The Magic of a Positive Attitude

In the past few months, the value of having and developing skills and expertise has been proven. There was a limited scope for providing training. With the need to go virtual, there was also a limited scope for conducting interviews as thorough as old school, offline interviews offered. The skills, the resume spoke for themselves. Be it a hard skill which reflected in the experience listed or a soft skill like the ability to communicate well virtually, it was all self-evident. Skills are self-evident.

No doubt, skills and competence speak for themselves. Organisations want people who can get stuff done, use their experience, get deals finalised and contribute to the company culture and prestige. There is one more key ingredient which determines how successful an individual is likely to be.

That key ingredient is attitude. And it almost works like magic.

The Magical Ingredient:

Let us take a look at this story shared by the noted author, cultural commentator and public intellectual at a keynote note at the Skillsoft Perspectives 2021 address. An article by People Matters has summed it all up really well.

The story is about an assistant security guard; he didn’t have much exposure. People might be thinking- what does an assistant security guard has to offer in terms of skills and expertise? Within six months of working on the night shift, he had managed to have a great influence on everyone- so much so that people started to work in late.

He was always eager and curious, and with that eagerness he started to improve upon his English, learnt to make tea and coffee. With his curiosity, he figured out a way to operate the company’s telephone system. Eventually from an assistant security guard, he became a telephone operator. He retired as a director.

He didn’t even have a college degree. But that didn’t stop him from advancing at work. The lack of a college degree, and the so called ‘lack’ of skills and expertise did not act as hindrances.

His biggest asset was his attitude. The eagerness to learn, the curiosity to explore. A willingness to keep learning and contribute in whatever way possible.

The More Difficult Acquisition:

It won’t be too far from truth to say that this attitude of willingness is even more difficult to cultivate than acquiring skills and expertise, as an article by sums up:

 “With the right attitude and enough effort most new skills can be mastered quickly. Whereas improving attitude is often about changing behaviours which is always much more difficult to do, as people need to want to change and without the right attitude this is unlikely to happen.”

It is ultimately attitude which determines how well someone would fit into the company culture.

Skills determine how well the employee is likely to work on the job. Attitude determines how well the employee is likely to engage with the work. And that is the difference.

If you are an employee trying to find the edge amidst everyone who has similar skills and expertise, it is attitude that will help you stand out. If you are an employer looking for someone who not only works but engages with their work, it is the kind of attitude they have that you also want to look for along with the skills.

We Are in a VUCA Situation And the Good News Is We Are Adapting Pretty Well!

VUCA situation, VUCA

Phrases like “uncertain times”, “unprecedented situation”, “unknown to everyone” have been making rounds all over the world due to the ongoing pandemic crisis. One can say that we are living in a VUCA situation.

Let us go straight into the details of what the acronym stands for. VUCA is:

Volatile: When a situation is volatile, it is susceptible to rapid change(s) and unpredictable events. Take for example the present situation where we were forced to start working with a different methodology, all within a matter of few days.

Uncertain: When a situation is uncertain, there is not only an uncertainty about the future but more often than not, we also don’t have as clear an idea about what is happening even at present. We go on as things happen. Long term planning seems next to impossible. Need we say more?

Complex: A complex situation brings in a whole lot of interconnected factors which lead to various results and implications.

Again, taking from the present situation, we will realise how financial, economic, administrative factors, coupled with the decisions taken by government bodies, health systems paint a very complex picture of what is going on.

Ambiguous: An ambiguous situation is not clear. It is replete with ‘maybe’, ‘whether’, ‘just in case’, ‘until further instructions’.

The very first usage can be traced back to the United States Army War College to describe the situation during the Cold War. According to MindTools, VUCA, and its usage in business and corporate culture can be traced back to when Bob Johansen used it in his book ‘Leaders Make Future‘, in 2009,  while talking about the unpredictable and turbulent forces which can affect businesses and organisations.

Who knew that decades after its first known usage, this acronym would perfectly describe a situation we are in?

But hang on.

It is very encouraging to note that although a VUCA situation is something we are facing right now, it is also something which we have managed to combat quite well.

Although, the very quality of being a VUCA situation means that it will come when we least expect it, so “preparing” for it might sound paradoxical. But aren’t we in such a situation already? So, how does one deal with a VUCA situation according to the book and what is so encouraging about our response to it?

Countering By the Book:

An article by MindTools provides a short and comprehensive guide about countering it:

How To Counter Volatility?

Vision. Long term plans might go for a toss, but there is always space for short term planning. “Vision” doesn’t always mean thinking five, ten, years ahead. It also means charting out a plan that might work well in the next two, three days, a plan which lays out a ‘vision’ about how teams and team members should interact to meet those short term goals, and what they should do if plan A doesn’t work out due to volatility. One can counter volatility with a flexible, short term vision. It involves having a vision of plan B, C, D and so on, no matter how short term.

How to Counter Uncertainty?

Understanding. Sometimes, dwelling on the very fact that the situation is uncertain stops us from trying to get a deeper understanding of the situation itself. By trying to understand the situation in depth, one can get some idea about the possible pros and cons, the possible results, the possible methods one would need to adopt. In short, understanding gives a sense of a wider perspective. Just because it is impossible to get a certain answer doesn’t mean we can’t gain clarity about the possibilities.

How to Counter Complexity?

Clarity. Similar to how understanding about uncertainty helps in trying to think of possibilities, being clear about the complexity of the situation can help to work calmly. Defining the complexity, and its implications to the team members can help see the situation as something which one has to figure out rather than a situation one has been thrust into. Communicating the complexity clearly helps us see the situation as a mathematics riddle to be solved with collaboration and adaptability, making it much less daunting. It involves communicating clearly (and hence bringing it within the grasp of everyone) how factor A might lead to factor B, which might lead to factor D through some strange workings of factor C.

How to Counter Ambiguity?

Agility. So what the situation is ambiguous? We can counter it with our own adaptability and flexibility. An attitude which is open to change, willing to learn new skills and willing to step beyond one’s role goes a long way in changing the way we perceive ambiguity.

Our Response:

When we think of it, many organisations have already in their own ways countered this VUCA situation, especially when some restrictions are being lifted.

It is Vision which has led many an organisation to think of ideas to work in shifts, it is Understanding that things are uncertain that has led people to adapt to the new habits, it is Clarity which has made us prepared about the fact that this is the “new normal”  and most importantly, it is Agility and flexibility which has kept us all working in spite of everything.

 Isn’t this a much needed dose of encouragement we all needed? That we are actually doing our best to combat these times?

Workforce diversity — Still a long way to go!!

Diversity was never in more limelight than it is today. This is so because lagging behind in incorporating diversity is not considered just the unwillingness to spend money, but it denotes that the management doesn’t want to march to the tune.

Yes, the organization gets the image of “slow-to-change.” There is a direct impact of this on the company image and employee engagement.

In light of this, more and more companies are reviewing their diversity programs and making necessary changes to rebuild and revive the same. Those who have never taken it seriously in the past are also working on it seriously.

Experts say that diversity ROI is difficult to calculate if you look at it from the perspective of tangible benefit. However, there are innumerable intangible benefits in the long run.

All this ultimately helps in building the corporate image and establishing the company as a serious player in the field of workforce diversity.

The definition of diversity has changed

Workforce Diversity

Before we have a dip test of a few leading companies of global stature, let’s understand how diversity today is different from the past?

It is no longer restricted to creating a workspace inclusive of gender, race, and sexual orientation. Rather, it has extended up to including talents with different problem-solving skills as well.

Companies with a future-thinking perspective understand the dangers of ignoring diversity. Hence, they constantly review their retention and hiring practices.

Even the standard operating norms also get changed from time to time to include and accommodate the changing diversity scenario.

Does it mean ‘all is well’ everywhere? Well, looking at a few cases that hit the news headlines recently, it doesn’t seem so. There have been many cases where big companies were found ignoring the basic diversity norms.

Case #1: Google and Facebook

Well, one of the biggest name today is “Google!” According to the annual diversity report published by the company, the tech giant is far behind as far as diversity is concerned.

The company is largely dominated by male employees (white).  Asians contribute almost 30 percent, and African Americans are about two percent.

Facebook also shares the similar trends.   The diversity report published last year revealed that the half of the workforce is white and hardly two percent are African American.

Though both giants officially assured that concrete steps will be taken to increase diversity, the real impact can be seen after looking at the subsequent reports.

Since there will be pressure to release the data publically, we can assume that something better will emerge in the coming years.

The trends have been similar for decades. Hence, it will take some time to change the situation.  It will be possible only if companies put sincere and honest efforts to correct the disparity.


Case #2: Bajaj Allianz General Insurance and Pepsico India

Indian companies are realizing the importance of workforce diversity more today as compared to the old days. Bajaj Allianz runs all-women branch which focuses on female employees to make them insurance experts. However, there is still a long way to go as far as implementing diversity up to the fullest extent.

Pepsico India has almost one-fourth women employees and even at the higher management levels the company has sufficient representation of Women.

As far as other diversities are concerned, they are not much significant in India. For example, racial diversity doesn’t exist at all and diversity based on the sexual orientation is still a taboo in the Indian society.

Hence, the studies conducted in our country are predominantly focused on the gender diversity. In companies like Pepsico India, the corporate policy looks women with a unique perspective and approach. The HR feels that the significant representation of women helps in healthier, well-balanced teams and better decisions.

Research projects conducted by top-rated organizations such as McKinsey point out that companies that strive for gender diversity are more likely to have better returns than the national industry medians as compared to those who don’t bother about gender diversity at all.

Bajaj Allianz HR feels that gender diversity gives an opportunity to tap the vast talent pool of women. The company calls it a ‘win-win’ situation for all.

It is a fact that companies are looking for a change in their perspective and making sincere and honest efforts as well.


It is needless to say that in spite of so many claims and commitments by corporate houses about maintaining workforce diversity in their respective organizations, still there is a long way to go.

If we see such a pity situation in the biggest companies in the world, it is difficult to imagine the same in small and medium level companies.

With the focus on diversity worldwide, companies are altering their hiring and retention policies accordingly. Experts feel that it is more of an attitude issue than policy.

Even if you make stringent norms about it, the situation will not change unless there is a change in the mindset of the people.

Hopefully, the situation will change eventually, and we will see more dynamic and diverse workforce everywhere.