When you see an uncut diamond, it almost seems like a white marble or a piece of jaded glass that is waiting to be cleaned. That is same as meeting the fresh batch of apprentice entrants or it could be your reports who are waiting to be exposed to the world of business.

The Lapidary artist is the one who knows what to do with cutting and polishing of diamonds and he has many strategies to adopt. The way the diamond will be cut would influence how much light it would reflect; polishing will also bring the same effect of reflection thus giving the brilliance that every diamond will be valued for. There are four considerations, or strategies for giving value to diamonds, the lapidary has to be mindful therefore to see how clear the diamond looks, how colorless it is, how proportional its cut is, and how big the stone is.

But all four attributes cannot be all added at the same time as more cutting and polishing would reduce the size of the diamond, so there is always an optimization involved and that is where the strategies play out; removing a portion that has visible flaws would make the diamond look brighter, but it could make the diamond smaller as well.

Value has trade-offs therefore, as every human resource specialist will tell you, not every human being can be improved in every human quality; improving one area could well mean that some other area is being traded off.

The first step in every human resource management strategy is to look for those skills that could be honed for immediate benefits on the job. The skill improvement plan looks simple and is almost like cutting the rough edges to start with.

Think of the electrical technician or the machine tool operator, developing an artistry in this would entail working on the rough edges that hinder a disciplined execution. The best electricians are those who plan their approach well in advance, they do not search for faults by hunting them at random, they have a method. This is done through honing of skills that is not just taught in schools. It is in the apprenticeship programs that the best skills are honed by creating a plethora of variations around problems and tasks. But the approach is a disciplined one, this is like the military training that must have every task practiced through a routine, again and again.

The next would be take this skilled artistry to the next level, where more complicated jobs are to be handled through a problem solving approach. Here there is a clear tradeoff, if individual brilliance is to be fostered, team work would suffer, whereas teamwork is most important attribute for complex problem solving.

This is where the human resource lapidary would have to create strategies where individual brilliance is not sacrificed for bringing in team working abilities, but without the latter the former alone cannot get us far.

Some lapidary strategies try to hide natural flaws in diamond which allow them to keep the size of the diamond large enough.

If you see most of the human resource strategies, the lapidary here is trying to increase human potential in many dimensions. That is where the focus faces challenges of all kind.

The more we try to impart many skills in an individual the less the core skills become blunt. The reason why many skills are sought after is because that is what facilitates the career progression, at least in India.

Nobody would like to remain an Electrician through her life, adding additional skills helps her to progress. But someone who has no affinity for unrelated skills would end up moving into a career, where he could be misfit.

If we could have restricted multifaceted skill development, we could have improved our skill inventory in the country.

How many skilled artisans do we see around us, many of them are still learning on the job or trying to shoot in the dark.

Really skilled persons remain in short supply. The reason is not because there is any dearth of training programs. The reason is that they focus on too many things and do not know how to make tradeoffs.

The best diamonds are those that are made from tradeoffs of all kind, too much cutting to too less, or too much polishing to just as much, that is where the trick lies.

Uncut Diamonds to Sparkling Glory: The Lapidary trade-offs in Human Resource management

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