation.
  • Kern follows a rigorous, patented course development process using LCM with learners at the centre of our development methodology.
  • Kern is the only company to guarantee the effectiveness of our solutions.
  • Kern does not propogate eLearning or technology-driven solutions, Kern focuses on simple, sustainable solutions that add value to our client. Kern has the capability to deliver all types of training ranging from classroom to eLearning to 'on the job' learning.
  • Kern's team is acknowledged as the best in the industry and Kern's team of experts have extensive knowledge of computing, usability, design, programming, and learning technologies.

For us at Kern, the motto is simple. "Do work that we believe in and help our clients maximize their ROI."

Monday, October 06, 2008

Kern Wins the 2008 Brandon Hall Excellence in Learning Awards

Last month, Kern won the prestigious Brandon Hall Excellence in Learning Awards. We won this award for a program that we had created for Godrej Lifespace and it won in the category of 'Best Use of Blended Learning'. Kern is one of the few Indian companies to win this prestigious award and it was a proud moment for me to get the opportunity to be there in person to receive this award. This award is dedicated to Geeta & Archie, the program masterminds.

To know more about this award, click the following link:

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Mantras to Enrich Life (Contd...)

We all want the magic mantra - Happiness. All I want is to be happy......

3 simple things:
1. Live in the present: One of the most important changes in my life has come from living in the present & this includes multiple things: Don't put away things you want to do for the future, do them now. Concentrate on whatever you are doing. Don't think about whatever other people will think and don't assume things. Just enjoy each moment as it comes.
2. Gratitude: Be thankful for all that you have. Connect or do things for people who don't have all that you do, develop compassion. Avoid comparisons with others at all costs.
3. Is it Important? If something is bothering you, ask yourself if it will matter a few days from now and if not, stop bothering.
Products Versus Services

A dilemma that many IT services companies may be familiar with, your services are doing extremely well in the industry. You keep getting repeat business and everything is fine. Should you diversify into products? For the uninitiated, a diversification into products involves high initial investments and hence high risks as well as returns.

So why do companies venture into products? They do so because once a product is established in the market, it generates consistent revenues and returns far beyond what services can generate (services generate returns of 10-20% on an average). So if you are a startup, it is great to begin with a services model and grow your team . Once you are well established on revenues and cash flows, begin working on products. This helps grow both the divisions without losing focus.
Schooling Versus Home Education

On Sunday, while reading the paper, I chanced upon some parents who had decided not to admit their children to school - they preferred educating their children at home. Schools are too disciplined, they create too much pressure on the children, we can teach them a lot more at home etc.

I don't dispute the fact that these parents may be able to do a much better job on teaching their children than the teachers. So much attention focused on one student! But does that give parents the right to deny children the access to a social support support? A school is the best place for a child to learn the ways of the world and teaches the child to interact in a social setting. Independence, friendships, first crushes, fights, outings, discipline and what not, don't deny these to your children!