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September 2017

Best place to work! really?

800 371 Kamal Karanth

Rating best place to work is a tricky affair –  are we getting the parameters right or getting too swayed by frills? 

I am sure many of you love your organisation. If that’s an exaggeration then let’s say some of us do. At least on the days of salary, bonus, promotions and other self-gain days! But certainly, there must be days when you and your colleagues feel great about working for your organisation.  In spite of this do you wonder why your company is not talked about as one of the best employers.

It is believed that disengagement is highest amongst employees at the global level right now. At the same time, we have multiple publications throwing up a long list of best place to work. This is where everything is hunky dory. A common aspect when you read the parameters while rating best employers is that of frills. Employers seem to be getting rated on tangibles which can be measured which are all employee benefits.

I looked at what was being touted as great things in one of the published list of top employers. Sample some of them:

  • Additional paid vacation, extended paternity and maternity benefits
  • Fitness centres at work
  • Work from anywhere
  • Free food at office
  • Concierge services
  • Financial support for University Education

Yes, these things will definitely make employees happy. Compare these frills with other workplace experientials like feeling valued, job fulfilment, equal opportunities to grow, great manager. Do you think employees will trade these for the frills and benefits? I am inclined to believe they will go for the great experiences. But then one can argue that great organisations are capable of combining the benefits and valued experiences together. How about organisations who have all the extended financial cum holiday benefits but also have toxic organisational culture, limited career growth opportunities, high attrition and hence lower employer productivity?

Rating employers is a tricky affair, each publication has its own methodology and own logic to enrol participating companies. Sometimes it skews results as some brilliant start-ups never get featured. These start-ups may not tick the minimum criteria the publication would have laid down in its stipulations. But one thing is common across all the surveys – it’s the battle of benefits.

Measurable vs Feel Good

The discussions around dream employers who have authentic leadership, transparent culture, going beyond share holder needs, allowing employees to express themselves, not having silly rules, having meaningful work are still relevant. But it’s becoming difficult to measure these and compare them meaningfully. Think about it. Isn’t it easier to compare number of extended paternity days, gym fitted offices against authentic leadership and transparent work culture?

I am also told these surveys are primarily showcased towards talent attraction where tangible benefits are required to be demonstrated. An HR Head asked me if showcasing the highest productivity would mean that the place was a grind? So, he rather chose to demonstrate tangible benefits which allows visible comparisons than to use imagination about culture and leadership. In many organisations, these surveys are anchored by Marketing departments. So, it becomes an exercise to market than demonstrate the core of the organisation.

Employer Experience

I was once part of a team where we moved attrition from 67 per cent to 30 per cent. Business transitioned from loss to profit and also got higher Net Promoter Scores from customers. We attained higher employee productivity progressively. But, when we asked our colleagues they only remembered some thing else. Things like moving to a 5-day work week from 6, Friday dressing, 4-day work week for top performers were on top of their mind. They also thought highly of the exotic locations annual awards were held, holidays extended to self/spouse birthdays and wedding anniversaries.

But I can’t paint everybody with the same brush. My friend’s daughter who is 23 wanted to quit a large benevolent organisation which had a laundry list of benefits. She said she wanted the grind to ensure that she learnt more when she was young. So, she joined what one could describe as a sweat shop, I guess not all of us are the same.

Tangible vs Culture

The daily experience at work, culture, growth prospects, value adding supervision and authentic leadership are a must. But we haven’t found our way to describe it while attracting talent. Is it easier to list out the financial benefits?  Hence the parameters to discover the dream employer mostly revolve around tangible benefits?

Dive down into these lists. It appears that many organisations that make the best place to work grade are also commercially highly successful. They also provide superior customer experience with some cutting-edge products.

Maybe it’s the narrative that needs to change and not how the surveys are done?

My Best place to work? …where they play movies all day on multiple screens!

A related post on whom we would like to work for which I wrote last year gives another view on what we might enjoy!


Compliment at workplace?

800 371 Kamal Karanth

“You look very pretty Rita” exclaimed our prospective customer. Embarrassed by his compliment I hurriedly looked at my colleague. Rita grinned at me and told him, “My husband was the first to compliment on this today”. The guy almost froze to the spontaneous reaction. The stunned customer never said a thing till we walked off his office. I gave her a high-five for her presence of mind as we left the building.
It’s been 16 years since that incident. I continue to witness similar conversations at work with varying degrees of reactions and consequences. I am sure you have overheard or been part of many such interactions which ranges from dress to looks. Some maybe awkward many pleasant depending on who is talking to whom and how. I am not referring to the FB, Instagram, WhatsApp uncomfortable interactions on our display pictures. I am today reflecting only on personal interactions and their boundaries if any.

 Compliment with Caution

“Hey, U Looking good today” could be a nice compliment and an icebreaker when you meet people. But, if it extends to looks without the approval/comfort of the receiver you are in serious trouble. My co-worker described how a colleague who met after a long time made her feel awkward. I believe he took a step back, gave a top-down glance at her and said “you really lost weight? wow! looking cool now.
It might be cool to press the ‘like’ button in the virtual world. In the real world it might meet a different reaction if you aren’t contained enough in your expression. Should caution get the better of our natural reaction depending on whom we are talking to? Some of us are naïve and some repeat offenders. I say naïve because there are people who maybe ignorant about the receiver’s reaction, so deserved to be brushed aside. For those who do it because it gives them the kicks, there is a need for a stronger snub.


Every day we spend time in front of the mirror before stepping out of home for work, some of us may continue to do that before we finally walk into office. I am sure we have our own motivations to choose our dress, make-up as applicable ☺ and we should be ready to receive compliments from various people we encounter at work, but at the same time not all reactions make us comfortable, some of them take it to the extremes and don’t stop till we blush in embarrassment.
Once I witnessed my colleague being asked if he had 4 packs or 6? He gave that embarrassed look back at her to which she said “C’mon, I am complimenting you on your fitness, your muscles show it all”. So, crossing the invisible line isn’t limited to any one gender.

Conscious Conversations

I am inclined to say we should stop at the Jeans and not get to the Genes. This gets embarrassing when people at the seat of power do it, when senior people at the organisations or customers who think they are in advantageous contexts repeatedly comment on peoples looks it does become awkward. One of my bosses once told my colleague in public glare “hey’ lovely dress and great fit too”, she could only muster a thank you, but vowed to never wear that outfit again. I don’t know if we could have protested to such comments as lewd? He had the habit of commenting on women’s dresses and looks frequently, most called him a creep at his back, but never tried to give him a feedback as he was our boss.
Now, one can say it’s the nature of relationships with the other genders which is an important element to judge this or your own mental make-up as to how you process compliments; if you aren’t matured to manage the interactions, why do you come to work, so on and so forth.
We have ‘POSH at work’ now and every organisation is forced to have committees to manage this when things move from compliments to complaints; there are qualifying manuals to describe what could be construed as offensive comments. But we know many of these conversations happen outside the ambit of these defined boundaries.


There is no denying that the everyday conversation between people of different genders is a product of the underlying culture. How the leaders behave while interacting with different genders in their presence and absence sets the tone. Most often the conversations that leaders indulge in informal settings with colleagues becomes the unsaid culture leading to right/wrong conversations within any organisation.
I think this aspect of commenting on looks needs higher sensitization. Yes, it starts with things like hair, shoes, ties, suit, sarees but can soon extend to the morphology depending on how the individual make up, organisation set up and colleagues are.
Unfortunately, our hormones secretions don’t stop as soon as we enter workplace. If that was possible then some of us would have been more appropriate to our colleagues on how they look.

Next time somebody compliment on your looks that makes you uncomfortable, pause, take a deep breath and start by telling them you have a mirror at home.