Ravi C Dasgupta, Founder & Chief Consultant, RCD HR Consulting

Ravi C Dasgupta, Founder & Chief Consultant, RCD Consulting

Ravi is a seasoned HR Leader turned Executive Coach and HR Consultant having spent 14 of 25+ years of his corporate career in senior leadership roles. With 7 years as the country HR Head of an MNC and another 7 years as the Group HR Head of Asia’s largest and most successful Biotech company; a significant part of his career has been spent spearheading HR at companies in their growth phase. Putting in place appropriate HR systems and practices in the initial stages and then modifying them to suit the needs of the organization as it grows rapidly has been the hallmark of his career. Prior to this, Ravi has handled a variety of Specialist HR roles covering the entire gamut of HR including Industrial Relations, Capability building, Manpower planning, L&D, Performance & Talent Management and Compensation & Benefits which enabled me to develop both depth and breadth of expertise in people processes.

Ravi founded RCD HR Consulting in 2015, leveraging over 25 years of expertise in Corporate HR to be a consultant for SMEs going through the pangs of growth by helping them evaluate the effectiveness of their HR systems & practices and to align their HR processes and systems fully with business imperatives. Ravi also facilitates OD and Behavioural Training interventions for MNC’s and other corporated and am a certified executive coach and a member of the Think Coaching Consortium.

His contribution to the HR field has been awarded with the Indira Super Achiever Award in 2003, the HR Leadership Award (Global HR Excellence Awards) for the year 2008-09, the Asia Pacific HR Congress in 2008, and the IPE HR Leadership Award in 2012 just to name a few.  In November 2020 RCD HR Consulting was listed and featured among 10 most promising executive coaching companies by Siliconindia.

Ravi is a frequent and respected speaker and moderator at conferences and seminars in areas like Leadership Development, Talent Acquisition and Performance Management and likes to interact with management students when time permits and when he gets an opportunity to do so.

In this Interview, Ravi shares his views on different aspects of the Goal Settings process:

In your opinion, should goal settings be a collaborative process between managers and employees? And why?

Goal setting should be a collaborative process, because ultimately we want alignment between the what all the employees are doing, with everyone rowing in unison. The best way to bring about alignment across the organisation is for the top management to articulate 4-5 goals at the company level, and speak about them at every given opportunity so as to gain buy-in and understanding from everyone in the organisation. Then at a functional or departmental level, the organisation goals are cascaded a level below. The functional head should ask what should our function do to contribute to the organisation achieving its goals? This process has to percolate further, until the level of the individual employee, who aligns his goals with that of his manager, who in turn has aligned his goals with that of the function. Generally speaking, the managers tend to be better informed about organisational imperatives than the individual employees, and so the involvement and collaboration between employees and their managers helps to cascade the organisational goals to the individual employee level.

How important is goal cascading & the need to tie every employee’s goals to an organizational objective? Is it always practical and effective?

I think I have, to a large extent; answered the first part of this question in my previous response. Is it practical and effective ? I think it is the responsibility of the functional head to make it so. In my last corporate assignment, where I was the CHRO of Asia’s largest biotech, I used to have a 2 day goal setting offsite for all my departmental employees. I used to begin by getting the CMD to articulate her goals and expectations from the HR function, and then the different HR teams ( such as compensation and benefits, learning and development, HRBPs ) would work separately and come up with their goals for the year. I used to flit from group to group giving suggestions and asking them questions, to ensure that each group stayed on track, and set goals that were adequately stretch, without being unachievable. At the end of the day, each team would present to the collective ( we had a 50 member HR team ), and receive feedback. The next day the teams would further fine tune based on the feedback they received, and present once more. This ensured that there was joint ownership within each group and an appreciation of what other teams did. If a functional head can get the active participation of all team members in the goal setting process, and ensure that there is alignment with the organisational goals then this can be extremely effective in cascading goals down the organisation.

Are sub-goals essential to set effective goals for the employees? Why?

I don’t think it’s necessary to break up goals into sub goals. Also, its probably pertinent to point out here that items that typically come under one’s job description should not be listed under goals. Goals should be improvement focussed, and a stretch from what is being done at present. This is how a company can remain competitive by forever lifting the bar.

Coming back to sub-goals, they are essentially a means to an end. By documenting sub-goals one may also wind up with a situation where the sub goal has been met, but the main goal remains out of reach. Would you like to recognise and reward an employee for such performance? If you have documented sub-goals you may find it difficult not to do so. In my experience 4-5 goals so that each one has got significant weightage is best. Instead of sub-goals have milestones in place as measures for your goals. This will give the employee a feeling of achievement, satisfaction and progress as these get achieved, and also helps the manager to keep track of progress.

How should zero-target goals be measured for performance in an organization?

Zero deaths, Zero defects, Zero waste, or 100% compliance can all be examples of goals where the target is perfection. Anything less than that seems inappropriate. For example, how would it sound if the goal for workplace injuries in a factory was 5 per month? Sounds like you need to injure 5 people to meet the goal, right? But if one sets the goal as 0 are you setting up the employee for failure?

Aiming at absolute perfection in your goal setting may lead to unwanted results. For example, would information on a workplace injury get suppressed, or reported as something else?

I believe that all goals and targets should inspire and motivate improvement. So instead of aiming for perfection which may seem unattainable and unrealistic, a significant improvement over the actuals of the previous year would be a better way to set the target rather than a zero-target goal. So if there were say 10 workplace accidents a month in the previous year setting a target like “ 30% reduction in workplace injuries from 10 in the previous year to 7”. Each year, one can lift the bar closer to the absolute zero target, without risking demoralising the employee, or making them feel compelled to fudge the results so as not to get penalised in the performance cycle.

Should all goals be measurable? How to incorporate measurable parameters to otherwise subjective goals?

Absolutely! Unless the goal has a way of being measured, it will lead to friction and misunderstanding between an employee and his or her manager. I think that along with each goal, the measure to be used should be decided, agreed to and documented up front. That’s what I do with the coaching goals of my coaching clients these days, and it is something that could be implemented in performance management as well. If the goal setting and appraisal forms had a column for measures that needed to be filled in at the start of the year, it removes all ambiguity about whether or not goals have been achieved, and how they should be scored. This sets the tone for an appraisal discussion that is forward looking and positive in its outlook.

In my view, it takes just a little effort to come up with suitable measures for any goal. Goals should be defined as objectively as possible using SMART criteria and with clear cut measures in place. There is a lot of merit in the HR function or a superior reviewing goals that have been set by others, and pushing back when adequate clarity or stretch is missing.