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BW Businessworld

Good Cop, Bad Cop

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Dealing with people and development is possibly one of the most challenging jobs for any organisation. Whether 50 people or 5,000, there is always a certain amount of unpredictability involved where people are concerned. And it couldn’t get more dramatic, than in this era of mushrooming start-ups.
Move over Gen-Y ! The young working professionals have lately earned the ‘Gen-Z’ tag. Today youngsters don’t wish to be bound by traditional rules and regulations at their workplace. Simply because, simple guidelines at work can give a lot more of flexibility in exhibiting their potential.
Defined or understood, there is always a culture, an almost palpable character to every organization. The tone of which is set by the founders from day one. HR heads are constantly looking for like-minded people, who fit in the ecosystem and blend with the ethos of the company. Increased weightage is given to personality and temperament than just skill set.
The conventional set up and traditionally synced systems in a corporate, do not augment well for new age companies. The rules of the game have changed and are altering every single day. The books written on the role of HR and rulebook of acceptable/unacceptable norms have gone out of the window. The start-up brigade has written a new culture. One, which is changing every single day.
It’s difficult to pinpoint where it exactly started, but corporates like Google, Netflix and Zappos, have proven it to be a tried, tested and trustable method. Expectedly, it’s catching the fancy of Indian companies too. 
Start-ups today are providing much beyond what is expected or even fathomed. Amazingly flexible walk in - walk out timings, widespread buffets, paid vacations, sponsored studies, game zone and recreational activities, unrestricted web browsing, work from home options and out-of-work sabbaticals are some of the common perquisites or privileges that many are offering.
For most people, working in a start-up can be like working on a big college project, sitting on bean bags with a bunch of cool friends, and munching on chips and corns. Employees have the liberty to work like entrepreneurs and workplace has become more ‘feel-at-home’.
The focus is to remove hierarchy formalities and encourage managers/bosses to be like compatriots. Managers don’t reprimand but rather reserve the room for mistakes. They are more approachable, open to ideas/views and willing to implement a team member’s suggestion.
Interestingly, people are given the opportunity to contribute cross-functionally too, which helps them realize true potential, core strengths and interest areas. In some cases, even switch departments. The intra job change flexibility is a win-win situation for both, the company, which gets a talent from within, and individuals who experience better job satisfaction levels.
While it’s a great working environment, certain risks can creep in, if not addressed in time. When start-ups are small and manageable, the ship tends to sail smooth. But as companies grow, people multiply and risks increase, the chances of choppy waters increase too.  
The debate has always been the same. How much freedom is passable? Should the company give more to expect more or is it the vice versa? How does one quantify intangible privileges? Where does one draw the line? These questions have hounded Founders and HR Managers for a long time.
In new age companies, traditional rules and regulations cannot be applied. Instead, guidelines prove to be more effective. Managers don’t interfere in the day-to-day workings of their team members. Rather aggregate output is measured and awarded. Only high-level performance and competitive spirit is expected in return.
Self-accountability and ownership of work is encouraged on an individual level. This further increases motivation and passion towards the job. When employees are sure their voices are not going to be rebuked, better generation of ideas, exchange of opinions and creative interactions prefaces. A not-so-rigid environment increases candour and mutual trust within the people. Teams tend to perform better together and healthy competition becomes the norm. There is a heightened standard of intrinsic value and personal evaluation too. 
However within the framework of liberty and freedom, a code of conduct has to be maintained. The core idea behind a casual, open atmosphere is that founders want their people to feel a sense of belongingness and believe they are a part of something bigger. Employees on the other hand want to see how individual contribution can affect the comprehensive growth of the company directly or indirectly. What’s truly remarkable with the start-up culture is the transition from, accountability to superiors to accountability to self.
In the end, when the human resources of a company are resourceful, one has truly created an army of responsible custodians!
The author, Ajay Nair, is CHRO, 

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