Preparing your Documentation for Retirement

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As you reach the age of retirement, one of the first things you need to do, after resolving your finances, is to take stock of all your personal documents. Boring and tedious as it may seem, you will have to find the motivation and the time to organise your personal files. This is required for you to understand for yourself which document is filed where and to start listing these out for your family members, in the event something were to happen to you.

A majority of people do not think of consolidating all their personal documents in one place during their work life and scramble to do this when they retire. It is also essential to make sure that your spouse and at least one other family member is aware of all these details. Sure, it will take a little bit of time. But if you don’t do it, there will come a day when your children will spend many hours trying to figure out where all the accounts are and how to access them. Don’t leave then in a situation where they will hope that they have not missed anything that you would have left to them.

You need to preserve the following information and documents carefully:

  • Details of Bank Lockers along with Passwords and Key Numbers.
  • Details of Bank Accounts along with a list of all standing instructions that you would have issued
  • Details of all your investments. If you are comfortable with a spreadsheet, list all your investments in a single spreadsheet and share it with your spouse.
  • Records of Cheque Books, Share certificates, De-mat accounts, Life Insurance Policies, Health Insurance Policies, Vehicle Insurance Policies along with 3rd party ID Cards, Pension Papers, Recoverable and Payable money from/to friends and relatives.
  • Records of passports, Aadhaar Card, Permanent Account Number, Income Tax number, Voter identification number
  • List all your mobile and phone numbers, your broadband connection and all the passwords and direct debit instructions you would have issued for your phone connections.
  • Title deeds of Property, any changes made to your property, Government approvals for modifications, if any and encumbrances if any, on the property.
  • Original Will (Execute one if not already done). It is generally a good practice to give copies of your will to the beneficiaries so that there is no dispute after you. Your lawyer would be able to give you the best advice in your specific situation.
  • Passwords of your email ID’s, ATM, Credit and Debit Cards, Bank accounts, Wi-Fi and other electronic access, online profiles, net banking, demat trading accounts, Income Tax e-filing, and any other points where you use a password.
  • List out all your frequent flyer numbers, your hotel loyalty card numbers etc. along with passwords. These points could be worth a lot to your nominees.
  • Ensure that nomination has been done in all investment and bank accounts, lockers, Insurance Policies. As far as possible all the investments should be in joint names of yourself and spouse with the nomination registered in every account. Ensure documentary evidence is clearly filed for any registered nomination. You can cancel and re-register the nomination during the currency of investment.
  • Names and contact information for your legal and financial advisors
  • If you have any outstanding loans, list out all the loans along with the loan agreements and the equated monthly instalments you are paying and contact details of the bankers
  • Names and contact information for all your doctors
  • Names and contact information for any spiritual advisors
  • Power of Attorney, in case you have issued one

Locate all the original documents that you have lying in various files at home and in your office and list out and catalogue every document. It is worthwhile to invest in a home scanner. This will allow you to scan every document. With the easy availability of storage space in the “cloud” it is definitely worth your while to scan every possible document and store it in a secure and safe account in the “cloud” which gives easy access to your family members. The simplest would be to download the Google drive linked to your Gmail account and store all your documents in this folder.

Make sure passwords to your accounts on the “cloud” are available with your spouse and family. All your documents must be scanned and stored properly. Once done, your documents can be accessed anywhere in the world as long as you or your family members have access to Wi-Fi.

This is also a good time for you to record your own “end of life arrangements.” If you are to be cremated, where would you like this to be and would you like an electric cremation or a normal wood fire? If you are to be buried, think about your casket. Some people I know have also written down which photograph they would like to be remembered by and how their obituary should be written. Morbid as this may sound in this article, if you have taken the trouble to outline your wishes, this will make it much easier for your children when the event actually happens.

When my 87 year old father passed away a couple of years ago, we were surprised at the extent of details he had left behind in his files. Not only were all his personal details carefully filed and listed out in separate files but also he had made sure that all these document files were then cross-linked together through an index in a master file. We also found that he had written out detailed letters for submission to the Provident Fund authorities, the Pension Fund as well as to all the banks. All that was required for us to do was to insert the date on the letter and the date and number of the death certificate and print the letter.

If you have not already completed this critical exercise of taking stock of and recording your personal documents, it time for you to get organized. This is necessary not only for yourself and your spouse but ultimately for your children.

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The author is the founder Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies and the author of 5 best-selling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; The Corner Office; An Eye for an Eye; The Buck Stops Here – Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur and The Buck Stops Here – My Journey from a Manager to an Entrepreneur.

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Branding for Startups

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Brands are like children. They need constant attention and investment to grow and prosper.

A strong brand with strong values will survive forever – well beyond the life of its founder or any of the managers of the company. It is not the cost of designing the logo but the cost of inputs and perception that builds brand values. Your brand is created from customer contact and the experience your customers have with your brand will determine its ultimate value.

Therefore, as you think of building the brand for your startup, think of some of the following points.

Find the Right Name

The care and attention we normally give while naming a child is no different from the care and attention needed in naming your brand. You will need to nurture your brand just as you would your child as it grows in stature and establishes its place in the World.

For every Startup, it is critical to select a brand name that will convey the correct meaning of the business enterprise first to the entrepreneur, then to the employees and finally to the customers. Brand names have been known to fail if their meaning changes in another language. By way of example, a brand named “Horizon” failed in India because the common man colloquially called it “Harijan” (untouchable) in Hindi.

Understand your Competitor’s Brands

Remember that it is a crowded world and your brand will have to find its place among all its competitors. To give your brand a fighting chance, you need to clearly understand the brands of your competition and how you wish to position yourself. Understand the logos and the tag lines and try not to copy any of these. Understand how each of these differ from one another and then decide on how you will position your brand.

Define your Brand as a Person

Try to define your brand as a person, rather than an inanimate logo. Think of your brand as a human being. Is it male or female? Is it young or old? Is it fashionable? Will it make friends with the millennials or the pre-millennials or the post-independence generation? Is it modern or conservative? How would it talk? What kind of food does it like? How does it interact with its neighbours? Is it flamboyant or reclusive? Is it outgoing or shy?

As you answer these and more questions, the characteristics of your brand will become clearer to you. The answers to these questions may never come up in front of a customer, but they will help you come up with a better, more precise feel for your brand.

A clear understanding of your brand will help you to define marketing and communication strategy for your young business.

Logo, Tag Line and Corporate Colours

The logo of the company must identify with the brand name and should empower the vision of its founder. Hence lot of thought must go into this.

The tag line of the company must evolve from the brand name, the logo and the value proposition that the business is proposing to offer. It should be able to communicate to your customer the value proposition of your brand.

If competition is using red and white colours, you can be different be selecting another set of contrasting colours for your brand. What is important is to ensure that whatever colour you select is used consistently with no exception.

Respect for your Brand within your company

Getting company staff to understand the importance of respecting your brand is a huge challenge. You have to ensure that your entire team is on board with the brand and using it correctly in every application.

I used to find our staff members misusing company stationery, company branded paper bags were used to wrap foodstuff and company poster or damaged signages would be used as floor covering on a rainy day. During one of my rounds when I saw a member of the staff standing with his shoes on a company branded point of sale poster.

Instead of getting upset like I would normally have done, I decided to try something different. I asked the employee to write his name on a blank sheet of paper in bold capital letters. Once he did this, I placed the paper on the ground and asked him to stand on the paper. His immediate reaction was one of horror and he said “How can you ask me to put my shoes on my name. That would be disgracing my family name!” I pointed to the company poster under his feet and showed him that he was standing with his shoes on the name of his company.

The message was loud and clear and this spread story through the company very quickly. Everyone understood the meaning of respecting the company’s brand name.

Get Professional Help

Once you have the answers get professional help to design your brand and the logo. You must make this investment no matter how “boot-strapped” your startup is. Designing the font of your brand or your logo and committing these designs to the right set of colours is the task of a specialist and unless you have been trained as a graphic designer, assuming that you can design the brand yourself will create serious challenges for the future.

Be patient with your brand.

With the right inputs, it will grow and thrive. Stay consistent with your message. Do not permit any exceptions when it comes to the brand name, the logo, the tag line or the colour. You will find that your brand will slowly but surely increase its visibility, authority, retention and acceptance with your customer.

To quote Warren Buffet, “Your brand had better be delivering something special, or it’s not going to get the business.”

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The author is the founder Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies and the author of 5 best-selling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; The Corner Office; An Eye for an Eye; The Buck Stops Here – Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur and The Buck Stops Here – My Journey from a Manager to an Entrepreneur.

 

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New Year Resolutions for Senior Citizens!

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The New Year is round the corner and it is time for thinking of those resolutions again! Whether you resolve to be fitter and healthier, connect more socially or to tick off some points on your bucket list, this is a time to take stock of the year gone by and to think of the year ahead.

Given below are some thoughts and you could consider adding some or all to your list of New Year resolutions.

Eat better for your Health

Take your health into your hands. Change your eating pattern. Take baby steps toward eating right. After all if you have been careless with your food habits, you cannot change these overnight.

Less fats, more fibre with a healthier mix of fruits, vegetables and nuts is always advisable for most people. As seniors, it becomes even more important and relevant for us to regulate our diet. Eat smaller meals more often. Most experts recommend eating 5 times a day but with reduced quantities. As some wise people say “stop eating just before you are full!” Others say that at least half of your plate should be fruits and vegetable.

Add a mix of vitamins and supplements to your diet to balance what you are not receiving through your normal diet.

Remember that eating better is the only answer to reducing your weight.

Find a New, Healthy Activity

As we get older, whether or not we have been active earlier, now it is much more important to be active. Build exercise or yoga into your daily routine. A round of tennis or golf, a brisk walk for at least 30 minutes every day (150 minutes per week of walking is the minimum recommended), yogic breathing exercises, swimming or cycling would be great to get into your daily schedule.

I have met several seniors who have started running and competing with people of their own age. In the process of staying fit, they have also found a whole new community of like-minded and passionate friends. It is best to experiment and find the right activity for your personality and activity level.

Complete some points in your Bucket List

Give yourself a break. You have earned this. Over the years, all of us have been adding to our bucket list. This list has kept getting longer since we were not able to find the time during our work life.

Resolve to tick off at least two significant items on your bucket list in the coming year.

Connect More with Friends and Family

Re-establish old connections that you lost while you were busy at work. Don’t wait for someone else to take the first step. Once start to reach out to your family and friends, you will be surprised at how much warmth you will receive.

Weekly lunches or coffee mornings with a group of friends, WhatsApp or Skype calls with your family members spread across the World are great ways of re-connecting. Time spent talking and laughing with those that mean the most is time well spent.

Reduce your belongings

Resolve to clean out your closets and your home. Think of the difference between “want” and “need” before you start this exercise. Keep things you need and give away those you want. This may sound philosophical but try and give away whatever you have not used for the past one year. Your challenge will always be “what if” you suddenly need the item again. If you decide to give it away, keep this as an active resolution till the next year and then assess whether you felt the need for the item(s) you gave away. Chances are that you will never miss these items.

In addition, this will start a process of de-cluttering your belongings and clearing up your home over a period of time.

Brush Up on New Technology

Technology, as you are well aware, is changing our World. If you have not already understood the many forms of communication and connection through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube and so many others it is time to do so now. Get familiar with the operating systems of your phones and other devices. Learn and understand these platforms since more and more of our lives will revolve around applications being developed on such platforms and around such communication medium.

To brush-up your own knowledge and skills, there are on-line tutorials for every possible question that you may have. You can also request a younger person at home or in your neighbourhood to tutor you.

Tell Your Story

You have had a wonderful and fulfilling life and now is the time to tell your story. Write your blog and publish it on a daily or weekly basis. Think of all the anecdotes in your life and write about these. Think of the milestones in your career and the time you spent as a child and record these. Think of your parents and your extended family and store these memories carefully in writing.

If you are not comfortable with writing out your blogs, dictate these into your mobile phone. Most phones now have the feature of “voice to text” which should quickly convert your voice recording. If this too does not work, send the recording to anyone who will transcribe it for a very small fees. A dictated blog will also preserve your voice for posterity.

Not only will this record your own memories and thoughts, this could also become a record of your family history for the future generations.

Give your brain a workout

The more you exercise your brain, like your body, the stronger it will be. Remember that diseases of the brain like Dementia and Alzheimer’s are increasing.

Read more and beyond your daily newspaper. Join or start discussion groups on subjects that interest you. Try Sudoko, Chess, QuizUp or Scrabble. All these games are available free on your smart phone. Play online with people you do not know and compete with the best. Nothing prevents you from becoming the best in the region or for that matter in the World, using your brain and not brawn power.

Once you take the lead you will find lots of followers who want to play with you but were hesitant to take the lead.

Remove negativity and anxiety from your life

Life is too short and at our stage in life, we are already on the “back nine” of a round of golf! Now is the time to remove all the negativity we have carried inside us about family, friends and the World in general. All this negativity is only hurting ourselves.

If you are feeling anxious about someone or something, speak about it to your family and friends. Bottling this up inside you will only make it more challenging to deal with.

Resolve to celebrate the little joys that you will have and don’t hold back.

Get enough sleep

Most people seem to believe in a myth that as you get older you need lesser sleep. Nothing is farther away from the truth. If you are sleeping late or getting up very early, stay in bed longer than you normally would have and soon you will be sleeping longer and waking up much more rested. Avoid your daytime nap in the early days till your night time sleeping pattern becomes normal. Then you can easily go back to your power siesta as well!

Get regular medical check-ups

Monitor, manage and record your blood pressure, your blood sugar and your weight in a regular systematic manner. If you don’t have any of these challenges, consider yourself blessed. It is necessary for you to get annual medical check-ups done and if you did not get a checkup this year, resolve to undergo a comprehensive check up in the New Year.

Finally, as you celebrate during this festive season with your loved ones, raise a toast to the coming year, but with a smaller glass!

Wish you a very Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year.

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The author is the founder Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies and the author of 5 best-selling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; The Corner Office; An Eye for an Eye; The Buck Stops Here – Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur and The Buck Stops Here – My Journey from a Manager to an Entrepreneur.

 

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What Support can Employers give to their Retirees? (Part 2)

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Not enough work is being done on the state of mind of a retiree though some statistics in the developed world suggest that not more than 15% of the retirees are aware or have planned for life after retirement. For the balance, this new state of life hits them on the first day after retirement. Employers must play a role in assisting their employees cross over to the “other side” of their working life into a long, health and happy retirement.

I have covered the matter of Management of time post retirement is a process of adjustment, Financial and Asset Management and Skilling Post Retirement in part 1 of this series titled What Support can Employers give to their Retirees?

Organisations spend millions of dollars training their new entrants and retraining their junior and middle management. These training dollars are spent to increase the “bottom line” of the company to increase “returns” to the shareholders. Some of this money can very easily be set aside for preparing and possibly re-skilling employees who have given their life to the organisation.

While the Government and public sector employees and those in a very few private sector companies have a retirement plan in place most retirees do not have access to retirement benefits. Financial and Health related issues are the two most important challenges that retirees have to address. Preparation for retirement should start in the last three years before the date of retirement. The planning must be led by the Human Resources department with the support of the senior leadership.

So what can organisations do help and support retirees to prepare for life after retirement?

Health

Health is always a serious worry for most retirees even if they have enough money. Given the very significant increase in healthcare costs, most retirees wonder whether they have set aside sufficient funds for medical emergencies. This worry gets exacerbated if they retirees not have access to health coverage provided by employers as is done for Government and Public Sector employees.

Employers can play a very major role to assuage these health related fears. Every employee would have gone through a comprehensive pre-employment medical check up to ensure that he will be able to contribute effectively during his employment life with the company. Would it be too unfair to expect the employer to pay for a comprehensive pre-retirement health check for the retiree and the spouse so that they can prepare for their retired life?

Several health insurance policies are now available at reasonable costs but most individuals do not know when to take this coverage or what coverage they should take for themselves and their spouses.

The human resources departments of various employers should counsel retirees to take health cover early enough. If this is done in time, the premium is affordable and risk cover is taken at a time when the employee does not have serious or chronic illnesses. Getting health insurance while working is definitely simpler and more advisable than trying to get it post retirement.

Counselling

Employers, therefore, need to sit back and think about the huge challenges their employees are confronted with as they start to grapple with this “new normal” called superannuation or retirement. Most employees reaching this new stage of nirvana in their lives don’t know how to tackle this. They have no idea about what is next. And most importantly, they do not know that there is no reason to be worried or scared of the next three decades of their lives.

Retirees, who can see their retirement ahead of them, are also worried about spending their time at home, closed within the four walls of their home with their spouses. They need to be counselled on how they should handle this new relationship with their spouse of over three decades and the process of adjustment they have to go through is probably no different from what they went through as a newly married couple. Some retirees who still have children living at home will need to understand how these next generation folks will react to one of the two “bread winners” spending so much time at home.

Retirees must need to be educated in a formal environment to assure them that there is a life post retirement and it is well beyond simply turning to Almighty God and praying all day, waiting for the inevitable.

Support to Spouses

Since most retirees have worked long hours and stayed away from their family as they built their careers, the impact of retirement is felt very strongly by the spouse. The thought of seeing the husband at home, 24 hours a day, can be intimidating from the perspective of personal freedom and interference in day-to-day household affairs. On the other hand, the spouse also needs to understand the huge changes her spouse will experience once he stops working.

The public sector company I spoke about in Part 1 of this article, had been forward looking and had invited all spouses to the discussion on Retirement. This was to help them to understand the challenges their husbands would face post retirement and also to assist them with in handling the “24 hour companionship” that all of us sign up to when we get married but face it only when we stop working!

Finally, spouses need to understand the family finances, health insurance and other company benefits (if any) and they need to be educated in this area. A simple finance 101, supported by the employer would go a long way to support them,

Employers can and should play a major role in helping their retirees to address their challenges and help them to evolve and implement a robust financial wellness program. Of course, it’s incumbent on retirees to do their fair share in planning for their own retirement.

We have a serious challenge in India regarding preparedness for retirement. The transition from a working life to retired life is difficult and the employers must assist their loyal retirees to prepare for this new phase of life. As India gets older, despite being the youngest nation in the World, we will have to start talking about and preparing for retirement and not leave it as a topic for discussion “when the inevitable happens”.

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The author is the founder Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies and the author of 5 best-selling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; The Corner Office; An Eye for an Eye; The Buck Stops Here – Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur and The Buck Stops Here – My Journey from a Manager to an Entrepreneur.

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What Support can Employers give to their Retirees? (Part 1)

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While speaking on the subject of Retirement at an event organized by one of the major public sector corporations in India, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Chairman and the entire Board of Directors attend the function to felicitate and support the retirees. On hearing the Chairman and several board members speak fondly and with anecdotes of their retiring colleagues I was left with a very positive impression thinking that this was a forward looking and caring organisation, something that I have generally not seen.

Most organisations would host a small departmental party for the retiree and help the person ride off into the sunset. Unless the person is the Chairman of the company who does a “victory lap” to every far flung asset of the organisation anywhere in the country or the world and then flies off into the sunset. The end result is generally the same – the organisation does nothing to help the individual prepare for retirement. This applies to the Government employees, Public sector employees as well as Private sector employees.

The end game is the same though the number of parties or the number of gifts may differ based on how senior or junior the retiree is. From the perspective of the organisation, they have given a “warm farewell” to their colleague while from the perspective of the retiree, the life has changed as he / she comes to the end and stepping of the cliff is imminent. Employers must remember that these retirees have a huge wealth of institutional knowledge and staying connected with them will help the organisation and the future employees in the long term.

So what can organisations do help and support retirees to prepare for life after retirement?

Management of time post retirement is a process of adjustment

Most retirees would have spent two to three decades, working hard for the company without thinking of their personal lives and must have worked 60 hour weeks, compromising holidays and family time. Such people are the classic retirees who will face the most serious challenge on what to do with their time when they stop working.

Some forward looking and caring employers are beginning to introduce a process of progressively slowing down the lives of their employees as they start to reach the age of superannuation.

I was delighted to find that in these companies, in the three years prior to retirement,

  • The paid earned leave of an employee is increased by one third of the annual entitlement each year. Therefore, if the annual leave entitlement is 4 weeks, in the third year before retirement, the employee starts to get 5 weeks, in the second year before retirement the leave increases to 6 weeks and in the year of retirement it is 7 weeks. This permits the retiree to internalise what to do with free time and gradually ease himself into his new life.
  • Some companies permitted their retirees to move to a flexi time schedule in the last two years before their retirement.
  • Other companies allow their retirees to choose their own work timings in the last 6 months before retirement allowing them the time to plan out their personal affairs.

Of course, the option to take extra leave or flexi time is at the option of the retiree. What surprised me was that very few retirees took up these offers, either because of an inherent insecurity about their jobs or because they were not willing to confront the reality of their retirement and kept trying to delay acceptance of the inevitable to the very last day!

Financial and Asset Management

The single biggest source of worry for retirees is whether their savings will be enough to take care of their needs as they retire. It is not enough to say that they should have planned better or that they knew that retirement was inevitable.

Different employees would have planned differently. I have met retirees who have invested a lot of money in buying properties in the belief that they are de-risking themselves against inflation. They are asset rich but cash poor. There are others who have saved money and not even bought their own home in the mistaken belief that they will buy on retirement and when the moment arrives, they suddenly realise that the house will take a significant chunk of their savings.

Employers can play a very significant role in helping their employees plan their finances in their journey to retirement. Enlightened should companies start this process when an employee is five years away from retirement. Getting professional guidance to plan finances would be huge service an employer can provide to their retirees.

Irrespective of how senior or junior an employee maybe, they need help in planning their finances post retirement and most individuals, more particularly their spouses, are not aware of what to expect since they have been used to their monthly pay cheque. A very large cross section of future retirees have never bothered to sit down and take stock of the amount of money they have in their corpus nor have they considered the amount of money they will need to meet monthly expenses post retirement. Employers can select and empanel credible financial consultants and ask them to hold camps during office hours so that future retirees can ask questions that have never been able to before. This would be great start in helping retirees to start their planning process.

Most retirees, who have not invested in buying their home will need help to decide what on the kind of home they can afford based on the current and future cash flows. For those retirees who have purchased their own property, it is important to explain to them the need to keep their home in their own name or that of the spouse and not transfer it to their children as long as one of the two partners is alive. There have been far too many cases of elderly parents being “thrown out” of their homes by their children.

Most people have not bothered to sit down and write their Will. This is another area which needs urgent planning and enlightened employers can assist in the process. Most of us assume that after the primary earner passes away, the wealth will automatically go to the spouse. This is not necessarily true and there are thousands of cases in Court where these matters are under dispute simply because clearly defined Wills were not prepared. It is always a good practice for both spouses must write their Will and keep it away in a Bank locker.

Skilling Post Retirement

Enlightened employers can take several steps to help their retirees to re-skill themselves.

Re-employment in the company – Companies could support those employees who wish to continue working with re-employment offers. This could be in the form of consulting assignments or fixed term contracts. Such options work sometimes though most times, the re-employed retirees resent the fact that people who were junior to them while they were employed are now senior to them and this could lead to conflicts.

Corporate Social Responsibility – Several organisations have large CSR budgets and they can ask their retirees to look after these departments since these retirees have extensive knowledge about the organisation and would protect the interest of the organisation.

NGO’s – Several companies support NGO’s as a part of their annual budgets. Retirees can be encouraged to work with such NGO’s. This process, based on the interest level of the retirees, can start in the last couple of years before an employee retires and can continue well past retirement.

In addition, retirees could also be asked to mentor their successors, beyond the normal “handing over process” that is followed in all organisations.

I will cover the subject of Health, Counselling and Support to Spouses in part 2 of this article titled What Support can Employers give to their Retirees?

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The author is the founder Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies and the author of 5 best-selling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; The Corner Office; An Eye for an Eye; The Buck Stops Here – Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur and The Buck Stops Here – My Journey from a Manager to an Entrepreneur.

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Human Resource Policies for Startups

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It is a huge challenge to get excellent professionals managers to leave large companies and join startups. Good people are needed by a startup but they won’t join easily. Such managers are generally poor risk takers and only when they see stability in a company and they see other professional managers making this leap of faith do they agree to make a change.

While it must always be the objective of every entrepreneur who is working towards building a big business on a national level to bring in strong professionals and gradually handover the operations of the company to such professionals, the timing of bringing in these professionals has to be right. The entrepreneur must outline his philosophy for the Human Resources function not just in words but also in deeds because this is what will set the management culture of the company.

The human resource function of any company can make or break a company since the employees are ambassadors of the company and and your “face” in front of your customers. Therefore this function must have a strong leader and must have complete support of the entrepreneur.

Some guiding human resources principles that the entrepreneur should consider establishing very early in the company’s journey are:

  • The company should rapidly move towards professional management and that not build a family run organisation.
  • Professional growth must be based on meritocracy and not based on relationships with the entrepreneur or some senior member of management or patronage
  • Any relationships between managers would need to be disclosed at the time of hiring and approved by the management committee of the company. It should also specified that two managers who are related would not be allowed to work in the same department.
  • Performance management must be done based on agreed and quantifiable key result areas for each manager
  • Salary increases would be based on achievement of results and not based on seniority and definitely not based on relationships.

In large established companies, HR policies are followed by everyone because “everyone else” follows them and no one asks for any exceptions to be made. However in a new company, most new employees try and implement policies they have either seen in use elsewhere or want to get implemented for their own personal needs.

The entrepreneur must make it clear to everyone that the company will implement policies for employees that the entrepreneur is willing to accept himself. He must take a decision to abide with the policies articulated by the Human Resources department of the company, and approved by the board, in their entirety so that there would no exceptions.

  1. He must start marking his attendance on the biometric finger print reader every morning and evening like he would expect all employees to do.
  2. Leave should be applied for in the standard company approved application form. This must apply to the entrepreneur as well.
  3. Ensure that no special discounts are offered to the entrepreneur that the other employees are not entitled to. Obviously, these can be graded based on seniority but the principle must be transparent for all to understand.
  4. If the entrepreneur calls for any samples to be given out as gifts, these should be duly authorised as is done for all other managers.
  5. All the expense claims of the entrepreneur must be approved by another board member as is the practice followed in the company.
  6. For gifts received by employees, some companies fix a limit beyond which all gifts need to be handed over to the Human Resources manager. These gifts are then given away to all staff members through a raffle either on the annual day or in a town hall meeting.

Only when people start to see the entrepreneur following the companies’ policies will they start accepting these and started adhering to them. If the entrepreneur does not follow these policies then it will take a very short time before all management levels will start to build exceptions for themselves.

Establishing the key result areas, quantifying these and getting the “buy in” from the respective managers is a big challenge the human resources function is confronted with in every new company. Getting people to sit down and make a commitment to accountable and measurable parameters was tough since most people did not want to be pinned down to a set of numbers they would be held accountable for.

It can take several years and constant cajoling to get managers to start making this commitment for themselves based on which they would set similar KRA’s for their teams. This cannot be done though a directive because the entrepreneur is always worried about losing key managers and therefore he needs to constantly live on the edge of the razor!

While it is important to professionalise a startup company quickly, handing over the reins of the company and stepping back should only be done by an entrepreneur when the organisation has built sufficient resilience to handle changes that a professional manager is bound to bring in for the long term good of the company.

Good policies coupled with firm implementation could mean that your young company will need to keep hiring better and better people to keep upgrading your skill sets. This will also result in a higher than normal turnover in your management ranks but this is to be expected and must not be a reason for any concern. It is better to lose those employees who find it difficult to accept the company’s policies rather than allow them to develop arbitrary policies and norms for employees. Over a period of time, the management team will stabilise.

In summary, motivation of human beings in a startup must be a fire from within. If someone else tries to light that fire under the employee, chances are that this fire of motivation will burn very briefly.

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The author is the founder Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies and the author of 5 best-selling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; The Corner Office; An Eye for an Eye; The Buck Stops Here – Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur and The Buck Stops Here – My Journey from a Manager to an Entrepreneur.

 

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