Employee Relations January 2011 - docshare.tips (2023)

ISSN - 0974 - 1739

NHRD Network Journal J a nu nu a ry ry 2 0 11 11

Vo lu lu me 4

I s s ue ue 1

Vivek Patwardhan Christopher NG Prabhakar L Nagaraj D R

HR and Employee Relations

Aravamudhan A Deenadayalan S Kumar Priyaranjan Biju Varkkey Gopakumar V Nihar Ranjan Ghosh Lakshminarayan V Shiv Subramaniam Ms. Nandita Gurjar Alavi Hussain Vineet Kaul Padmakumar P Kali Ghosh Pradip Bhattacharya Dr. Sandeep Krishnan Sharad Patil Girinarayana G Anand Nayak Radhakrishna Nair Visty Banaji A Quarterly Publication by The National HRD Network


Dear Readers, The National HRD Network has been bringing out a semi-academ semi-academic,theme ic,theme based,quarterly based,quarterly journal for the past four years. It aims at compiling compiling and publishing publishing the professional professional views and experiences of reputed HR professionals,researchers, professionals,researchers , academicians in each theme area. Through the journal, we aim to build a body of HR knowledge in all facets of HR which is not otherwise easily available for the current and future HR Professionals. So far,close to 250 eminent authors have contributed articles in the NHRD Network Journal. This journal is circulated free to the members of NHRD Network towards their professional development. Publications so far have been based on themes such as :  “IT in HR” • “P “Per erfo form rmanc ancee Ma Mana nage geme ment nt”” • “At “Attra tracti cting ng and and Ret Retain aining ing Tale alent” nt” • “C “Car aree eerr Ma Mana nage geme ment nt”” • “O “Orrga gani niza zati tion onal al Chang Change” e” • “Global HRM” • “W “Wome omen n in Corp Corpora orate te Lead Leader ershi ship p Roles” Roles” • “O “Org rgan aniz izat atio ion n Deve Develo lopm pmen ent” t” • “Lea “Learn rnin ing g and and De Deve velo lopm pmen ent” t” • “Leadership” • “W “Wor orkk-Li Life fe Ba Bala lanc nce” e” • “Ins “Insti titu tuti tion on Buil Buildi ding ng”” • “Co “Coach aching ing For For Perfo Performa rmance nce and and Devel Developm opment ent”” • “Hum “Human an Resour Resources ces Manage Management ment in Rapid Rapid Grow Growth th Organ Organizati izations” ons” • “H “HR R Com ompe petten encce” The copies of these issues of the journal can be accessed from www.nationalhrd.org. The current issue (January 2011) is on the theme of “HR and Employee Relations” and the April 2011 2011 issue is being guest edited by Dr.Santrupt Mishra on the theme of “HR and CEO”. This is your journal and will be as rich as you want it to be. In order to further enrich it,we would like to receive your 1. qual qualitati itative ve feedba feedback ck on issue issuess brought brought out so far far.. and 2. sugge suggestion stionss for themes themes to to be covere covered d in our futur futuree issues. issues. Kindly send in your thoughts to [emailprotected]

Dr. PVR Murthy Managing Editor.


Title of Article

Enablers for Employee Relations and


Page No.

Vivek Patwardhan


Christopher NG


Engagement 2.

Post-GFC : Challenge of Labour-economic Policy Coherence


Employee Relations – a reflection

Prabhakar L



Industrial Relations Then and Employee

Nagaraj D R


Aravamudhan A


Relations Now 5.

Transformation in E mployee Relations — A continuous process


E mploy ee Relati on Mant ra —Is HR Reciting it right?

Deenadayalan S



Self-managed Team – Social and Organisation

Kumar Priyaranjan


Magic at Raychem RPG 8.

White Collar Unions: Reclaiming their relevance Biju Varkkey



The Retail Industry and its HR Challenges

Gopakumar V and Ni Nihar Go Gosh


Lakshminarayan V


Shiv Subramaniam


Ms. Nandita Gurjar


13. Changing Dynamics in the Employee Relations

Alavi Hussain


14. HR and Employee Relations

Vineet Kaul


15. HR and Employee Relations

Padmakumar P


10. HR and Employee Relations – an IT/ITeS Perspective 11. Emerging Challenges for Employee Relations in Public Sectors 12. “Women Employees” —E xperiences and Challenges thereof


Title of Article

16. Excerpts of Interview with Mr Mr. Kali Ghosh,


Page No.

Kali Ghosh


Pradip Bhattacharya


Dr. Sandeep Krishnan


Sharad Patil


General Secretary, Centre of Indian Trade Unions 17. Excerpts of Interview with Mr. Pr Pradip Bhattacharya, President, Indian National Trade Union Congress 18. Role of Human Resource Managers in Employee Relations – Competency, attitude and Top Management Expectations 19. Employee Relations – A Grossly Neglected Area of HRM 20. Employee Relations is all about Building Trust

Girinarayana G

1 03

21. Industrial Relations : A Personal Perspective

Anand Nayak


22. Human Relations – A cluster of thoughts on

Radhakrishna Nair


Visty Banaji

12 4

Reviewed by


CEO-CHRO 23. Employee Relations: The hamartia of Human Resources Professionals in India

BOOK REVIEWS 24. Neg Negoti otiate ated d Change Change - Colle Collecti ctive ve Barg Bargain aining ing,, Liberalisation an and Restructuring in in In India

Senthil Na Nathan

by C S Venkata Ratnam 25. Glo Global balisa isatio tion n and and Labou Labourr-Man Manage agemen mentt Relations: Dynamics of Change

Reviewed by


Santharam R

by C S Venkata Ratnam 26.. In 26 Indu dust stri rial al Rela Relati tion onss by C S Venkata Ratnam

Reviewed by

Dr. Anamika Pandey


EDITORIAL COMMENTS “Your employees will accomplish more when they pull in the same direction”

Dwarakanath P (Guest Editor for this Issue)

Director - Group Human Capital, Max India.

Employee relation in conventional sense involves the body of work concerned with maintaining employer- employee relationships that contribute to satisfactory productivit productivity, y, motivation and morale. The term ‘employee relations’ was conceived as a replacement for the term ‘industrial relations’ but it’s precise meaning in today’s workplaces needs clarification. Few organizations now have employee e mployee relations departments, department s, and most HR people don’t use the term on an everyday basis. The world of industrial/em industrial/employee ployee relations in the decades immediately following the end of the Second World War was one of widespread union membership, industry-level agreements on pay and conditions, the closed shop, industrial action, and inflationary pay settlements. Employers struggled to assert their authority and in many sectors collective bargaining was accepted as a form of joint regulation that gave trade unions a say in many key management decisions. That pict pi cture ure of th thee em empl ploy oyme ment nt rel relat atio ions nshi hipp is al almo most st co comp mple lete tely ly unrecognizable today.

Prabhakar L (Co-guest Editor for this Issue)

Vice President, HR, ITC

The emphasis of employee relations continues to shift from institutions to relationships. Employee relations today is seen primarily as a skillset or a philosophy, philosophy, rather than than as a management management function.. The field of employee relatio function relations ns has moved from the stability of the golden age to the current cur rent uncertainty, conflict, and turbulence. Earlier in managing employee relations, organizations tended to be basically reactive. However, However, Employee relations is now less reactive than it was, with more organizations being engaged in scenario planningg and address plannin addressing ing ‘what if ...?’ question questions. s. Thus, in the current scenario employee relations is seen as strategic in terms of managing business risk: both the downside risk of non-compliance with an expanded body of employment law, and the upside risk of failing to deliver maximum business performance. Employee relations can nevertheless point to an underlying philosophyy and attitudes and skills that are still needed by HR philosoph practitioners. The current ‘business partner’ model is helpful in identifying an ‘added value’ framework within which HR practitioners practitio ners need to operate, but an unrefl unreflecting ecting business focus may

lead to a neglect of the softer skills, which are essential to managing the employment relationship, and of employee interests and influence. A key issue for managers in employee relations is the right focus. Are they directing their attention attention to the issues that will will make a real difference to business performance? There’s strong evidence that a positive psychological psychological contract contract with employees will lead to superior economic performance, but where does managing the psychological contract figure in the list of management – and specifically of the HR function’ function’ss – priorities? The range of issues business managers have to face from day to day is wide, and getting the employment relationship right can be very demanding of time and effort at many levels. Trust is increasingly conditional, and engaging employees’ hearts and minds – critical thus managing the employment relationship – can be a major challenge for organisations. In an increasingly competitive global marketplace, good practice in terms of enlightened employment practices is no longer enough. Unique combinations combination s of human and other resources are critical to sustained business performance. Employee relations is now about managing in a more complex, fastmoving environment: the political, trade union, legislative climates and profiles of the employee are all shifting. It has now become more strategic, highly proactive and challenging. In the current era where focus is not only on manufacturing manufacturing sector but but also on service sector sector,, it has become imperative to have a strategic employee relation plan to address current and future needs of the organisation. Thus to align with the contemporary theme of “Employee first and Customer next” there is more emphasis on direct communication, managing organisational change and involving and motivating staff. Issues about work–life balance and the war for talent reflect a changing workforce with changing expectations. Employers have to come to terms with these changes in managing the employment relationship. relationship. Before we proceed , it may be worthwhile and prudent to understand what actually is ‘industry’ ‘industry’ and ‘industrial relations’. relations’. An industry is a social world in in miniature. miniature. Associations of various persons, workers, supervisor supervisoryy staff, management and employers create industrial relations. This affects the economic, social and political life of the the whole community. community. Thus, Thus, industrial life creates creates a series of social relationship relationships, s, which regulate the relations and working of not only workers and management, but also of community and industry,, and in many cases even nations. industry

“The field of industrial relations includes the study of workers and their trade unions, management, employers association and state institutions concerned with the regulation of employment” — H.A. Clegg Clegg In are threatened on onebehavior, side by, theacademia, dominanceits of traditional mainstreampositions economics and organisational behavior and on the other by postmodernism. In policy-making circles, the industrial relations emphasis on institutional intervention is trumped by a neoliberal emphasis on the laissez faire promotion of free markets. In practice, labour unions are declining and fewer companies have industrial relations functions. The importance of work, however, is stronger than ever, and the lessons of industrial relations remain vital. As long as organisation organisationss have groups of people, be it manufacturing, retail retail or IT, the need for engaging the collective will become more and more critical. The challenge is to re-establish these connections with the broader academic, policy, and business worlds. It is keeping this challenge in mind that National HRD Network while framing the HR Competencies identified “Employee Relations and Labor Laws” as an essential esse ntial competency for all HR professionals. It is in this context, that the “Employee Relations” issue of the NHRD Network Journal was conceived. The authors have blended deep insights, experiential learning, and personal discoveries into a powerful amalgam of ideas that serve as a rich vein of knowledge to enhance our understandin understandingg of such a critical topic. We have attempted to put together articles, which give a holistic perspective and deal with issues discussed earlier. earlier. Vivek Patwardhan (based on experiences e xperiences as a HR professional) and Christopher NG (based on experiences in Trade Union) set the context. L Prabhakar reflects on his experiences and raises some questions, some of which get addressed in subsequent articles. DR Nagaraj traces the evolution from IR to ER, best exemplified in the article by A Aravamudhan. S Deenadayalan talks of the power of Self Managed Teams, Teams, and Kumar Priyaranjan shares the experience of SMT. Biju Varkkey discusses the context and relevance of whitecollar unions, which gets illustrated in articles by Gopakumar and Nihar Ranjan Ghosh (Retail), KV Lakshminarayana (IT/ITeS). We look at two specific areas – PSUs as discussed by Shiv Subramaniam

and Diversity (given the large number of women in the workforce) as discussed by Nandita Gurjar. Gurjar. Interviews with Alvi Hussain, P Padmakumar and Vineet Kaul, management professionals, professionals, done by Dr PVR Murthy; with Pradip Bhattacharya and Kali Ghosh, union leaders, done by Sourav Daspatnaik; and with CEOs / CXOs done by Dr Sandeep Krishnan, reinforce the thoughts shared earlier. Finally, a set of articles by Sharad Patil, G Girinarayanan, Anand Nayak, Radhakrishnan Nair and Visty Banaji, who with a mix of rational, intellectual, emotional and spiritual pitch, passionately reinforce the criticality of Industrial / Employee Relations, and provide food for thought thought for all HR professionals, professionals, young and and old. Reviews by Senthil Nathan, R Shantaram and Dr Anamika Pandey of three books authored by Late Dr CS Venkata Ratnam (a friend, philosopher and guide guide for all practitioners of Industrial / Employee Employee Relations), aparttribute from encouraging readers to use them as references, references , is also a fitting to Late Dr Venkata Ratnam. What the authors seem to be saying, is best summarised in what Goethe said “Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them become what they are capable of being” Wofgang von Goethe –Johann Wofgang We do hope that the readers would benefit from this edition. Our sincere thanks to National HRD Network for giving us this opportunity.

Dr. PVR Murthy Honorary Managing Editor on behalf of the Editorial Team

Aquil Busrai

Dr. Pallab Bandyopadhyay


About the Author

Vivek worked for 33 years with Asian Paints and retired in 2009 as Head HR. He now works as Executive Coach and Consultant. He teaches at TISS where he was appointed as TISCO Chair Professor in 2006. Vivek has published many travelogues, pen sketches, and articles on HR and IR in both English and Marathi. He edited a book in Marathi on Industrial Relations and has also edited a special number of a commercial magazine. Vivek is an avid blogger and publishes an HR blog among three other blogs [www.vivekvsp.com]. [www.vivekvsp.com].


y argument is that changing the employee relations from conflict ridden to collaboration focused, and increasing sensitivity to employee concerns are the key enablers of employee relations and engagement. The good news is that the tools and techniques are available today for us HR Managers. When I graduated in PM&IR, the scenario was quite frightening. Oil crisis of early seventies had sent the Indian economy in a spin. There was labour unrest everywhere. Government policies were populist. Judgments of various courts did not help us to manage unions and labour with any confidence. Reinstatements were granted for very serious misconducts. Violence was almost the order of the day in labour matters. Initially unions led by RJ Mehta and later Dr Datta Samant freely resorted to violence. It is not as if this was always directed against management personnel or hapless workmen. RJ Mehta himself was assaulted by another Union leader just outside the labour court in Mumbai!

The National Institute of Labour Management regularly held seminars on various court cases. On one occasion a group of lawyers held a seminar titled ‘How to dismiss your employee.’ The nature of relationship relationship was adversarial; adversari al; and it continues to be so in many organisations. Take a look at what is happening in and around Mumbai. An automobile company simply closed down its factory. factory. I have met the workers of this company. company. They told me that they were caught by surprise when the notice of suspension of operations was put up and all employees were asked to leave. Nothing could have been more damaging to relationships. The case of the management is not that there were disputes; they said that the operations were not commercially viable. Organisations valued a ‘Culture of Obedience’ in the pre-globalisation period and some seem to do it even now. The culture of obedience leads to blind obedience is fear based and reactive to people decisions. The new age is focusing January | 2011 NHRDN Neetwork Journal


on conscience, courage based and proactive people management. In the south, Nokia and Hyundai have had their share of trouble with the unions, which they do not want to have in their plants. Pricol saw an unfortunate event – extreme violence in which the HR Head lost his life. There was a similar loss of life in Allied Nippon in Ghaziabad where a DGM – HR succumbed to his injuries in a murderous assault by workmen agitating over the dismissal of a few workmen. Jet Airways in Mumbai provided some comic relief. They sacked 1100 employees in one go, reinstated them when political leaders intervened. When public anger and political pressure built up, were the managers not disowned, when the decision was attributed only to them?

dismissed 42 employees in one stroke when there was simmering unrest. Violence was almost predictable in their case. I have always wondered who is really guilty of violence in most cases. Is it the workmen who indulge in violence, or the union leaders or the politicians or is it the Company’s management which exposes shop floor and HR managers to the risk of confronting an irate mob and facing violence? Let us leave the issue of legality for the time being out of consideration.

In Allied Nippon, it is alleged that the assault was a sequel to the firing in the air by some security personnel, that set fear in the minds of workmen that the management had acted on its threat that it would liquidate troublemakers. Security personnel waving guns and threatening I am often reminded of a famous quote of workers if they misbehaved was common. George Bernard Shaw. He said ‘Trade Some companies recruit HR professionals unions are organisations that protect the for their reputation in closing down inept from the unconscionable.’ He is companie companiess somehow.. In all these cases the calling workers inept and managements employers acted out of fear and not hope. ‘unconscionable.’ The fact is that there is When you act out of fear, you remain so solid evidence to support what he said. focused on guarding yourself that you lose sensitivity to others completely. completely. That way The press never reports good stories that of managing employee relations, in my have some positive message; I am going to opinion, is the hallmark of the old age tell you some. But before that, may I ask thinking. you what the common factors behind all these events were? Organisations valued a ‘Culture of Obedience’ in the pre-globalisation period One of the common factors in these stories and some seem to do it even now. is that the employers have acted out of fear The culture of obedience leads to and not out of hope. This is true of the blind obedience, fear based and reactive company, which hurriedly put up the people decisions. The new age is focusing notice and practically asked their workmen on conscience, courage based and to get out! This is equally true of Jet proactive people management policies. Airways, which sacked 1100 employees in This is what John Bradshaw called the one shot. So much is being talked about the ‘Ethics of Virtue.’ His book Reclaiming unfortunate murder of the Vice President Virtue Virtue makes an excellent reading. The HR of Pricol. If you read the facts that are biggest enabler of employee relati relations ons is the available on the web site of Communist Virtue. e. Party,, you will be shocked to read the kind Ethics of Virtu Party of tactics and games alleged to have been You may be thinking that I am sermonising played by Pricol management. They and talking philosophy that reads so well 2

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bu t is so di but diffi fficu cult lt if no nott im impo poss ssib ible le to practise. So let me discuss some cases with you. Let us imagine three scenarios that pose challenge in building healthy employee relations. These three scenarios are: firstly, firstly, how to close down do wn old factories, secondly, how to transform the existing establishment, and thirdly, how to set up an establishment with the right practices – or how to start on the right ri ght note. The first case: Closing down an old factory. The case of Colgate’s Sewree factory closure is very interesting. This factory was situated just next to HUL’s factory,, which was the battlefield of union factory activities and militancy. Colgate made some right decisions. They openly declared their intention to close down the Sewree factory and explained the reasons to the employees. The employees were not caught by surprise when the manufacturing activity was reduced. Colgate announced a package after talking to the union. A large group accepted and left. A small group remained behind and resisted. They could have resorted to protracted litigation and reportedly such help was offered by unions of neighbouring factories. They could have resorted to violence. But they didn’t. Colgate continued to talk to the employees.

Let us move on to the transformation of old establishments: This is a Cadbury story. Cadbury’s operations at Thane plant came in for scrutiny as the manufacturing cost of their largest selling product was prohibitive. The employees were organised under the leadership of Mr. Dastur who is widely recognised as dynamic, well-read and an aggressive union leader. Cadbury gave a comprehensive proposal. It included moving indirect labour into direct production activity, activity, outsourcing some noncore activities, increasing production and removing certain restrictive labour practices. Cadbury on their part promised p romised upgrading technology, investing in modernising the plant, and consequently increasing the life of the plant itself. This plant is located opposite Raymonds and

selling property to builders have fetchedthe tonnes of which somewould good work was done. Using power to influence others is easy; using transparency of intentions and purpose to influence is difficult. Usually the difficult path in relationships yields greater dividends. I have seen many organisations, which create a list of what must not happen in the new establishment. One of the items on the agenda is that we must not have a union at the gate. The truth is that unions cannot be

Lage was The just released away if they come. Not in India, it and itRaho was Munnabhai making waves. workers wished perhaps happens in USA. That being so it is adopted ‘Gandhigiri’ as the means to surprising that nobody ever says that we persuade the management! Finally they must have the capability to influence the reached an agreement. The plant was workmen in spite of the union. Asian Paints closed down. Exiting employees and set up a plant pla nt at Taloja Taloja in 1980. 1 980. With the high managers had a farewell dinner. There rate of inflation as it was then, the workers were tears, but no fear, and no feeling of asked me a year later if their salaries could unfairness. be revis revised. ed. We We decided decided to have a long-te long-term rm It requires will more than skill to practice settlement although there was no union. The workers asked if it would be okay if they the ‘Ethic of Virt Virtue.’ ue.’ request Mr. Mr. GR Khanolkar to lead them. Mr As IR managers, we must know what our Khanolkar was no ordinary union leader; organisation did. The true character of an he was a person of national level standing who argued his cases in the organisation is revealed in crisis. It is a in CPI-M; and who High Court. His understanding of business defining moment. January | 2011 NHRD Network Journal


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operations was excellent. We invited him and eventually signed a settlement. The trust developed in the process was unbelievably high We repeated this action when we set up a plant at Patancheru near Hyderabad. The

Ethics of Virtue. In other words, they have followed Ethics of Virtue. Using power to influence others is easy; using transparency of intentions and purpose is difficult. Usually the difficult path in relationships yields greater dividends.

workers went to Mr. Basi Reddy who was considered a naxalite and undoubtedly a union leader who readily resorted to violent means. He went underground frequently. We invited him to meet us and explained our people policies. The result was that we developed a very healthy relationship,, one of mutual trust. We never relationship had the fear that he would use violence and he ever used it.

The problem is that when you set up new plants, you recruit new employees who implement the boss’s instructions without a question. Gradually, Gr adually, the new plant set up makes managers very autocratic even before befo re they realis realisee that it is happe happening. ning. When employees show independence and ask to be treated as ‘adults,’ things change unpalatably for the managers; and the friction starts.

The case of Marico is very interesting. They set up a plant in Kerala and they

There are a thousand such situations in

did not have a union for a very long time. which gets torn need toa manager be in control and between the needthe to They felt that they needed a culture of nurture relationships. This is a perennial fair play. They created practices that dilemma. I do not envy them at all. were guaranteeing fair play. For instance, But when we realise that we can influence they used a jury system to hold enquiry by allowing space to others and that we against a workman who was charge can nurture relationships through sheeted. In other words, a select group understanding others first, we take a great of employees drawn from all levels as leap forward in providing mature jury ju ry th that at de deci cide ded d wh whet ethe herr th thee ch char arge ge responses in tough situations. sheeted employee was guilty of certain misconduct. Isn’t that very imaginative Today the organisations are prescribing and isn’t that assuring employee of processes. There is a standard operating fair play. I am aware that Marico has forbut everything. are tried experiments when they set up their process important, the purposeProcesses cannot be lost Pondicherry unit too. sight of. We must recognise that in all these cases three things have certainly happened –

I have often asked myself two questions and permit me to ask those to you:

[a] the organisations organisations have not acted out of fear,, they have acted out of hope, fear

[a] Are we so process driven that we are ignoring building relationship? And

[b]] They have been proactive [b proactive in giving shape to the employee relations and their actions have generated trust, and

[b] Are we so relationship oriented that we compromise on processes that ensure fair play?

[c] They have as have shown in taking those steps, well ascourage in influencing the perspectives of workmen and their unions. Persuasion is the key to practice

To emphasise my point between I would like point out the difference howto a young MBA or MT is received in the organisation and inducted, induct ed, and how a staff


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member is received and inducted. In the first case we take care to follow follo w the process, butt bui bu build ld rel relati ations ons fro from m the ve very ry fi firs rstt interaction. In the second case we make no attempt.

When we understand these expectations in the light of an employee’s context, we recognise that each employee will have to be taken separately and understood; and that no one formula works. Take for example, a person who is new to his job. Do you think it makes a good sense to raise His concern about individual growth will these questions in our departmental be about being coached on the job, and performance reviews? receiving support from colleagues. The thrust of my article is that changing Contrast this with somebody who is well the employee relations from conflict ridden entrenched in his job for several years – he to collaboration focused, and increasing will expect that he is recognised as an sensitivity to employee concerns are the expert in the current job and that he is given key enablers of employee relations and more challenging assignments. The engagement. I have mentioned how some problem is that these expectations largely organisations have managed the critical remain unspoken. The employees then situations focusing on common interests of externalise the problem. They think the parties and proactively engaging in everything is right with them, but the collaboration. I have not mentioned the organisation is running in a sub optimal factors like competition that make collaboration focused employee relations important because those are obvious factors. I will discuss the tools and techniques that are available today for us HR Managers after we discuss the engagement aspect.

I would like to discuss the employee engagement aspect. It is our experience that when a person joins an organisation the employee is ready to give his best; and usually he joins with a lot of hope about his future career. career. The employee also hopes that the working in the organisation would be a memorable experience. So it appears that the new company is an engaged employee on and from the first day, but something happens along the way that reduces it. Books tell us that employees expect four things from their employer: 

Individual growth

Compelling future

Positive workplace, and

Fair compensation policies.

way way. they seem to conclude co nclude that they. Moreover, have nothing to do with it; and whatever needs to be done is always for others to do it. When we displayed the survey results pertaining to a department on the screen and asked for their reaction, the group found fault with every aspect of every HR process. They spelt out their expectations from the organisation – they were impossible to meet. What they seem to say is that “Make the external environment perfect, provide all resources and then I will give you my best.” If you allow such initial outburst to pass and facilitate the discussion skilfully, you can make the group realise that they are expecting perfection from the organisation. The discussion then moves to provide them an insight that they can do a lot to improve the situation. The engagement is indeed a big organisational concern, but I feel it is co-owned by the employee too; he has obvious stakes in improving it. But to help employees reach this balanced view, we must engage them in a conversation on two issues:

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[a] How can I contrib contribute ute more effectiv effectively ely,, and [b] What has been my experience of working in this organisation and what needs to be done? Is there a commonly understood definition of Employee Engagement? No! Organizations define it in different ways. I would like to mention what Towers Perrin says: ‘Engagement is the extent to which employees put their discretionary effort into their work, beyond the required minimum to get the job done, in the form of extra time, brainpower, or energy.’ The issue for we HR managers is how we can create a situation that of discretionary effort. Myencourages suggestionuse is that we need to create a conversation around it to bring about full appreciation of this issue. The catch phrase is ‘discretionary effort’. The importance of discretionary effort can be understood by the fact that the industry experiences chaos when there is no discretionary effort. When Bank employees go on strike they declare that they will ‘work to rule’. And that creates chaos. They would not serve the customer who has made it to the bank just before it closes. They would have normally served him, but not when they work to rule. What the bank employees effectively say is that we will withhold our discretionary effort. Otherwise why should working to rule be a form of agitation at all? The issue for we HR managers is how we can create a situation that encourages use of discretionary effort. My suggestion is that we need to create a conversation around it to bring about appreciation of this issue. There is nofull substitute to dialoguing about our work place issues, creating sensitivity and then taking action.

I am once again focussing on two things – employees need to influence bosses, peers and juniors proactively, I would like to emphasise the word proactively, and secondly, there must be some conversation conversati on to have better understanding of the real issues. There is another issue that needs attention in the area of engagement. In a large organisation there is always a department or an establishment, which is branded as the worst place to work. If you are transferred to that place you look out for a job. Since bosses themse themselves lves have probab probably ly gone through such situations, they invent a solution; they couple the transfer with promotion. Now you have no choice but to go. So you start negotiating with your bo b o s s ab o u t y o u r re tu r n. Wh e n o l d colleagues meet in the canteen, they say “Oh you work at that plant!” pl ant!” What the tone conveys is “Oh how unfortunate!” Surveys must be substituted by sensitivity! We can do without surveys; we cannot do without sensitivity to employees’ concerns. There is a deep feeling of exclusion that the employees get. There cannot be a bigger punishment than to feel excluded. If we w e are to change our work place then our language must change. Our language discloses our attitude. We must consciously decide what language to promote and what language to discourage. This is true of not only all public conversations but also of one-on-one conversations. I would go one step further and suggest we should examine how we should speak to ourselves. The issue is how do we manage the engagement initiative? In my opinion we place too much emphasis on the surveys and the employee numbers.engagement This is probably so because scores are part of somebody’s evaluation parameters. I would like to ask you: - Is it not possible


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to improve engagement without having surveys? My submission is that it is possible; in fact that is how it should bee d o n e , b y ta k i ng o ur e y e s o ff th e b numbers and by focusing on real issues through a meaningful dialogue with employees. Surveys must be substituted by sensitivity! sensitivi ty! We We can do without surveys; we cannot do without sensitivity to employees’ concerns. I have been harping on creating meaningful dialogue. You You may ask how it is to be done. There are many ways and each organisation must invent its way. There are three rules that should be observed. First rule:Nobody rule:Nobody should be allowed to be evaluative about what other person speaks - the entire game is about creating understanding. And as Stephen Covey says, first understand the other and then seek to be understood. Second rule:Paraphrase rule:Paraphrase what that person says by starting your sentence with ‘I hear you say...’ say...’ and capture the essence of his / her statements in one sentence. Third rule: rule: Identify the underlying issues and put them on table for all to comment on.

before. It is the newness of our words to each other that creates the groundwork for changes in practices. Joel Henning nicely frames it with “the way to change the culture is to change the conversation.” Optimism is born the moment we are surprised by what we say or surprised by what we hear. The first step is to agree to stop having the old conversation. When you are in a hole, the first thing to do is to stop digging. As a start, I would like to see a six month moratorium on the following conversations: — The importance of having the support of top management — How workers do not want to be empowered — That leaders need to provide a good role model — How to hold people accountable — How to get people on board and aligned — The need to be customer focused — How to do things faster and cheaper — How to give more choice to the people close to the customer — The need for a clear and common vision — The ground-rules for dialogue, consensus, teamwork, decisions and feedback — The importance of systems thinking and whole system change — The call for servant leaders and the end of command and control — The need for continuous improvement.

“Too often we try to change a culture by focusing on the structure, on the rewards

All of these points are true. It is just that they have become useless to talk about. They have become habitual language and we have become anaesthetized to their meaning and depth. These words, because of their popularity, now belong to someone else, not to us. The phrases get used for persuasion and political advantage, not for their capacity for human connection. They have become the party line and evoke unconsciousness and keep us frozen in the comfort of routine.

or on the roles and core These carry certain logic,competencies. but are best preceded by an effort to talk about things that matter in a way that we have not done

The task, whether you are a facilitator, boss or member of a group, is to evoke a new conversation.

My experience is that this works wonders. There is another way to engage people in conversation for change. In my work with three organisations so far, I have employed this technique with immense benefit. Peter Block prescribes how to do it in his article. I am quoting him liberally now....

January | 2011 NHRDN Neetwork Journal


To sum up: Strategy and Structure have their place, and most organisations have wizards handing those portfolios. W e ne nee ed proce processes to i nc ncrea rease se sensi sensi ti v i ty to em employe ployee e i ssue ssuess w i thi n the organisation. To do this, we must encourage dialoguing, proactively pr act i s i ng opennes opennesss and di s cl os osur ur e, focus f ocusii ng on our l ang anguag uage e and hav i ng conve co nverr sati ons for ch change ange.. There is one more effective tool, namely Open Space Technology that has bee en al mo s t a l w a y s b e en s u cc es s f ul b in any group problem solving. I think you may be aware of it, so I am not elaborating it.

I stated right in the beginning that “The argument of my discussion is that changing the employee relations from conflict ridden to collaboration focused, and increasing sensitivity to employee concerns are the key enablers of employee relations and engagement. The The good news is that the tools and techniques are available today for us HR Managers.” I have discussed some excellent examples of building employee relations thru ‘Ethics of Virtue’ and I have also discussed various issues in employee engagement. I have talked about a tool that you may find useful and it is Peter Block’s Conversation for Change. I hope I have effectively argued my case.


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About the Author

Christopher NG is the Regional Secretary of the Asian and Pacific Regional Organization of the world’s newest trade union organization, UNI Global Union. He was elected as the branch secretary of the Singapore Bank Employees’ Union in 1974 and a member of the SBEU Central Committee in 1975. He joined the Secretariat of the Apro FIET in 1976. He was elected as the first Regional Secretary of UNI Apro. Chris actively involved in in the theestablishment campaign to of socialize the ASEAN integration processisand is instrumental the ASEAN Services Employees’ Trade Unions Council (ASETUC). He has initiated and facilitated co-operation between betwee n the manage management ment and trade unions in vario various us compa companies. nies. Chris has represented UNI Apro in various including the ASEAN and World Economic Forum.



he social and labour wounds inflicted by the Global Financ Financial ial Crisis (GFC) on the global labour market are well documented. The intention of this is to consider ways and means topaper secure balanced, balanc ed, inclus inclusive ive and susta sustainable inable growt growth h in Asia and in the world to avoid a repeat of this disastrous global financial crisis (GFC). The questions being raised by the trade union movement are: what are the policy responses to rein in reckless and unproductive financial speculation and prevent future bubbles that can put Asia’s and humanity’s future at risk? These are the questions that the trade union movement has been posing. Unfortunately, they are not getting clear

answers. More worrisomely, worri somely, the responses of some of the world leaders are confusing and a cause for concern for those whose jobs and lives depend on the stabilit stability y of the economy. Case – I – no meaningful reforms in the global financial system. This is clearly reflected in the present instabilities in the global currency market and in the resurgence of hot capital flows in the Asian markets. The G20, the IMF-W IMF- World Bank and the world leaders have failed to address key weaknesses in the global financial system. Case - II– some reforms are directed at the workers and the trade unions, not at the

authors reckless financialisation of the economy.of economy . It is perplexing to see that that the so-called stabilisation measures being pushed in Europe are aimed at the

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dismantling of the long-established social safety nets such as the pension and minimum wage system. Wrong analysis of the roots of the crisis, Wrong remedies

In a paper released by the ADB Institute (2010), a large number of economic economic thinktanks in Asia that constitute the “Asian Policy Forum” came up with a refreshing range of innovative reform measures to “secure balanced and sustainable growth in Asia”. For the trade unions, the most exciting among the proposed measures are the recommendations to strengthen (not weaken like in Europe) the social safety nets and expand the labour’s share in the GDP.. The logic behind these proposals is GDP simple but unquestionable – strengthening labour’s share in the economy is vital in raising labour’s labour ’s consumption of goods and services so that there will be a better balance in the economy. economy. This is the economic rationale, if one has to look for it, behind the universal demand for the observance of minimum wages and workers’ rights such as the freedom of association and collective bargaining. As early as 2003, a finance practitioner and author (Duncan, 2005) presciently warned about the massive social imbalances occurring under globalisation and the need to raise labour’s share in the global economy! As documented by the research team at the UNI Asia-Pacific, the race to the bottom is instrumental in the over-production of goods and services, most of which are exported by Factory Asia and Services Asia to a handful of developed countries in the North (Ofreneo, 2009). On the other hand, global competition is used by the exporting countries as the

argument to squeeze workers’ wages, benefits and basic rights such as freedom of association and collective bargaining. The predictable outcome of this race to the bottom is the global underunder-consumpt consumption ion of the goods services being overproduced by and the workers in the developing world. ILO’s Global Wage Report (2008-09) bear be arss ou outt th thee fa facts cts:: reg regard ardin ing g ero erodi ding ng wages and workers’ bargaining rights from 1995 to 2007, an ebullient period for the globalisers. Towards coherence: Building jobs and strengthening social partnership

My organisation — the UNI Asia and Pacific is part of UNI global union having its Headquarters in Geneva Switzerland and Regional Offices in Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe. It was created in response to the revolution in the global economy and the explosive growth of new technologies, which changed and are changing the way people live and work. In a global economy where global companies can shift investment and jobs in an instant, the people they employ need a voice totheir makeskills sure and that they can contribute experience to develop, make and distribute new and exciting products and services and to share in the benefits of these changes. We would like to contribute the following ideas: First, the world needs to “rebalance growth”. One obvious solution is to have greater balance in growing the economy by stimulating domestic consumption, side by side with developing exports. Clearly Clearly,, there is a need for balanced growth for all sectors – export sector se ctor,, home industry indust ry,, agriculture, small-and-medium sector and the informal economy.


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Another obvious solution, following from the discussion above on the race to the bottom, botto m, is the need to grow worker workers’ s’ wages and benefits, strengthen social safety nets and, yes, guarantee the workers’ rights to organize freely and conclude meaningful collective bargaining agreements (CBAs). This means abandoning the neo-liberal thinking that a free and unregulated labour market is the best formula for global competitiveness. Is this possible? What is the guarantee that respect for workers’ rights and entitlements will lead to higher productivity and competitiveness? In my country, Singapore, one of the hardest hit in Asia by the GFC, rapid recovery has been registered last year and this year, not by squeezing labour rights, but by asking the tripar tripartite tite actors to sit down and flesh out survival and recovery measures, with the Prime Minister himself sitting down in some of the tripartite meetings. In short, democratic labour institutions are needed for social and economic stability, without which no society can prosper or forge ahead.

for the pursuit of continuing high productivity.. Furthermore, no productivity productivity and competitiveness program will work if the employees’ contributions are not recognised and their rights not respected in the form of decent terms of employment and conditions of work. We also recognise that for the formula of decent work, productivity and competitiveness to take off, both parties must be able to engage in regular serious and honest dialogues in the spirit of true and genuine social partnership. We further recognise recognis e that relations between betwee n employers and unions have sometime been adversarial and even hostile at times. To overcome industrial discord and ensure industrial harmony, weberecognise social partnering must based on that the fundamentals of a progressive industrial relations system, where labour and management: • Recogn Recognise ise and and res respec pectt each each others others bas basic ic rights and interests under the national laws and ILO conventions. • Accept Accept tha thatt ther theree are are areas areas whe where re the interests of both labour and management converge and diverges and that botheach parties endeavor accommodate party’s interests to to the maximum possible and resolve conflicts in a harmonious win-win fashion.

Meaningful social partnership UNI Apro and our affiliates Union for Information Technology & Enabled Services, India (UNITES) recognise that meaningful social partnership must be based base d on coco-oper operativ ativee and harm harmonio onious us labour management relations. This is crucial in building up productivity and competitiveness of the company, company, industry and the economy. UNITES strives striv es to create a distinct and cogent link between employers & employees at all levels.

• Collab Collabora orate te clo closel sely y to to deve develop lop appropriate confidence and capacitybuilding mechanisms and nurture an environment supportive of the foregoing principles and processes. In this connection, the development of mutual trust bred by mutual respect,

However, such competitiveness cannot be However, realized unless there is a concerted joint effort by both employers and employees

goodwill, understanding and accommodation of each other’s interests must be the objective of all strategy and activities.

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In line with this principle, employers must recognise that basic workers’ rights include the following: 

Right to work and qualifications for work.



Right to organise, to bargain collectively and to engage in legal concerted activity.

Right to a redressal of just grievances and to due process under the law.

Right to enjoy decent employment, wages, benefits and work conditions mandated by law and/or negotiated under the CBA.

Right to secure and healthy work environment, and to social protection for all; and Right to equal opportunity and nondiscrimination at work.

On the other hand, trade unions must recognize that basic employers’ rights include the following: 

Right to freely choose the business they want to invest in, including the right to shop closures, Right to just returns on investments; and Right to manage business freely in accordance with the exigencies of the market, including the inherent right to manage work and work processes and to discipline employees subject only to the limitations imposed by law, CBA and fair play.

and challenges including competitiveness in an increasing interdependent global economy. Employment and Competitiveness

In this connection, we recognise the perpetual need of the industry and enterprises to adopt appropriate competitiveness adjustment measures needed to remain viable and profitable. Such measures may include measures affecting the organisation, production set-up, personnel deployment and job design, among others. We insist that consideration for competitiveness adjustment measures should be subjected to extensive discussions by bo both th the co conc ncer erne ned d em empl ploy oyer erss and unions alternative of enhancing busi business nessonsurv survival ival andways viabili viab ility ty without with out resorting to job-displacing measures. The other critical counter measures could be the development of competitiveness measures in the form of programs to support higher productivity and decent work, through the use of technology and development of the skills of workers and strengthening labormanagement cooperation. Examples of positive impact of true and active social partnership

This is not rhetorical. UNI Asia-Pacific has an increasing number of companies and affiliate unions in Asia that are succeeding to show that strong unionism, higher cooperation, rising productivity and greater firm competitiveness can grow together.

We are convinced and believe that by working together guided by the principles

One example is that of Hero, a supermarket chain of Dairy Farm International operating in Indonesia (Aspek Indonesia, 2009). At Hero, the union has helped reduce

of social ‘partnering’, we will be able to effectively confront the challenges of globalisation and develop understanding and social pacts to address common issues

pilferages, wastes and energy consumption. Above all, the union members have become the best marketing people for Hero. On the other hand, Hero


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has happily discovered that unionism and business can prosper together even in an industry known for strong resistance to unionism and regular employment.

to the development of the national economy.

There are other outstanding examples of social partnership, which UNI AP can cite.

Let me conclude by reminding all of us that the centre of production and value creation

In fact, UNI Apro did what others thought was unthinkable – giving five companies in Southeast Asia the “Outstanding Employer Award”, which was handed down by no less than the former Malaysian Prime Minister Badawi B adawi (UNI AP, AP, 2007).

lies in the relationship of people at work. Making that relationship stable, cooperative and secure under enlightened win-win rules is a challenge that the trade unions are prepared to accept.

In India, our affiliates especially UNITES has supported the development of the IT sector,, based on equitable and sustainable sector paradigm alternatives that will not only advance the interests of employers, but also the employees – in term of decent terms of employment and condition of work. UNITES India is endeavouring to work in close partnership with NASSCOM and its member companies to achieve this ideal that will benefit benefit all parties and contribute


The trade union movement, particularly the trade unions that UNI Apro, represents wants to help shape a People First World where all citizens enjoy a decent standard of living in a caring and sharing society. society. Let us use the global financial crisis as an opportunity to create a truly peoplecentered economy in the world. We can make this happen with the solidarity and combined efforts of all the social partners.

References: Asia Monitor Resource Centre, 2009. Rights for 2/3 of Asia: Labour Law Review, HongKong: Kong: AMRC. Asian Policy Forum, October 2010. Policy Recommendations to Secure Balanced and Sustainable Growth in Asia,ADB Asia, ADB Institute. Aspek Indonesia, 2009. Social Partnership in the Making: Trust, Reciprocity & Social Capital at HERO, Jakarta: Aspek Indonesia and UNI Asia & Pacific. Chhibber, Ajay; Ghosh, Jayati, and Panavile, Thangavel, 2009. The Global Financial Crisis and the Asia-Pacific Region, Colombo: UNDP Regional Centre for Asia and the Pacific. Duncan, Richard, 2005. The Dollar Crisis: Causes, Consequences, Cures, Singapore: John Wiley & Sons. Dunlop, John Dunlop, John,, 1958. Industrial Relations Systems,New Systems,New York: Holt Publishing. ILO, 2009. Global Wage Report, Geneva: ILO. Kaufman, Bruce, 2004. Evolution of industrial relations, Geneva: ILO. Ofreneo, Rene E., 2009. Rolling Back the Race to the Bottom, Singapore: Singap ore: UNI-AP. UNI/AP, 2007. UNI Apro Outstanding Employer-Partner Award, Lumpur: UNI Apro. nd

Chris Ng; 2 ASEAN Human Resource Human Resource Conference, May 2010, Hanoi Chris Ng; ADBI Conference, December 2010, Tokyo www.unitespro.org www.uniglobalunion.org

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About the Author Prabhakar L is

currently working as Vice President – Human Resources at the Agri-Business Division of ITC and is a member of the Management Committee of that business. He has been associated with ITC for over 15 years in different capacities in different businesses and in Corporate. He has also worked with TVS Motors at Hosur for 4 years and the Murugappa Group at Chennai for 3 years. He joined the profession after doing Engineering from REC Suratkal followed by a Post Graduation in Personnel Management and Industrial Relations from XLRI. He is actively associated with National HRD Network in various capacities.


ust when one thought that the employee relations climate is moving towards the ‘desirable and harmonious state of balance’, the last 18 months have seen a sudden surge of unpleasant events across the country c ountry..

Parent – Child state. But, even in such cases, there were problems at a later stage. 

I have been reflecting on these incidents and wondering what has changed and what is going wrong. The random thoughts that emerged indicated that the challenges are multi-dimensional. Without attempting to get into details, I am justt li jus listi sting ng so some me of the these se tho though ughts ts (i (in n random order). The purpose is to provoke discussions and thinking, and hence at times may sound very critical. 

‘millennial generation’ better, especially in the context of workforce? There has been enough research on their profiles and impact on managerial practices, but has there been enough research from a workforce point of view and that too in an Indian context? 

With exposure to media, aspirations about quality of life have increased. Very often, aspirations of family members put unstated and psychological pressure on workforce to have higher demands.

When one looks at other events, is ‘visibility in the media’, being seen as

Can we go back to basics of transactional analysis and reflect what is the diadic state of interactions? Which of the combinations are desirable? Will such problems arise if the transaction ego state is Adult – Adult? I have known of organisations which were extremely paternalistic, and used to operate on

Is it our inability to deal with heterogeneity in the work force? Earlier, the workforce was predominantly from the pre-liberalisation era including those who had their childhood in that era. Do we need to understand the


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‘having arrived’ or a ‘sign of heroism or martyrdom’, forcing a section to resort to irrational behavior at times? 

There was a time, when organizations used to operate on some unstated norms of compensation gradation bet b et w ee n th e hi gh e st a nd l o w e st workforce. However, these norms have undergone huge changes driven by demand-supply factors at different levels of workforce and also pressure on costs. Should we be looking at these norms, and at least the differentials between betw een workf workforc orcee and thei theirr immed immediate iate supervisory level?

relations, to build appreciation, knowledge and skills required to be a good employee relations professional. 

Covey talks of ‘character’ and ‘competency’ to be an effective resource. I am not sure if there is enough ban b an d w i d th o n b o th th es e c o un t s. Ironically, this gap exists both in management and unions. When I am referring to Character, it also encompasses courage and conviction.

The competency gap problem gets aggravated by the fact that the academic

I recently came across an organisation, where there was not a single resource in the management cadre, who had ever witnessed ‘tensions’, forget ‘unrest’. And the response tended to go by the ‘rule book’, without getting into the root cause. ‘Oh, he was absent without reason – send a warning letter’. On the other hand, I observed a CEO reacting to a strike notice situation – a CEO who has never been in the manufacturing industry. The way he applied first principles of individual and group psychology, negotiation and influencing, conflict management, stakeholder engagement and advised the team to have a multi-pronged approach rather than a uni-dimensional approach was amazing. A confirmation that managing industrial relations is really managing human relations and

The gap in competency will only get aggravated in the coming years, with the last of professionals who have actually experienced the grind of employee relations retiring. Same would be the case with the fading away of union leaders of repute respect. Interestingly enough, thereand could also be a short shortage age of legal consul consultants tants of repute and respect in this area in the coming years. You can probably count them on your fingers. Should we not be tapping into this veritable goldmine of exposure, experience, competence and understanding of the art and science of Employee Relations through creating a Mentorship Program on ER for younger HR professionals via professional bodies like NHRD?

employee relations. However, it is heartening to note the initiative by certain institutions like TISS, IMI, who have engaged the services of retired HR professionals, who are respected for their contribution in employee

human behavior – ironically enough something that many HR professionals aspire for, but are reluctant when the scene of action becomes a factory or workmen. 

As human resource professionals, have we done enough to impart requisite skills amongst line managers to effectively manage employee relations? Do our reward and recognition systems encourage exemplars in employee relations? Do we invest significantly in the holistic development of workers to help them appreciate the changing realities and hence changing

institutes also have reduced focus on

expectations? Neetwork Journal January| 2011 NHRDN


Increasingly employee relations are being bei ng see seen n as just Trad radee Uni Union on Act, Standing Orders and Industrial Disputes Act. The essence of employee relations being interplay of different disciplines like sociology, psychology;

is also getting compounded by changing profile of trade unionism, where increasingly one finds unions not necessarily affiliated to established national unions, or changes in ‘collective bargaining’ status happening

and application of skills like negotiation skills, influencing skills is getting missed. That Industrial Relations is also strategy, scenario-building, de-risking and not just a process or an activity is often getting missed.

every other year. Where are the days when it was understood that ‘personnel manager’ and ‘union leaders’ were just performing their assigned roles and therefore dealing with role related conflict within work boundaries with mutual respect and trust? This mutual trust and respect went beyond work boundaries and therefore ensured that role conflicts did not result in ‘personal ‘p ersonal enmity’. Today, Today, one observes behaviors, behavi ors,

Increasingly, contract labour is emerging as a critical area. Whilst it is necessary for flexibility of deployment and utilisation, engaging them predominantly for reducing costs will not be a sustainable strategy in the long run. Apart from reasonable wages, which is more than statutory wages, there has to be a greater focus on getting their ‘mind-share’ and ‘heart-share’, and not just leave them as physical resources managed by the contractors.

DA is supposed to neutralise inflation? Is the current method of computing CPI a true reflection of inflation, that too for industrial workers? Has the basket definition kept pace with the changing times?

There are pockets, where ‘collectivism’ is considered as a ‘bane’, and hence discouraged. Can we look at ‘collectivism’ as a ‘boon’, and only discourage ‘fragmented collectivism’?

Is there a ‘trusteeship’ approach towards employee relations? Given that managers are having short tenures in organisations and even shorter tenures in roles, there is a tendency to take short-term decisions of convenience like agreeing to higher increases, ignoring first signs of indiscipline, etc, thereby leaving the next person to deal with the

which operate on two extremes – power or powerlessness. 

We need to realise that a worker worke r actually first becomes an employee and only then become bec omess a mem member ber of the col collec lectiv tive. e. Very often, the basic job of a supervisor, namely,, communicating with the worker namely is ‘outsourced’ / ‘abdicated’ to the collective. Are line managers and HR managers creating the time to partner and the time to engage?

Have interfaces got de-humanised with notice boards, touch screens, and other technological advances? Such communication tools were meant only to be supplemental and reinforcement aids and not meant to replace the human interface. Even in the sunrise industry, one notices a propensity of encouraging drop-in boxes (virtual and physical) or anonymous employee satisfaction surveys, but reluctance to engage in collective face-to-face dialogue on issues beyond metrics.

Increasingly, local external dynamics are playing a significant role in

negative consequences of the same. This 16

conducting operations. It is important

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for management at corporate to be sensitive to these local factors, and help the local management teams to address these issues. It is very necessary for corporate management to support the local management in their endeavor of doing society.something visibly good for the 

With changing times when the focus is on triple bottom-line, are we doing enough to connect workforce with the super-ordinate goal, and also engaging them in matters

related to society, ecology and nation building, and an engagement, which goes beyond ‘tokenism’?

I am sure there are answers to all these questions. The answers lie in the “collective wisdom”; and needs to be distilled. Hence, it is imperative for practitioners of Employee Relations like me to seek out this “wisdom”, by reflecting on one’s own thoughts and actions; and learning from the experiences of others.

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About the Author

Nagaraj is the President and CEO of Nagaraj Management Services and Director of D2C MC, Dubai both acclaimed organisations for HR Contributions, Training & Development. handled several HR Projects for renowned Organisations in India an abroad. Has conducted over 2000 Workshops and Executive Development Programmes in India, Thailand, Malaysia, Srilanka, UAE, Oman and Kuwait. He is a renowned management scholar, thinker, and business consultant. Has presented papers in HR & Management at Japan, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Nagaraj President N IPM, National HRD Net Work, Bangalore Chapter. Hewas has the Started HR Forums at of Dubai & Kuwait. Nagaraj has published over 50 articles in professional journals and magazines and presented Papers in over 25 National & regional Level Conferences and Seminars on HR Themes. He has authored/co-authored co-edited three books on HR. Won prestigious awards like Life Term Achievement Award by the NIPM and Fellow of NIPM.


1960 and the later years saw the speedy growth of Trade Union Movement. Issues like Multiplicity of o f Trade Trade Unions, Inter/Intra Union Rivalry, different forms of Strikes (work to rule, sit-in strikes, pen-down & tool down strikes, and non-cooperation and other forms of intimidating tactics) dominated the IR scenario during this period. Violence in IR became the norm of o f the day. Trade Trade Unions also used Gherao (Originated from West Bengal) as another form of their protest against management. Political parties took too k active role in Trade Union activities too so much several Parties had their Labour wing and dominated in certain pockets where

Lock-outs, (partial/total), closing-down operations, suspension of operations, Lay-offs & retrenchments on the part of managements also dominated the IR scenario during the period.

Most Personnel professionals, who joined joine d the profe profession ssion durin during g this period period,, were inducted to be part of this movement and several of them were also subjected to different stressful situations both on and off the job. Infact most Personnel professionals in those days were spending majority of their productive time either in discussions with Trade Union officials on different issues. They were spending quite a lot of their otherwise productive time either in conciliation meetings

they had majority strength. 18

with the Labour department officials or

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in the courts along with the company advocates to fight the company cases. They were exposed to great risk, since some militant workmen and Trade Union members were resorting to violence many a times even openly.

Can an Can an out outsi side de Tra rade de Un Unio ion n lea leade derr be a tr true ue re repr pres esen enta tati tive ve of th thee Enterprise Trade Unions?

One Ind One Indu ust stry ry-O -One ne Un Unio ion n — Is it a slogan or a reality?

There are recorded cases of beating up several of company officials while they were on way to or back from conciliation meetings with the government officials.

Reco Re cogn gnit itio ion n of of Tra Trade de Un Unio ions ns – is is it it based on majority or is it based on Subscription Payment (Check-Off System)?

Wo rk rk er er s p ar ar ti ti ci ci pa pa ti ti on on in in Management — Is it going to work?

H o w d o w e p r e v en en t vi vi ol ol en en c e , Gherao and other unlawful methods by Trade Unions & workmen?

How do How do we we aadd ddrress the is issu suee of of militancy in Trade Union movement?

A re re co c o mp mp an an i es es fo f o ll ll o wi wi n g IL IL O Guide lines relating to Labour matters?

How to How to ens ensur uree all all Em Empl ploy oyer erss uni unite te and fight the menace of militancy and multiplicity in TU movement?

(Video) How to Share a Word Document

P ea ea ce ce fu fu l C on on fl fl ic ic t R es es ol ol ut ut io io n Mechanism in IR — how to achieve it?

Con fl Con flic ictt be b e t wee ween n Gov Gover ern n me ment nt,, (which passes the Laws), Administration (which implements the Laws) and Judi Ju dici ciar ary y (w (whi hich ch in inte terp rpre rets ts th thee Laws) — How to manage this?

Tra rade de Un Unio ions ns ba base sed d on on Pr Prof ofes essi sion on also known as Craft Unions (Pilots, Sea Men etc.), Caste (Dalits), Blue Collared Collared vs. white white Collared, Collared,

Handling issues related to strikes & lock outs, conciliation & adjudication, disciplinary procedures and domestic enquiry thus, were part of the daily routine of the personnel professionals and provided a great learning opportunity for most fresh personnel professional in those days. In the violent ridden IR scene, several personnel professionals, in spite of their personal and professional credibility, were seen as villains or as agents of the employer by workmen and Trade Union leaders. Even the Government officials in the Labour department and the Judiciary also felt the personnel professionals were pro management, though many seasoned personnel professionals were only doing their assigned tasks in an unbiased professional and highly professional manner.

Personnel professionals during this era were provided with a great learning opportunity in terms of handling issues related to strikes & lock-outs, conciliation & adjudication, disciplinary procedures and domestic enquiries, grievance resolution at the plant level, Overseeing canteen operations and timely service to employees formedprofessionals. the day to day routine of personnel

Some of the issues which dominated the

Trade Union Federations like in Central Government Banks, Railways PSU’s etc, — Is it a bane

or boon?

IR scene in those days were:

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H o w to to en en s u r e Po Po s i t i v e & Cooperative Trade Union Movement?

W h a t i s t h e ro ro le le of of Pe P e r so so nn nn e l Professionals (including Welfare Officers) in IR?

Rao, Com. MS. Krishnan, K rishnan, Mr. Kuchelar, Dr. Datta Samant to different forums and seize the opportunity to drive home the point that violence has no place in Trade Union Movement and they must be realistic in their demands. 

Naturally, due to the prevailing insecure situation, during those days most Personnel professionals were working under severe stress. On one side, managements used to exert pressure on them to bargain with the Trade Unions on different issues connected with productivity improvement, Wages, Bonus, best utilisation of resources, efficient manpower deployment and utilisation,, etc. (ensure increased returns utilisation


on investment and lesser otherwise, financial impact on the organisation); they did not find favour with the management. On the other side, Trade Unions used to put pressure on Personnel professionals, (many a times not hesitating even to adopt cruel and illegal methods to reach achieve goals), thereby making the life of the Personnel professional, who was the front face of the managements, very miserable and risky.

ABSENCE OF TRUST was the most conspicuous thing for such an envious

atmosphere which prevailed in IR. Managements always thought the Trade Unions existed only to destroy the Organisations. The employers felt Trade Unions are a bane to progress since they do not allow productivity improvement. Trade Unions and workmen on the other hand thought the managements would never believe them and they are anti-labour. anti-l abour. They felt all employers are capitalists and existed only to make money. This thinking on both parties — partly right and partly incorrect — derailed the growth prospects of industries. Investments did not flow smoothly. Expansions were happening only in PSU’s. Due to rampant indiscipline at work, productivity was touching rock bottom in several organisations and hence managements lacked financial capital to modernise their machines. Closure of Bombay Textile Textile Mills is an example.

Obviously in such circumstances, most of the Management and Personnel events focused on IR, Collective Bargaining, Role of Judiciary in IR, Managing Strikes & Lockouts, Role of Discipline, etc. These were the hot topics for almost all the National and local level Conferences, lecture meetings, symposiums, and seminars. All young and enthusiastic Personnel professionals were all charged to prove that they are excellent IR Professionals! In fact they were able to get in touch with the well known fire-brand Trade Union Leaders such as Mr. George Fernandez, Mr. G. Ramanujam, Com.

In fact, it was a very discouraging situation but professionals had very less choices in those days. They had to face the situations very tactfully, do a tight rope walking, learn from others, and learn from one’s own experiences.

The second reason was GOVERNMENT’S INABILITY t o bri b ri ng i n s o m e s e ns e a m o ng th e employers and Trade Unions keeping the future of the Country in mind. They

M.K. Phande, Com. Suryanarayana 20

were busy trying to consolidate their

January | 2011 NHRDNetwork Journal

political bases and they needed the support of the working class and hence were always supporting the labour class. In fact they were blatantly displaying anti management and anti organisation attitude.

Executives were reluctant to create a friendly atmosphere at workplace; most of them were production and quantity bound. They would only know how to complain about a worker to the Personnel department but would not

ABSENCE OF PROFESSIONAL MANAGEMENT which could adopt modern conflict resolution mechanisms was yet another reason. Most of the organisations in those days were owner driven who were always apprehensive of erosion of their capital due to the militant Trade Trade Unionism. They did d id not trust any one in the organisations and desired to be consulted even on minor issues when it came to increase in wages, DA or any financial

meet adviceinthe employee or getand involved thedeviant resolution of the conflict. As a result, workmen on shop floor were anti-supervisors and were spitting venom against their shop floor superiors. POSITIVE SIDE 

commitments. Hence many professional managers were only used as front face of management to face all the brick bats from workmen and trade union leaders. Even senior Managers in the organisations had no powers to say or no to the suggestions proposed by the Labour Commissioners or Conciliation Officers; they had to get approval of the Owners before they could agree to any concrete suggestions to resolve the conflicts. 

ABSENCE OF TRANSPARENCY Trade PROVEDto be a major reason for Trade Unions not to believe in whatever management said. Trade Union Leaders and workmen had no idea how the organisations were run from where the finances came and were spent etc., Workers were kept in dark on matters which affected them and hence they demanded transparency in all management dealings. WORK PLACE DISHARMONY was

There were some exceptions to this. Organisations such as TISCO in Jamshedpur tried to give respect and space for trade Unions. They were clear that for the growth and development of the organisation is not possible without the whole hearted cooperation of trade Unions and Employees. Empl oyees. To To that extent they recognised the presence of Trade Union and also involved them in almost all activities of the organisation. There was lot of transparency in dealings. TISCO is an example of continuity of Trade Union Leadership and its advantages.

There are similar examples in the north like in Eicher Tractors, some organisations in the south such as Easun Group which had the history of positive IR.


Resolution of the conflicts between Management and Trade Unions became a national obsession during the 80’s. Several national and international conferences were focusing on this main theme. Several national level Trade Union leaders were invited to air their perceptions and apprehensions during

another point which drove to the conflict ridden IR atmosphere. Line

such conferences. Of course employers, Central and State Labour Ministers, January | 2011 NHRDN Neetwork Journal


Government Officials also participated and shared their pains and concerns. Representatives from ILO, International representatives such as Trade Union and Government representatives from UK, Germany, Poland, were

IMPORTANCE OF PEOPLE RELATIONS  In my experience of over 12 years in Industrial Relations field, a profound lesson I learnt was that you just be human with people and not rule bound.

participating in several conferences and provided some international perspectives in managing the IR, a burning burn ing issu issuee in thos thosee day dayss even in those countries.

In the initial stages of our career our seniors and the Management insisted that we should be rule bound and no exceptions should be made lest it may become the practice and thus management powers and position get eroded. This made most HR Professionals to strictly adhere to the company rule book and enforce strictly the statutory provisions.

By this time few academic Institutions such as Shri Ram Centre for Industrial Relations at New Delhi, XLRI at Jamshedpurr, IIM Calcutta were making Jamshedpu some waves to find out ways and means to end the conflict ridden IR era. Among some notable academicians who took the stage to contribute something to bring some sanity to the Conflict ridden IR, mention must be made of Dr. Nitish De, Dr. Chatterjee, Dr. Dharni Sinha, Dr. Mrutyunjaya Athreya, Dr. Baldev Sharma among several others. They seriously devoted their time to bring together on single platform some national level Trade Union Leaders as also reputed Employers through some OD interventions, to create mutual trust. Examples of such experiments in HMT, SAIL, are recorded. For students of IR, these experiments were sounded to be bold and innovative but also created apprehensions whether such experiments would yield any positive results.

Another effort at this time which should be reca recalled lled is the experim experiment ent carried out at Kamani Tubes Mumbai, where the Workers Cooperative was formed to mange the company. Mr. Thankappan, the Union Leader at Kamani Group, Mumbai was the architect of this experiment. The experiment was through for some years but due to lack

This made me uncomfortable and made me to think little differently. I found strict legal approach irritating and anti-people. I found there were several genuine cases which needed to be resolved from humanitarian considerations and not based on statutory provisions. In my view, most employees are genuine and their problems need to be understood imaginatively and not from a standard perspective. The more you understand the employees and their real concerns; they will respect you and develop better attachment of employers and the organisation.

One such example is given here. An employee in an organisation was absenting for a long period continuously but on a particular day in the week. His Supervisors were unable to tolerate this and insisted the management should get rid of him since he is not able to improve in-spite of several warnings and advises. When investigated in depth, it was found on that this employee had to take his invalid father for medical check up on

that particular day for almost 10 years and he had no one the house who could coul d

of financial strength the movement could not succeed. 22

January | 2011 NHRDNetwork Journal

take care of this job. His supervisors’ felt that his absenteeism is creating many production related problems in the shop floor and other employees were complaining that the management is not taking any action on this employee.

speak and how to speak. They said ‘Sir, the workmen expect us to criticise the Management and individually all mangers including you. But we know sir, how you have treated all of us. You are so nice and open; we do not have

When it was found out that his absenteeism was for genuine reasons, then a meeting was arranged with all the employees in the department and their suggestions were sought as to how help this employee. When all of them learnt the reasons for his absence, they were moved and instantly volunteered to help him. Some of them even said they would swap their weekly holiday to enable him to shift his weekly off to the day he had to take his father for

the mind and heart to criticise you people. In fact, you have been so nice to us, we consider you as our God and that is why we took the liberty of taking the Company jeep and coming all the way to your house (About 20 Kms). We need your guidance as to what we should say tomorrow’. 

When my wife and I heard their sincere and open talk, we were dumb struck. I was touched deeply by their sincerity and the esteem they held me in their hearts. It was a new experience for me. Generally in those days, Personnel Managers were the most hated persons and workmen would give as much trouble to the Personnel Manager as possible to harass them. But this was a different and new experience.

What happened next was very interesting. I told them that I am so obliged to them that they thought it fit to come and seek my advice on the

medical check up. issue was resolved amicably andThe smoothly. IMPORTANCE OF BUILDING POSITIVE RELATIONS 

It was the year 1974. The leaders of the Works Committee Comm ittee of KMA KM A where I was working had organised their AGM on a particular Sunday and they had taken permission from the management to conduct it inside the plant. Around 11.45 11.45 p.m. the day previous to the AGM, there was a knock on my door when I was sleeping. I was surprised to hear the knocks; my wife went and opened the door and found five worker Leaders outside. She had seen and met all of them earlier. She was surprised to see all of them at that hour and invited them inside. She enquired what the matter. By then I woke up and came out only to be greeted by these five worker leaders. They profusely apologised for disturbing us in the night. I also asked them what the matter was. They said that next day was the AGM

matter at such a time in the night; but I told them since this is a matter between them and the workmen, they have to take a decision and I do not like to influence their views. But B ut they were not happy with that response and insisted that I show them a way to get out of this situation. At that time, I recollected the several discussions I had, on behalf of Management and these boys (representing workmen) in the past where I had to disagree with their views on many issues and not being able to meet some of their demands like Bonus Payment, introduction of some facilities

of Workers Workers and they the y had to speak at the meeting but did not know what to

and increase in compensation which involved considerable finances etc. January | 2011 NHRDN Neetwork Journal


In all those discussions they had behave beh aved d in ve very ry resp respect ectful ful man manner, ner, though aggressive at times. Outside the discussions hall, they and I were very jovial and friendly friendly.. I could help them in several small areas when they brought them to my notic brought notice. e. But we were open and placed before them all the facts. We were genuine in our talk and never cheated them or exposed them before bef ore the wo workm rkmen. en. Pe Perha rhaps ps the these se gestures might have given a different impression about me and other executives in the organisation. They also had heard how the executives in other organisations respond to their problems. 

The following lessons, learnt over a period of time, appear very important for all IR Professionals. Lesson-1: Take

risk and be bold . Never hesitate to stretch beyond your limit. Make friendss with the Trade friend Trade Union Leaders. Leade rs. They are not bad, as some people may like to interpret. Of course they are harsh, and straight in their talk and communication. But they are human too. Go beyond understand them and their needs correctly so that you could find a way out to solve the problem. Lesson-2:

Never give the feeling that you are helpless. Deal with Trade Unions in tactical manner. Face them and talk to them boldly.. Make them feel you are equal or boldly

In the end,I told them to address the stronger than them mentally and employees and place the facts before even knowledge wise. them; they need not criticise any executives by name. If they had any Lesson-3: Never close the doors of compulsion, then only they have to negotiations. Keep it always open. There speak badly of management otherwise is a possibility that some new ideas could they need not talk against management. develop at a later stage to solve the I encouraged them by telling that they problem. The employee leaders would also b e w o r r i ed e v e n m o re t ha n th e need not worry even if they by mistake be uttered some not so good words against management, since it is their stand and the management or against any one of they have to think of consequences. us since we know them and will not Lesson-4: Be Human with your Trade mind their utterances. They seem to Union Leaders as also with Workmen . If have got relief then. They drank the cup you are just and factual but humane in your of coffee my mother offered and then approach, it is possible to establish very left. Before they left, I expressed my friendly relations. They are also human sincere happiness for the faith and beings and will repay repay us us in the same way way.. I goodwill they had towards me and was very lucky to be able to establish such asked them to continue the same even relations which had paid me very rich in the worst of the times, since I did not dividends. Some of them even now are in harbor any bad feelings because they touch and pay the same respect they had are Worker Leaders. But at the same for me when I was in service. time I told them that they should not take the company vehicle without Lesson-5:Think Before Befo re You You Act.Never act permission and what they had done on the rush of blood. Deep thinking and was not correct. All the five of them sometimes informal discussions with the apologised for their action and assured opinion makers among workmen could that they will never do such things in offer some clues to grasp the real issues. It

future and left around 1.00 p.m. back to factory fa ctory.. 24

is generally found that the Unions camouflage their demands: What they

January | 2011 NHRDNetwork Journal

want is different and what they demand is different. If you could somehow get to know what exactly their are looking for from management then it becomes easier to find solutions to the problems.

Privatisation) process set in, in the country.. A new era started in Employee country relations. The LPG process initiated new demands to strengthen the organisations from financial, technical and marketing perspective when the


competitiveness became the mantra. Importance of Human contributions reached new height. Compensations slowly started to increase and in some organisations it even reached the international levels.

From this era of weak Management/ Strong Trade Unions or weak Trade Unions/Strong Managements, we seem to have learnt lessons. We traded effectively for Strong Management and Strong Unions, We have moved from suspicion/distrust then, through constant dialogue/education and that too over a considerable period of time. Now,, some semblance of acceptance Now accepta nce has emerged. Trade unions/individual employees have started realising their roles and responsibilities; so also managements and employers. The role of Personnel Professionals and employee relationships has taken a turn for the better. From a period of protests even for a smallest pretext, we seem to have moved to a more mature way of resolving the conflicts. Slowly maturity has set in among amo ng both Trade unions and employers. Over a period of time, time bo b o th t he p a r ti e s i n m o st o f th e organisations have realised the futility of their earlier approach to resolve differences and a strategic change started through dialogue and discussions for amicable resolution to the issues on hand. The conflict ridden IR is yet to be to be forgotten completely; even now there are IR problems in some traditional organisations. But surely there is vast

improvement in the IR scene today. The industrial scenario has undergone

This is the time when IT industry made in roads and India took advantage of this new found employment opportunity. Several big organisations like HCL, TCS, Infosys, and Wipro began to give a new meaning to work and quality. They started recruiting several young men and women for the new found jobs and soon India occupied a prime position in the Global market as one of the leading supplier of IT solutions. Many global players migrated to India and started their operations particularly in places such as Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Chennai, Delhi, and Gurgaon for their Testing and R&D facilities and for development of soft ware activities.

The IT industry simultaneously developed a new work culture where speed of response determined the strength of the organisations. Employees found it easier to work in such organisations where their talent found an acceptance, meaning, and relevance and where returns were faster and facilities were world class including modern work centers, latest computers, imported carpets, modern cutleries at cafeteria, vending machines for coffee/ tea and other beverages, security enabled swapping cards for entry into the work places controlled entry into

drastic change from 1991 when the LGP (Liberalisation, Globalisation &

the work places and more than all young, energetic and listening January | 2011 NHRDN Neetwork Journal


superiors who were eager to resolve all problems across the table in a short time. The new concept of Food Courts where the best caterers of the city supplied with the quality food supplied. Gym facilities, Swimming

if they were a member of any Trade Unions since sin ce by then Trade Trade Unions Unio ns had earned a bad name in the society soci ety.. Hence most employees started opting out of Trade Unions, though in traditional Organisations such as Banking,

Pools, Yoga Yoga Centers, recreation centers, Day Care Centers for babies (Working Mothers) all were provided for employees almost at no charge. Their compensations were matching the best in the industry and sometimes even comparable to some of the well known global entities. Organisation ensured that every manager is trained well to look after the people in the best possible manner and attend to their needs and problems on priority basis.

Railways, Transport, Manufacturing, Government trade unions still have retained their role and presence.

This new found philosophy of employee treatment, also made some in roads into the traditional industries like the Textiles, Textiles, Engineering, Auto components manufacturing set ups, Hospitality industry etc., Their customers started placing huge demands for timely supplies, impeccable quality etc. This made these organisations to recruit bright bri ght you young ng pro profes fession sionals als who cou could ld be tuned fast to their requirements. To attract and retain such competent personnel, organisations had to shed their conservative approach and change their traditional traditiona l practices of treatment to people. Since the job market was growing, organisations felt they would loose competent people if they do not treat their employees in a professional manner and pay them competitive remunerations.

When organisations became more employees centric, Trade Unions slowly lost their place and importance in the organisations. Slowly being part of Trade Union was no more an attractive

Thus the new age term EMPLOYEE RELATIONS was coined. ER is focused on enabling the employee to contribute his best through providing him the best. It provides a positive platform for employee engagement. ER primarily is the responsibility of the Superiors under whom an employee works. It is no more the responsibility of the HR Function. HR has the bigger and broader responsibility of planning Employee retention strategies and constantly be monitoring and reviewing the industry shifts relating to employee relations action plans. Birth day bashes, Coke and Cake Parties, weekend departmental picnics, profit sharing bonuses, ESOP, Out door learning experiences, resort holiday culture, music and dance parties, Food Court concepts, Discount coupons for shopping, Sodex Coupons and severalaother initiatives have all been partsimilar of such employee retention strategies.

On the hind sight it appears all these have paid off fairly well for the organisations. Most employees who separate from the organisations (for personal and career advancement reasons) still speak well of their past employers and feel happy when its progress is reported in the press. They have no bitterness nor do they complain about anything of those organisations. In fact for many employees the above

proposition but on the contrary employees felt it lowered their esteem 26

illustrated benefits no longer matter; they are looking at different

January | 2011 NHRDNetwork Journal

motivators/challenges and attractions like working in tough assignments abroad, new learning opportunities, out smarting their competitors, creating new benchmarks in delivery and quality. Increased interest in handling

their customers abroad. Night calls, Video & Tele Tele Conferences Conferen ces (Also known kno wn as Con Calls), late night working have all made people to be more selfcentered, workaholic and less human. They do smile but their smiles are

tough and new assignments which give scope for application of new ideas/ experiments where there are no previous experiences are accepted by the youngsters today without any complaint. By and large most employees who leave organisations are leaving for handling superior and tough assignments which offer better prospects in terms of money and longer period of sustainability. Few people leave because they had an un-

synthetic. They eat food but they do not enjoy the taste. They have respect for their parents but devoid of love and concern; they spend time with their spouse and their children but spontaneous love and warmth is missing. The ‘realness’ is missing everywhere. Personal relationship seems to have become causality. Most of these young professionals are short tempered and have no patience to listen or to understand. They are looking for

understanding boss or with This bitter feelings with the organisations. is the acid test for the success of the EMPLOYEE RELATIONS approach.

ready made and quick solutions for each and every problem. They do not wish to exert or take the trouble. Their life styles have changed beyond imagination.

Now can we conclude that the ER is the best process as compared to IR? Can we say ER has come to stay? Can we conclude that ER approach is better than IR and it has no or less problems? Can we say this is the best possible approach for employee engagement? Well, it may difficult to conclude in such

positive terms since ER approach also seems to be have left behind some major issues which seem to have serious impact on society. Apparently ER approach appears the best approach for employee engagement and for organisations sustainability. But when you go deeper you would find ER has also several hidden issues which could erupt like a volcano in the time to come. com e. 

First ER approach appears synthetic. In reality no Manager has time to sit and chat with any employee in the organisation to-day. All of them are

All employee communications including the Appraisals, the Review sessions are held through computers. No personal discussions are possible now. All people have got used to this pattern. All transactions today are through Mobiles (SMS & MMS), Computers (E Mail) and through ‘Black Berry; mode. People in general and those working in modern organisations have lost or forgotten the meaning of general courtesies/ etiquettes. They have bee co m e ru d e , d i sc o ur t eo u s an d b negligent. They are more active on mobile than when they are with people in front of them.

Managers in modern organisations have become role models in these thes e areas. They do not (or not able to) keep up

They do not (or not able to) keep up their appointments with their employees (and perhaps with their own

organisation to day. All of them are busy due to the the delivery dead dead lines and due to time variance between them and

January | 2011 NHRDN Neetwork Journal


family people) due to the work pressure. When you get paid what you demanded, the employer is ruthless and in turn demands his pound p ound of flesh. You have to give beyond what you could give. Working beyond the working hours, (irregular working hours) working on Holidays and Festival days (including Sundays and weekly holidays) without rest and time to reshaping up, are normal working patterns to day d ay.. Attending unscheduled meetings are becoming part and parcel of most employees these days. These are resulting in frequent burn outs. Symptoms of serious health hazards at a young age are on the increase. Besides infertility issues and fertile couples

if such managers do exist, they are not treated with respect and made to feel irrelevant in the organisations. 

people like Shri. Baba Ramdev, Sri Sri Sri Ravishankarji, Swami Sukhbodhananda Sukhbodhana nda and many other similar yoga specialists and spiritual Gurus to train and teach the employees to get over the stress and retune themselves to the more demanding corporate world. What a paradox! These Gurus have also devised special lessons to suit the needs the corporate employees. They have developed and designed new lessons to attract and train these Techies!!

opting for adoption/surrogacy instead of going through pregnancy and motherhood are on the increase. 

Managers’ to-day doesn’t have time to sit and chat with their employees. Online PMS even though has to be accepted as a good tool, is adding to further the distance between the supervisor and the employee. What these employees are missing is emotional relations and deep understanding and support. The real essence of relationship is the depth of understanding each one has and the reciprocal kindness shown to each other. Absence of one on one counseling, personal discussions have also become a rare commodity. No one has the patience or inclination to listen to others, they say for every thing “Send a mail” or “send SMS”! Relevant and value added communications have been repl replaced aced by imper impersonal sonal and mean meanss adopted is mechanical. Even superiors

On the other hand we see the Corporates inviting well known

Where are then are we moving? What is the future of Employee Emplo yee Relations? We have successfully destroyed the fabric of Industrial Relations which in a sense brou br ough ghtt pr prid idee an and d to toge geth ther erne ness ss in employees. Trade Union movement and the Industrial relations, not with standing the several negative energies they released in destroying the fabric of peace loving lovin g society, society, brought out people to fight against Britishers in the Freedom Struggle, fought against unscrupulous employers, brought dignity to working class and their families and more than all helped India to slowly and steadily acquire a place of pride in the World of Commerce.

Comparatively Employee Relations has no doubt increased our revenue earning mechanisms, improved our Foreign Exchange reserves, made us less dependent on foreign goods, generated

several new employment opportunities for millions of youngsters, and improved the quality of life of some

have adopted these approaches and hence youngsters hardly find a role model whom they could emulate. Even 28

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sections of the society. It enabled us to refocus on quality, quality, hygiene, cleanliness, cleanl iness, and the Customer care concept. But at the same time it looks it has unfortunately also destroyed the basic values cherished for long in our society and art of living li ving of people peopl e in the Society. People today seem to have been living with a sense of insecurity (Same as it was when IR was prevailing) with no peace of mind, no philosophy to cherish and emulate and with no plan for future. A feeling of surviving and not living life appears to be emerging. There is no real peace now and only artificial and dangerous tranquility prevails!! Thanks to ER.

Whether IR or ER, it works only if all the human issues are addressed with a Heart and not relying on logic, rules, precedent, or by providing world class facilities with no world class wisdom. HR Professionals who seem to be focusing more employee recruitment and employee engagement have re start their journey and focus on building real relations hips based on pride, philosophy and principles which would enable individuals to create a new world. They need to be inspirational and wake upon the inner senses of employees.

Let us wait and watch the next phase.

January | 2011 NHRDN Neetwork Journal



About the Author Aravamudhan A., B.Sc., B.L., PGDBM., is currently responsible for HRD function as C.O.O., with Lucas-TVS and its Associates. He has more than 40 Years Years of experience in the field fi eld of I.R & H.R and has held Senior Positions with leading Chennai based Group of Companies. Prior to his joining Lucas-TVS, he worked as Exe. V.P., with Sanmar Group after a long spell with Amalgamations group. He is presently the Chairman of H.R/I.R Committee, E.F.S.I. (Tamilnadu) and member of National H.R/ I.R Council, C.I.I., He has also submitted papers in various various forums and Guest Faculty Faculty in few Business Schools. Trained at JUSE, Japan on TQM.


here have been many papers written by kno knowle wledge dgeabl ablee and exp experi erience enced d professionals on this topic. And in the context of a number of industrial disputes getting manifested that is compounded with labour militancy resulting in hardships to parties and strained relations, it is very appropriate and timely for the Editorial Board of the NHRD Journal Journal to bring out an issue focusing on Employee Relations.

fu tu re re rela la ti on onss mu must st be ba base sedd on “Community of Interests”. Interests”. The culture of “Conflict of Interests” leads to strife and all round round suffering. But the culture of “Community of Interests” leads to Harmony and all round Prosperity. Prosperity. The view G.R. articulated in the early eighties is relevant in the present competitive business milieu in the Indian economic scenario.

In this article, I have attempted to share my perception and experience relating to Employee Relations and some of the initiatives we have taken in the TVS companies to transform the Employee Relations based on mutual trust and goodwill instead of handling it as a contractual arrangement. Before proceeding further, let me recall an observation of Late G Ramanujam, a veteran Trade Union Leader and Former President of INTUC who strongly

During the days of ‘Controlled Economy’ when customers had only very limited options, they were prepared to pay for all our inefficiencies and cost increases. increases. We also had the privilege of “Cost Plus” to sustain our profitability. Employee Relations was just an inte internal rnal issu issuee and not conc concerni erning ng the customers. Skill obsolescence, attrition and work culture practices never bothered them as long as we met the “Number” required

advocated “Community of Interests” in

by the custo customers. mers.


Employee Relations.

Even the Collective Bargaining Process was just a “One Way Traffic” involving only the employer and the union, confined to

“Conflict Based Employee Relations” must soon be consigned to the past. The 30

January | 2011 NHRDNetwork Journal

economic demands. To be precise, precise, it was mostly union-management relations; not employer-employee relations mostly concerning the “Blue Collar Workmen” in the manufacturing industries and unionised staff in the service sectors.

approaches that helped them to react and resolve the conflict of interests in the past butt to pr bu proa oact ct iv ivel ely y ad addr dres esss th thee is issu sues es relating to H.R. Internationally renowned renowned Professors and Authors M/s Gary Hamal and CK Prahlad have observed:

These changes in the economic and busine bus iness ss sce scenari nario o hig highly hly imp impacte acted d and influenced by competitive markets, compelling cost reductions and challenging People Management Processes have placed the Employer / Employee Relations in recent years on a different footing. Competitive Advantage due to factors such as Product, Process, Market and Technology or other Resources are at best transitory; they bring us to the present but offer no guarantee of future success.

Discrepancy between the pace of change Discrepancy in the industry environment and the pac p ac e o f c h an g e i n t he i n t er n al environment in the Co. poses daunting task of organisational transformation. An A n y c o m pa n y t h a t i s m or oree o f a bystander than a driver on the road to the future will find its Structure, Stru cture, Values, Values, Skills and Processes becoming progressively less attuned to an everchanging industry reality. The Organisational Transformation Transformation Agenda

Game Change Business now is no longer linear. linear. It is not the rules of the game have changed but the game itself has changed. Customers have many options; they are highly demanding, impatient and price sensitive. They expect products with global standards at local cost. Companies have have to generate profits through internal efficiency.

typically includes Innovative HR Processes.

Hence, there is a compulsive need not only for Internal Transformation but also

Therefore, in order to survive and succeed, the Management needs to identify what they should be doing differently with higher degree of competence to institutionalise a culture of Employer – Employee Relations and to align the Employees at all levels to the Business Objective by winning the hearts and minds of people. This is possible only through passionate engagement of people. This

Industry Transformation. However the companies now can no longer rely on

necessitates gradual transformation and focus towards HRM.

Transformation from I.R.M. to H.R.M. I.R.M.

Mostly Contractual Conflict of Interests Reactive Concerned wit with h Bl Blue Co Collar mo mostly Thrust on Economic Issues


Based on Mutual Trust & Goodwill Reciprocal Commitment Community of Interests Proactive Employ oyeees at at al all le levels – Not ju just a “Head count” but “Resource” Also focus on People Development/ Organisational Development

Contemporary Enables Temporary Peace I.R. I. R. Ma Mana nage gerr pla plays ys Tra rans nsac acti tion onal al Ro Role le

Futuristic Sustainable Relations HRM HR M – Fo Focu cuss on on Tra Trans nsfo form rmat ation ion Ro Role le Neetwork Journal January| 2011 NHRDN


Collective Bargaining Process - Now a Two Way Process P rocess There is better awareness and the following are part of the process:

Our HR Principles / Beliefs  H.R is not contractual but based on trust / goodwill 

Every individual has a seed of talent; The management has to nurture it

Business uncertainty and continued affordability are being discussed Security of job is an area of concern more than assertion of rights Employee involvement is a reciprocal commitment Continuous Improvements / Changes should be a Way of Life Need for outsourcing / Flexi labour to cope up with Business fluctuations is conceded.

Create positive attitude to align people to the company’s objective

Take efforts to bring out the “Best” in men – To manifes manifestt latent potential

Employee expenses may be cost to company but earnings to him

Build the winning spirit

Share the recognition / celebrate victories

Lucas TVS Experience in Employee Relations As observed by Justice V.R. Krishnaiyar “Pathology of Employee Relations is Attitudinal”. Instead of clamouring for Labour Law Reform, we attempt to pursue our efforts to reform the mind and attitude of labour.

H.R is proactive I.R and I.R is reactive H.R and our approach of

Customer focus is recognised.

    

While industry practices impact Employee Relations, our culture continues to influence the Relations. We strongly believe people with a mindset to change can ensure ensure organisational organisational success. Though we do not have any “ESOP” (Employee Stock Option), we have been relatively successful in practising “EBOP” (Employee Bonding Process) to sustain a cordial relation. Lucas TVS – Mission To be a respected supplier in the Global Auto Industry, by developing products and solution of value to customers through creative skill and involvement

of employees, suppliers and dealers and


 



 


has been successful. This Mission and H.R Principles were documented when we launched our TQM Movement and successfully challenged the Deming Prize during 2000. Our Initiatives so far to promote Relations and Engagement  Stretched and Passionate Goals to align people (Challenging / Launching of Deming Prize, Total Quality Management, Total Productive Management, Japan Quality Medal initiatives) 

Pioneering and initiating changes in the Manufacturing Systems such as Cellular Mfg. System, Single Piece Flow and making the employees to accept changes.

use of contemporary technology.

Emphasis is on “People” and “Technology” 32

Thrust on Training Training (As an a n Investment)/ Continuous Learning for Skill upgradation

January | 2011 NHRDNetwork Journal

Multiskilling of Operators to provide for their progression / growth

Achieve Productivity / Quality / Cost Reduction through people

Effective and Continuous Communication at different levels on Business, Competition, Competit ion, Technology, Technology, Work Culture and Values.

Sharing the Recognition (To receive Deming Prize Union Reps were taken to Tokyo)

Celebrations of all achievements

Encourage Total Employee Involvement (TEI) at all levels – Allowing workmen for National and Inter-

Similarly we have Suggestion Scheme for operatives and supervisors. For the year 2009-10 we received 11356 suggestions from employees resulting in a cost cost saving of Rs. 83 Lacs. Sunday Voluntary Work Teams (Operatives / Engineers)

A unique initiative of workmen in turn voluntarily coming on their off days to carry out improvements not confined to their work areas.

Currently there are Eight Work Teams functioning namely Shop Floor 5S, Office 5S, Enviro, TPM, Safety, QCT, Kanban and APS Team.

561 Operatives are members in these

national Q.C. Competitions. Many more initiatives are being taken to involve and commit the employees to the company.

Saving achieved so far Rs. 60 Lacs

Total Employee Involvement Initiatives (TEI Initiatives) at Lucas TVS Improvement Teams  Quality (Supervisors / Engineers / Managers) to improve performance.

Recognition in public for Outstanding Contribution during the year by the employees (on the Founder’s Day)

Job opportuni opportunities ties for employee’s wards

Small Group Activities (Operatives) – Quality Circles to address issues relating to Quality/Cost/Productivity/ Safety.

These SGA Teams strengthen Team Work / Problem solving techniques 

There were 239 teams covering 99.7% of workmen who participated in the year 2009-10.

600 Projects were completed.

Savings achieved Rs. 4.50 Crores

W ork Teams Teamswastes focusi ng on elimination focusing eliminat ion of 7 industrial

Our Achievements through People Excellence

These initiatives not only contributed to lasting Industrial Relations for more than 3 decades but also facilitated the company br i n g i ng i n nu m b er o f C ha ng e Programmes and aligning workmen to the initiatives. Challenges ahead  Migration of talented and experienced employees familiar with the culture of the organisation due to normal retirements. 

Since 1995, soin far12our SGA Teams level have participated International

Changing Values of the “Gen–Y” Employees and difficulties to sustain

the time tested practices.

Competitions held in Japan, Thailand, Srilanka, S. Korea, Indonesia, China, Bangladesh and Philippines

Advent of MNCs and challenges in retaining talent

Neetwork Journal January| 2011 NHRDN


Our Journey Towards Excellence Through People Our Journey Towards Excellence Large cell Introduction of SPC, Single Piece -Flow OUR JOUR JOURNEY NEY PHASE PHA SE I Poka Yoke, Jidoka


Introduction of SGA [QCC]

Multi Process Handling

Cellular manufacturing methods

Introduction of DRM

SMED Product based layouts

Small batch Production

Traditional manufacturing methods

Standing operation


Formation of Voluntary Work Teams

2006 2005

Operator responsible for Inflexible manpower


Inspection by Quality auditor not by operators

Multimachin Multi machine e manning

2004 2003 2002 2001

Decentralisa Decent ralisation tion of functions functions

Cris-cross movement of materials

1999 1998 1997 1995 1993

QS 9000

• Challenging Deming Application Prize by 2004  ISO 14001 • Audited for


1985 1963-85 Stag St age e -1


1995 -1999

Stage II

Stage III

Shifting “Rewards” based on “Tenure” to “Merit / Performance”

Fulll uti utilis lisati ation on of IT in • Ful manufacturing • OSHAS 2009 • Recharging Mfg Mfg System 2010-11

ISO 9001

Matching the growing aspirations of the people and the continued affordability of the companies

• Launching TPM

• Challenging Japanese Quality Medal 2012

• Frost & Sullivan Award


1990 1992 1986

• Self directed Work Teams

Widely dispersed Manufacturing facilities across India and challenges in transferring and sustaining our Values / Culture in the new sites. Continuous business demand for performance, need for continuous improvement and employee involvement to be competitive Need to continuously validate the skill and raise the morale levels of the people to cope up with the business challenges.

1999 -2004 Stage IV

2005.................... 2005 .................... Stage V

To Sum up Employee Relation is not just a cut and paste technology that can be automatically downloaded to different different sites. It has to be a culture driven and inbound experiment

to make it compatible with the business requirements. People and their relations are “Core” to any business, because 

In a Technology driven organisation, people drive the technology

In a Value driven organisation, people are custodian of organisational values

In a Strategy driven organisation,

people create the strategy 

Balancing the unique “Blend” of paternalism and professionalism on a sustained basis 34

In a System driven organisation only people operate the system

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In conclusion it is appropriate to quote Mr.. Kabil Sibal, Union Minister Mr Mini ster for Human Resource Development who at the recent 2010 NHRD National Conference said:

reforms in existing systems, practices in the Corporate and Government sectors alike.”

(Video) Content Management made Simple, with Xerox DocuShare Flex

“For the Indian Economy to become the

Organisational performance, therefore, is

World’ World’s s fastestthat growing economy, it will be imperative the organisations and individuals involved embark on a jou j ou r n ey t o a hi g h er o rb i t . T h i s transformational journey is bound to be challenging as it will require changing mindsets and bringing about radical

aRelations. function ofBut Resources combinedon with the transformati in Relations is not a One Time exercise but a continuous process to be improved and sustained by the organisations not only to become competitive but to be better than the competition.

Neetwork Journal January| 2011 NHRDN



About the Author Deenadayalan S.is a HR professional doing pioneering work in the field of High Performance Work System. He is currently the Founder & Managing Director of CEO (Centre for Excellence in organization Pvt. Ltd). Deen’s academic profile includes graduation in Sociology and postgraduate diploma in Social Work. He has been trained in US and Canada on High Performance Work System. He has been awarded the “Best Community Outreach Award” by DuPont-USA. Formerly, he was Director (Business Services & HR), DuPont and has held various positions

which include Vice President (HR) - ITC, G.M (HR) - Titan. He has over 30 years of experience in the field of HR and strategic business processes. Apart from business consultancy, consultancy, he also contributes his time and effort to develop and sustain community development initiatives in Social Service Organizations, NGO’s and corporates. Hello to all my HR Colleagues!


he article below is an anthology of my learning and experience with respect to Employee Relations and Role of HR as an HR professional for three decades and as an OD consultant consultant from from last decade. I request the readers to feel free to contradict or add value to my thoughts. The article has been draped to include – introduction of the pitch, detailing the concept, explaining the application of the concept with reference to live cases and sharing the summation. I. Introduction of the pitch: Mahatma Gandhi impacted millions and

it is better that followers respect their power than revere their personality perso nality.. It’s the ultimate form of power power.. Prelude to the world Relations

Employee Relations is not all about “I say you do”. The very word“Relations” be it Employee, Public, Industrial, Marital, Business and the life, if suffixed or prefixed, denotes an artificiality. It also indicates presence or absence of “TRUST” and hence steps are needed to bridge. The proverb “Blood is thicker than water” is not about density, but the intrinsic and unstated DNA of connect. Relations can be co-related to lubricants that runs the machines smoothly and so too Employee

he not a millionaire. I wouldbe wish andwas Employee Relations should seenHR in that context. For centuries we believed, ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’. It’s better to be feared than loved. The reason being, 36

Relations are mostly connected incentives,today recognition, celebrations and cash awards. In the HR context, the relations have to be looked in a different context and would relate it to intrinsic

January | 2011 NHRDNetwork Journal

simile of human anatomy – where the knee boness or any joi bone joints nts funct function ion effec effective tively ly because of an internal fluid that develops. So too, in the HR Anatomy, if the Autonomy is addressed, HR Anatomy runs sans friction or else we need antibiotics which are short. HR generally tends to address the extrinsic factors rather than intrinsic. Titles of the HR professionals also graduated from Welfare Officer,, to Industrial Relations Officer Rel ations to Employee Relations to People Officer and even Fun Officer – and those who would like to suffix manager or presidents or directors, feel free to do so. Cosmetic concept driving or with buzz word descr descripti iption, on, ERM canno cannott be driven. In this title syndrome, are we addressing the intrinsic or extrinsic is a

However, it cannot be assumed that we

question each one has to ponder? If HR has to build the presence of trust in the context of “Employee Relations”, they need to win the reasoning’s of the hard headed managers who disdain the soft stuff. In the absence of trust, employee relations are “directed towards SOME HOW manage” with or without Union. If you are in the most desired sectors of IT, IT, Services, FMCG, - you called it high engagement, building buildin g talent pipe-line and reten retention. tion. The mistrust ‘de-stressors’ are fun events, sabbaticals, and beyond initiatives and are interim antibiotics. Pictorial representation of Human Brain Anatomy with Extrinsic and Intrinsic parameters:

guise of best companies to work for,

don t needautonomy, extrinsic factors and if HR addresses relationships are going to be smooth. The balancing is critical. We have been doing too much of extrinsic and xeroxing practices under the

without tapping the intrinsic factors. II. Detailing the concept: EMPLOYEE RELATIONS MANTRA (ERM) needs a paradigm shift in the Neetwork Journal January| 2011 NHRDN


Thought-Process of today’s HR Thought Leaders: 

Employee relations are not about bench marking but bench leading and to create a win-win.

It is not altruisms of being goody goody go ody.. YES - hardcore business results should come and Employee Relations play a critical role.

Nurturing through framed approaches is the ambiguous challenge HR faces, instead of designing new mechanisms to tap the nature through native intelligence of its employees

Discussing below few shifts needed in our Mind-sets: Hard Power and Soft Power

HR, in political and diplomatic terms should desist from coercing people, whether through force or payment (incentives), to do the Management bidding. Carrots and sticks are the tools most of us are using to lead our people. But as competition becomes more complex and globalisation more multilateral, another form of power po wer,, rooted in influence, example and attraction, leads to the new ERM ERM is all about the soft power p ower,, and it relies on the ability to shape others’ preferences, either by inspiration or by triggering the internal pride, potent and drive intrinsic ownership. What ownership can do is far higher rewarding than any extrinsic rewards, be it career growth, salary increases increases or the luxurious assets like cell phones, cars, furnishings, etc,.

Front Line produces the Bottom Line The role of HR in ERM is very critical and many a times, HR has only cosmetic process support to the front line while lot lo t of energies is spent on managerial talents. The ERM

paradigm weproduces preachedthe and practiced is that “Front Line Bottom Line” Bottom-line results are the ultimate measurement of executives’ success, and in the last decade plus, our experiences with Pharma, Engineering, Services, and Process industries indicate that, soft power has produced outstanding results. HR has to invest and concentrate on developing the front-line employees My Brain and My Work

Post a three year transformation program in a TVS company down south of India, the Managing Director of the company asked one of the employee who was perceived to be a trouble maker – on what resulted in his transformation beyond imagination ? His native answer was simple and brilliant. “Earlier on it was YOUR command and MY obedience and today it is MY brain and MY work”. This will help in the creation of intrinsic wealth of instilling sense of ownership ownershi p and accountability in the employee External Management and Self Management

Tapping intrinsic power is all about managing SELF. Hierarchies, controls, command are all processes that disconnects the bigger picture pi cture of customer profitability profitabili ty.. Connecting the Customer to Employees in walk, talk, sleep reduces structural distortion.

In today s increasingly fragmented and flattened organisations, leaders should develop and deploy soft power to deliver quantum leaping results. Hard power should be used but very sparingly. sparingly. 38

Our consulting experiences directly challenge the conventional view of driving results at all costs. We believe in the ancient wisdom of Bhagavad-Gita. If process is

January | 2011 NHRDNetwork Journal

right, employees are self aware, customer is connected, and teams will deliver good bottom-line results. Hard power always will exist within organisations, and our challenges have been with mana manageme gement nt team teamss than the grass roots, as the very title Boss tends to abuse power. More so, when it becomes the only tool for performance reviews and compensation plans. Un-framing and Unlearning

ERM has been practiced through the models of Robert Taylor (Division of Labor) and the intent continues to be the same, though the context of shop floor or service floor is no more that of Taylor. IT, Technology, haveKnowledge all replacedand the core factor ofRobotics Skill with hence leveraging capability is the copeability challenges for HR managers. HR has to Un-learn from the Managerial schools to a new cultural construct. construct. Frames needs to be constantly unframed and, we have to dwell on the ERM mantra of enabling the front line, empowering them and connecting them to customer - and then they will deliver for better results .

The pillars of the Process are again led by Principles and not etched recipes. The first five pillars are based on the front end loading and preparation process. Pillar 1 - Self Managed Teams : Small teams, if enabled and empowered structurally and operationally deliver better business results Pillar 2 - Right selection : Customised selection process for the position in a scientific manner Pillar 3- Skill based progression : Front

III. Getting into Application Mode of the end designing of progression through Skill ERM Process ba se d p ro g re ss i o n an d c o nt i nu i n g Self managed teams are not abdication of education results in seeding the intrinsic growth. Life skills are equally important leadership, if we only focus on beyond employment • Se Seed edin ing g th thee ri righ ghtt pr proc oces esse sess • Tappi apping ng nat natur uree of the tea team m tha than n the Pillar 4 - E score card : ERM, while leading through soft process, measures are critical nurture (Qualification frames) and excellence should be measured, which • Lea Leadin ding g genu genuine inely ly - the Lad Ladder dering ing of leads to further excellence. E score card business and people attempts measuring the performance of all • Tran ranspa spare rent nt and vis visible ible cul cultur turee critical attributes of the business on a continuous basis

ERM will deliver quantum leaping business result results. s. In our process experience, with the varied sectors, the cultural construct for ERM has been on the following fundamental principles.

Pillar 5 - Team charter : Team charter is the most important ownership pillar and those familiar with T20 and IPL will now vouch that, the pride and ownership to win Neetwork Journal January| 2011 NHRDN


a game or play the game with excitement is driven by a team charter and the same applies to all sports and so too for work.

drives the governance ownership at the grass roots.

The next five pillars deal with perspective change and intrinsic triggering.

Structural Change for ERM: Organisations talk flat and make top heavy heavy.. The new ERM paradigm is to look outside o utside the pyramidal structure and address bu si ne ss , ca re reer er gr gro o wt h an and d ma na nag ge engagement. Looks each piece is in

rudimentary Pillar 6 - Star Cap : One of the rudimentary approaches to ERM is that leadership is not that is meant for the top people. We can bu ild buil d bu busi sine ness ss fo focu cuse sed d le lead ader ersh ship ip by making every grass root member holding an additional role within the working hours to demonstrate potential. Star Cap is one such process, that builds process leadership across organisations.

confrontation with the other and unless structural change is done, ERM cannot be successful.

Pillar 7 - Communication Continuum : ERM success or failure is based on the effectiveness of this process which many a times is more spoken than walked. Pillar 8 - Learn–Teach–Learn Learn–Teach–Learn : LTL is the

Gurukula mode of learning, then teaching it and enhancing it. Perspective change is critical for success of the ERM Pillar 9 – Reward, Recognition and Reinforcement : The 3 R Magic systems are where; we need to repeatedly recognise and reinforce positive behaviors for the ERM to sustain Pillar 10 - Human Value Action Team : HVAT is the most important mechanism of Trust. Trust. Reasonable people peopl e with right data

Proof of the pudding In the last decade decade plus, we have had more than 1000 Municipal schools students graduating from the traditional blue collar roles to managerial roles through a process of structured ERM interventions. For the business bottom line data, do talk to the following organisations

1. Reychem RP RPG 2. EID Parry 3. GM GMRR- Hyd Hyder erab abad ad Ai Airp rport ort

take better decisions irrespective of the titles or hierarchies. Human Value Action Team drives the governing principles bas b as e d o n et hi cs an d o rg a ni s a ti o na l boundaries. Human value action in facts 40

4. Pe Peps psii Plan Plantt of Pa Pala lakk kkad ad 5. SI SIRF RF – a TVS TVS co comp mpan any y 6. Dr Re Reddy ddy La Labo bora rato tori ries es

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set clear expectations and build trust with their followers. Key to building trust is developing an understanding between a leader and followers about when it’s appropriate to collaborate and when it’s time to follow. Leaders should solicit sol icit input

Grass Root Success Stories Career graph of some of the people below indicate the win-win potential of powerful ERM. It is a structured and en mass career growth model where each looks to add to the business bottom-line and in the process to himself. It is a collaborative culture

building process

when appropriate, but end debate when the decision is made. As Swami Vivekananda said, one who knows to obey, obey, knows to command and if leader becomes a servant (leader), then, everyone in team gives more than their might. Today’s network of complex relationships more than ever, calls for clear and consistent dialogue. Unfortunately, most leaders aren’t prepared to have these conversations and HR has to be on it on a constant basis. ERM should recognise that managers are mostly functional experts and are not equipped to manage people, Let Go, and feel threatened if juniors are empowered. ERM is creating a strong culture culture of highly engaged leadership by not just training leaders, but training everyone on what to expect and how to connect to the customer and thus be ahead with the customer. ERM is about rewarding people for being collaborative, for being inclusive, for participating in a 360, for having developmental conversations with their bo s se s aninto d ththe a t organisation i nf us e s a that l ea rreally ni n g orientation helps people meet their full potential. Reference:

I will not be quoting any bibliography but the insights into this writing came from the collective wisdom – from professionals, youngsters, Front-line employees, students, my colleagues and clients – with whom I had the opportunity to share some space. They are are the people instrumental in shaping this thought process that facilitated better Employee Relations in

IV. Summation : E R M i s all abou aboutt Se S etti ng Exp E xpe ectati tation onss and and B uildi ng Trust- It’s important that leaders

the HR practices both as a professional and as an OD consultant. They are the invisible gurus like the Dhronacharya and the author is only an Ekalavya or an unnoticed disciple. Neetwork Journal January| 2011 NHRDN



About the Author Kumar Priyaranjanis currently Head – Corporate HR, Raychem RPG Ltd. He was formerly Director-HR with Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd. based at Hyderabad. Earlier, he worked as Regional Head - HR, Transport Corporation of India Ltd. and was responsible for HR & training for the region. He is actively associated with professional bodies like ISTD, NHRD Network. He has addressed various professional forums and Management Schools.


n the fast-growing competitive world every organisation is assuring the best quality products or services, what would be then the competitive edge? What will differentiate one in the market place? Customer responsiveness or customer centricity are new buzz words which require greater integration of cross functional work groups for reduced order to market time line with desired product quality.. It requires diverse groups working quality w orking cohesively towards common goal leading to continuous enhanced productivity. Some managers think they can rule over or dictate people to get the desired output and some feel just by making the pay cheque higher people would be producing results. Either doesn’t seem to be as effective. The rigorous and tough competition is compelling companies to think differently differently.. Technology, process, machine

but it requires strong commitment of top management. Progressive companies are looking at achieving extraordinary results with ordinary people. The Self Managed Team concept is such a magic wand, which will differentiate an enterprise from the rest in terms of highly disciplined workforce, cost competitiveness, enhanced productivity and so forth. Self Managed Team is a team of interdependent members, who are empowered to plan, execute and review their work.

Therefore, under this concept Self Managed Team Team members perform perfo rm many of the supervisory roles. These members are empowered to make decisions and hence traditional managers find it difficult. Managers have to be better prepared to change with times and perform value added jobs. They are supposed to lead the

modernisation can be limited period differentiators. Organisational excellence through right people with right skills would be the real game changer. Effective work groups or teams will not just get built 42

teams than directing them. Their job specifications change with words like coach, mentor, leader, facilitator than tradition ones like direct, manage, plan, supervise, organise, control etc.

January | 2011 NHRDNetwork Journal

Self-Managed teams are higher level of In this system, the organisation becomes empowerment in the organisation. The leaner leaner,, flatter and efficient and there would members are responsible for managing be only three three layers of hierarchy hierarchy as shown their work on day-to-day basis without below: supervision or minimal supervision. Hence it’s also calledwith supervision lessvendors, system. They interact customers, suppliers and handle jobs, do the work planning, prepare work allocation in the group, take work place decisions and review the gaps, brainstorm among themselves to identify the reason for gaps. Finally also make plans to plug the identified reasons for the gaps. Selected Employee Input

Ongoing Employee Taskforces

Self Managed Team Members

(The empowerment Continuum. Adapted from the work of John Sherwood) The self-managed team members jointly are responsible for accomplishing the tasks and individually they perform multiple jobs, once completed they move to next work station to join others to hasten the work progress. While traditional organisational processes like hiring right people, training them right and leveraging their potential cannot guarantee desired results, self managed team concept bring huge benefits and redefine the competitive advantages. They are able to adapt, learn, and move faster than traditional workers/operators. workers/oper ators. And it becomes a cost effective proposition. Companies like P&G, Corning, Ford, General Electric, Xerox, AT&T, Microsoft, TVS Rubber, Pepsi, and Dr. Reddy’s have indicated that this system has out-

The systematic learning plays a key role in implementing SMT processes to create High Performance Work System (HPWS). It’s important to map the value added processes and identify skill blocks wherein people will get trained. Learning progression gets evaluated at each level in every skill block. After a person has learnt all skill blocks in a function, he or she is rotated to another function so as to develop multi skilled talent. Self Managed Team Team is the evolved form of empowerment in the company. The real empowerment puts pressure on company to question hierarchical organisation structure, traditional policies and ways of handling systems and processes. It poses challenges for managers across levels as the questions come to their mind – • What’s What’s the ro role le of of a mana manager ger if ther theree is self managed team members?

performed comparable traditional operations. Self-managed Team concepts often improve key organizational measures by thirty to fifty percent. (Adapted from Leading Self-Directed Work Teams by Kimball Fisher).

• Am I req requi uirred he herre? • Is my my job sec secur ured ed in thi thiss organ organisa isatio tion? n? • Why the lay layers ers of mana managem gement ent bee been n removed? Neetwork Journal January| 2011 NHRDN


These need to be answered before embarking on the journey. Soon the top management team at Raychem RPG, a fastest growing RPG Group company, realised that this was the right way to build enabling structure for World Class Manufacturing organisation, which would leverage the newer strengths and create distinct competitive advantages. It was deliberated at across various levels of managers as to who would play critical role in creating future organisations. All the above-illustrated questions did arise at RRL and were addressed collectively. The journey journ ey of High Perfo Performanc rmancee Work Cult Culture ure through Self Managed Team concept was initiated only when all key stakeholders supported the concept fully as it mandated

local people and hired youngsters between the age group of 18-21 years from rural areas of Himachal Pradesh. While hiring of course, organizations’ need to test the basics required which in RRL scenario were tested through Psychodiagnostic test, Aptitude test, Neuromuscular test, Group task followed by personal interview. inte rview. Before starting the test, a common communication was done to create awareness about the organisation, culture, role, compensation, career growth opportunities and so forth. After every test appropriate communication was done to convey that it was not to eliminate or reject them but just to find the right and mutually fit candidates. It worked wonders and for subsequent batches we didn’t have to

supported the concept fully as it mandated for culture change and shift in mindset. Raychem RPG Ltd initiated this as part of corporate social responsibility so as to provide employment opportunity to needy 44

subsequent batches we didn t have to advertise, we got candidates through referrals. In the first phase approximately 200 boys and girls from needy families from rural

January | 2011 NHRDNetwork Journal

areas from all over the state of Himachal Pradesh who were Plus 2 students (Science) have been selected. They represent 10 districts of Himachal Pradesh out of 12 districts in the state. 32% are

bu si ne ss busi ss.. Th They ey ha ve al so be en gi ve n training on behavioural, operational, business communication aspects coupled with physical & mental fitness through the Art of Living Foundation. After completion

female 68% are male. 93%Schools. of them have studiedand in Govt. Municipal

of on-campus training all train of them havee been put thr through ough on-the-job on-th e-job training ing befor before deployment in the plant. RRL has two plants in Nalagarh. One is for manufacturing distribution transformers and the other will be producing Energy Meters. At both the units the concept of Self Managed Team Team has been deployed. These youngsters are given thorough training on problem solving; planning, operational execution and decisionmaking, which prepare them, work with

less or no supervision. In this concept the team members are empowered to take decisions in the defined Raychem RPG strongly believes that that boundary and seniors mentor them. SelfSel fsuch practices are symbiotic in nature as it Governance system, learn–Teach–Learn, can help alleviate problem of Human Values Action system, Open unemployment and it would help increase Communication Continuum, are some of productivity; building career of needy the great features implemented. youths, reduce unnecessary rush in colleges for education which would not At RRL study of value added processes help them build their career career.. played a key role in arriving at the number It’s also a process of creating pride in the of people required for the plant and Background of parents of the candidates hired by Raychem RPG in Himachal Pradesh

society and families where these candidates belong. Hence, at the time of onbo ar ardi di ng , RR L i nv nvii te ted d al l p ar aren ents ts o r guardians and gave them complete information of the industry segment, company, people, policies, role of their wards in the company, their career progression so that when the parents or guardians go back to society soci ety,, they carry the right information and they are fully aware of the company affairs. This completes the feedback loop and develops engagement

mapping role & responsibility was the second critical factor to chart out the right framework of delegation. This has led to creating higher engagement level of seniors more meaningful as the self-managed team members take more of the operational activities up. The empowerment roadmap defined in line with the business expectations facilitates these people to get groomed for higher responsibilities in the future. Hand holding team members (changed

with society at deeper level. These candidates have been given rigorous three months technical training in College of Engineering and Emerging Technology, Baddi, Himachal Pradesh as needed for the

role of the traditional supervisors in selfmanaged team concept) share accountability with the team members. Roles of the Hand Holding team member or the leader are: Neetwork Journal January| 2011 NHRDN


• Provi Providin ding g leade leadersh rship ip to to the the self self-managed team members • Co Coac achi hing ng an and d gui guidi ding ng th them em • Res Resolv olving ing pro proble blems ms whe where rever ver nee needed ded • Gett Gettin ing g the the wo work rk do done ne • Fac Facili ilitat tating ing str strong ong bond bonding ing amo among ng team team members • Develo Developin ping g and and reta retaini ining ng mut mutual ual respect in the team Plans were drawn in the beginning to work on their higher future employability. Emphasis is on continuing education wherein these people from remote villages will become Engineers in next few years. After one year of engagement these young boys and girls have been enro enrolled lled in B. Tech program with Chitkara University. RRL’s technical & functional experts have collaboratively with the University developed customised syllabus for the four years engineering program to keep the course more practical and industry focused.

in one the RPG GROUP Companies and were questioned on their future career aspiration. The answer from one of the youngsters was that he wanted to progress to become CEO of the company one day. He further qualified his aspiration by substantiating the answer with future learning and constantly taking up higher responsibility to create a world-class competitive enterprise. This concept can be magic to any organisation and be applied to all types of industries. Success of the concept at RRL has been the sponsor at senior level who drives the implementation process and keeps aligning all members to culture and values of the company company.. This senior person as the sponsor ofgroup the concept hasonbeen working with the of people the following aspects: • Creat Creating ing pur purpos posee company’s vision

inline inl ine

with wit h

• Ins Instil tillin ling g huma human n value valuess and and huma humanit nity y • Cr Crea eati ting ng a se sens nsee of be belo long ngin ing g • Develo Developin ping g conn connect ectedn edness ess amo among ng the members

As the company has taken up the whole concept under Corporate Social

• Ena Enabli bling ng thei theirr thoug thoughts hts to aspi aspire re for

Responsibility; hence the company has sponsored the Engineering program. The classes are run on weekends, holidays and in the evening as per the arrangement arrived at with the university. After four years all these boys and girls will be engineers having solid five years work experience leading to higher employability if any of them wish to go anywhere else, which may not be the case. Still some of the female employees would move with spouse after marriage and would have

higher goals in life The outcome of the system is positive and today RRL has a group of young, energetic, highly charged set of people on the shop floor who take complete responsibility of manufacturing in the plant. They work very closely with suppliers, vendors and even go to vendor’s place for qualification of products and facilities. These youngsters facilitate customer visits and they only handle all technical queries raised.

b r i g ht c ha nc es to g e t e mp l o y m e nt br elsewhere. The career aspiration of these youngsters is very high. A few of them were attending a session on Self Managed Team concept 46

In terms of productivity over sixty six ty percent of the group has surpassed industry b e nc hm ar k s cr be cree at ed b y so c al l ed experienced people. Twenty five to thirty percent people are at benchmark level and the remaining five to ten percent are also

January | 2011 NHRDNetwork Journal

fast catching up. Quality complaints due to human or machine errors are not there. The productivity benchmarks were set for year 1, 2 and 3 respectively by business head of Transformer division. But in ten months time these youngsters crossed the mark and keeping the performance consistent.

next level in the organisation structure. Those who would develop expertise in specific areas such as product development, quality, manufacturing engineering so on and so forth can vertically grow assume of mentors and coaches forand future talent.role They can also move to other plants or corporate functions like technical training, HR, Customer Support, IT, Finance, Corporate Operations, vendor development, purchase etc. Self-Managed Team is the magic for High Performance Work Culture in the organisation. Its success depends on wholehearted wholehearte d commitment and support of

This is how grooming youngsters from a rural background can create a fortune at bottom of the pyramid in the organisation in real sense. At RRL the career planning of these youngsters has been been set and they will progressively grow and move to the

top management. there must who be a person as sponsor Also of the initiative would be passionate about the process to integrate the concept with the cultural aspects of the company and wherever required requir ed cultural change can be facilitated. In every sense it is a real social and organisational magic!

Neetwork Journal January| 2011 NHRDN



About the Author Biju Varkkeyis faculty member of HRM at IIM Ahmedabad. He is a Fellow of NIBM Pune and has work experience with industry,, consulting and academics. Areas of academic interest industry include SHRM, Performance Management, Leadership Development, Structure and Design, Public Private Partnerships, Employment Relationships and Urban Management. He has authored three books, papers and cases in HRM, and currently leads the Paycheck India project. Has worked on assignments with UNDP, WHO and government including Rajyasabha and Sixth Central Pay Commission. Prof Varkkey has been member of state and central government committees, including ATF ATF of the Perfromance Management Division of GOI and acts as independent director on board of state and private companies.

“Customer Notice: Issued on Public Interest”. The title of a paid advertisement in national newspapers sounds odd and the text often sends panic among the public. The notice would be from a large baa nk a l e rt i ng c us to m er s a bo u t a n b impending strike called by the trade unions and also conveying helplessness in averting the strike. Instead it advises customers to be cautious and take precautions to avoid discomfort. Both sides have their arguments to substantiate their claims, right or wrong. While there is an increasing trend in popular media to always place the blame on trade unions and portray them as the root cause for firms’ problems, there are facts that cannot be ignored. Historically Historically,, trade trade unions unions have

experienced leadership crisis, lacked coherent agenda to address new generation employees aspirations, ignored law of the land and were unable to address issues of the large informal sector workers etc. cannot be ignored. At a point, critiques did write off unions and their relevance, while forgetting the important social and development role these collectives play in human life. In general, right to associate has legal sanction in many countries, including India. It is one of the core principles of “Decent Work.” Decent work, an ILO core theme “involves opportunities for work that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace

played a vital part in improving the

and social protection for families,

conditions of work and plight of workers, as also had elevated working classes concerns the levels of larger societal debate. At the same time the fact that trade unions also diverted from their mandates,

better prospects for personal personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organise and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of


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opportunity and treatment for all women and men.”1 Welcome to the world of while collar unions, whose actions often grab national headlines. Their actions directly affect a large section of the population, since while collar unions are prevalent mostly in the service sector or government. Hence it can be correct correctly ly said that white collared unions also require public support more than anyone else, if their struggles like protests or strikes have to be successful. Sadly enough, such unions have lost the same – since the public, who are customers also, turn out to be at the receiving end even during normal times.

cover is extendable to office based employees in manufacturing also. The case is different in the government and for managerial/officer employees, who form “associations”, but for all purposes are considered white collared. Managerial/ officer unions exist in almost all the public sector firms and do enjoy consultative status, while in the private and MNCs in India the idea is unthinkable.

Thanks to technological revolution and shift in consumer demand patterns, there is a global shift in employment patterns from primary and secondary sectors to the service sector. Broadly the sector covers a wide range of activities and categories like ba nk i n g a nd i ns ur an ce , he al t h an d Trade Unions are traditionally associated education, media and entertainment and with employees engaged in shop floor/ the IT/ITES sector. In India, services sector plant workers performing mechanical and is estimated to have contributed as much manual type of work. In contrast are the as 68.6 % of the overall average GDP white collared workers who undertake growth (Gross Domestic Product) between office based and non manual jobs, where 2002-03 and 2006-07.2 The share is expected the mind and knowledge is applied more to increase further, though some recent for work. An argument about the colour developments in the economy (bubbles in difference is based on the type of real estate, retail etc.) prompts some experts work, blue for dirty/greasy tasks and to question that. Only a small share of white for clean/supervisory work. Another the services economy is corporatised distinction is related to the mode of (estimated at around 15%) and rest are payment (compensation), while white fragmented – mostly self employed or collar workers receive a salary (computed driven by partnerships as well as monthly/weekly), blue collar workers proprietor owned firms. 3 However, receive wages (computed hourly/daily). In services are the largest employers and its general, white collar work is associated appetite keeps on growing. with the services sector jobs, though in manufacturing or agriculture agricul ture also there are white collared employees performing State of White Collar Unions: A status office tasks. check Under prevailing Indian law, the unions of clerical employees working in banking/

Evidences point to the growth of white collar unions after the end of Second Seco nd World World

insurance etc. have legal sanctity; i.e.

War for reasons like presence of blue

registered as a trade union and can get involved in the industrial relations process. In sectors like banking and insurance they have been recognised for collective bargaining processes. Similar

collared unions and consequent feeling of deprivation deprivati on among the office workers who felt, in comparison with the blue collared colleagues who received better deals because beca use of unio unions, ns, or narro narrowing wing of the January | 2011 NHRDN Neetwork Journal


wage gap (traditionally office employees earned more, but situation changed) thanks to union bargaining and the general dehumanisation of work and erosion of social status that prompted the need to

till now remains relatively untouched by unions. The new generation firms strive to remain non-union through strong union substitution measures. Union substitution implies intense focus on employee care and

create a distinct identity for workers. Globally,, white collar unionism is a reality Globally today, and the general upswings and downswings affecting trade union movement could be witnessed here too. It is true that for past many years trade union movement across the globe has been experiencing a downward trend, but there are reports about upswing in recent times and in US particularly, the white collar membership in unions has been showing an increasing trend.

aspiration management; through HRM efforts thereby the management substitutes for unions. Efforts include developing a close connect with employees through activities, policies and communication channels that would not motivate employees to seek any form of unionisation. At the same time, there had been be en mo move vess an and d di disc scus ussi sion onss by ma main in stream trade unions about the need for unionising the IT/ITES sectors. Issues raised by central trade unions in connection

Like blue collar workers, white collar unions also engage with employers through different measures to achieve the end purpose for which unions are formed, i.e. better/income income, secure jobs, freedom from exploitation, health and safety and identity creation. Experiences in the west indicate that, of late, white collar unions have been relatively more successful in securing gains for their members, when compared with blue collared unions. Internationally firms like

with the sector were lack of job security, safety of employees, income levels, work life balance etc. While industry viewed them with high levels of scepticism, union leadership worked to sow seeds of trade unionism in the sector sector.. During the debate, many representatives of employers held on to the union substitution logic and insisted that employees are well taken care of; few f ew feared that the step will be disastrous to the growing industry.

Some new generation private banks built Boeing were reportedly caught unaware a fully officer oriented structure, thus and by surprise when their engineers eliminating the cadre of clerical staff who considered white collared and non are more prone to union influence. In participatory in unions, unionised.4 Few traditional PSU banks and old private Indian firms which acquired assets abroad banks, union power has been extremely had to face trade unions of such acquired high and there was a time during 1980s, companies and in the process of when powerful bank unions could slow settlements had to deal with white collared down the pace of infusion of technology unions also. into banks or any discrimination among The current state of affairs for white collar employees based on performance. unions in India is very different. Large Learning from the experience, the new

employers like the Public sector banking/ insurance and government organisations both at central and state levels can claim near complete unionisation. unionisation. Recent growth growth in services has come through IT/ITES or the private sector banking/insurance that 50

generation banks relied on high end IT architecture and outsourcing to eliminate requirement of union cadre employees. The officer oriented structure, with strong performance related rewards and HRM initiatives did find favour with the new

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generation employees who are more focused on careers and rewards. The challenge

managers, who felt that employees though under their supervision, would listen to union dictates more. This power imbalance often led to loss of managerial control for managers who found themselves on the

Like their counterpart unions, white collar unions also face dilemmas related to their receiving end. The situation soon mandate versus acceptance levels by their deteriorated to union monopoly over di rected by members and public. Overt participation decisions, and decisions being directed by members in union activities has come union leadership. Field level managers down in the case of white collar unions mention that many employees also do not also. A section section of leadership also recognises subscribe to the unions position in many the complexity of member expectations aspects, but are not ready to leave the and the ideological rhetoric which held unions. They are willing to listen to members together for long will not work. management and work with management Lack of public sympathy when engaged in also. This duality can be explained by a collective action (strike) was evident recent study conducted on white collar during the recent state government employees with union affiliation, working employee strikes in three states , where in a traditional private pr ivate company. company. The study after few days the strikes were called off found that, the ambitious and well with most demands unmet. They found informed employee of today is comfortable themselves at the receiving end, because with the duality and has clear roles public support was on the side of demarked for unions and the employer. governmentt who refused to yield. In Tamil governmen Tamil Study showed that, in an increasingly Nadu, the government reacted by insecure world, the union is required for personal dismissing the entire set of striking job and income security while for personal workers and the courts held that “right to growth, social status and fulfilling career strike” does not apply to government ambitions they are5ready to be associated with management. employees. Recognising the above duality duality,, many white Such developments are prompting these white collar unions to rethink their collar unions take lead to help employees fulfil their personal career ambitions, rather strategies and thus reclaim their existence. than hold on to them. It is common in banks, insurance and even government for Response to reality: change and the unions to organise training programs to white collar unions. prepare employees for departmental Larger environmental and demographic promotion tests and other section stages. changes experienced by India during the past decade did affect the prospects and Member Services. activity levels of traditional white collar Unions have a history of providing p roviding services unions. Few creative initiatives taken by to members and thus enhancing their hold

unions are discussed below. Comfort in dual loyalty – living with the generation of strivers.

Strong level of union affiliation by employees was often resented by owners/

over them. The objective was to be with the member during times of need and happiness. Traditional modes included running recreational and community welfare activities, thrift societies or death benefit fund. However However,, some white collar collar January | 2011 NHRDN Neetwork Journal


unions in the banking sector have moved steps ahead and created services that cater to the employees’ social ambitions and obligations. Officers association of State Bank runs SBOA schools with high academic standards, which provides preference to employees children. Similarly officers association of a private sector bank manages an engineering college, where employee children are given concessions in fee, at the same time without compromising academic standards. Many unions also run cooperative housing societies where employees are able to buy houses or negotiate with builders in numbers to get benefits of scale. From operational collaboration to strategic partnership

At the same time, managements and managers also realised that there is merit in treating the unions as strategic partners in organisation’s growth and transformation, rather than adversaries or partners for limited agenda. There has been This approach moves beyond the conventional levels of union-management partnership of information seeking and sharing or generic employee participation/ involvement through forums like quality circles/cross functional teams to involvement in strategy formulation, followed by a role in implementation. In a unique experiment, two public sector banks ba nks,, ba based sed in so south uther ern n and we weste stern rn India respectively were able to take such an initiative at the institutional level. Here trade union leaders were invited to be an integral part of the strategic

the long-medium-short term visions for the organisation. The strategic partnership exercise did not stop after the meetings, but got extended to jointly carrying the message to the masses of workers.6 Forging global partnerships through networking

Unions across the globe have realised the need for global solidarity of members, which would place them in a better position. In a globalised business environment, concerns of working class are also global. A limited perspective would see outsourcing as loss of jobs from high wage country to low wage country, but partnership enables to and work for creating better jobs inthem home other countries. The IT/ITES sector union in India (in the initial stage of its existence) UNITES Professionals, though affiliated to a national trade union, works closely with global unions. Apart from campaigning for members rights, UNITES works with research firms to produce empirical evidence about issues faced by IT/ITES employees. Recent output relate to sector profile, stress levels and also safety of BPO workers, particularly women. A campaign against in discriminatory pink slips was run during recession, which bought such actions to public space through a newsletter.. In partnership newsletter partnership with Paycheck Paycheck India (www.paycheck.in), (www.paycheck.in), UNITES works to ensure propagation of decent work principles and labour market issues for benefit of service sector employees. Conclusion

planning exercise for the bank eventually creating a shared vision for the respective banks. They partic participated ipated in works workshops, hops, contributed their perspective to the strategy formulation exercise and worked alongside management team to develop 52

Like other unions, white collar unions are also facing the crisis of existence and proving their relevance. While the traditional unions which were in a low ebb for long, are reclaiming their place in many parts of India through strikes and other

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means (recent reports indicate an increase in union activity and some unfortunate incident), white collar unions are moving more into a partnership mode with their employers and playing a constructive role

Formation of new unions in new workplaces may be a tougher proposition for white collared employees, but they do strive to be more relevant in where they already exist.

in understanding needs of members.

References :


For discussio discussionn about Decent Work, Work, see the relevant relevant section section of www.paych www.paycheck.i eck.inn Paycheck Paycheck India is a research research project project aimed at

labour market transparency. 2

GOI, “services “services sector” available available at www.business. www.business.gov gov.in/in .in/industry dustry-serv -services/s ices/servic ervices_sec es_sector tor.php .php


Viadyanathan Viady anathan,, R (2010), “The India India growth story story is propelled propelled by black money”, money”, www.dnaind www.dnaindia.co ia.com m dated December December 21, 2010.


Dessler, Dessl er, Gary Gary and Varkke Varkkey, y, Biju (2009) (2009) “Human “Human Resource Resource Managemen Management” t” Pearson Pearson India India 11 Ed. Page 623-624 623-624


Sarker, Anita and Varkke Sarker, Varkkey, y, Biju Biju (2008) “Union “Union Imperatives Imperatives from Unionised Unionised White Collar Collar Employees Employees Perspective Perspective:: The case of Tata Tata Employees Union.” IIMA Working paper 2008-03-07


The informati information on has been provid provided ed by Mankidy Mankidy Associ Associates ates Pune, Pune, who acted acted as facilitato facilitators. rs.

January | 2011 NHRDN Neetwork Journal


THE RETAIL INDUSTRY AND SOME OF ITS HR CHALLENGES (Common issues faced by HR managers in the Indian retail industry) GOPAKUMAR with inputs from NIHAR RANJAN GHOSH About the Authors Gopakumar is a retail professional experienced in retailing services, marketing, franchising and strategic implementations. In 8 years of working, he has been associated with companies like Philips, Blue Star, Nicholas Piramal and some start-ups in retail services. He consults for SMEs and retail chains in retail identity, marketing and store fit-outs in addition to business operations and strategy. Gopakumar is currently associated with some management schools as visiting faculty and in pioneering efforts in developing alternate marketing channels. He is also an avid photographer, traveler and conservation activist. Gopakumar is reachable on [emailprotected] Nihar Ranjan Ghosh, is the Sr S r. Vice President – Human Resource Re source and member Management Committee for the Retail Sector of RPG Group, with responsibility for Spencer’s Retail Limited, Music World Retail Ltd. and Au Bon Pain India Limited. He graduated with a Master’s Degree in Social Works from Indore School of Social Work in 1985. Nihar is a seasoned HR professional with over two & half decades of rich and diverse experience in Multinational Corporation, Family Managed Conglomerates, Federal Agency and Academic Institution in India, Asia Pacific Region & Middle East Region. Nihar held HR leadership roles in Johnson & Johnson Medical India, Johnson & Johnson Medical Asia Pacific, Alghanim Industries and Human Soft Limited in Kuwait and at Profiles International in Dubai. In the early part of his career, he has also worked at Indian Institute of Management - Ahmedabad, National Dairy Development Board and Reliance Industries. He is also a well aclaimed trainer, trainer, process facilitator and regular speaker at national & international industry & professional forums.


etail industry in India is regarded as the fastest growing and the fifth largest in the world. Till recently what consisted

hyper-markets spanning lakhs of square feet, our country has warmed up to all formats of retail. The rising of the middle

largely of unorganised and regional

class and their aspirations have primarily

players, has become of the hottest industries innow terms of newone investment and opportunities.

fueled this growth in demand, buthuge the actual potential apparently lies in the untapped rural markets of India.

Starting with stand-alone stores selling a single brand of merchandise, to mammoth

According to the 8th Annual Global Retail Development Index Ind ex (GRDI) of AT AT Kearney, Kearney,


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India retail industry is the most promising new emerging market for investment. In 2007, the retail trade in India had a share of 8-10% in the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the country. In 2009, it rose to

12%. It is also expected to reach 22% by 2010.

his need to interact with colleagues. And customer service is limited to defined points. Unlike any other conventional workplace, retail work place is loosely structur structured. ed. The store is one large customer service point where customers dart in and out from categories in smaller stores to departments in larger ones. Even though employees are assigned specific category or department, the customer interaction can happen at any point inside the assigned area. So a retail customer service personnel is expected to be available anywhere inside his/her area.

With all the major corporate houses, like Tatas, Mahindras, RPG, Reliance, Birlas and the homegrown retail giant Pantaloons, coming out with newer concepts and stores, retail is fast becoming one of the biggest employment sectors. And this throws up a whole lot of issues in the realm of human resources management. One has to look at the uniqueness of the “retail” workplace to have a perspective of this. 

Modern retailing has spread across India with a speed that has not been matched by any other industry. New stores, malls and shopping districts sprung up across the country at an unbelievable speed. And given the various formats of stores (read size and selling and servicing needs), each of them requires different staffing requirementss - From stores manned by requirement a couple of persons to stores having hundreds of employees. The challenge for HR departments on recruitments and training itself is therefore diverse. While the same brand may not have this kind of disparity, corporate houses having multiple brands will have all kind of store sizes and formats to deal

“Unstructured workplace” –T –Traditional raditional workplaces have always defined a seat and an area of influence which is defined by the nature of the job. The employee moving around is limited by

The challenge here is handling multiple customers and inducing them to buy, and not just fetching the right colour or size. The customer service executive is ultimately responsible for the performance of his or her aisle. But the question often raised is that, are the floor executives qualified or trained to achieve this objective? Are they paid enough to justify this kind of a responsibility? 

One of the factors contributing most to this dilemma is the high rate of attrition in the retail industry. There are jobs aplenty and a dearth of experienced professionals. For marginal gains in remuneration, a high percentage shifts loyalty fast. One reason attributed to high attrition rates is the burnout and

fatigue due to the the intense intense interactive interactive nature of work itself. This reflects as disinterested to even rude behavior towards customers. A change of scene, as many call it, and slight increase in pay combined with huge demand brr i ng s d o w n e x i t b ar r i e r s f o r b

with. This makes it difficult for corporate HR to have uniform practices across all its stores. Add to this the franchisee model of retail operations, where the store is run by a franchisee, and implementation of uniform practices have always been a challenge.

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employees. So the impact on training vs man-hours cost needs to be looked at vis-à-vis compensation & retention. vs. replacement & recruitment costs.

segment and deal with them appropriately in a customer facing situation. There are clearly defined KPI for each product category and floor associates are incentivized

• “Ret “R etai aill is is a ne new w dom domai ain nvery of of employment requiring specialised set of knowledge, skill & attitude and a lot of hard ha rd work at the floor level. Since, there is a big gap in availability of a trained pool with these attributes, most retailers prefer to recruit absolute freshers on prescribed minimum wages with compatible attitude and trainability and invest in imparting domain specific knowledge & skills upon hiring. However, demanding work environment, low wage and lack of personal investment by these individuals in acquiring employability in this domain create very little barrier for them to consider a change of employment elsewhere or outside this domain.”


While retail is largely about selling products, selling in a retail outlet is a mix of selling products and service. One can observe sales persons actively pushing perfumes and beauty products while garments and FMCG counters are a mix of self-service and assistance. So beyo be yo nd ho how w we ll a d ep epar ar tm tmen entt i s doing, there is always a hint of the intangible as to how the customer is served, and this makes performance measurement and incentivisation an interesting proposition. • “Over “Over the the las lastt few few year yearss reta retaile ilers rs in in India have devised specialised

Retail being one of the youngest sectors, employs youngsters youngsters mostly on the the shop level operations. Communication barrier is another issue, especial especially ly in high-end or lifestyle retail where sales persons cannot relate to the buyer beyo be yond nd a po poin int. t. A cl clas assi sicc ex exam ampl plee would be a young shop executive trying to service an affluent 40+ SEC A customer, especially a lady, on a high value purchase. If the aisle staff is not trained to handle the expectations and exceptions of this level, the shop may have a disgruntled customer and a present and future loss of sale. Gone are the days when you walked into a store and recognised a friendly sales person. And sadly it is often observed that aisles are left un-attended for the sake of chitchats. • “Lac “Lack k of form formal al tra train inin ing g prio priorr to employment is one of the key challenges, that retailer face in imbibing appropriate work ethics and enforcing discipline at work place in most cases of freshly hired frontline associates. However, during the course of employment most retailers have undertaken, continuous training on operational SOPs and customer handling skills as key focus areas to address these challenges.”

training to provide domain specific knowledge and skills to the floor associates dealing with distinct product categories and customer segments to ensure that they understand the nuances of the products and customer needs in that 56

A curious case worth mentioning that has come up in department stores is the impact of Shop-In-shops and the differences under the same roof that it brings. Shop-In-shops are nothing but spaces allotted to different brands exclusively in the same retail outlet. The

January | 2011 NHRDNetwork Journal

merchandising display, the uniforms and even the staff is mostly provided by the brands. The staff in many cases are contract contract staff and may not connect connect with the store and its culture. Their

These points are not exhaustive and only aimed at bringing to fore some of the interesting aspects associated retail as a relatively new sector.

training, grooming and in most cases salaries are different from regular store staff.

But, while retail giants and minnows alike are excited and gearing up to ride the retail wave and come out at the top of the class, the unique challenges thrown up by this exciting sector in its infancy should not be ignored. While the debate rages on about opening the sector to FDI, there are quite a few positives that we can look forward from the MNCs. While their best practices may not be suitable for “plug and play” to our scenario, but there would be a lot to learn from the years of evolution they have

While handling customer pilferage is a major aspect of retail operations, there have been issues raised on employee pilferage.

• “Cus “Custo tome mer/ r/st staf afff pilfer pilferag agee is an operational reality of retail business across the globe. It requires strong surveillance systems, internal SOPs and commercial focus to contain it within the permissible limit as it been through. directly impacts the bottom line of undeniably, these are the exciting exciti ng years the business. Apart from educating But undeniably, staff and customers with ahead for the Indian retail industry and appropriate communication on there is a lot of opportunities for innovative consequences, aggressive incentive and fresh ideas. As the drivers of certain plans have also been introduced for systemic changes HR professionals can staff to participate in containing this look forward to challenging and exciting challenge within acceptable limits.” times ahead.

January | 2011 NHRDN Neetwork Journal



About the Author Lakshmin arayanan V. (“LN”) is a Sr HR Professional with more Lakshminarayanan than 16+ years of rich experience handling various facets of HR. He holds a Masters in HR and a Strategic HR Management certification from IIM Calcutta. He has also specialized professional certifications in HR domains like T&D, Competency Mapping and PCMM. Actively associated with NHRD, ISTD and SHRM and NASSCOM HR forum, Chennai. His career was with Alcatel and KLA Tencor. He is currently heading the HR function for the Engineering and R&D Services Vertical Vertical of HCL Technologies Technologies Ltd, the largest Line of Business of HCL Technologies. He is an enthusiast in Sanskrit and Indology.

Employee Relations – A Dip Stick Analysis


attempted a random survey among a cross sectio section n of IT/IT IT/ITeS eS popula population tion to understand their perception of what is the role of HR in their organisation and the responses were somewhat like these “Taking care of employee interests, career etc.” “Motivating employees” “Helping employees performance”



Helping organisation recruit employees Developing employees Four out of five responses had something

Human Capital Specialist etc - most IT professionals and professionals from other functions in IT industry also perceive HR to be a function that takes care of employee emplo yee interests and needs. And as long as HR function is not seen delivering on this core responsibility and identity, it is not perceived as being functional by the employees. Only challenge here is the understanding of employee relations as a domain - it spreads across a spectrum ranging from bee i ng a F un @ Wor b Work k p l ac e O ff i c e r arranging birthday bash and team building parties for employees at one end to addressing employee grievances & counseling and going up to actively helping employees in developing and

to do with “Employee Relations”. And so it is fair to conclude that irrespective of what self styled exotic role the HR Fraternity anoints itself - Strategic Business Partner/Knowledge/Competence Driver Driver,,

enriching their career at the other end. In the current post recession era, it is this core identity of HR which appears to be coming in conflict with organisation’s expectations of what role HR is to play -

* Views expressed in this article represent the views of the author and not his organization namely HCL.


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that of a Business Partner, Pa rtner, which may force HR to look at employees from a pure resource perspective. Let us trace this evolution and try to map how function of HR is synthesising thesethis twosub roles and metamorphing to cater to needs of tomorrow’s organisations. Employee Relations & Engagement Evolution

This particular role of HR had gone through various “Avatars” “Avatars” over the last one decade in the very dynamic IT /ITeS industry where - employee expectations and behavior kept changing at a rapid pace.

players and IT pioneers like Patni, HCL, TCS etc experienced that the adverse talent demand and supply ratio necessitated that HR function of that time start making a paradigm shift from its conventional regulatory focus to a enabling and supportive focus. That was possibly when Employee Relations as a sub domain of HR was born Companies started focusing on ensuring Quality of Work Life for employees.

The latest challenge is to handle multiple

Theories and research findings related to engaged and motivated employees becoming a corner stone for organisat organisational ional success started gaining ground. Legendary HR Gurus like T V Rao and Late Udai Pareek came up with landmark research

expectations and behaviors existing in the same work environment due to a multi gen workforce.

studies on how happy and motivated employees can be the drivers for success and growth of organisations.

HR & Employee Relations in IT/IT IT/ITeS eS Space - Some Reflections

At one end we may think it has evolved and matured from being Picnic Organiser to Employee Counselor and Career Enabler,, like how HR as a function matured Enabler from its earlier “Personnel function” to the Human Resource Development function a decade ago. At other end, is it becoming redundant among the new Gen Y workforce who form a major proportion of our workforce - for whom only fast career and money matters, who are more tuned to virtual working and relationships enabled by the convergence technologies of mobile and internet. In this scenario where commitment and loyalty to one company is already becoming an

Most companies in IT/ITeS industries started practices like Free Transport/ Food/Insurance, Health and Wellness, Flexi time, Team outings, Family day, etc. Some companies went really overboard with policies like dating allowance, Midday nap rooms etc. All these was to ensure that employees are engaged and connected with their employer and in turn contribute their best to its growth. But Alas! The first hit of recession changed all the rules of the game all the credibility around Employee Relations and Engagement took a beating when the industry starting facing the recession, initially during the Dot com phase of 2000 and then later during 2008-2009. Organisations expected HR to play pl ay the role of a hardnosed strategic Business Partner

archaic concept, is employee relations having any influence to bind employees or is employee engagement and employee relations and connect fast becoming irrelevant and extinct? Let us go back to the early 80’s when IT industry in India was at its infancy. Early

and help in contributing to profitability and bottom line through aggressive steps on resource management. This required hard steps to be taken like offloading human resources in businesses which are no longer profitable or whose skills have become redundant Employees started seeing the Neetwork Journal January| 2011 NHRDN


face of Business HR. While in big companies, attempts were made to reskill and redeploy, on the whole the industry saw some hard steps being taken. Many employees were battered and bruised by the economic recession and resultant actions. Their teams changed and their workloads expanded. Benefits were reduced and budgets cut. There were no more free lunches. By then most of the “privileges” referred above like team outings and family day and many other actions lost their motivating effect their presence did not motivate any specially, but absence was viewed as retrograde. Recession actions resulted in many of even therelated best employees being alienated and even becoming distrustful. It was hard to keep their engagement from slipping. It was even harder to reengage those who were feeling detached after what they saw during recession. Even the thought leadership among HR fraternity probably blurred somewhere driven purely by the emphasis on becoming the so called called “Strategic “Strategic Business Business Partner” and started concentrating more on processes, systems and ignored statistics the - and in the process ironically core identity of HR function - people. If people peopl e are the only real source of competitive advantage as many corporations proudly proclaim, then people management and employee relations - concentrating on enhancing employee skills and competencies and also creating a workplace where employee participation in organisation building is encouraged -

metamorphed role of HR seems to be emerging. There is growing realisation that being Employee Champion and Strategic Business Partner are not mutually exclusive. The new thought and evolution is on how to leverage employee relations to make employees strategic business assets. HR & Employee Relations - Entering the Gen Y era

As explained above, post recession, HR in IT industry is at the threshold of a new challenge of winning the trust of employees viewing HR with distrust and cynicism. Having seen once-trusted institutions fail, many employees are seeking greater meaning to their work. They are looking within themselves for what matters most during hard times - building intrinsic skills and competencies, which would give employees greater bargaining power in a uncertain economy - and with whom to engage in future and they are looking how HR can help there Parallely the economic downturn and recessive trends have also made the employees more mature and there is a growing appreciation of the fact that organisations organisations are commercial entities entities at the end of day and pink slips and restructuring are only outcomes of economic cycles. Employees also understand that it is their skills and competencies and their relevance in the environment, which is the biggest bulwark against layoffs.

should be the top priority of HR function. HR’s attempt to become a strategic business partner by ignoring the core of what it is meant for, is like a surgeon operating on a dead body. The two faces of HR were in direct conflict. And that is where the new 60

Because of the exposures that people have today today, , be it the media o r whatever, or the level of transparency is very high and it is expected in the workplace as well. Power distance in all cultures is coming down. Even in the conventionally high PDI countries, it is coming down gradually,

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leading to dichotomy at the workplace. Having understood the role of economic situation and financial health in the stability of their organisations, which in turn affects their careers, employees are obviously looking for greater transparency and involvement in the running of their organisations and it is becoming very important in building employee eelations and connect in the new era. Employees look forward to forums where their views and opinions on organisational activities are heard and look forward to requisite empowerment in influencing a process and being a stakeholder, stakeholder, rather than being just a foot soldier. This is changing the formula and the core drivers of employee relations and engagement to a new level. Employee relations and engagement are no longer going to be built with soft steps like Picnics and Fundoo Fridays or low hanging freebies. HR leadership has to innovate newer methods that would address these core needs and expectations of the future workforce… It is increasingly becoming clear that the core focus of employee relations would be building employee engagement based on more solid and sustainable ground - employees feel most engaged when they find that organizations are investing in them, giving opportunitiesfor more learning and enrichment - helping them to make headway in their careers - enhancing their skills and competencies, which in turn would put them in a position of strength and also an opportunity to air

in future and unfortunately, it also appears that the new gen does not understand payback or loyalty for what is being done - which in reality means that organisations need to continuously create a conducive environment in these areas to keep their best employees engaged. Employee Relations & Engagement: Newer Trends

Due to these developments, many changes are happening in the HR Function in IT industry, the prominent of which are highlighted here 1. Gen Next HRM

Newer approaches philosophies are emerging in the areaand of employee relations and management. A case in hand is “Employee First Customer Second” philosophy of HCL, which acquires significance as a management theory of tomorrow where employee relations and business interests are married to achieve richer progeny of building a sustainable business busi ness diff different erentiato iatorr and comp competi etitive tive advantage. The Employees First philosophy is based on beliefnot thatresources. people want to need be treated likethe people, They to be part of your overall vision and direction. They need to be the drivers of your sustenance and growth. Happy and passionate employees offer better value in engagements and directly impact customer satisfaction. This can bring a sea-change at the company level, and in turn, greater customer loyalty, better engagement and growth. By treating employees as partners

their views and opinions and being involved with power to influence the larger program — Thus Learning & Development opportunities coupled with democracy at workplace have become the two core influencers in building employee relations

and participants in the company’s success, every individual becomes responsible for transforming, thinking and providing value to customers and all concerned. In Employee First Philosophy the conventional organisational pyramid is reversed. It recognises the fact that Neetwork Journal January| 2011 NHRDN


excellence and value to customer is created in the zone where the frontline employee works with the customer. It is an attempt to revamp the organisational structure so

that employees, particularly customer facing employees, can exercise the power and responsibility needed to solve vexing customer problems.

Inverting the Value Pyramid through Employees First Realising that customers buy b uy v a l ue f ro m e m p l o y e e s w h o ar e delivering services to them, Employee First philosophy advocates focusing on internal transformation rather than external innovation. The key underlying

their individuality and diversity, unleashing their potential and equipping them with the necessary tools to enhance the value zone — the employee-customer interface, allowing to maximise the “wow” delivered to our customers.

postulates are : • Max Maximu imum m value value is cr creat eated ed at the the employee-customer interface. Therefor Thereforee we empower employees to generate delight for our customers, every step of the way.

The basic premise of this philosophy is that we need to enable that employee to perform at his / her optimum potential and deliver excellence to the customer with enabling functions and management supporting them with policies and frameworks. Thus, employees feel empowered as representatives of their organisations directly dealing with the clients, and

• It is is about about the ind individ ividual ual tak taking ing cha charge rge — proactively, creating space for growth, expansion and enrichment.

Urge employees to create a change in the organisation, bring about a

being architects of their progress. That in turn creates the greatest bonding and

revolution and create an ecosystem that exudes brilliance and superiority in everything they do.

engagement. The core advantages of this management approach is

• Employ Employees ees Firs Firstt is get gettin ting g into into the the very very core of the individual and decoding

1. As in a democra democracy cy,, EFCS EFCS philos philosophy ophy believes that those at the grassroots of


January | 2011 NHRDNetwork Journal

an organisation are as much the which in turn addresses the second most harbingers of change as leaders at the important driver of employee connect in top. Employees realise and feel the modern era - that of transparency and challenges of customer satisfaction first communication. hand and the need to retain and improve them so as to retain business HR departments of companies are actively and drive growth, unlike earlier leveraging the phenomenon of social situation where in employees who networking effectively to build employee work for customer are at the back end relations and connect, apart from of course and had very little feel of the customer using it as a medium to attract talent and bran d buil buildin ding. g. Towa owards rds this this,, inin-hous housee perception and the importance of brand maintaining and improving them for social networking forums are playing a future growth of business. Thus, this great role in binding employees, approach puts the employees in the encouraging cross departmental and cross team collaboration, knowledge drivers seat. sharing and exchange of ideas and opens 2. Along with this onerous responsibility a entirely new and vast forum of comes the sense of power and pride communication, which the newer of contributing something very generation is lapping up. It in turn creates significant to the organisation. This a community and binding. feeling of importance and role centrality and the sense of fulfillment one Internal blogging through in-house social experiences on achieving a networking sites has helped in getting realsuccess – Behavioral Scientists aver – time feedback on sensitive decisions, thus creates the most powerful bonding, driving a participatory and democratic distinctly of a different genre than culture. whatever the soft tactics and There are CEO Blog / Podcasts/ Vcasts set approaches can ever create. up to give heads up info on business 3. Whenever fluctuations in business situations and take a dip stick on prevailing situations comes — like bottom line mood / opinions, build influence groups profitability and CSA CSAT T getting affected etc, which in turn build a best and etc — which in turn adversely affect democratic employer image. organisations — employees are able to see that first and thus there is a great Communication is more fast and deal of trust and transparency and a transparent resulting in better trust supportive ecosystem ecosyste m built to deal with between employees and management or rather,, there is no such difference at all with rather wi th those challenges. all sections of employees getting a chance Thus EFCS philosophy essentially to express their voice and heard. democratises the work place and gives the

employees the place which they richly deserve - that of strategic business assets.

Public social networking sites like Face book and Linked In are also being used to buil bu il di ng “f “fan ans” s” am amon on gs gstt pr pros osp p ec ecti tive ve

Social Networking - Relationship Building in Cloud

employees from campuses even before they join there, thereby reducing the lead time to understand work culture.

The latest phenomenon in employee relations domain across IT Industry is the influence of social networking forums,

Recognition is no longer bestowed or patronised by the mighty ‘management’. Neetwork Journal January| 2011 NHRDN


It has become democratic in the new workspace. In-house social networking sites have transferred this power once vested with the “management” to all. Employee driven recognition and appreciation has resulted in a situation where good work would get recognized and applauded irrespective of manager / management subjectivity.

Progressively, it was respected lesser and lesser, as they were and are seen to be subservient to the business leader’s interests and not standing on its own charter to drive. Whichever organisation held the HR so without making it a truly independent function, deteriorated slowly slowly..

Now HR in IT Industry is at the threshold of a new change of building a new Apart from all this, Alumini social culture. HR has to build employee relations networking has opened up the chances of b by y d r i v i ng a cu l t ur uree o f i nv e s ti ng i n ex-employees reconnecting back to their employee development and growth and old forum. build bui lding ing a tra transp nspare arent nt and dem democr ocrati aticc workplace. In turn, it also has to build a Summary culture among employees of taking HR is more of a culture function. Whatever Whatev er accountability and get them to understand is the role of HR H R - Welfare Welfare Officer Office r, Personnel Personne l better the business dynamics and on how Officer, Employee Relations Officer, HR they can contribute and be benefited in the Executive, HR Business Partner — a good longer run. It is all about creating an part of the role is being a culture culture officer ecosystem for responsible creation of wealth and learning through sharing of evolving a new work culture. knowledge and information. In the process, In the IT industry industry,, HR became synonymous the gulf between management and with recruitment, resource management employees is reduced and they become equal partners in growth. and some entertainment functions.


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About the Author Shiv Subramaniam, Post graduate, in Business Administration, possess over 35 years of Experience in various leading organizations such as DCM; ACC; EIICHER TRACTORS; KINETIC HONDA; TVS & MMTC LIMITED.

Worked in the different areas of the HR PROFESSION; special interest areas – Training and Development; SELF and Creativity workshop. Have conducted various training programmes and have been a regular faculty (visiting) in many BSchools in and around Delhi. Exposure includes International Business and Quality management. Widely travelled and headed the Japan operations at MMTC. Currently – Professor and Head – Corporate Resource Center, ERA Business Business School, New Delhi.

Temples have long been symbols s ymbols of culture and tradition. They reflect the values, beliefs and principles of the time. They are maintained and renovated periodically, keeping in line with demands of time. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India had called the Public sectors as the Temples of Modern India. True to traditions, PSEs have been changing with time. After independence when the country was moving towards economic freedom, there were very few industrialists in a position to make huge

upliftment of the rural population. Employment brought prosperity, education and increased awareness and a new semi rural/urban population. A secured job, housing, schooling for children, asset building opportunities, etc acted as great source of employment for the youth and gave a stable work force. Private sector was still not large in numbers to attract all the talent emerging. Those were the days of preferring government jobs for sheer security reasons. Even bridegrooms with government jobs background

investments required in critical areas such as Power, Power, Coal, Steel, Shipping, Oil, etc. It was for the government to step in and set

were preferred. It is against this back ground that one has to view the current challenges facing the PSEs.

up huge Steel Plants, Power Plants, Hydro electric Projects, Coal Mines etc. Besides providing the basic infrastructure, it was also a great source of employment. The projects themselves were in remote areas paving the way for rapid urbanisation and

When the government announced the economic liberalisation in 1991, many had written the obituary of the PSEs. Most felt that this is the end of the white elephants etc. Some were more ruthless in describing Neetwork Journal January| 2011 NHRDN


the PSEs. Like the proverbial elephant, they withstood the change and in fact reinvented themselves to meet the new challenges and today they are everywhere in the fore-front leading the economic growth of India. In fact, during the recent economic slow-down, the PSEs showed excellent resilience and grew faster than before. Neither a single job was lost, nor was any lay off under taken. In fact, all the planned expansions and diversifications went ahead as per schedule. This is only to underscore the importance and relevance of the PSEs today. Like all commercial organisations, PSEs today have their own set of challenges. While some are familiar familia r, some are not. If one were to look at employee relation relations, s, the challenges which are in the horizon / have started manifesting, are largely relating to (a) Talent acquisition and retention, (b) Growing opportunities for highly skilled persons, (c) Growing emphasis on PRP PRP,, (d) Out sourced labor, and (e) Increasing customer demand for enhanced products and services. The PSEs have also a set of strengths,, which should not be lost focus of. strengths These include huge manufacturing facilities, well oiled systems in place, well developed infrastructure, a stable, satisfied and steady work force, which is literate, and welldesigned internal communication systems. This provides the HR professionals the confidence and strength to deal with any challenge. We shall now examine some of these challenges in detail.

their employees. Now with the government planning to bring about basic changes in the Contract Labor Act and the move to introduce the concept of “Equal pay for equal work”, the whole scenario is likely to turn on its head. This will drastically alter the attitude, perception and approach of the employer employers, s, Trade Unions and the regular employees towards the out sourced employees. Educating and informing all sections of the employees will be vital for smoother amalgamation of the entire labour force. It will also mean less share of the pie for each employee. This will most certainly be a challenge for the HR functionaries as the merger of the 2 sections, with hardly any fondness for each other, other, will have sparks flying. This is the first major challenge. (b) Talent acquisition and retention - Due to inherent limitations of compensation, periodical transfers, limited scope for faster growth, PSEs are at a disadvantage vis-à vis private sector players in terms of attracting and retaining high talent personnel. Many PSEs do try and offer nonmonetary incentives, such as; housing in large metros, asset building opportunities, overseas assignments (very few PSEs have this option). This will be increasingly difficult as compensation gap bee tw e e n PS E s a nd p r i v a te s e ct o r b employers will only increase and this is alarming. If this is true for entry level, imagine for parallel inductions. The recently revised compensation structure has lost much of their value, alibi rising inflation, and the next revision is not due

(a) Out sourced Labor - Most organisations have a large chunk of work, out sourced and they contribute to their success. This

till 2017 i.e. almost 6 years. One organisation has come up with an innovative solution. Entry level executives

is true ofThis bothlabour manufacturing and service sectors. is not considered as employees and the Trade Unions also in most cases do not espouse their cause. They are viewed as outsiders. Most employers maintain that outsourced people are not

are givenafter one3promotion 2 years and another years i.e. 2after promotions in a span of 5 years, subject to a certain level of performance. Of course the effect of bell curve will still need to be handled. The same organisation has also a system of


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granting a House Building Advance up to

Rs.15 lakhs. These 2 efforts may resolve these issues for at least the time being. (c) GenY- The GenY factor is very evident at the lower levels in PSEs. They are slowly replacing the GenX. But at the higher levels, it is still the older generation in position. The aspirations of GenY are: quality of work; career progression; engaging work environment; loyalty to work and not the organisation and instant gratification through robust PMS. The elder generation, generatio n, on the other hand is through with most of the social and family responsibilities, leading to money being not a great motivator. Also, the increased salary should lead to an enhanced productivity to meet the increased overheads. To fulfill the aspirations of the 2 sets of employees is the real challenge The rapid change in technology, can lead to redundancy and continuous skills up-gradation is a must to avoid this. This coupled with a need to provide an engaging work environment to GenY is a challenge. (d) Performance Management System: The introduction of PRP has resulted in a big challenge for the HR practitioner practitioners. s. One has to view this particularly against the backgroun backg round d of tradit traditional ional pract practices ices such as; time bound promotions, weightage to seniority, hierarchical structures and confidential reports. Performances were hardly made known, let alone discussing the same. Promotions, transfers were shrouded in secrecy. Superceding was rare and hardly practiced. In the last few years though, things have started changing but

which there is a cap on each level of performance. This has resulted in employees being pushed down by at least 1 level. The differential between each level of gradation can sometimes be 8%-10% of the pay. pay. The arithmetical compulsions have resulted in this new challenge. With most organisations using these for career progression, one can imagine the magnitude of the problem. This can result into undermining of the boss-subordinate relationship, besides peer group dynamics. The most challenging part is that, the HR persons are also as much affected by it. It is like the doctor falling sick when required to treat critical patient. The standard prescriptions may not work because of historical reasons. There is also a paradoxical situation where highly skilled groups i.e. those contributing directly to the top line and bottom line feel let down. This is all the more pronounced when this group sees similar efforts in private sector being rewarded very significantly. Against this background, let us try and visualise a scenario of PRP. KPA, BELL CURVE, etc. On the one hand, we have employees who have grown with the organisation and helped the same grow, and on the other, we have youngsters well trained and raring to go. In most cases, the performance gets tangibly reflected in a group situation. We do have individual KPAs, KP As, but they are invariably linked to the whole group. This then leads to Blame Game, that is, so and so deliberately delayed things, did not provide the data etc., start coming in to play. Playing

not rapidly. The mind-set of employees is accordingly adapted. With the adopting of KPA based Performance Management

favorites is another danger one can land up with. Add to this the compulsions of Bell curve i.e. % for each level of

system by most oneaddressed. thought toIn some extent this issue PSEs, has been fact now the problem is that an air of uncertainty and perhaps a case of distrust has been created. This is mainly a result of following the bell curve method, under

performance. In one organization, they had promised to promote all direct recruits at entry level to the next in 2 years. They also had a policy by which a person had to have at least 2 OS /VG to be considered for promotion. Now under the new scheme it Neetwork Journal January| 2011 NHRDN


was arithmetically not possible to ensure this fairly well, it is still a problem for quite promotion to all new recruits in 2 years. a few. The encouraging thing is, that due Only 30-35 % could get OS/VG every year to long association, the employees have and the promised promotions get stretched developed a sense of belonging and to 4 years. One can imagine the plight of ownership and are aware of the need to the HR Head. These youngsters will change and the role they have to play pl ay and probably accuse the management of are regaining the customers. But a lot has fooling/lying and start leaving. It will not to be done in terms of customer cust omer sensitivity sensiti vity.. be fair to say that the HR Head did not foresee the future. The bell curve was a later (f) Accountability.A major change that is day mandate of the government It took a taking away the sleep of the HR lot of thinking and finally the management professionals is relating to the change to be brought about in the mindse mindsett of of employee employeess had to make a ONE-TIME ONE -TIME DIPENSATION. DIPENSATION. brought in respect of accountability and adding to Such situations are not uncommon. the bottom line. When we talk of increased (e) Customer Relationship Management: accountability accountability,, we are once again talking of - Till recently, the entire concept of performance management, customer customer and customer relationship had a relationship, and focused performance different connotation in PSEs. In view of indicators and their periodic evaluation. the globalisation process and increased These demands call for a changed work competition, PSEs have started changing culture with more focus on these issues. their approach to customer management. With most PSEs having fairly large Not that they were unaware of this. It was percentage of employees in the 40/45 years given a different level of concern and focus. age bracket, this is all the more challenging. Now there is a growing awareness of this Adding to the bottom line is in fact one of and PSEs are working on the same. The real the biggest challenge facing the PSEs. The challenge is enabling the employees increasing competition and with growing change their mind set. In all fairness to the pressures on margins, the bottom line is employees, they have been operating as per getting hit. There is a need to equip the the need of the environment. Mostly, they employees with latest skills and techniques had confirmed/assured customers and who will not leave them for many reasons. Now when there is a need to change, this it is understandably very challenging. Skills are sometime to be unlearnt; New skills learnt and adapted fast. The older you are, greater the effort required. This is more pronounced in service industries - be it airlines, telecom or trading. They all

in competitive negotiations and coming up with more cost effective and productive business busine ss models. There There are no ready readymade made solutions and each industry will need to evolve it’s own strategies. Strengthening S trengthening of the internal reporting mechanisms and accountability is to be a part of all HR actions and strategies.. This is a very sensitive issue and will call for a great deal of tact and

found the transition highly challenging.

innovation on the part of HR practitioners.

It was very different to comprehend that one has to go and meet the customer at his

If one were to look at the overall scenario, the PSEs are faced with a few critical

/her place rather than expecting him/her at your place. Not only the PSE employees, the customers themselves found it odd and most of them avoided the suppliers/ service providers rather than face them. While most PSEs have started to handle

challenges in respect of employee relations. Primary amongst them are Motivating and Retaining High Performers, Preparing for handling the Outsourced labour, Performance Management and Customer Customer Relationship Management.


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There are others, which could be both general and industry specific. These are only more probable issues, which may call for action.


The above are my assessment based on my own experiences and those of fellow professionals and discussions held with senior executives in various PSEs. There could be other challenges also. My focus has been limited to some critical ones.

Singh, Director, HR, IFFCO; Mr. K.K. Jha, Member P&A, AAI : Mr. Naved Rao, ONGC: Mr. Rajeev Jaidewa, Director, P&A, MMTC ; Mr. M.M. Sharma, Director P&A, STC; and others.

I am extremely grateful to the following persons for their valuable time and invaluable inputs on the issues - Mr. R.P.


(Video) Tuesday Plenary LSST2018

We regret regret that the following error that occurred on page 22 in the October 2010 issue of NHRDN-HR Competence. Sample Role-“Competency Requirement Matrix”

The following Matrix was drawn for each of the eight roles defined for HR and desired level of competencies were determined for each role. Thus the benchmarking of HR professionals was done as per these expectations for each role rather than general benchmarking. The above paragraph which appears at the end of the article is the t he header explanation of Annexure I.

Neetwork Journal January| 2011 NHRDN



About the Author Nandita Gurjar has 20 years of experience in IT and HR, in diverse roles and functions. These ranged from software programming, testing and documentation, to management training. Nandita started her career with Wipro Technologies and joined Infosys in 1999 in Human Resources. During her tenure in Infosys, she evangelised management training, and played a key role in initiatives to maximise client satisfaction and increase organisational competency levels to attain customer delight. She then moved to Infosys BPO in Oct 2003 in the capacity of Vice President and Head of HRD, Infosys BPO. Currently, Currently, she is Senior Vice President & Group Head HR for Infosys Technologies Technologies Limited, one of the largest IT companies in India, with over 120,000 employees and a global footprint with operations across 30 countries and 72 cities.

s the number of women employees in certain sectors like IT/ITES/Retail is increasing, a different set of challenges challenges are thrown to HR professionals .Several innovative HR practices are undertaken for


provides a larger pool of ideas and experiences and organisations can draw from that pool to meet business strategy needs more effectively.

women in order to attract and retain these segments in the form of Flexi timings, Work-life balance, working from home, sexual harassment policies, special support for women with infants. The key to creating a productive and diverse organization is to frame employee centric policies that addresses the issues faced not only generally but also by women in specific.

Despite the several very obvious benefits of a diverse workforce, creating an environment at the workplace which is conducive to encourage diversity is not without its challenges and roadblocks. For instance, there will always be a certain group of employees who will refuse to accept the fact that the social and cultural makeup of their workplace is changing and

Diversity at the workplace

Diversity at the workplace has been increasing and is going to increase significantly in the coming years and an organisation’s success and competitiveness are increasingly going to depend upon its ability to embrace multiplicity and realise the benefits. A diverse workforce 70

overcoming this resistance poses a huge challenge in front of organisation. Perceptual barriers need to be overcome along with clear communication, which would aid in overcoming resistance to change. Although diversity is a vast topic comprising of racial, ethnic, gender and various other dimensions for the purpose

January | 2011 NHRDNetwork Journal

of discussion we would like to restrict ourselves to the issues of gender diversity in this article as that in itself is quite a challenging issue. When compared to other

is significantly lower than that of women in their 20s, which implies the severe lack of women in the middle management and senior leadership positions.

issues inthe managi managing ng diversity diversi ty,, recent trends point to emergence of gender diversity as the dominant issue that is taking the mind space of managers. Despite policies and rules governing gender specific concerns in most organisations, what is needed is a mindset change rather than mere policies and this can only be done if the workforce is sensitised to the needs and abilities of women.

Although the entry level positions to a large extent have started reflecting the change in the graduate profiles across colleges, it is at the higher levels of the corporate hierarchy that we need to pay attention to. The very first question which this data leads to is “Why do women leave l eave the workforce at a time in their career when they are about to take that next critical step towards growth? “And the answers we most often get are that most of the women w omen leave because they find it difficult to strike

Women in the t he workplace

According to aannual UN report in 2010, India’s GDP published growth rate could increase by 4% by increasing the number of women who are a part of our current workforce. While the business case for including women in organisations o rganisations has been esta establi blished shed seve several ral time times, s, the fact remains that the number of women in the workforce is nowhere close to the men. The participation of women at the workplace has considerably increased over the years, but the fact remains that only 36% of the women population in South Asia, which

achildren work-lifeand balance thewith job marriage, to take family/ care of simultaneously. Though this may be true in a large number of cases, I would personally call this a myth. A myth that has resulted in women getting type casted. A myth which makes every employer look at a prospective woman employee with suspicion on their longevity in the organisation. This is a myth that the generation of women are shattering as they try their best to strike a balance between work and family famil y life. We find more women

includes India as well, participates in the labour force. This is significantly less when compared to the global average of 53%.

returning to the workplace with increased vigor post their marriage and more so post delivering their baby(s). baby(s) . This is a trend that will grow in the years to come, as the efforts of organisations in creating an “inclusive” workplace, are finally paying off.

Industries across the various sectors have made attempts to create an “inclusive” workforce by being equal opportunity employers. The Retail and IT-BPO sectors have been in the forefront of this revolution

Challenges of “Women Employees”

with more and more women being employed in the corporate set up. However, it is interesting that the percentage of working women is inversely

The experiences and challenges that women face in the workplace does change with the industry one operates in. While in manufacturing and other industries of a

proportional to the increasing age of women. A study done by Price Waterhouse Waterhouse Coopers in the year 2008 discussed what is known as the “Leaking Pipeline”. This basically revealed that the percentage of working women in the 30-plus age group

traditional nature, the challenges faced are more of acceptance and a feeling of being included. Not many manufacturing organisations can take it in their stride if their shop floors are “wo”manned (manned by women!). However, at the January | 2011 NHRDN Neetwork Journal


same time, it is important to note that there are specific manufacturing industries that prefer women – be it the watch manufacturing industry or jewellery

organisation strategy and future focus. Creating an inclusive environment means creating a place free of barriers in which every woman employee has the

manufacturing industry industries prefer women,industry. because. These manufacturing watches, jewellery, etc., require a certain precision and dexterity, which only women possess. In these industries, the challenge would be more from the perspective of ensuring a safe workplace for the women.

opportunity to and participate, contribute and develop freely equitably equitably. .

With annual revenues of more than USD60 billion, the Indian IT sector has emerged as the largest private sector employer in the nation and women account for almost 30% of the total workforce. The challenges that women face in this industry is of a higher order in terms of being recognised for their work on the same platform as men and that there is equity and fairness with respect to the treatment of woman employees. While the challenges in terms of sexual harassment at the workplace, safety and security, a feeling of being included exist across different industry segments and across different spheres spheres of women, it is the challenge of being considered equal to a man in all aspects that are of greater significance. Programs, policies, initiatives have been introduced to ensure that woman’s safety and security is taken care of. There have been several efforts in this direction with companies focusing on talent programs specifically designed to

What can HR Do?

The challenges of Flexi timings, Work-life bal b al a nc ncee , wo rk i ng fr from om ho me , se x ua l harassment, special support for women with infants, are typically addressed through specific policies, programs and initiatives that HR undertakes for the women. It is crucial for HR to not only ensure effective implementation of these policies and programs, but to also ensure that the spirit behind these policies and initiatives are practiced across the organisation. There is a need to bring about a deep-rooted change in the entire workplace culture and sensitise employees. This is done through the initiatives of the Diversity Team. Organisations across the globe have realised the significance of having a team focusing on diversity practices and programs. This helps bring focus to the cause and also enables the organisation to create an “inclusive” organisation. It is but imperative that such teams function closely with the HR function of the organisation and the two functions have a very symbiotic relationship. One of the initiatives at Infosys, which focuses on women, is the Infosys Women Inclusivity Network (IWIN). IWIN was initiated in 2003 to assist women unleash their potential by

attract women, such as women only recruitment recruitm ent drives, and payment of higher referral bonuses for referring woman candidates. But I think, the larger challenge for organisations is to ensure that woman find a voice in their organisation. The environment is to be made conducive to allow woman employees to air their opinion on not just issues that concern them, but also be able to air their views on 72

providing opportunities for professional and personal development and critiquing management policies and procedures to ensure that the Infosys workplace is inclusive, equitable, and open to the innovative ideas and approaches that women can contribute. In order to be able to create this inclusive environment, there is a need for better

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communication about the need to respect diversity and include women in the main stream of work across the organisation. Communication can be through diversity training where the focus could be on highlighting the advantages that women bring to the table in the workplace. The diversity training can help bring about the desired awareness about the organisation’s initiatives and implore every employee to contribute to the initiative. Case studies and examples of organisations which have bene be nefi fite ted d si sign gnif ific ican antl tly y be beca caus usee of th thee leadership of women in their organisation should be highlighted. What can organisations do?

Organisations can focus on three broad areas in order to promote gender equity at the workplace: Recruitment practices, Career Development practices and Retention practices. Recruitment practice

Gender equitable recruitment procedure would go a long way in ensuring that the gender ratio at the workplace is favourable to both men and women. Most organisations display the note of “Equal Opportunity Employer” in all their recruitment ads. This typically signifies that for the roles advertised, both a woman and a man would be considered eligible and both would be evaluated in the same manner. In order to be able to attract women, benefits that are important to women such as flexible work timings, maternity leave, etc.,

Career Development practice

Ensuring equal opportunities for advancement and career development for women is a fundamental element of creating a woman-friendly work environment. Most organisations have policies which govern harassment at the workplace, but it is often the subtle and unconscious biases of the managers that could tilt the promotion decision in favour of men. Women are compared to their male counterparts and organisations struggle to ensure that the aspect of gender differences is not a point of discussion during performance evaluation. evaluation. This again calls for a change in the mindset of the managers. For example, Institute a recent ofstudy at the Massachusetts Technology (MIT) in the United States, indicated women scientists were typically allocated half the laboratory space as men, required to raise twice the level of external funding, received 20 percent lower salaries (at least) than men of equal standing, and were excluded from the most powerful committees and leadership positions. These factors contributed to decrease female morale and productivity at the university. This is an example that may Organisations as well be true for many other industries. are making efforts to reduce and eliminate these gaps and ensure that women are given the place of respect they deserve. This is possible if performance evaluation is based on clear goals and competencies in order to eliminate bias of the evaluator evaluator.. Career advancement should be based on

The significance of the statement of “Equal Opportunity Employer” has to be lived

criteria that is transparent to all. There should be regular feedback given to women employees as much as their male counterparts. Research has consistently

upto by the interviewers during the interview. At no point of time, can they allow any biases in their judgement. This calls for a change in the mindset of the interviewers to ensure that they do not stereotype women.

shown that organisations that encourage mentoring across genders (formal or informal) are often more successful in creating an inclusive environment at work where both women and men can have equally rewarding careers.

are crucial.

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It is also essential that organisations have women representation in their senior management. They function as role models to the rest of the women in i n the organisation.

them with the required support in order to achieve their work related goals. Women typically would have a greater responsibility towards childcare than their

With women is in putting senior management, the organisation across a strong message of gender equity which cannot be ignored.

spouse andthis anand organisation which understands is able to provide p rovide the necessary facilities to a woman is more likely to retain her.

Retention practices

Retention of women in the organisation to a large extent depends on the work environment. Women Women want the workplace to be supportive to their needs and enable them to work to their potential and provide them with opportunities for personal and

Some of the key retention practices that many companies practice is around offering flexible work schedules for women, enabling them to work out of satellite offices that are closer to their homes, creating home offices for women, part-time work, etc., These retention practices can go a long way in ensuring that

professional growth. It is essential for the management to understand the constraints within which women work and provide

women continue to work in the organisation and contribute effectively to the organisational goals.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article, strictly constitute the personal opinion of the author. These are not the views of Infosys Technol Technologies ogies Limited. Limited . 74

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In order to capture and benefit from the views of veteran HR professionals the following three persons have been interviewed and their responses against each of the questions are presented on the following pages : 1.

Alavi Hussain


Vineet Kaul


Padmakumar P

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About the Author Alavi Hussain Sehal,Masters in Commerce from Loyola, a gold medalist from XLRI, Jamshedpur. He started his career as a Management Trainee with Tube Investments growing to Corporate Personnel Manager Manager.. To To his credit, he has successfully managed transition from low productivity to highest productivity levels, sick companies into profitable companies through nurturing a climate of mutual trust understanding amongst all stakeholders.

In 1994, he moved to GEC ALSTHOM as General Manager – HRD, handled the merger of GEC and EEC, became Country HR Director for ALSTOM Transmission Transmission and Distribution Division. He was a member of Global HR Steering Committee in ALSTOM. He was chairman of ISTD Madras Chapter. He is also active member of NIPM, IIPM and HRD Network and member of Tamil Nadu Committee CII, an MBTI accredited Trainer Trainer,, an assessor of MAIT quality recognition Programme.

H ow do you see see emp mploy loye ees i nfl nflue uenci ncing ng your future gr growth owth plans plans ?

W hi hilst lst we very very ofte often n talk of whi te collar employ mploye ees, blue col colllar employ mploye ees also al so play pl ay

Employees help organisation dreams come true. They are really the assets. It is necessary that they are fully committed and motivated to work towards organisation goals. Future growth plans must be fully shared with them and they should be aligned to achieve them. Employees are happy and feel

a big role. What are your views on the same? same Very





Manufacturing, they are the key and critical resources. Management tends to ignore blue collar when it comes to training them. As I mentioned before, without them who constitute major chunk of human resources, it is difficult

part of the growth when they are involved. They would also like to have feedback on the progress. One proof is the way they actively participate in employee referral programme to help company attract, retain talent and in suggestion schemes and the pride they carry. In my view, workmen though inflexible at work for various reasons, are one of the key stakeholders. 76

to achieve the growth plans. Organisations do not utilise or under utilise the skills of employees when they think of outsourcing as an easy alternative.

H ow do you see see the profi le of of blue co coll lar emp mploy loy ees changi ng and w hat are ar e the i mpli ca cati ti ons of the sam same e for bu busi si ne nesse sses? s? With more communications happening and their growing involvement, profile of

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blue collar is changing: they are more open now to understand the business and market situation, which earlier they used to look at it as management gimmicks to pay low salary. They understand companies operate in the industry how and their awareness has increased so also acceptance of reality reality.. I think management has a larger role to play to build their trust and confidence. In the absence of mutual trust, relationship will always be strained and management will not be able to maintain conducive and healthy climate to achieve the extra mileage we need to achieve enhanced levels of productivity. Whilst on this point, I would like to emphasise that the profile of young managers particularly are also changing today. You find these days sons and daughters of blue collar employees doing very well in studies and studying in good schools! These changes at home change their culture and attitude at work as well. Today blue collar employees are open to performance evaluation and inputs for their development. They are open to changes for e.g. lean manufacturing systems, as long as employees are not retrenched. retre nched. If economy opens up with more opportunities for them, thinkcollar situation will change where evenIblue will have opportunities. In future, you will have all blue collars qualified unlike past ! ! Mushrooming growth of multinationals in India also has brought about lot of changes in work culture and also has increased expectations of employees.

union rivalry. As long as management managemen t does not play politics between groups, and maintains a neutral and professional position, things turn out to be better. Any serious long unrest does not occur all of a sudden. It is also for reasons like when they feel they have not been informed of the changes we propose and something where we take to confrontation attitude. In fact many laws such as Minimum Wages have lost relevance today as many organisations have come up beyond all those limits! Of course, they are under pressure due to present economic conditions and sometimes get misguided by political people.

A bse senc nce e of fac factors tors that that ca cause used d un unre rest st may not nece necessar ssarii ly re result sult i n healthy healthy employe ployee e relations. What aspects (strategies, approac ap proache hes, s, etc.) resulted i n creati creati ng healt he althy hy emp mploy loye ee relati ons? In my view, transparency of our actions, keeping people informed from time to time on company’s situation, that is not merely communicating only when we have crisis, informing well in advance the stakeholders of all changes we would like to implement and what we stand to gain out of this, remaining outside groupism and politics, encouraging one union-one industry principle, enabling people to go for fair election of their representatives, adopting “we care for you” policy, consistent policy, encouraging and supporting line management who are in direct contact with them and taking them into confidence and empowering them, broad-minded

You may hav e expe xperr i ence nced d unr est of diffe di ffere rent nt magni magni tude at diffe di ffere rent nt ti mes. I n hi ndsi ght ght,, what w hat may may have hav e be bee en the k ey factors fac tors that ca cause used d i t? Not recently. But whatever unrest I have seen is all due to misunderstanding, simmering discontentment and ill feeling developed over a period of time and not resolving or responding to grievances for a long time. Sometime, it is also due to inter

approach etc are some of the approaches one should seriously consider.

D o value val uess i nfl nflue uence nce emp mploy loye ee r elat latii ons and if and i f so how how ? In the corporate world today, Ethics and Values play a greater role and companies, as all of us know, that do not have some basic values do not sustain sustain for long and go out of existence. I consider this is very Neetwork Journal January| 2011 NHRDN


fundamental for productive employee relations. All that we have spoken about earlier stem from belief in certain basic values and principles. If organisations adopt good ethical practices in business and with people, it goes a long way in bu il di ng st ro ron n g fo u n da ti o n fo r go od relations. Transparency goes with wi th integrity integri ty.. How can management talk about taking care of employees without commitment to baa si c v a l u e s l i k e au th e n t i ci t y o r b commitment to employees and community??

H ow do you se s ee the dy dy nam namii cs of emp mploy loye ee r elat latii ons and “e “engag ngage eme ment nt of co coll lec lecti ti v e” changing in years to come, given the changing socio-economic-cultural context? Today what is missing is “Personal “Person al touch”, which is the core for good employee relations. That is why employees still feel they need collectivity collectivity.. Otherwise, in many cases, unions in today’s context are losing their value for their traditional roles and had to invest time with issues of much larger concern, not so much on individual grievances!

A s a busine busi ness ss le lead ade er, how do you see see an “engag “e ngage ed collec collecti ti v e” getti ng mani mani feste fested d and how do we w e enhance eng engag age eme ment nt? ? In my experience, many companies have successfully implemented performance evaluation and development tools also for workmen and also in old organisations

do better and employee involvement in all al l areas where they can contribute “Ideas” would help enhance their level of engagement. This should be extended also to families of employees and their participation in fact increases sense of belonging and a family feeling rather than a mere contractual employeremployee relationship.

W hat com compe pete tenc ncii es i n your vi v i ew shou s hould ld H R profe profess ssii ona onals ls acqui acquire re and practi practice ce to ensur nsure e he healt althy hy emp mpll oye oyee e r elat latii ons. W hat i s the t he rol role e of li l i ne ma manage nagerr s i n the same same? ? HR managers should be fair and firm with an ability to communicate effectively and at the same wave length. They should build trust credibility through actions and also and possess ability to make senior management deliver what has been promised. They must be value driven: and above all they should be able to help employees see the company vision and drive changes for a better future. These are some of the key and core competencies for HR professionals. Line managers are the real representatives of management. In fact many organisation’s unions dominate and line managers become ineffective, when Both they are not supported by management. the management and HR must ensure en sure that line managers are fully empowered and are able to project themselves as key stakeholders and and decision makers. Line managers should also maintain personal touch with employees, demonstrate ability

with legacy practices, such practices are getting establishes. Training and helping them acquire new skills give them more confidence and a greater sense of ‘employability’. They should also be given training in identified areas of development which for sure is going to increase their engagement. Reward and Recognition scheme, suggestions scheme, employee referral scheme, regular communication about company performance, continuously challenging them to 78

to take decisions within policy framework, deal with unions or works councils, demonstrate courage and conviction of their actions, adopt basic ethics and values, train workers, be neutral and not encourage favouritism or get involved in union politics. These key attributes amongst line managers will help maintain good employee relations.

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About the Author Vineet Kaul is the Chief People Officer, Hindalco—a $14 Bn global Metals major with 32,000 employees. Earlier, Kaul was Vice President (HR) - Indian Subcontinent and an Executive Director on the Board of Philips Electronics India Limited. His career as an HR Professional spreads over 34 years of enriching experience in the Manufacturing, FMCG, Consumer Durables, IT and Technology sectors. After obtaining a Masters Degree in Social Work from MS University, University, Baroda. Kaul started his career as a Management Trainee with Tata Tata Motors, worked with Birla Yamaha and Eicher Motors before joining Philips. Kaul has served on the CII National Committee for HR and IR and is a Past President of the Mumbai Chapter of the National HRD Network. Professional Awards Awards he received include “Best HR Professional” Award Award from Centre for Industrial Relations and Social Development, Baroda and from Mid-Day in Association with DAKS, London.

1. H ow do you see see emp mploy loye ees i nfl nflue uenci ncing ng your future gr growth owth plans? plans? People make the difference, more so today and going forward..Employees bring unique strengths and talent that can be critical to future growth plans. While technology, land and financial resources are accessible, the differentiating or winning factor comes from the employees of a company. This is applicable across levels, be it the CEO or employees on the shop floor.

roles at all levels. Those involved in managing of people at new projects p rojects would be exposed to a completely different way of managing the operations with a radically new philosophy. philosophy. The overriding overridin g emphasis would be to ‘achieve more with less’ advanced technology and smaller workforce managing far larger plant load capacities than ever envisaged before. Another equally critical factor would be the number of leaders, and building that leadership pipeline is another step towards

future manpower management. In our case, there is growing focus on employees across the company — honing their competencies, sharpening skill sets and charting a career path. We We have Units which are over 50 years old and also Greenfield Projects. The criticality at our Greenfield projects lies in understanding, assimilating and finally implementing plans as per the new technology and thereby placing people in these new key

Meanwhile, our teams at existing Units are also doing an excellent job. Given the competitive nature of our Business, we benchm ben chmark ark glob globall ally y and hen hence ce str strive ive to rai raise se the bar year on year. Our Managers and Employees are continuously looking to find innovative ways to give their best. Achievements on the shop floor as well as the offices get company wide recognition Neetwork Journal January| 2011 NHRDN


and working in i n teams is the order of the day, where every member brings individual excellence to achieve collective results.

employees in the changed context would not only need to have multi-skills, but would need to be IT savvy as well, as the plant and equipment of the future would

2. R ole of “Bl “Blue ue C ollar em employe ployee es” Perhaps the ‘Blue Collar’ has a historical perspective and draws us into the comfort of legacy? It has to do with changing our perception on the caliber and contribution of the workforce. They would now increasingly play a vastly different and influencing role. Single-skill expertise to Multi-Skilling is something that we have already progressed upon. This brings into focus the need for continuous learning to keeping oneself employable. The employee

depend much more on automation and controls. The business challenge would be to get people on board, who either have the above capabilities or at least can be trained in these areas. Higher investments in training of employees and providing good training facilities would naturally follow. With higher skill sets and capabilities making them more and more employable, we would face the added challenge of attrition from this employee group, who hitherto were seen as making one job/company a lifetime career career..

would like to be involved and conversant with factory operations beyond his/her immediate workstation and he/she would relate with and understand overall business imperatives. The impact i mpact of a job not getting done well or getting done as it traditionally has been, would wo uld be far greater on productivity and performance. It is needless to mention that Companies will have to look at “Mentofacturing” — using the thinking abilities of the workforce in addition to the physical contribution at the workplace. Competencies like ‘Vision & Strategy’ or ‘Business Acumen’ are no longer the sole prerogative of Vice Presidents and above; we believe every employee must show a certain degree, however small, of such competencies, be it a mere interest in business results or asking questions on the ‘why’ of certain business decisions and processes.

4. K ey factors w hi hich ch have have ca cause used d unrest unrest i n the pa past st I have always believed that Industrial Relations issues are to do with Management. Of course, what we see are the effect/symptoms and very often miss out on the root causes. A lot of this is a reflection on Leadership. Some of the key factors which emerge are are — lack of proper communication and also absence of a good grievance redressal process. Short term measures and patch up solutions cannot last the longer term and are often likely to lead to deep industrial unrest. We always reap what we have sown. Rising aspirations of the people vis-à-vis inability (or reluctance) of the businesses to meet them in view of the impact (financial or

decisions and processes.

3. C han hangi gi ng profi le of the ‘B ‘B lue Coll C ollar ar’’ Employees The current employee profile that we have seen changing with Gen ‘Y’ also holds hold s true on the shop floor. With increasing investments in cutting-edge technology and equipment, the profile and expectations of these Blue Collar employees is very different. The Blue Collar 80

otherwise), that it would have on the Company; lack of integrity or sincerity sincerity,, viz., straightforward placing of issues on the table during discussions — can lead to damaging future relations with the workforce. The key lies in keeping open channels of communication - and it must be a dialogu dialoguee that is two-way two-way.. We must keep employees updated with the state of the Business so that a crisis does not n ot come up at the last moment and they understand

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the market and competitive compulsions under which we operate. All HR colleagues are well versed with ‘Be fair and firm” fi rm” and practicing it makes work much simpler. More and more issues relating to the external environment and aspirations for direct employment in the industry, especially in new projects with higher growth plans would be seen.

5. Factor Factorss lea leadi ding ng to he healt althy hy employ ploye ee relations Long term over short term. Proactive / preemptive rather than fire fighting. Focus on continuous relationship building with various stakeholders e.g. employees, unions, labour authorities and line managers. Involving all stakeholders through regular communication especially on aspects like business scenario, productivity and profitability related matters — employees and unions need to be updated on a continuous basis and not n ot beforee comm befor commencem encement ent of negot negotiatio iations. ns. Last but not the least, it is heartening to note that Line Managers are increasingly playing an active role in this process, which was earlier thought of as the sole domain of HR.

6. D o value val uess i nfl nflue uence nce emp mpll oye oyee e r elat latii ons and an d if i f so how? If Values shape our lives and impact our relations in other spheres, then definitely Values do influence employee relations

and commitment from their managers and speed in resolving their issues. Genuine efforts as opposed to mere lip service will be easily distinguished and found out.

7. C hange i n dynami dynami cs of emp employ loy ee relati re lati ons and “E “E ngage ngagem ment of C ollec ollecti ti ve ve”. ”. Amongst the workforce directly employed, there may be a move towards de unionisation. Union-free plants and multiunion plants will co-exist. In that context, the direct communication with the employees would increase. Proactive managements that use this medium stand to gain. I have always questioned ‘Why do we have to communicate to workers through a Union? The employee joined us first and only later late r became a union member. So why do we not exercise our right/duty in communicating with them directly?” There would however, be a greater degree of unionisation amongst the temporary workforce and contract contra ct labour. Issues from this group would be the causes for industrial unrest. This group of employees would become good catchment areas for Union leaders — many of whom look for such a support base. Parity in compensation between temporary work force/direct labour would be a challenge. The reason being that many Companies are relying more on Contract/Temporary labour in order to contain costs and enjoy greater flexibility. This applies even to skilled workmen. The gap/divide between these two categories are large and that can

very significantly. Ultimately, it is honesty and openness in approach which is sustainable over the long term. A number of times putting key issues on the backburner have caused problems problems and led to unrest. Therefore, alacrity in resolving petty / small issues becomes important. The colonial policy of ‘divide-and-rule’ is a thing of the past, and does not pay dividend in today’s scenario. Going forward, employees would look for zeal

often become the cause for IR issues.

8. H ow do we w e enhance eng ngagem ageme ent nt? ? A proactive approach in anticipating and resolving employee related issues/ grievances will be important. As already mentioned, new age work force will be far more educated, skilled and therefore would have higher expectations in terms of the roles assigned to them. Enriching job roles Neetwork Journal January| 2011 NHRDN


would therefore be a key factor to build engagement. For greater engagement, policies, which enable learning, enhancement of roles and opening wider career opportunities would be the key. In the next stage, close supervision of today would need to be replaced by greater autonomy for higher levels of employee engagement. Issues like rewards and recognition would need to be increasingly focused upon with greater transparency in the selection and implementation of such schemes. To summarise, the talent management processes, currently confined to the category of managers and professionals, would need to get extended to the workmen category. Perhaps in the past we have dealt with the workmen group as One ‘Category’ — we may need to review this approach.

9. Competencies required in HR professi profe ssi on onals als i n practici practi cing ng an and d ensuri ensuri ng healt he althy hy emp mploy loye ee relat relatii ons First and foremost, there is a crying need today to seek HR professionals who are interested to work in Employee Relations. Good IR/ER always has been, is and will continue to be the basis of People Management. In recent times, this has been assumed, that in any case competencies competencie s for IR Management are very general. This may no longer hold good and in view of the complexities of the emerging issues it cannot be assumed. Also good HR can only be built on good IR/ER.

Learning skills and honing competences required to practice and ensuring healthy ER are: • Abilit Ability y to unde unders rstan tand d and and interp interpre rett labour laws and statutes • Net Networ working king and re relat lations ionship hip bui buildin lding g • Ab Abil ilit ity y to man manag agee cris crises es • Co Comm mmun unic icat atio ion n ski skill llss • A tho thoro rough ugh kno knowle wledge dge and abi abilit lity y to to interpret employee related policies and procedure • Bei Being ng effe effecti ctive ve in condu conducti cting ng enqui enquirie riess • Liste Listenin ning g skills skills and and abili ability ty to to withst withstand and and handle pressure Most importantly, a very thorough understanding of the business imperatives in the context of IR/ER is essential. Thus, in conclusion, it can be said that, on the foundation of a sound IR/ER approach, the people factor of the future would have to increasingly look at a shop floor of ‘enlightened’ workers, having specialised skill sets with a wider choice of growth and career opportunities not necessarily in the same organisation always. Nurturing the talent and addressing the aspirations of this group would no longer be a matter of mere ‘collective bargaining’, but more of learning and development both, on-the-job and classroom training, job enrichment and a motivating work environment.


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HR AND EMPLOYEE RELATIONS PADMAKUMAR (INCONVERSATIONWITHDr. P V R MURTHY) About the Author Padmakumar is the Head of human resources of Saint-Gobain Glass India, He is the Team Leader - Human Resources who is responsible in creating the Leadership & people organization for Flat Glass business. A person who has blend of all subsections of HR, he played an active role in developing the HRCompass, the large scale HR competency development initiative by NHRD-CII- XLRI. His passion for HR has helped in nurturing many young HR professionals. He is active in the Skills development initiative spectrum and had represented India in the India-EU Skills summit at Brussels in 2010.

1. H ow do you see see emp mploy loye ees i nfl nflue uenci ncing ng your future gr growth owth plans? plans? It is widely observed that in India Inc, employees and their exhibited capabilities form an important element for organisations in making investment decisions in a given geographical area. I recollect a conversation where a very senior top management person of an MNC company from France answering a query in a seminar. When he was asked to comment about India as an investment destination, he replied that he does not know much about India, but knows very specific about a federal state of Tamil nadu and location called Chennai. The people

3. Expand the horizons through active involvement in structured methodologies and involvement initiatives 4. Bring in Innovation in the areas of work by translating knowledge into action 5. Leve Levera ragi ging ng Technology to bring in scale, excellence and higher standards. 2. W hi hilst lst we very very ofte often n talk of white whi te-co -collar llar employees, blue-collar employees also playy a bi g role. pla role. Yo Your ur vi ew s on on the sam same e. Blue-collar employees play a significant role in executing the business plans with precision. In high customer related

make this difference. Employees that can seamlessly execute the projects, ramp-up and deliver growth plans make a distinct impression on the personalities in the Board rooms.

business they are the ambassadors of o f the organisation. What is expected is to understand the standard operating procedures and follow the same meticulously. Further, to bring in the best

It is the ability of employees toA AC C E -I T, that makes the difference.

by active active participation participation and contribution in various company wide programs.]

1. Aligningwith organisation strategy 2. Collaborate internally and externally with all stake holders

The difference between the past and current is that these blue-collar employees are the new-gen employees. These newgen employees are bubbling with ideas and Neetwork Journal January| 2011 NHRDN


innovation. The opportunity for this group to excel is higher. They hardly have any patience. Organisations need to channel these resources with active engagement to develop them in their areas of work. Organisations face two broad challenges. aligning the young and old blue- collar employees; and meeting the aspirations of the new-gen employees with respect to work environment, learning & growth, career and compensation.

3. H ow do you se s ee the profi le of blue lue-collar employees changing and what are the implications of the same for businesses? Profile of blue-collar is undergoing quick transition from one state to another. Children of blue-collar employees of the past are no more blue-collar of today today.. They have captured new opportunities offered in academics and specialisations. The identity of these new generation employees is not with the pedigree and parentage, but with the skills and like-minded people in work and beyond. These are propelled by the communication and awareness created created by the media. The aspirations of the emerging blue-collar are very different. Majority will be migrating from agriculture to manufacturing and service sectors. Issues of self esteem are high. You will find larger l arger number of students who passed out from engineering colleges yet to find a suitable employment. The era will find educated

4.A A ny i mpo port rtan antt issue i ssuess that that the cou ountry ntry face fac es and and ha hass im i mpli plica cati ti on onss for HR ? With the buoyant growth in Indian industry,, majority of the HR managers are industry expending their time in recruitment and less than one tenth of this time for induction of the employees. Like the baton is handed over in the relay race, these newgen employees do not get passed on from the recruitment team to the business HR and operating managers systematically. The single biggest problem country faces is that the quality of HR managers with high functional knowledge and personal credibility to handle the complex people processes in Indian industry ind ustry..

5. You may may hav have e ex pe perr i ence nced d unre unr est of diffe di ffere rent nt magni magni tude at diffe di ffere rent nt ti mes. I n hi ndsi ght ght,, what w hat may may have hav e be bee en the k ey factors fac tors that ca cause used d i t? Understanding and then managing aspirations of new-gen blue-collar employees. There is a major gap in the above area. Employers have little quality time to understand the new-gen employees and their aspirations. The managers from the older school of thought and super bosses from a still older school of thought though t loose this connect. These new-gen blue collar is influenced by not gate meetings, pamphlets and general body meetings, and this poses a challenge even forthe trade union leaders to reach out to them. Management is also handicapped with HR managers with

under-employed working in tandem with people with lower level skills. There will be uneasiness in work place mainly ignited by b y b o ss e s w h o s e e em p l o y e e s mo re through academic degrees and less through relevant skills and capability. Further, the bridge between rural and urban employment opportunities will see more traffic, leading to heterogeneity of a different kind in work place. The emerging work place culture will need management of unconventional skill sets. 84

limited skills to manage complex people challenges. Reaching out to these new-gen employees by HR managers often sees huge gaps, let alone the personal touch. Majority of emerging HR managers often opt to avoid dealing with complex people issues where they have to invest quality time or pass on these complex people related issues to the next higher level by just being an informer or as a last option to move to another organisation so that they do not have h ave to face this issue.

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6.A A bse senc nce e of of fac factor torss that ca cause used d unrest unrest may not necessarily result in healthy emp mploy loy ee relati ons. W hat aspects aspects ( st strr ate ategi gi es, approache approaches, s, etc) etc) re r esul sulte ted d in in

We come across many sub titles in organisation communication that carries the values of that organisation to all nook and corner. HR managers need to step in

creati ng healt creati healthy hy emp employ loye ee relati ons? There are various factors that result in healthy employee relations. The most important in this is the approach towards bll u e- c o l l a r em p l o y e e s. B l ue - c o l l a r b employees, irrespective irrespe ctive of the fact whether they are on the rolls or off the rolls, need to bee se e n a s h um an ca p i ta l t ha t ca n b appreciate, if nurtured well. Native skills that are latent in vast majority of the ruralbred bre d blu bluee-col collar lar emp emplo loyee yeess nee need d to be kindled and developed. Organisations

to ensure that these sub titles are positive. p ositive. Emergence of not so positive sub titles is the initial symptom of weakening employee relations.

have to therefore see each blue-collar employee with uniqueness, who has been nurtured by their parents, influenced by teachers and prominent citizens of society that are predominantly naïve and not familiar with complexities. They need to experience Individualism as described by Greet Hofstede in his dimensions of culture and not feel part of the herd. Various initiatives in the organisation will facilitate this differentiation. Many a times HR managers do not realize the significance of this differentiation and often forms groups with out any purpose, but just for convenience. Respect for individuals and nurturing each individual is a prime factor for healthy employee relations. Once the organisation provides this work environment, each employee will unleash their potential in areas of work and set the

8. H ow do you see see the dynami cs of employ mploye ee r el ati ons and “eng “engagem ageme ent of coll co lle ecti v e” changi changi ng i n years years to come come, gii v en t he cha g chang ng i ng s oci o- economi ccult cu ltural ural co conte ntext xt? ? Let us examine the two dimensions to this issue. On one side, the employer and on the other hand, the blue-collar employees. There is imminent danger to people on the road when a person who does not know any traffic law and rules start driving an automobile. The emerging situation is very similar where we are seeing many HR Managers who do not have even basic understanding of labour laws and rules is managing large number of employees and providing advice to the Chief Executives. These advices are at times on matters pertaining to welfare and also people related costs, which has a bearing on long-term viability of the organisation. On the other side, we have the not so channeled aspirations of young employees. In the absence of active involvement of these new-gen employees in the organisation wide initiatives and improvement projects, it is often guided to

pace for the organisation’s growth. In order to see the above factors as a reality, it is necessary to have a management seen as strong in leadership and with determination and credibility.

7.D o value val uess i nfl nflue uence nce emp mploy loye ee r elat latii ons and an d if i f so how how ? Organisation values are more often derived f r om the top management through consistent actions more than stated words.

areas that are not productive and also not well managed. A possible reprieve is HRCompass, which attracts professionals in HR function to learn the functional and behavioural competencies and then deploy and look at HR much beyond commonsense. HR managers with inadequate competencies and knowledge in functional and be ha v i o ur a l sc i e nc e s m a y d r a g t he organisation to industrial strife. It is quite Neetwork Journal January| 2011 NHRDN


possible that this will not just confine to manufacturing and infrastructure sector. sector.

9.A A s a busi usine ness ss lead leade er, ho how w do do you se see e an

organisations’ ethos, business and HR policies and systems. Knowledge of labour laws (the principles, purpose and spirit) will provide the edge to

“engag “e ngage eddo collecti collec v e” getti ng ma mani nint? fested feste and how w e etinhance we engag eng age eme ment ? d HR managers when they have to deal with people representatives and also Purpose of Collective engagement would government. In India, HRCompass vary from organisation to organisation. provides significant opportunity for Impact will be different in organisations those HR managers who looks for that has high individualism (as described sustained growth in their profession to by b y H o f st ed e ) . Or Org g a n i s a ti o n s w h er e learn and grow. individualism is low, the collective engagement is likely to be less productive Line managers need to state the expectation and vice versa. from HR and insist HR managers to deploy the instruments and tools in all HR sub 10..W hat com 10 compe pete tenc ncii es i n your vi v i ew should functional areas in their respective work H R profe professi ssi ona onals ls acqui acquire re and practi practice ce to place. Respect for HR managers will ensur nsure e he healt althy hy emp mploy loye ee r elat latii ons? W hat progressively improve as and when they i s the t he r ole of li l i ne ma manage nagerr s i n the same same? ? learn usage of HR tools and instruments, and improve the existing tools and HR managers should learn the subject and instruments. have deep understanding of their


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EXCERPTS OF THE INTERVIEW WITH Mr. KALI GHOSH, GENERAL SECRETARY, CENTRE OF INDIAN TRADE UNIONS (CITU), WEST BENGAL KALI GHOSH (INCONVERSATIONWITHSOURAV DASPATNAIK) Mr. Kali Ghosh is one of the topmost and seasoned trade union Mr. leaders and is currently General Secretary of CITU, West Bengal and Secretary of All India Centre of Indian Trade Unions. A seasoned trade union leader with very good good understanding of Trade Union Movement since last 50 years, he is well read and well versed and has spearheaded several initiatives of the Trade Union movement in India. About the Author Sourav Daspatnaik is Director Human Resources and Strategy Apeejay Group. He is an alumnus of the Birla Institute of Technology Mesra, Ranchi., an alumnus of MS at Stevens Institute of Technology, NJ, USA. Prior to joining Apeejay, Sourav worked as Director, Mercer Human Resource Reso urce Consulting, Tata Motors, Tata Steel and Ispat Industries in cross-functional areas like Technical Services, Sales and Marketing etc. Sourav S ourav has been actively involved in Industry Associations like CII, FICCI and served as the Chapter

President Natioanl HRD Network currently Regional President, East. His portfolio ofofwork encompasses HR, IRand andisGroup Strategy and its i mplementation. implementation. To get the views across the political spectrum, we also had a conversation withMr. Kali Ghosh.

and ‘Exploited’ in the typically Capitalist Economic System and with the advent of modern industry, the system still continues inspite of the fact that Trade Union activism

1. What What do you you think think is the the role role expec expected ted of HR & IR professionals in today’s industry and organised sector given the current situation across the country?

The role of HR & IR in today’s industry in the organised sector must be well understood keeping in mind the requirement of the workers as well as the industry. Employer-Employees relationship has been one of ‘Exploiter’

has gone down due to the need for temporary adjustments being made by both workers as well as organisation. However, the classic role of IR Managers has now changed from merely managing statutory norms to being an engagement partner with the employees at all levels including workers in the unionised category.. However, this also should cover the category associates and the contract workers who are not employees of the company but carry out same or similar jobs in the organised segments. The service sector also has seen large numbers. January | 2011 NHRDN Neetwork Journal


of contract workers and outsourced workers. The service sector is an area where employment norms and guidelines are required to be adhered to, and hence the role of HR & IR professional is to create and build systems for natural justice, emphasise to the companies to the need to follow the norms, create higher level of awareness within the organisation and sensitise all towards creating a positive work relationship. This is a daunting task but is the need of the hour.

2. How do think think this rol role e has has chang changed ed from the 1980s and 1990s?

The role has changed significantly from 1980s to 1990s and now with the advent of service sector where service sector employs large numbers of contract and outsourced workers. We find that Healthcare, Education and Hospitality segments are biggest bigge st offende offenders rs who are contin continuously uously and blatantly breaking the statutory norms and exploiting the situation. In fact the service sector is the worst offender and poorly managed in terms of addressing the workers statutory rights. Hence, in this case we feel the need for HR & IR professionals p rofessionals to stand-up and set guidelines based on a holistic approach. However, in certain organisations especially manufacturing sector, we see some improvements whereby the management has involved workers in terms of skill development , training and other engagement practices, which go towards better productivity and

Building blocks for a healthy and successful employee relations with industry are basically built on principal of natural justice. Hence, what is good for humanity and for organisation is a right step. Workers want to lead peaceful life where they will get just remuneration and fair wages for the job they carryout, be it a manufacturing sector or service sector. However when organisations start exploiting the situation situati on thereby creating an atmosphere of distrust and unhealthy practices, the entire scenario changes. The tendency to outsource large portion of routine and perennial jobs in the manufacturing as well as service sector is an example where organisation to take responsibility and pay fairrefuses wages for the same job, which is a gross violation and does not go towards creating healthy and successful employee relations. Hence, I must emphasise that employer and employee relations is a 2-way phenomenon, whereby employers recognise the rights of the workers and workers recognise recognis e their duties towards the organisation organisatio n and the trust that gets created can go a long way way in creating a healthy relationship. 4. What What do you thin think k is the rol role e of a Trade Union in ensuring healthy employee relation and industrial relation in today’s scenario?

The Trade Union role towards healthy

better employee relations. relations. However, However, these cases are far and few. We observe that predominantly organisations in SME and MSME are equally liable to address workers’ rights and are not doing enough to ensure better employee relations. 3. With your your vas vastt experi experienc ence e what what do you you think are the building blocks to healthy and successful employee relations and industrial relations in today’s’ organisation? 88

employee relation with industry will continue till such time employers start addressing the issues of fairness and social justice whereby exploitation of workers is not applicable. It is an utopian principle. The employment labour arbitrage is not sustainable. We or feel the role of a trade union in today’s scenario as well as in future would get enhanced both for manufacturing as well as service sector. There is need to create higher level of awareness at the work level as well as the

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employer must recognise and appreciate the statutory norms as per the laws which must not be circumvented or taken for granted. Hence, keeping in mind the issue of contract workers, the Contract Labour Regulation and Abolition Act, 1970 would

need to be amended and we feel there is a need to address this keeping in mind India’s large work force required for the growth of manufacturing and servicing sector in the near terms.

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EXCERPTS OF THE INTERVIEW WITH Mr. PRADIP BHATTACHARYA, PRESIDENT, INDIAN NATIONAL TRADE UNION CONGRESS (INTUC), WEST BENGAL PRADIP BHATTACHARYA (INCONVERSATIONWITHSOURAV DASPATNAIK) About “Pradip Bhattacharya” P rad radii p Bhattacha Bhattachary rya ais a veteran Congress leader and the party’ party’ss former WBPCC Working Working President, and is currently currently INTUC’s INTUC’s West Bengal unit chief. He is one of the topmost topmost and seasoned trade union leaders with very good understanding of Trade Union Movement since last 50 years. Well read and well versed, he has spearheaded several initiatives of the Trade Union movement in India.

About the Author Sourav Daspatnaik is Director Human Resources and Strategy Apeejay Group. He is an alumnus of the Birla Institute of Technology Mesra, Ranchi., Ranchi. , an alumnus of MS at Stevens Institute of Technology, NJ, USA. Prior to joining Apeejay, Sourav worked as Director, Mercer Human Resource Re source Consulting, Tata Motors, Tata Steel and Ispat Industries in cross-functional areas like Technical

Services, Sales and Marketing has and beenserved actively involved in Industry Associationsetc. likeSourav CII, FICCI as the Chapter President of Natioanl HRD Network Netwo rk and is currently Regional President, East. His portfolio of work encompasses HR, IR and Group Strategy and its implementation.

The industrial environment in the State of West Bengal and other states across the country is currently experiencing a process of change, wherein all the stakeholders are being faced with situations that that they have never experienced before. On the one hand, the established industries are experiencing a phase of revival and growth, and on the other hand, there are also a significant number of companies setting up manufacturing facilities in different parts. This process of industrial change is certainly affecting all the stakeholders — 90

Employers, Employees, Trade Unions, Labour Directorate, Government and Society. Keeping in mind the background of emerging trend of employees’ relations in India’s manufacturing and service sector, we had sought Mr. Pradip Bhattacharya’s view for NHRDN Journal. 1. What What do do you you thin think k is is the role exp expect ected ed of of HR&IR professionals in today’s industry and organised sector given

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the current situation across the country?

The emerging scenario in the coming times will hopefully see a change in approach in where organisation is a vehicle with two clear arms — the management and the trade union partnering each other in a symbiotic relationship. Historically and going forward, no organisation or industry can exist without the management and the workers at the same time. Practically, two things that I have observed. Practically, Firstly, the character of the industry and the business has changed thoroughly, and hence the relationship between the management and the union be changed. Secondly, we seeshould that aalso large section of the workmen today are highly skilled and knowledgeable of the processes of the industry. industry. They can easily easil y understand the problem of a management, problem of the markets and the problems inside the management. So S o they are well aware of the fact that meeting the demands of the workers only cannot solve the problem of an industry. Now we also got so many knowledgeable personalities who are working as HR & IR professionals. Hence the perceptions of all these people are changing. In my opinion, very shortly we hope to see that whatever sour relations still exist will be over and warm & congenial relations will prevail as in developed economies. However,

dealing of IR issues could not strengthen or improve the atmosphere leading to the whole scenario getting jeopardized. So it required a drastic economical change, which practically took place after 1990s. Global issues played a vital role in 1990, and workers started seeing the world. They also realised realised the product that we were producing in different manufacturing units cannot sell in the market because the product of the other countries were also giving serious competition. 3. With With your your vast vast exper experienc ience e what what do you you think are the building blocks for healthy employee relations and and successful industrial relations in today’s’ organisation?

I feel that workers participation in the management is one of the most important factors now a days and the union people also will have the understanding of the prevailing conditions which business and managements face. Hence, two things will happen a) No illogic illogical al demand demandss can be be placed placed by the workers. b) They will understand understand what process has to be evolved to create a healthy relationship with the management. I feel that at least once a month, Union Representatives and Management should

communication and transparency will play an important role. 2. How do think think the the cont context ext has cha change nged d from the 1980s and 1990s?

Practically in 1980s and 1990s, globalisation did not taking take place properly. Weonly. observe, it started place after 1990s only . In the meantime, due to bad labour practices and the wrong managerial handling, so many industries were closed. So it was a lesson for both. The situation when old and traditional system of negotiation and

discuss whatever issues arise across the table.. We We should know that more than 60% serious misunderstanding occurs due to lack of information. Hence communication is key to successful employee relations. 4. What What do you thin think k is the rol role e of a Trade Union in providing healthy employee relations and industrial relations in today’s scenario?

For different reasons now, so many industries are shut down in Bengal, the January | 2011 NHRDN Neetwork Journal


figure both in Public and Private Sector is likely to be 56000. The reasons for such a situation in my view are a) Bad indu industr strial ial rela relatio tionsh nship ip b) Deep managerial crisis. c) Militant Militant Trade Union movem movement ent with violence (at least 12 managers were killed by workers in different places across the country during the period 1980s to 2000) d) Closure Closure happened happened due due to technic technical al obsolescence, obsolescenc e, poor leadership and high cost. Over the last 20 years, most of the industries have undergone major change in character i.e., from labour intensive to capital intensive. In India some of the industries could not cope up with this change and depended on lowering costs or cutting corners without major change in the quality. As a result, automatically they closed down. Hence, the people who have lost their jobs earlier due to the closure of the unit could not be re-employed, as the skill sets of these workers were particularly different from the current requirement. Now, this is where the State Government or Local Government can play an important role in enhancing the skills by imparting suitable skill based training through Training Centres like ITI etc. Unfortunately, in West Bengal, ITIs have not been successful in bridging the

and updating the skills of the workers. There is a strong need for Public Private Partnership to come forward and successfully take-up employability skill enhancement programmes for workers to impart better skill, which in turn will help industries towards higher productivity. The Public Sector in India has a track record of taking such initiatives, but the Private Sector has played a limited role and hence needs to take up this cause in a better manner. 5. If India India’’s growth growth sto story ry of 9% GDP GDP is to be achieved both in service and manufacturing sector, what do you think would be the challenges for Trade Union to address specially with respect to providing a platform for healthy dialogue and healthy industrial relations to have sustainable organisation?

A growth in GDP is beneficial for the industry and vice versa.. In fact, healthy growth in industry will automatically raise the GDP and hence will create more employment opportunities and enhancement of wages and better living condition. In fact to look back, maximum amount of retrenchment happened when the GDP growth of the country in 70s and early 80s was very poor and this was a self defeating exercise in itself. So in the ongoing situation

gap. Hence, it is important to change the curriculam of the ITI and other Vocational Training Institutes to meet the modern technical demands of the future. Hence “employability” remains the key word towards future success for the workers who come into the labour market. Industry also should take an active role in enhancing


where change is only constant, industry will have to continuously re-engineer and re organise itself to the changed requirement and like-wise management and the workers will also have to change their attitude and focus on the healthy industrial otherwise the organisationrelationship, will not survive.

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ROLE OF HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGERS IN EMPLOYEE RELATIONS — COMPETENCY, ATTITUDE, AND TOP MANAGEMENT EXPECTATIONS Dr. SANDEEP K KRISHNAN About the Author Dr. Sandeep K. Krishnan is the Vice President, HR and Corporate Development, Acropetal Technologies, India where he heads the function function.. He is a Mechanical Mechanical Engineer and and a Fellow of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmadabad, where he completed his doctorate. His areas of expertise include designing human resource processes, leadership development,

organisation structuring, and employer branding. He has been instrumental in organisation development and bringing change by instilling effective HR processes and systems as an in-house professional and as a consultant. His work has been recognised by Asia Pacific HRM Congress with Acropetal winning the “Organisation with Innovative HR practices” Award. He has worked with organisations such as IBM, RPG, and Ernst and Young Young in the area of Human Resource Consulting, Talent Management, and as a HR Generalist working closely with Business at senior levels. He teaches as a visiting faculty in institutes like IIMs, and IMT Nagpur. He has published papers in highly regarded academic journals and publications of general interest. He can be reached at [emailprotected] Introduction:

It was as early as 1955 when experts like Saltonstall tried to explain the role that Personnel Administration Head can play in managing human resources and how they

Research in this direction is quite well known and has stressed on mainly three aspects — Strategic Role of HR function, Strategic Role of HR professionals, and Competencies of HR professionals (e.g.: Ulrich, D. 1989; Ulrich, D. 1998; Ulrich, D.,

can support critical aspects of organisation (Saltonstall (1955)). The article explained interesting aspects like Personnel Department playing role in ensuring cooperation among employees, employee morale, developing employees, and even

Brockbank, W., Yeung, A.K. & Lake, D.G. 1995; Wright, PM 1998). A lot is written about requirement of competencies of HR professionals and they are aligned based on Ulrich’s model of being strategic partner, effective employee advocate, change

managing costs. Over a period,ofwith factors like development HRmany as a function, increased strategic approach toward HR, growth of knowledge industries and knowledge workers have led to a more strategic role being played by HR as a function and HR professionals.

management expert, and administrative expert. Aligning to these aspects, another critical aspect that comes in operationalising the role of HR is in managing employee relations. While the strategic aspect of HR are related to planning and level of decision making, from a practical point of view, HR January | 2011 NHRDN Neetwork Journal


plays a critical role in being a medium betw be twee een n ma mana nage geme ment nt an and d em empl ploy oyee ees, s, between betwee n employ employees, ees, and even alignm alignment ent of top management. This sets a different requirement of expectations, attitude, and competencies in HR professionals for performing this role. This paper examines how top management (CxOs — Chief of Function and CEOs) perceive the engagement of HR professionals in this vital role.

in employee relations. These responses were collated and the main aspects of interviews were used for developing the survey for aggregated responses. Interview Questions and Survey Table 1: List of questions used for the interviews

Objectives of the Paper

1. How do do you you descr describe ibe you yourr HR people as? You may choose multiple responses.

This paper examines what are the expectations of Top Management on how HR engages with employees and what are

2. What What do you you expe expect ct your your HR professionals professio nals to be? You may choose multiple responses.

the areas in which this engagement should be. It also examines how top management perceives the effectiveness of HR professionals in this role. While a research of this kind requires considerable breadth and depth, this is a preliminary study in understanding the essence of these aspects.

3. Are you happy the way HR deals with w ith the employees?

Literature Understanding and Research Methods

The study divided the aspects of employee relations into four major categories. Importance top management perceives on employee relations role of HR, Importance such a role plays in business, Top management trust and belief in HR professionals in handling the role, and Critical competencies required in handling this role. While basic literature of HR’s

4. Do you think how HR deals with employees makes a business impact? 5. What are the critical dimensions of an employee relations role of HR? You may choose multiple responses. 6. Do you you trust trust HR is dea dealin ling g prope properly rly with your employees? 7. If HR function is not there, will employee relations be hampered? 8. Do you you thin think k top top HR per person sonnel nel ar aree competent to handle employees?

9. What What do you you think think are are the the criti critical cal competencies HR person should have for employee relations?

strategic importance and competencies were used in understanding, research was primarily anchored on two major research methods — a) Interview with CxOs in understanding employee relations role of HR, and b) A survey to understand how

Results and Discussion: The responses from the in-depth interviews gave a lot of insights into how the top management perceives their HR function and HR Heads/other professionals in managing employee relations. Generally

the inputs from CxOs are working out at an aggregate level. Interviews with 5 CEOs was done at the first stage in understanding these aspects from a top management perspective. Open ended questions were asked to understand how Top Management perceives the role of HR

people mentioned that they hired HR Heads/other professionals who have a supportive and generally happy disposition. A positive attitude person is critical, as when they deal with employees of all kinds and in different moods, they can give a positive impact. The words that were


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used by CxOs in defining the approach of he/she should be the lead partner in HR professionals were “Supportive”, managing people concerns at a process level “Friendly”, and “Business Like”. L ike”. However, or negotiations. Although they felt that line when it came to senior HR folks, they expect managers should take responsibility of their somebody who can relate with them on people issues, it should be HR who should business challenges. Interestingly Interestingly,, it was be cons consulted ulted on thes these. e. It is expect expected ed that the also pointed out that we do not want HR HR person is knowledgeable, mature, and professionals to just show that they are knows business. It is interesting to note that interested or supportive, rather be they respect HR for two major aspects genuinely so. Better would be that they have (a) Their knowledge of HR best practices, business like attitude and work with the and (b) Their understanding of business employees on a business like fashion in line concerns. However, they felt that most with processes. On the other side, they critical is that HR should know what they expressed that many colleagues of theirs or are doing in building the organisation and even they themselves found HR people making it more cohesive, aligned, and becoming becom ing arrogant or poli political tical with the performance driven. The principles of inherent nature of work aligned to dealing with people issues. It is sometimes real or perceived, that they play a role in promotions or salary hikes or in general opinion making and this tends to make others feel that their role can be political in nature. CxOs point out that this can be damaging from an employee relations perspective, as employees may not trust HR. The interviewees also point p oint out that HR role has become more critical and they make a huge business impact, directly or indirectly. They expressed that HR function in general play a key role in attracting and retaining talent and the processes like performance management or training and development can be aligned to business results. They mentioned that it is the role of HR to set the culture and tone of employee relations and

employee relations from a CxO perspective is that HR should be able to manage people issues so that business does not suffer. suffer. While couple of decades back it was focused on industrial relations, today the same is expected in terms of managing people expectations, managing conflicts, team work, and driving performance. The key is to keep employees engaged at work. The second aspect of the study was to frame questions based on inputs from interviews. The survey having 10 questions was sent to CxOs from various industries and the responses were collated. The intention was to get an overview of the results and hence the survey was sent to only a select group. The questionnaire was sent to 15 CxOs and we got response from 11 of them. The respondents were given options of giving

they have to be a consulting partner to line managers in using best practices for the same. They are also negotiating partners to line managers in resolving employee issues. Essentially,, they expect HR professionals to Essentially take control of people related issues and

multiple responses to the questions. Referring to Table 2, we see that most of the CxOs see their HR people as supportive, followed by being friendly and business like. Table 2:

conflicts, through process development and negotiations. The functional heads/CEOs feel that they would trust HR in critical issues related to people and they would like to get involved, only if HR fails. At least at the HR head level, they feel all employee relations related concerns should end and January | 2011 NHRDN Neetwork Journal


Though it was mentioned in interviews that a few HR professionals are perceived to be political and arrogant, this was not seen in the responses to the survey.

Table 5:

Table 3:

Table 6:

Interestingly, in terms of expectations of being HR profess professional ional in the contex contextt of employee relations,,CxOs expect HR tolike be friendly friendl y, supportive, supportive and also business to a great extent. Also as per Table 4 many expressed they are happy how HR deals with employees. This is a good indication of how HR is perceived by CxOs in handling employees. Though there is a good 25% + who felt that it can be improved (Neutral and Unhappy). This with a larger sample can pose a question on effectiveness of HR in handling employees. Table 4:

In line with the interview results, the CxOs do expect that there is a critical role for HR and Head of HR in employee relations and they mostly trust HR in dealing with employees. They also feel that if HR function is not there, there is an impact in employee relations and hence HR is a required function. Results in Table Table 10 show that business sense and HR knowledge are two critical competencies for managing the role effectively. Table 7:

Based on Table 5 and 6, we can assume that businesses do acknowledge that HR is critical for business success from an employee relations perspective. Table 6 is in relation to the work they do in employee relations, of which the most critical aspects being employee engagement, resolving conflicts, and being a bridge between employees and management. 96

Table 8:

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Table 9:

Table 10:

From an attitude point, HR professional professionalss are expected to be supportive, and friendly. From a business perspective, they are expected to know the business imperatives and align employees to the same. Then, Then, there there is the role role of bridging bee t w e e n To b Top p Management and employees. The most striking aspect is that CxOs value HR professionals for their HR knowledge. This makes it a wake up call for HR professionals to be really on top of their professional knowledge and also be a consultant on bestt pra bes practi ctices ces in peo people ple man manage agemen ment. t. This requires considerable knowledge development for HR professionals. For

The data and resultsinpoints us towards as Buford (2006) explains, HR multiple aspects terms of the example professionals should have knowledge in expectations of employee relations role of best be st pr prac acti tice ces, s, se sett et ethi hica call st stan anda dard rds, s, HR and the discussion towards developing manage multicultural organisational HR professionals to this role. It is settings and diversity, manage conflicts, encouraging to note that top management ensure employee induction and clearly expresses that HR has an important performance, and even manage the role to play in employee relations. organisational climate. Though this is a preliminary research, research, from an employee Conclusion: relations perspective, CxOs see that HR HR can play a critical role in employee professionals create an organisation that relations and from an organisational is conducive for business performance and business can rely on HR for perspective they help in the managing people issues as a bridge, psychological contract ofmaintaining employees and balanc bal ancing ing man manage agemen mentt and emp employ loyee ee consultant, and a friendly and supportive partner. expectations.

References: Resources to Organizational Organizational Buford, S.C. (2006). (2006). Linking Human Resources Performance and Employee Relations in Human Services Organizations: Ten HR Essentials for Managers, Intl Journal of Public Administration, 29, 517-523. Saltonstall, R. (1955).Who’s (1955).Who’s who in personnel administration, Harvard Business Review, 33, 4, 75-83. Stake holder, utility, and relationship approaches. approa ches. HumanResourcePlanning, Ulrich, D. (1989).Assessing (1989).Assessing human resource effectiveness: Stakeholder, 12, 4, 301-315. Review,76, 1, 124-135. Ulrich, D. (1998).A (1998).A new mandate for human resources. Harvard Business Review,76, Ulrich, D. Brockbank, W., Yeung, A.K. & Lake, D.G. (1995).Human (1995). Human resource competencies: An empirical assessment. Human Resource Management,34, Management,34, 4, 473-495. manag ement. Journal of Management, Wright, P.M. & McMahan, G.C. (1992).Theoretical (1992).Theoretical perspectives for strategic human resource management. 18, 2, 295-320. Wright, P.M. (1998).Introduction: (1998).Introduction: Strategic human resource management research in the 21st Century. Human Resource Management 8, 3, 187-152. Review,8, Review,

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About the Author Sharad Patil is the Secretary General of The Employers’ Federation of India, Post Graduate in Economics and in Social Work - with specialization special ization in Human Resource Management from Delhi University. Completed Post Graduate Business Management Programme with Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management, Mumbai.

Starting in 1962 as a Graduate Trainee with Crompton Greaves moved on to become a Country - Head of HR for companies such as MSD, Parke Davis, Ciba Geigy, Geigy, Standard Chartered Bank, before assuming current role role of Secretary General of the Employers’ Federation of India.

Present Scenario


n today’s HRM, tools and techniques take precedence over robust experimental learning and its use. Tools and techniques inadequately learnt and/or imbibed, or wrongly used do notsiss produce useful outcomes as ba basi forr ac fo acti tion ons. s. So th the e ‘a ‘act ctio ions ns’’ do not produce desired results except sometimes by chance. This is a somewhat widespread malady depriving organisations of taking a holistic view of

cost of neglect of/or learning other functions, and acquiring mastery over all facets of HR functioning to be able to move vertically and even horizontally in a career spanning 35 to 40 years. In fact it is perfectly possible for a Head-HR to move into CEO’s position given the preparation and also the aspiration. I assume no one would wish wi sh to retire doing only recruitment or performance management or compensation or training. Strength in some of these and good

their HRM functioning. HRM functions, instead of being viewed holistically are seen as fragments of a number of highly specialized and narrowly focused HR functions. Also there is a lure of working in “Corporate” offices with their trappings – good, well located offices symbols of power and influence, which to some give a sense of having “arrived” in life. In these days of specialisation, one may focus on an area of interest, but not at the 98

grooming in all other areas is essential to be successful in a career in HR. Employee Relations is an integral part of human resource management function aimed at ensuring harmonious employee relations at all levels contributing optimally to productivity and industrial peace. It deals with individuals and groups at workplace – their issues and concerns, motivation and aspirations. Some of the the HRM techniques and tools have evolved over years to give sharper focus to HRM areas such as in identifying, developing

January | 2011 NHRDNetwork Journal

and managing talents, performance management systems, maximising returns from payroll expenses by designing and implementing compensation, benefits and rewards, systems and processes for succession planning, building leadership etc. Lot of these involve differentiation differentiati on and focus on individuals, hoping leadership will take care of the “group” issues within the organisation. organisation. Unfortunately this does not always happen leaving simmering discontent that occasionally explodes and makes headlines. Cost and consequences of morbidity of poor employee relations is very high but is assumed or taken as “given”, which it need not not be. Patchwork in dealing with these issues do not lend themselves to a lasting or even satisfactory solution. Impact of globalisation, State of unionisation, etc.

The voluntary separation schemes necessitated in the wake of globalisation either for restructuring units or closing unviable units, outsourcing, third party manufacturing, contact labour, coincidentally with ageing of senior trade union leaders with inadequate succession, mushrooming of unions, weakening of commitments by ‘fly by night’

Permanence of change, and what it calls for

With permanence of change affecting individuals and businesses this scenario cannot be expected to continue to eternity eternity,, or for a life time of a career. career. Unions at the national level are also coordinating their organisations, merging to gain membership strength, resources and might, with new and emerging political parties setting up their union shops promising better deal and luring employees to be their members are all impacting industrial relations in many organizations. organizati ons. With “fire only next door, I do not have much to worry”, syndrome, life goes on with some uneasiness at top level, with a typical “wait and watch” approach. How far will this take businesses to loose synergy of their workforce time will tell. Current lack of adequate capabilities to deal with ER/IR issues

Experience shows unrest is also cyclical and closely follows prosperity and growth of businesses. After all how does one decide ‘share’ in the piece of cake? Given the present business scenario, organisations, have not paid enough

functionaries, fast growing aspirations of new and younger workforce, service sector with high employment potential and opportunities, high level of attritions in sunrise sectors have to some extent contributed to lessening of impact of

attention to building capabilities in ER/IR area, and this indeed is a very worrying situation calling for immediate attention. ER/IR area competence and skill matrix is crucial, as there is also a woeful lack well known of ‘consultants’ who could stand in to deal with crisis or a conflict situation.

unions. Rank and file’s perception of union’s might, workplace cooperation There is another major contributing factor. necessitated by intense competition, has Business Management Institutes churning strengthened workplace limited union big numbers in HRM/Post-graduates do leadership relatively with little impact of not themselves have capacity to appreciate national level unions, or industry level the function let alone impart meaningful unions. instructions, nor well experienced faculty January | 2011 NHRDN Neetwork Journal


in this critical function. Very few institute institutess organise any meaningful field work experience or internships so that their

contribute significantly to enhancing competitiveness.

students can getoftheir feet wet in this Employability these graduates in area. ER/ IR area is not very bright.

Attention to Solid Citizens Similarly if part of managerial time, effort and resources were assigned to building synergies and providing developmental inputs to the “solid citizens” meaning large number of people with perpetual “satisfactory performance” – can improve organisational productivity and contribute to enhanced competitiveness. This is another largely neglected area in the organisation.

Unwillingness to work at a plant level, insecurity generated by inexperience in handling conflict resolutions requiring reasonable amount of on the spot decision making, low image of IR/ER IR/ER jobs as “routine” or “mundane”, desire to live in larger towns with urban amenities all contribute to poor organisational capabilities in IR/ER functions. Realising this, some organisations are drafting their line managers with good people skills, into IR/ER functions. functions. These line managers can be from manufacturing, engineering or sales related functions. With reasonably good ability to deal with people issues they need to hone their people skills, some basic knowledge of law law,, negotiating skills, conflict resolution skills, and a high degree of people sensitiveness, ability to seize up the situation and deal with it at casual as well as symptom level. Today’s context of ER/IR – Building Synergies within organisations

Synergies in workplace facilitated by sound ER policies and practices can in fact

Attention high potentials, performanceto is undoubtedly necessaryhigh and crucial, but neglecting “Solid Citizens” Citize ns” can sap the productive and creative energy flow to the detriment of the organisation. Building ER/IR Training Capabilities

First and foremost the Schools of Business Management giving Degrees and Diplomas in HRM need to be made aware of crucial importance of need to have meaningful curriculum in ER/IR in their syllabus HRM courses. Experienced faculty orforvisiting faculty with relevant experience can significantly help. Some exposure to industry by a few weeks internship, extensive field work opportunities can build meaningful

accelerate competitiveness of the organisation. Synergy in BOP (Bottom of Pyramid in Organization) has the potential of making a significant difference in accelerating productivity with employee satisfaction, supporting innovation and cost effectivene effectiveness. ss. Some attention, time and resources dedicated to developing policies, initiatives and processes processes in this this vital area, developing line and HR capabilities with line managers driving IR/ ER initiatives supported by the HR can equip the organisation to deal with situations as and when they arise, and, also 100

appreciation and some skills in this vital HRM function by young entrants to the profession. professio n. There are enough resources available, as also ways of building these capabilities and the Institutes will do well to enhance their reputation, and employability of their graduates. HRM Practitioners Need a Wake-up Call

How well are you preparing yourself to be a HR Director of your or any other well managed business organisation? Is it

January | 2011 NHRDNetwork Journal

possible, and if possible, do you have the “comfort” level to acquit your responsibility squarely of that top function,

Directors in large national and multinational organisations. Someone starting as a liftman became HR Director

without having significant exposure and some meaningful achievements in ER/IR function. The best time to get your feet wet in my view is right at the start of your career when you can have some hands on experience and feel for this function. However, it is never too late to get this exposure.

of a large multinational multinational. A tea-boy yes ter yester years today handles .the entire of payroll operations of a Bank engaging a few thousand employees. I am referring to the time when the tools and techniques were not as well developed as they are today. today.

Advantages of Exposure to ER/IR in other HRM Functions

An early exposure to ER/IR function give you a greater feel for people and sensitivities involved in dealing with people issues. You will be in a better better position to use “tools and techniques” with sensibility gained through dealing in ER/ IR issues. That will also increase of your own confidence level in taking charge of the HR function of the organisation you work for. Use a larger talent pool to source talents

The pool of the any small organisation goes way talent beyond just number of “identified” group or the management staff. There are any number of examples where a number of very successful CEOs of large organisations came from amongst

Today unfortunately the use of these tools and techniques is largely and fairly restricted to “managerial talent pool” in the organisation. There is an urgent and crying need not to neglect talents from the BOP talent pool. This can also motivate BOP employees to excel, learn and grow contributing to the synergy in the organisation. Studying Attrition for diagnostic purposes

Anecdotally it is believed young people change jobs at drop of the hat for more money.. Is it really true? Is money the money main or the only reason? reason? Why is rate of attrition lower in organisations which have better people policies and their implementation? I am sure study of attrition will be very revealing to the organisation. organisation. What needs change, improvement, fixing will largely

the unionised workforce. Let me share a few examples of people I personally know of. Not so long ago number of CEOs in multinational and national pharmaceutical companies were the ones who started their careers as medical representatives. representatives. Starting as a steno someone became the Asian Regional Director of a large multinational. Starting as a Cost Accountant a manager beca be came me Ma Mana nagi ging ng Di Dire rect ctor or of a la larg rgee multinational. multinatio nal. A one time union leader became most admirab admirable le Financ Financee Contr Controller oller in a multinational multinational corporation. A few of trade union leaders became successful HR

come out of such studies and contribute to reducing recruitment and training cost at the same time retaining a productive employee – again contributing to employee satisfaction and productivity enhancement enhancement.. Long before an employee quit, his productivity starts dropping. Make Unions Unnecessary Un necessary,, If you so wish

You can have policies and processes which result in successfully obviating the need of employees for unions, by management itself taking care of employee needs and issues January | 2011 NHRDN Net etw work Journal


and dealing with them proactively. proactively. There are companies who follow such policies successfully but they are fewer in numbers.

forward salary and benefits of workers in an organisation with strong trade union leadership.

They anti unionneeds but they themselves meet are the not employees’ such that they do not need to have a Union.

These are are not imaginary situations. situations. They are real and have been dealt with by me personally with a good success success rate. It was never easy but possible with willingness and ability to go to the root cause. cause. Deal at causal level more than merely dealing with or reacting to symptoms and egos.

ER capability can be a great asset in managing change

1. Visua isualise lise total total prod product uct or or techno technology logy obsolescence for which an organisation engages large workforce. 2. Visu isualis alisee a need need to close close the the plant plant or or part of operations having strong trade union to support workforce, rigid labour laws and a weak Government support to businesses. 3. Visua isualise lise a union union going going back on its its commitment and to have to bring it back to honour honour its commitment even in a somewhat modified form. 4. Visuali isualise se a need to to restru restructur cturee an organisation to make it more lean and mean. You can draw the organisa organisation tion chart but how will you successfully implement it in a short time? 5. Visu isuali alise se nee need d to ter termin minate ate ser servic vices es of a trade union leader for a misconduct in the midst of a raging conflict for settling unions charter of demands. 6. Visual isualise ise a need to restr restructu ucture re

This may come with greater ease if you like people and have concern for them – but again not without robust skill matrix in ER/IR and a high degree of personal personal credibility. This brings me to my last point I wish to make here. Irrespective of level of employment or the skills or education, we all of us humans have an irresistible and strong urge to contribute. If this urge finds channels which make for or enable fulfillment of the urge or opportunities to unleash this urge, we can raise ourselves to unimaginable heights heights and contribute. contribute. If this urge is blocked for whatever reasons the urge tends to diminish, or expresses itself in a way viewed by others as negative. This also explains why some of the toughest union leaders are good managers in their own right – and are a potential loss to the organisation of a good managerial

compensation which reduces going



January | 2011 NHRDNetwork Journal


About the Author Girinarayanan G., Director - HR for Lineage Power India, has more than 20 years of HR experience with - BPL Group, Siemens, Siemen s, Mercedes Benz, Chatterjee Group and TATA Group. Closely associated with NIPM, ISTD and NHRD, he has won a number nu mber of Awards, Awards, and is also a professional writer and speaker.

have been in the HR profession for more than two decades and I have been fortunate to have seen the transition of this profession from where where it was and what it is now. Today, there is so much emphasis on this profession, that the focus of HR has become top of every busine business ss agenda agenda.. I must compliment the HR professionals for this evolution.


dominated by the young talented professionals and as such they are living in an economy in which almost every work has become knowledge work. Considering this ever changing demand and supply and also keeping in mind the volatile economic situation, the focus on talented employee has become the primary agenda for all organisations for business success.

While being happy about this transition, there are certain questions, which are still pondering in my mind. One such question is the way in which at times HR responds to the employees on their expectations.

“Investment in people hasda now achieved highe posi positio tion n in CEO' CEO's s agen agenda (only (on ly 2nd aplac place behind having an effective overall business - Sources unknown. strategy)”strategy)”

Does HR create a feel good factor in their response? From my stand point of view, this is a concern and it can have an impact on the business. An employee will feel happy only when HR respects his/her expectations. Therefore, it is important for HR to connect with the inner feeling of an employee before responding to any of the employee expectations. For this, HR needs to be compassionate while understanding the needs of an employee. The challenge with the present day workforce is that they are completely

Bottom line:HR strategies should connect people. My question is “Does the HR strategy really connect People?” In my view,, it’s a debatable question. view

In this article, I wish to share my experiences on the role of HR in employer — employee Relations particularly in the context of IT & ITeS industries, which are dominated by knowledge workers. IT-IT IT -ITeS eS INDUSTRY IN DUSTRY IN INDIA

Although this industry existed in India since early 1980s, it was only during post Neetwo work rk Journal January| 2011 NHRDN


globalisation, that the prominence for this industry began to grow. Ever since its arrival on the Indian scene, the industry has grown phenomenally and has now become an important part of the exportoriented industry in India. This industry has transformed the world dramatically from a multitude of loosely connected nations to a globally knit community. The mythological statement in Rig Veda “ Viswam Bhavath Veka Needam” Needam ” means “the entire world is nested together like a web” has been translated into reality today because of this industry. Today this segment is more than 2.5 million workforce strong. IT-ITeS industry has not only added scale in the past years, but has also matured significantly in terms of scope of service offerings, buyer segments and service delivery models. Further, this industry has achieved maturity both in the horizontal and vertical segment to provide greater value. According to the recently released publication Strategic Review 2010, the IT-ITeS IT-IT eS sector’s sector ’s revenue as a proportion of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) has grown from 1.2 per cent in


In 19th century, century, the focus on employer and employee relationship was based on the demand and supply of labour labour.. The Law of Supply and Demand determined the party that will impose its conditions to each other. Subsequently, in early part of the 20thcentury century,, important labour legislations were enacted to formalise the relationship between employer and employees. It was the beginning of the 21st century that the employer-employee relationship witnessed a dramatic transformation with new types of talent coming to the industry. industry. The labour that was contained within national boundaries and consider as “hardly” mobile was now prepared to move closer to capital behaviour. This workforce always prefers to experiment and explore new opportunities, and haa very high aspiration and expectations from the organisation. They also have a high propensity to switch jobs. jobs. They have a totally different mindset about jobs and careers and the challenge for HR is to manage these expectations of this workforce, which is young, highly intelligent and ambitious that will have an international choice of workplace.

FY 1998 to an estimated 6.1 per cent in FY 2010. NASSCOM predicts that the Indian IT-BPO revenues may touch US$ 225 billion by 2020. As per Strategic Review 2010, the BPO sector continues to be th thee fa faste stest st gro growi wing ng seg segmen mentt an and d is expected to reach US$ 12.4 billion in FY 2010, growing at 6 per cent. As per the annual report 2009-10 by the Department of Information Technology (DIT), the IT-BPO industry is expected to reach US$ 73.1 billion in 2009-10 as compared to US$ 69.4 billion in 2008-09, witnessing a growth of over 5 per cent. 104

The Gallup research shows the businesses that consistently achieve growth and profitability do so by connecting with their employees at the emotional level. These organisations create an environment in which their best performers are free to work in areas and at tasks where they excel. Consequently,, they respond exceptionally Consequently to the customer needs, driving profits and growth to flourish. According to Gallup study, the importance of emotional interactions will depend on : • Employ Employees ees who use the their ir natu natural ral tal talent entss in their jobs are significantly more

January | 2011 NHRDNetwork Journal

productive than average workers, both as individuals and as team members.

hands, and hearts to work, we see more creativity, efficiency, passion and profits.

• This emo emotion tion-dri -driven ven rea reacti ction on cr create eatess Emotional bonding with employees will boos t the mora morale le of the empl employee oyeess and engagement, the key driver of boost garner their loyalty. Emotion-driven sustainable growth and profitability p rofitability.. response certainly will create an automatic “When employees feel that they are valued and feel of engagement and that will lead to that their well-being is noticed and nurtured, sustainable growth and profitability. It is it can have a direct and positive impact on important that the working climate has to retention, and loyalty”loyalty”- Sources unknown reflect that the employer really cares about This is in turn shall foster customer loyalty and they will communicate the values and culture of the brand to the customer and public. EMPLOYEE RELATIONS IS ALL ABOUT BUILDING TRUST

In the last two decades of my experience I have found that the focal point of any organisation has been the emotional wellbeing of employees. Certainly, high levels of employee engagement will promote retention of talent and improve productivity. ‘Great Places to Work Institute’ defines that “trust between managers and employees is the primary defining characteristic of the very best workplace”. A great place to work — is a place p lace where employees “trust

(Video) Microsoft Dynamics SL 2011 Connections

people. ‘You can build a trust only when you listen to your employees’. My question is how many times, HR has listened to the expectations of an employee? Many a times, when an employee approaches, the typical responses from HR - ‘I need to check it out’, ‘Let me see what best I can do’, ‘I will get back to you’. Does this response connects employee and build a trust? Just as we trust a boat-man to cross the river to reach the other side, similar should be the role of HR -‘It is all about building trust and fostering a culture of effective employee engagement’ engagement’.. “The companies co mpanies investin investing g in employees’ well being can mean a healthier bottom line” —So Sour urces ces u nk nkno nown. wn.

the people they work for, have pride in what they do, and enjoy the people they work with” and is measured by the quality of the three interconnected relationships.


Research for years has shown that employees who are happy tend to be more productive, contribute more and are likely

“It is no longer feasible to conceive a strategy in an executive ivory tower and expect a docile workforce to implement it. Innovation and growth today require creativity and engagement of employees

to resolve many problems by themselves. Positive emotions like caring and kindness are the key factors for productivity increase. By that I mean it’s the ‘feel good factor’ that keeps employees happy and engaged. In organisations where the workforce is engaged, bring their minds,

at all levels” — Boston Consulting Group. From the 2010 global survey which was conducted by Boston Consulting Group together with World Federation of People Management Associations on “Creating People Advantage — How companies can adapt their HR strategies in volatile Neetwo work rk Journal January| 2011 NHRDN


times”, four HR topics stands out as the most critical: • Man anag agin ing g Tal Talen entt • Im Impr prov ovin ing g Leader Leadersh ship ip Devel Develop opme ment nt • Em Empl ploy oyee ee En Enga gage geme ment nt • St Stra rate tegi gicc Wor Workf kfor orce ce Planni Planning ng It is simple, yet powerful notion that a person’s psychological state has a very strong bearing on the organisational health. In today’s 24/7 global working environment, coupled with job uncertainty, family demands and economic issues are creating big challenge for employees balance between and home life. Thetofast-paced world work is giving rise to more intense stress than before. If you leave it unmanaged, this stress can manifest more problems and that can affect an employee’ employee’ss well-being. In today’s diversity of different generations, HR’s primary role is to cultivate a culture of employee engagement. When employees feel that they are valued and that their well-being is addressed, it will have a direct and positive impact on employee’s loyalty towards an organisation and can minimise attrition. Gallup has shown that only 29% of employees are actively engaged in their

their work (“I (“I want to do this”), this” ), committed (“II am dedicated (“ dedica ted to the success suc cess of what wha t I am doing” ), and fasci nated (“I (“I love what I am doing”). “Com Compan panies ies are looking for peak performance, if they really really want their orga organi nisa sati tion onss —an and d theirr employees thei employ ees —at their thei r best, they th ey need to to help them capitalise on the mind -body connection that serves as the engine for peak performance.”— S u s an Ca m i ni t i


If you want your business to succeed, su cceed, you must let your employees love their workplace . By creating an environment where your employees feel valued and good about coming to work, you can hope to deliver a level of service that will build true customer loyalty loyalty.. The health of a company does not depend upon the productivity. It depends on how best it can satisfy the customers. Researchers have shown that employee engagement does have a direct and measurable on customer engagement. Thisrelationship is like the ways in which heart rate and respiration interact to speed life-giving oxygen to all parts of the human body.. It is important to integrate the vital signs body

j ob s . T ho s e e n ga g ed em p lo y ee s w o r k job with passion and feel a strong connection to their company. About 2/3 of the business units scoring above the median on employee engagement also scored above the median on performance. Moreover, 54% of employees are not engaged, meaning that they go through each

of employee and customer engagement in the organisational function. Losing talented employees costs not only your money. But also often costs you customers.

workday putting time but no passion into their work.

Employees who are engaged, aligned with their organisation’s mission, and valued for their contributions, produce more, stay longer, and feel a sense of pride in what they do.

In his book, “Getting Engaged: The New author Tim Workplace Loyalty ”, Rutledge explains that truly engaged employees are attracted to, and inspired by,

Marriott considers that achieving caring image for employees is imperative. “If “If they ’re not happy on the job, the customers are not happy being with them,” Marriott said.


January | 2011 NHRDNetwork Journal

Role of HR: Giving Personal P ersonal Touch Touch

Maslow’s theory and Employee Relations

Employees are the greatest assets today no matter how efficient the technology may be. I strongly believe that HR should shou ld play a role of a loving mother and play a prominent role in providing support to the emotional well being of employees.

Abraham Maslow is considered to be the father of Humanistic Psychology. His motivation theory emphasises that man’s behavior is controlled by both internal and external factor. His studies led him to believe beli eve that peo people ple hav havee cert certain ain nee needs, ds,

As the kids grow up and are on their thei r own wings, the mother plays a key role in correcting with the children and brings them back in the right direction. Similarly,, the HR role is to give a personal Similarly touch that will motivate employees and inspire them to align themselves with the organisational goals. It is this force that

which are unchanging and genetic in origin. These needs are the same in all cultures and are both physiological and psychological. Maslow described these needs as being hierarchical in nature, meaning that some needs are more basic or more powerful than others, and as these needs are satisfied, other higher needs

makes things at full potential and it ispeople a resultdo of individual needs being satisfied so that an employee will have an inspiration to achieve the desired result.


Similarly, HR’s role not only encompasses Maslow’ Maslo w’ss theory, but goes beyond to reveal the transcendent aspect of employees.

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Hierarchical Needs

HR’s Role

Basic Needs

Responsi sib ble fo for pr pr o v i d i ng b baasic ne needs - wo work rkp place re requirements, benefits, welfare measures and other basic needs for employee to perform his job

Safe Sa fety ty Nee Needs ds

Res espo pons nsib ible le to pro rov vid ide, e, sa safe fe,, hea healt lth hy, er ergo gono nomi micc and and ha hara rass ssme ment nt fr free ee working environment and preserve respect and the rights of individual.

Soci So ciaal Need Needss

Res esp pon onsi sibl blee for for ta tale lent nt re reco cogn gnit itio ion n - re rewa ward rds, s, app ppre reci ciat atio ion, n, pr pro omo moti tio on and identification, etc.

Esteem Needs

Respon Resp onsi sibl blee for for bu buil ildi ding ng an and d dev devel elop opin ing g a wo work rkpl plac acee tha thatt giv gives es self-respect, sense of achievement, self-confidence, prestige, etc.

Self Se lf-A -Act ctua uali lisa sati tion on

Creating Creati ng an opportu opportunity nity for for self-fulf self-fulfillm illment ent and and to realise realise the the employee’ss full potential employee’


So don’t “throw people in the water and see how well they swim.” Create an environment where people can be heard h eard and can participate. Employee relationships in businesss today is all about building trust busines trust,, respecting others ideas and communicating honestly without blame or judgment. “If you want them to care about the customers, you have to care about people working with you”. If a man

Just as customer loyalty is critical to the long-term success of your business, so too is employee loyalty. loyalty. Start today to look at the systems you have set up to support your growth in the future. Our Vedic philosophy has already addressed the need for emotional engagement. It goes back to the days of Vedic period. I wanted w anted to share an excellent excellen t extract from our Vedanta sent by a friend of mine. It goes like this: Translation

Utsaha Sampannam

If a man is endowed with energy and enthusiasm

Adirgha Sutram

He will make his strategy

Kriya Vidhignyam

H e wi w i ll ll pl pl a n hi h i s ac a c t i o n s a n d d o e s ef eff e c t i v e implementation

Vya yasa sane nesh shu u As Asak akht htam am

He wi will ll no nott be be wor worri ried ed by ob obst stac acle less and and se setb tbac acks ks,, but but will focus on pursuing his task

Shuram Krithagnyam

He is brave and ready to face challenges He is grateful

Drid Dr idha ha Sow Sowhr hrid idha ham m

He is no nott onl only y gra grattefu ful, l, but wil illl nu nurt rtur ures es de deeep and and strong relationships

Lakshm Lak shmihi ihi Swayamyaa Swayamyaati ti

Then, Th en, God Godde dess ss La Laks kshm hmii hers hersel elff will will co come me an and d tak takee abo abode de

Nivasa Hetoho

in his home


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I wish to conclude this article by sharing with you a beautiful story. There is a part in each of us…. the emotional part. Mother Nature did not intend this to be stored. Love, tears, laughter, aggression etc. are our natural means of release. Here is the story…. Read on

there’s supposed to be something inside the package?” The little girl looked up at him with tears in her eyes and said, “Oh, Daddy, it’s not empty. empty. I blew kisses into in to it until it was full.” The father was crushed. He fell on his knees and put his arms around his little li ttle girl, and he begged her to forgive him for his unnecessary u nnecessary anger. anger. An accident took the life of the child only a short time later and it is told that the father kept that gold box by his bed for all the years of his life. And whenever he was discouraged or faced difficult problems, he would open the box and take out an imaginary kiss and remember the love of the child who had put it there.

The story goes that some time ago a man punished his 5-year-old daughter for wasting a roll of expensive gold wrapping paper. Money was tight and he became even more upset when the child pasted the gold paper so as to decorate a box to put under the Christmas tree.

In a very real sense, each of us as human beings have been given a golden box filled

Nevertheless, the little girl brought the gift box to her father the next morning and said, “This “Thi s is for you, you , Daddy.” Daddy.”

with unconditional love and kisses from our children, family, friends and God. There is no more precious possession anyone could hold.

—Author Unknown


The father was embarrassed by his earlier overreaction, but his anger flared again when he found the box was empty. He spoke to her in a harsh manner, “Don’t you know, young lady, when you give someone a present,

Most relationships fail, not because of the absence of love. It’s just because of one factor - It’s our attitude. I have been in this journey for more than two decades and I just shared my personal experiences. It’s purely my thought.

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About the Author Anand Nayak, Executive Vice President, Corporate Human Resources, ITC Limited, has been with the Company Compan y for the past 37 years. After graduating from St. Joseph's College, Bangalore, he did his post graduation in Personnel Management and Industrial Relations at XLRI Jamshedpur. He joined ITC after his graduation and has been with the Company since then. During his long tenure, he has handled senior HR responsibilities in several businesses of the Company. He currently heads the HR function in ITC.

In addition to HR, he has keen interest in education and social development and is responsible for the overall supervision of ITC's Social Development initiatives. He is also a Director on the Board of ITC Infotech India Limited and a member of the Corporate Management Committee of ITC Limited. He is actively associated with National HRD Network in various roles. couple of months ago, I addressed add ressed the Factory Managers, Production


contemporary. For example I still use the term “workmen” and not “associates”; I

Managers and HR Managers of our various manufacturing facilities on the subject “Industrial Relations in ITC: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future.” I

prefer “Industrial Relations” to “Employee Relations” etc. I still use these terms not because I believe they are appropriate, but but because I believe they they represent represent my reality reality

am indebted to my colleague L Prabhakar, who has done the bulk of the work to convert my thoughts from the original power point presentation used for this address into a paper for publication in the NHRDN Journal. I am also indebted to my former colleague, Supriyo Chaudhuri, who was responsible for developing the conceptual framework way w ay back in the late 80’s and which has provided me with unique insights ever since, during the course of my work. What is covered in this paper is fairly ITC specific and what I have to share is from a very personal perspective. The language used in this paper is in a way old world and not very 110

over these past many years. So please do not pay too much attention to what may appear as “aberrations” in this paper, as it is not my intention to get caught up in semantics. Industrial Relations is a vast and complex subject and generates perspectives and insights that are often at odds with each other.. I have therefore chosen to approach other the subject from my own perspective, distilled from my learnings over the past 37 years and more specifically from my own experience with ITC, the only Company I have been privileged to work for. Although I joined ITC in 1973, I have

January | 2011 NHRDNetwork Journal

had a fair idea of how IR in the Company evolved from the 60’s onwards, as in my earlier years; I had the opportunity to

therefore was the gradual replacement of the inter-personal interface with an intergroup interface. Any inter-group interface

interact closely with people who were engaged with Industrial Relations in the Company from 1950 onwards. Hence, I will take a 50-60 year perspective of how IR has evolved in ITC. What I am sharing does not stem from any great intellectual capability, but are ‘insights’ that I have gained more from the mistakes I made during my professional professi onal career. career. What I have to share, therefore, is “wisdom in hindsight.” And a few learnings from what I believe we did right.

assumes an inter-group character, the main drawback of which is that it makes such an interface prone to polarisation and politicisation. This happens because human beings and human behavior are not experienced directly, but are instead subject to interpretations and distortions by the representatives. And this cannot be helped, as interpretation and evaluation are inevitable in an inter-group nexus. The nature of the interface therefore gets altered fairly dramatically and becomes intrinsically complex.


I will first try to put down a framework that will help us understand how IR has evolved over the past 60 years. It is a framework that was first hypothesised and articulated by a former colleague Supriyo Chaudhuri, who I believe had one of the most insightful minds. When looking at industrial organisations and IR in particular, it is necessary for us to take a historical perspective. If we do not, we tend to make a short-term diagnosis of challenges before us and resort to measures that do not address the fundamental underlying issues.

Another premise is that the industrialisation model based on task, performance and achievement, as we know it today, today, is not indigenous indigeno us to India, but was an imported and imposed phenomenon in India starting from the 1850s. The colonists imported the model and superimposed it on a predominantly agrarian economy that operated in a relatively short-term framework. (living from season to season, working for one zamindar now and perhaps moving to work for another after a short while). An agrarian society in its mature phase is anchored primarily in relationships and affiliation, rather than in task, performance and achievement, which

If we look at the evolution of industrial organisations, it is clear that entities that we now call “Unions” and “Managements” were not the original protagonists in industrialisation. Owners and workmen (whether in the agrarian or industrial sectors) lived and worked in face-to-face contact. A straightforward, simple and direct system, where expectations and needs could be directly negotiated and bartered. This was replaced over time, by an indirect and representative system, where interests were “bargained” for by representatives acting on behalf of their constituents. What happened

happen to be the cornerstones of the industrial ethos. Over the last 100 years, India has been making this shift from a predominantly relationship and affiliation oriented culture to a task and performance culture and therefore super structures of task and performance have over the years been superimposed on an underlying structure of relationships and affiliation. As a result, relationships and task have been cast as rivals and not as factors reinforcing each other.. It is either a relational psychological other contract with employees or a purely transactional one. The difficulty has been January | 2011 NHRDN Net etw work Journal


to successfully evolve a balanced psychological contract where task and relationships relations hips reinforce each other. And here

affluence. In the Indian context, where we have witnessed a long history of poverty and deprivation, material affluence and

lies the paradox and challenge.

deprivation give rise to psychologies of affluence and deprivation respectively. A psychology of deprivation can make one feel deprived and impoverished, even in the midst of material abundance as psychologies live much longer than physical realities. The working class in India, irrespective of improvements in their economic well-being, continues to carry this psychology of deprivation on the one hand, and projects the psychology of affluence on to management, on the other. other. Interestingly, both workmen and management then tend to unconsciously live up to this projection. Normally, a psychology of affluence tends to look optimistically into the future. And, a psychology of deprivation often breeds pessimism and doubt. These two psychologies keep opposing each other in the management-union interface.

Another hypothesis is that from 1850s onwards, the conscious and unconscious ideology of the British has probably caused the managerial class in India to assume the stance of “mature, masculine adults” vs. “immature and child-like workmen”. This attitude of “we know what is best for you” made any adult-to-adult dialogue between managers and workmen impossible. And to go a step further, managements began to see union leaders playing the sociopsychological role of adult advocates and custodians of “child-like” workmen. Another premise that logically follows is that Unions can be seen as the voice of an agrarian society based on relationships trying to cope with an imposed “industrialism,” based largely on task and performance. A different premise to be considered is that tha t industry by its very nature is dependent on continuing and periodic technological innovation that threatens the existing psychological security of both managers and workmen. Here we speak of not just security of jobs, but security of knowledge

These premises and hypotheses that have been discussed can be summarised in the following five dimensions: Task

vs Relationships


vs Security

and skills as well. In a society, which has not imbibed the attitudes arising out of industrialisation, these security issues take on a political dimension vis-à-vis technology. A related premise is that any industry has to have a long-term focus or else it will degenerate into a mere trading enterprise. However, the Indian agrarian

Lon Lo ngg-tterm fo focus

economy has been always entrenched in a short-term focus. Hence long-term focus vs. short-term focus becomes yet another variable in the union-management interface.

The two sides of each dimension represent two different realities. The left side sid e of these dimensions represents the world of management and the right side the world of unions and workmen. The “vs” has been used because the assumption here is that these represent the “polarised” dimensions

Another important hypothesis is that industrialisation is seen to be the key to 112

vs Shor ortt-term foc focu us

Western vs Indian (Modern, fl flexible) (Traditional, conservative) Psychology of Affluence

vs Psychology of Deprivation

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of the nature of organisation and hence the union-management interfaces. I would hazard a guess that we have not been able

problem to rest. But how long have dictatorships survived? Charismatic leaders “seduce” people away from their

to develop an enduring harmonious relationship over the years, because we have tended not to address these fundamental issues.

realities. But before long, their impact also withers away.

The challenge for us in ITC and surely for all others over these 60 years has really been to change the mindset from “vs” to “and”. If we further widen our perspective, we may be able to hypothesise further that these two sets of terms can be used to

The only way to build an enduring convergence is to accept multiplicities and evolve a common rubric. This direction alone will lead to an enduring solution.

Having discussed the dimensions and hypotheses in general, I now look back at what happened in ITC over the past 60 years. I have chosen to reflect on three

describe the reality of urban India as well broad time horizons. as the global reality. The left side can be used to describe the worldview of the 1950 - 1975 upper and upper end of the middle class Relat lation ionsh ships ips with with wor workme kmen n were were of Indian cities and those on the right, the • Re important. Managers extended their worldview of the lower and lower end of relationship with workmen far beyond the middle class. Or may be the ‘haves’ ‘ haves’ and the official boundaries. (Many of our ‘have-nots’ or ‘India’ and ‘Bharat’. For the Units were upcountry (Munger, first half of the 50 years that we are talking Saharanpur Saharanp ur,, Anarpati, Chirala, Guntur, about, the former supplied the managers Tiruvottiyur etc), where several to Indian industry and the latter its blue workmen came from agrarian collared workmen. These two classes lived backgrounds. in different parts of the city, city, their life goals were often different, and their children • The There re was “co “colle llecti ctive ve bar bargain gaining ing”” in went to different schools. They seldom met right earnest, yet there was great respect in their citizen roles. But they did so as for Union leaders. (Was the British

members of an industrial organisation. Under the factory roof, the two different realities got tangled with each other in the “vs” mindset. From 1985 onwards, this reality has perhaps been changing, but more so only in the urban centers. I am not sure if the change is appreciable and perceptive enough in some of our upcountry locations. Our struggle as HR managers therefore, has been to make these two polarised worlds converge. History reveals that human beings have reconciled different realities in different ways. Dictators violently demolish all realities except their own and believe they have laid the

influence unconsciously holding them up as “Advocates” of child-like workmen?). The leaders were stalwarts like M/s TS Ramanujam, K Kannan, FC Britto, MV Narayanswami, Balaji Das, Bapeswara Sarma, Chowdhary Nathoo Singh, Dr Jaigopal, Noor Mohd Khan and Chipalendu Bhattacharya. • In tho those se days days,, manag managers ers ha had d long long tenures in factories and therefore had a more long-term stake. They “loved” these locations and “respected” local norms, culture, festivals, religious rituals etc. They were not seen as outsiders who were “unhappy” with where they were. They loved being January | 2011 NHRDN Net etw work Journal


where they were, be it Saharanpur, Munger, Anaparti, etc.

accepted by the Board in toto. Some of these suggestions serve as guideposts even today. The other instance was

• Chan Ch anges ges in insignificant. technolo techn ology gyThey werewere were not radic not ramore dical al or hugely of small incremental steps at a time, which were not seen as threatening.

Operation Overlord in 1970s, when as a collective, it was needed to demonstrate what could be the maximum production capacity of all the factories put together. The unions and workmen volunteered to achieve record production, without demanding any compensation for the increased effort they put in. They did so, because they realised that the long-term success of the company hinged on the results achieved through Operation Overlord.

• The The psyc psychol hologi ogical cal con contra tract ct was primarily relational. • Front Front-lin -linee manag managers ers play played ed a key ro role le in building and sustaining these relationships. They were very “close” to workmen and were often considered to be their “gurus.” As a result: • Gen Genera erally lly,, harmon harmoniou iouss IR pre prevai vailed led at at all our units. The first long-term comprehensive agreement was signed at the Bangalore factory in 1952. There were skirmishes once in a while, but not often long drawn. (The only aberration perhaps was the lockout at Munger in 1970, for which the then Branch Manager was summoned by the Board and reprimanded, for having taken the action without proper consultation).

• Union Union lea leader derss took took an “el “elder derly ly statesman” approach when consulted on major Company issues without being confront confrontationa ational. l. There are two

• Even whe when n ther theree wer weree occa occasio sional nal min minor or conflicts, it was rarely that animosity was shown at the personal level. It is said that when one of the Factory Managers in that period retired, he was to discover later that the workmen had sacrificed one day from their scheduled list of holidays in order to see him off in befitting style. It is also pertinent to share what the then Chairman of ITC, Late Mr. AN Haksar, Haksar, said in his 1971 AGM Speech (I am not sure how many AGM speeches in those days would have dealt with a subject like this) • Be Beli lief ef in in tra trade de uni union onis ism m

important events that merit mention, that demonstrated this. One was the formation of Joint Committee in 1964 (comprising of 4 representatives from management, and 4 from unions of different factories, namely M/s FC Britto, TS Ramanujam, K Kannan, and C Bhattacharya). The Committee was formed to seek the cooperation of unions in tiding over difficult times (the unions agreed for a one year moratorium on wage increases); and suggest ways and means to put the Company back on a path to success. The Committee unanimously made landmark suggestions, which were 114

• Belief Belief that that the gr great eatest est mea measur suree of industrial harmony can be achieved through collective bargaining with a strong and representative union • Belief Belief that that the str streng ength th of of a union union stem stemss from the active participation and full commitment of all its members • Belief Belief in form formal al rec recogn ognitio ition n of the uni union on • Bel Belief ief tha thatt term termss and and cond conditi itions ons of service of employees should be settled with the recognized union through collective bargaining • Belief Belief in the mut mutual ual set settle tlemen mentt of disputes through negotiation

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Belief tha thatt in the sol solida idarit rity y of the • Belief employee lies the greatest strength of the employer and the employee But……

• Not Not sure sure if if mana manage geme ment nt and and Uni Union on leaders were cognizant of a new profile of workmen entering the workforce in the late 60s - early ’70s. • Did Did we und under erst stan and d them them and and the their ir changed aspirations and did we continue doing things the same way we did earlier? • Did the new gr group oup of work workmen men fee feell the the relationship between management and Union leadership getting a little too cozy? • Did Did we gradu graduall ally y start start disdis-em empow power ering ing front-line management with new management structures and hierarchies? • Did we adeq adequa uate tely ly cogn cognize ize for th thee impact of technology up-gradation, just because it was being done step by step? 1975 - 1990 • Com Compan pany y pre prefer ferenc encee for “In “Inter ternal” nal” leadership.

to insecurity issues in the minds of workmen by taking them into confidence and helping them understand the implications of technology? My experience is that we did not do this between 1975 and 1985. We started doing this only from 1985 onwards. I think we lost out on this for 10 years. The result being several of our units witnessed major challenges during this period. 1990- 2010

• Gener Ge ally y a more mor e prosp prgreater osper erous ous period peri od for for thenerall Company and willingness to share prosperity with workmen. • Once Once again again,, union union lead leaders ers bein being g trea treated ted as “partners” and not as adversaries as was the case initially with M/s Datta Samant, Kuchelan, Suryanarayana Rao • Huge Huge eff effor ortt t o he help lp wor workm kmen en understand and accept technology and take greater responsibility for their own performance. Self managed teams etc. • There The re has been a gre greate aterr focus focus on ‘and ‘and’’ rather thanbee onn“vs”. But…

• “Profes “Professio sional nal”” manag managers ers wit with h short shorter er tenures – sometimes not greatly interested in local customs etc, reduced focus on relationship building. • Work orker er prefe prefere rence nce for for more more “mil “milita itant” nt” leaders. Emergence of M/s. Datta Samant, Kuchelan, Suryanaryana Rao • Mov Moving ing awa away y from from the the re relat lation ional al

• Great Greater er ten tenden dency cy to to adopt adopt sta standa ndard rd operating procedures across units, rather than look at the peculiarities of each unit’s location / culture / ethos. In retrospect, was this the right thing to do? • Frequ Frequen entt chan changes ges in in manag manageme ement nt at at units. Not sure if managers are seen to

psychological contract, with increased ambiguity of the balance that needs to be maintained between the relational and transactional ends of the psychological contract.

have a long-term stake in the unit. • Man Manage agers rs and and work workmen men gen genera erally lly experiencing “cycle of abundance”.

• We were were also also start starting ing to to modern modernise ise at the time. Did we pay adequate attention

This was a period of transformation, a “collective” change in mindset, and more

• Vacu acuum um in in union union lea leader dershi ship p emerg emerging ing

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importantly an atmosphere of mutuality. It not only helped hel ped us enhance productivity p roductivity,, quality and connect with the market, but in some cases helped even rationalise our operations in a very humane and professional manner.

• Merit

The questions that we need to therefore ask are: -

• Ri Righ ghtt to to for form m co colle llect ctiv ives es

• How How do we we sust sustai ain n this this phe pheno nome meno non n in an increasingly competitive and demanding market?

• Sha Share re the gai gains ns of pr produ oducti ctivit vity y

• Tra ran nsp spar aren enccy • Fair Fairne ness ss an and d Fir Firmn mnes esss • Res Respect pect for rep repres resent entativ atives es of workm workmen en • Beli Belief ef in in stak stakeho eholder ldershi ship p / part partner nershi ships ps • Na Nattur ural al ju just stic icee • No Work Work-N -No o Pay Pay duri during ng str strik ikee

• Are Are workm wor kmen en adeq ad equa uatt ely ely “emotionally” connected?

• No vi vict ctim imis isat atio ion n

• Do workme wor kmen n feel feelemployment, adequa ade quatel tely y secu secure re in terms of their their psychological security with regard to employment, knowledge / skills?

sacrifice principles. If we want to build enduring relationships, we should not have policies that make us violate principles.

• Is the the psyc psychol hologi ogical cal con contra tract ct tend tending ing to to get too transactional?

2. The workman’s initial experience moulds his response throughout his career.

• Do fron front-l t-line ine man manage agers rs feel feel ade adequa quatel tely y “connected” and “empowered”? If not, we will have a major problem going forward. • Ho How w well well do do we und under erst stan and d the the psyc psyche he of new-age “knowledge andthe how do we keep in touch worker” with his aspirations and beliefs?

Often to protect policies, we tend to

• Tran ranspa spare rent nt and and merit-b merit-base ased d selecti selection on process • How was his firs firstt day/ day/fir first st wee week/f k/firs irstt month? Irrespective of his qualifications BA/MA etc. was he made to start by doing menial work? Was he treated the way we treat the trainees recruited from premier management/e management/engineering ngineering

These are some of my insights I thought I’d share, taking a bird’s eye view of developments over a 60-year period from the 1950s. Learning’s

Let me now come to the learning’s from my experience. 1. Always Always focu focuss on Princi Principle pless rather rather than than only on Policies.

institutes, or just like a “number”? • Was he he first first “skin “skinne ned” d” as a cont contrac ractt worker/trainee/probationer and made to work with “fear of losing his job”, and then made permanent because of the “graciousness” of a manager? It is difficult to align and engage the workforce, if their initial experience is negative and discriminatory.

Some principles that I have experienced having a strong influence include: -

3. Never Never create create a “class “class syste system” m” by taking short-term measures that are perceived as “unfair / unjust.”

• Respec Respectt for for the the Indivi Individua duall (irre (irrespe specti ctive ve of affiliation)

Those impacted by such measures are the potential ‘anti-company’ leaders of the


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future. Anyone who feels discriminated against when he is “powerless” is determined to get his due the day he has the “security of a collective”. 4. Never meddle in Union politics.

• If wor workm kmen en wan wantt to to form form a un unio ion, n, we we should never interfere. It is their democratic right. Instead, we should focus on building engagement and protecting the principles of merit, transparency, safeguarding natural justice, ensuring respect for people etc • Res Resist isting ing for format mation ion of unio unions ns or influencing choice of leaders / affiliation never works. They drive greater support for the leader leader.. It makes us deviate from “principles” that are dear to us, especially when we focus on “strengthening” internal leadership or try to wean away support for an external leader. • It is down downrig right ht stup stupid id to to try try and and manipulate the situation to impose a leader on the workmen. We should never interfere in their democratic choice. • If we we are are fair fair and and jus justt with with wor workme kmen, n, we do not need to “fear” who their

• Only Only whe when n we ma make ke pro profit fitss and and add add value to all stakeholders, we can survive and grow. • ITC ITC has has an an insp inspiri iring ng purp purpose ose and mission, which is a matter of pride for all, and more importantly provides the connect inspite of working in different businesses. The questions that I therefore always ask my colleagues are: • What What pract practice ices/p s/pro roces cesses ses / ritua rituals ls do do we continue to foster to reinforce the feeling of the factory being a place of worship? • What What do do we ne need ed to to do to to focu focuss more more strongly on customer delight and also to enable workmen feel connected with the larger ITC? 6. Engage holistically holistically..

• Every Every workm workman an play playss differ different ent ro roles les in his life – employee, parent, child, member of community community,, citizen, etc. • How How much much awa aware rene ness ss do do we ha have ve of of each of these roles? Do we interact with them in these other roles? Do we enable them perform these roles better? • Th Thee grea greates testt gift gift we we can can give give our our

leader is or will be. 5. Use deli deliber berate ate proce processe ssess that that help build and reinforce the right “mindset”.

In ITC, we have encouraged workmen to believe that: • Th Thee cu cust stom omer er is ki king ng • The fac factor tory y is thei theirr place place of of Wors Worship hip.. This is what sustains them and their families, and gives them their livelihood. I have seen this belief play out at many times, especially during times of calamities, crisis and even during strikes.

workmen is not money or “engagement” gimmicks, but genuine support for their holistic growth and development – teaching and helping them acquire better skills; to become better people. And, more importantly importantly,, having the humility to learn from f rom them in return and acknowledging when we learn from them. This is what genuine engagement is all about. • Co Comm mmun unic icat ate, e, com muni commu nica catt e, e, communicate: with individual workmen, union leadership, managers (especially front line managers) and labour authorities regularly, and not only in times of crisis January | 2011 NHRDN Net etw work Journal


7. Be cons conscio cious us of cha change ngess taking taking plac place e in the psychographic profile of the workforce and take proactive initiatives.

10. Do not let assessments of situations get blurred by our desire to come out on top or our need to justify our actions.

• We need need to be cons conscio cious us that that the the profi profile le of the workforce is constantly changing. Not only because workmen are retiring, but also because because younger workmen are being recruited.

• This This desi desire re doe doess not not help help us us see see the the possible downside ahead. We may see things as improving, whereas the opposite is happening. And we try to rationalise things by “believing” things are not really getting worse.

• Work orkmen men ar aree at all tim times es bein being g influenced by what is happening around them - the impact of mass media, internet, political and social dynamics etc. 8. Do not do anything that will leave permanent scars on workmen.

• What Whateve everr might might be be the the provo provocat cation ion,, we need to demonstrate leadership and manage the situation deftly. • Never Never let let police police ente enterr our our facto factory ry,, whatever may be the provocation. • Never Never aband abandon on the the facto factory ry,, even even in the the midst of tension, extreme provocation. 9. When When we are dea deadloc dlocked, ked, we shoul should d take time off and question our mental

11. It is wrong to assume that prolonged confrontations “will teach them a lesson.”

• As the the conf confro ront ntati ation on gets gets pr prolo olonge nged, d, the stakes get higher and then calling off a confrontation becomes difficult, if big concessions are not made. • If we we have have to to confr confront ont be beca caus usee the the situation is bad, we need to make sure that we anticipate the various likely outcomes and have a pre-determined plan to deal with each of these outcomes. 12. Periodically, Periodically, engage with union leadership at a higher plane.

lens/frames. We should look at “their” mental lens / frames as well. What are we really trying to achieve? What is important for the future?

• This This can can give give us solu solutio tions ns we we neve neverr thought about earlier. We need to be flexible in thought, without being flexible on principles. • We need need to to make make sur suree that that we we are are not not getting caught in “ego-traps” • We often often tak takee a view bas based ed on on “who” “who” says what, rather than on “what” is said. We must be watchful, lest our thought process gets colored to our detriment 118

• We shoul should d not not meet meet the them m only only when when there are problems to solve. It is important that we also meet them as “statesmen” and talk about major issues facing the company. We need to treat them as “partners”. 13.. Factories 13 Factories / units do not exist exist in a vacuum.

• We need need to to be awar awaree of the ent entire ire ecosystem and insulate the unit from negativities through proactive interventions. However well we may be integrated, at times of confrontation, support from the eco-system may not be very forthcoming.

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What does all this mean for young HR professionals?

• Always Always re remem member ber to kee keep p chan channel nelss of communication open, even during periods of confrontation / strife.

Very often, young y oung HR professionals professional s ask me on what is the secret of success in handling industrial relations. My experience is that if we are conscious of what has been discussed earlier, there is no reason why we should not be successful.

• Avoi void d takin taking g positi positions ons th that at are are “irreversible.”

I can only reiterate that to be effective, we need to: • Work wit within hin a frame framework work of princ principle ipless and values. • Be genu genuine inely ly inte intere reste sted d in “en “engag gaging ing”” with workmen. • Intera Interact ct and eng engage age wit with h work workmen men in their multiple roles, and not just as “productive resources.” • Be will willin ing g to “lis “liste ten” n” and and pro provi vide de “psychological air air.” .” • Keep Keep lookin looking g for thir third d altern alternat ative ivess through openness and dialogue. • Believ Believee in the pow power er of of “and” “and” and for forget get “vs” and “or”. • Ensur Ensuree that that syst systems ems and pro proces cesses ses do not get diluted on grounds of

• Accept Accept tha thatt we wil willl deal deal with with col collec lectiv tives es and believe that collectives are important stakeholders of the enterprise. • Believ Believee in ours ourselv elves es - Tha Thatt we can can brin bring g about change by working on small changes. • Se Seee our our rol rolee as a HR ma mana nage gerr of ALL EMPLOYEES and not just espousing the cause of management.

• Be willi willing ng to to stay stay on on in a locat location ion for 5/ 6 years and contribute to building the institution rather than approach our role as a bird of passage. • Be comm committ itted ed to to leavi leaving ng a leg legacy acy of value in the location/unit where we work. I believe industrial relations is all about engaging with people, staying the course and being prepared to run thewanting marathon, taking pride in the outcome, to make a difference, and having a passionate

desire to leave a legacy of value.


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About the Author

a product of XLRI, Jamshedpur. He is currently with Tata Tata Group as chief Human Resources officer at Tata Steel. He has earlier worked at Indian Aluminium, Mahindra Ford, Citibank, SunTec, Tata Group. He addressed number of professional forums and is an active contributor to the HR profession. Radhakrishnan Nair


would like to start this effort by thanking My lord and My Master for giving the thoughts and converting them into something intelligent to write and then giving me the strength to write this. The Mind is HIS gift, the Intelligence is HIS gift, gi ft, my physical form is HIS gift and output from this instrument is itself HIS gift. May

experiences, which in turn leads to a beautiful, you pat mine and I’ll pat your back relationship.

all of the readers experience experie nce their Lord and Master in whatever they read here?

being an honest person? Domy I really care for anyone but myself and survival? Do I realise that I am leading myself down

After all this, when the applause dies down in my mind, and when I am shaken by my conscience, I sit back and ruminate on what my Soul is saying to me. Am I actually

In the modern day world all of us have become great in giving our knowledge in the area of Human Resource Management in a highly verbose manner. We have successfully managed to make the activity look like a complex web of permutations and combinations, which is stronger than what the spiders are able to churn out. I have really enjoyed the highly confused look on thetofaces mylong audience whenonI managed dishofout lectures Competency Frameworks and on other inhuman Human Resource processes that focus on using the animal in the human being most productively productively.. After every such interaction I share my exploits with like minded people who in turn share their 120

the most slippery path which will sooner than later ensure that I get sucked into the quicksand that is all around me. The quicksand of anger, hatred, jealousy, extreme intellectual arrogance and whatever else one may think of as violent tendencies. This woke me to a whole new world of introspection and in turn led me to redefine my work as it should be. Iperson, am taken backby a few decades when a priest, the name Father E Ha McGrath S.J. taught me Human Resource Management. He taught me through his actions and seldom by words. He taught me that like Teaching or like Health Care, Human Resource Management should not be looked as a “Profession”. “Profession”. He taught taught me

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that HRD is a dedication. He said it is who is genuine in this effort to uplift sacrifice; it is the capability of experiencing mankind to heights that only human the Human suffering, without oneself beings are capable of reaching. This in a necessarily going through it. It is the nutshell is what my soul tells me. I must capability to Love in the most selfless way way.. become capable of doing this with least However, like a typical ambitious young publicity and with pure humility. man, I pretended to learn from him, but did my own thing. I had no time for people, There was a time when I used to hope to and I had all the time for concepts. I get led by a leader par excellence in a truly believed believe d that using the concepts, linked human manner. Today I have stopped with the so called “PERSONNEL looking for this; I hope I am able to display MANAGEMENT PROCESSES”, I will the Leadership that I wish to see in the make a name for myself and will in turn world. The Human Resource Function of be hig highly hly accl acclaim aimed ed as a grea greatt Huma Human n the future will have Leaders of the Resource Management Professional. The capability of the Rajarishis of the yore. They will be able to give the King sound advice intelligentsia in the form of the Corporate without fear and without trying to eke a Leadership which was happily “self seeking” loved me, because I was able to living from this. They will have faith that give them the ammunition that could be Human Resource Management is work for used to fool the world around them. The the evolution of the Human Race and this intelligentsia also displayed immense will happen both at a Micro and a Macro capability in what w hat is called “Double Talk”. Talk”. level. The gap between the thoughts, words and deeds was visibly widening. It was when I realised that my character was close to becoming completely devilish, that an anguished call from deep within

As I start learning these lessons from life, it becomes clear to me that Human Resource Management is a highly spiritual activity.. Hence if one need to practice this, activity it is very important that one works on ones

surfaced. I read about genuine leaders of be own evolutioninbefore one As canI experience to something this field. epretend xperience the past and I woke wok e up to the Tatas. Tatas. No this has nothing to do with getting employed this from a spiritual angle, it also becomes

in the House of Tatas. I possibly tried to beco be come me a Tat ataa fo foll llow ower er muc much h be befo fore re I joined the Group. Joining J oining the Group was incidental. I also realise that just by employment employ ment in the Tatas Tatas my character will wi ll not change. It is like saying that any person pe rson wearing the Gandhi cap is not necessarily a Gandhian by thought, word or deed. A new dream emerged from within me. A dream rebuild the Human Resource functiontoand to make it truly human. I have a dream that Leaders will be like what Leaders should be. Leaders will display less of ego; will display behavior that is worth emulating. Leaders will stop getting paranoid about bottom lines, double or triple. On my part, I wish to be a person

clear to me that this is, in a sense, a very holy activity which can make or break people, relationships and even organisations, whatever is their form. The effort is not to succeed in assessing people or in rewarding people or even in giving people direction. Since I mentioned this as spiritual, in my understanding the HR practitioner takes onus of one of the most difficult function a function which focuses on the human mind. As this realisation dawns on me, I also realise that a true HR person is none other than the Chief Leader of the organisation, whatever is its form. In other words, the Chief Executive is the only CHRO any organisation has or needs. This designation Neetwo work rk Journal January| 2011 NHRDN


given to the person heading the HR The fourth quality that I see in my leader function is in many ways inaccurate. is the ability to raise the energies of his team However, this also means that the Chief by his his own joyous behaviour behaviour.. The The leader is Executive of the organisation must be a happy person who displays immense evolved enough to play this role. The role capability to maintain equanimity in all thus becomes a role of a King and the only situations he/she faces. a person following a Righteous path can Another quality he displays is awareness be seen as a true leader or a King. and the ability to distinguish between Let me share my views on some of the b bee ne f i c i al e go a nd w h a t c o ns ti t ut e s characteristics we need to see in a harmful ego. A leader will never feel Righteous King. For better understanding humiliated, because his/her capability to of this concept, I will link this with what remain humble in all situations creates a we may term as the ideal behaviour powerful shield around him/her. him/her. displayed by a King. I am consciously An important quality in the leader is the avoiding a name because the modern mind always rubbishes any name that comes strong desire to serve and to be of service to people and in situations. He never sees from our ancient history. himself/herself separated from the people The first and the most critical quality is that are being led. Love for his subjects: a righteous King will While I have stated a number of qualities love all his subjects. The obvious question that must be visible in the CEO-CHRO, let that comes to the rational mind is how me also throw some light on what should the king can love people who are not not be visible in this person. lovable for various reasons. The way I see it is that a true Leader or a King, will focus In case he has a short temper, this leader himself on raising the consciousness of his will ensure that no one has the courage to subjects rather than rejecting people at a approach him, and in case the so called leader becomes unapproachable, he will drop of a hat. The second extremely important quality never be able to be of use to anyone. He should not be the cause of o f fear. People may that I see in a leader or a King is his ability

to think and act beyond his personal bias or limitations. At times, this could mean a need to sacrifice personal comforts for a larger good or for spreading a noble lesson. l esson. The third quality that comes to my mind is “unblemished character”. In modern times this appears to be a real tough one. Such a leader/King is extremely careful not to deviate from the path of Dharma even in his/her dreams.times The biggest difficulty we face in modern is that the world has lost faith in leaders. Leaders themselves have lost faith in the axioms of Dharma. The complete apathy on the part of leaders to make an effort to follow Dharma has made the followers suspicious of the leader’s motives. 122

argue that this may lead to complete indiscipline, but my own experience that obedience or discipline coming from love is far superior to the obedience or discipline d iscipline coming from fear. A true leader does not fall prey to sycophancy.. In other words, he/she is not sycophancy looking for people to come to the audience hall to sing praises about him/her. him/her. On the contrary, he is wary of such people peop le and tries to help these people by giving them courage to be honest. This person is never seen as grabbing and is not greedy for personal glory. On the contrary, a true leader ensures that his people get all credit for the success of the team.

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The leader should never be seen as a cribber or someone who bad mouths others whatever the provocation is. If he does so, he will certainly compromise himself and will be seen in bad light. For a true leader, leader, it will be better for him to leave company that does not appear conducive rather than becoming part of the problem by slinging mud at other people.

Ever since I started my tutelage under Father McGrath S.J., I realised that to be a good HR person whom the common employee will approach, I need to develop priestly qualities. These qualities at times appear to completely contradict what the modern theories of human resource management taught in the current curriculum.

All that is written above obviously makes it appear that to become a true CEO-CHRO one needs to become a saint and must be seen much closer to GOD than to mankind.

Father taught me through his behaviour that you have to be a human first and if necessary be a manager later. He taught me that human beings are not animals that need managing. Also, he taught me that the human being was not a resource whom we manipulate to increase output.

To this, I can only say that if any person thought that becoming an HR Officer was easy, he/she better think again. There are many good people who start the journey with all the right intentions. Midway, Midway, when they realise that life is difficult, especially when the organisation culture is not conducive they quietly change to the path p ath of least resistance. Today, we may have more converted HR officers than converted CEOs. After all, the more hierarchically powerful people seldom need to change. Let us now come back to where we started. I am happy with my own success in this world. I earn well, I live well and the rich

It has taken close to two and a half decades for me to put down what w hat he taught me and that too with part success. What does one say about putting this into practice? Every day one faces a new challenge in the form of stimuli from the external environment. My reaction to this depends completely on what has been my mind been thinking. I have realised that the mind is the only tool that I should be very watchful of using. The mind when used with intelligence helps me thinking - thoughts that will be useful in my own evolution.

and the powerful ensure that I get well taken care of as long as I leave them and their conscience alone. But as my LEADER says very often, the final judgment on myself will be when my head hits the pillow at night. Do I sleep with a clean and relaxed conscience or do I have the blood or the curse of many people on my blemished character. character. Because I am lucky to be led by someone who lays so much stress on integrity and character building that whenever I tend to deviate from the path he brings me back by his spiritual guidance. Let me now close this article with a few words on the need for Spiritual education for the HR officers.

Finally, I have learnt that for me to become Finally, a good HR person I need to be an evolved person. By all means, use the intellect to come up with HR processes that are benefi ben eficia cial, l, but be ver very y wat watchf chful ul of the purpose of these creations. In the ultimate analysis, all HR processes processe s can be measured based on the following questions: Do the processes enable the Leaders and the Organisation to be seen as as a Loving and a Serving Organisation. Do they ensure that the processes Help all and do not Hurt anyone? Once we get satisfactory answers to these questions we can be rest assured that the HR function is doing its job and the Leader leading the Company is evolved enough and hence deserves to lead. Neetwo work rk Journal January| 2011 NHRDN



About the Author

Visty Banaji is founder CEO of Banner Global Consulting, a strategic HR consulting firm, an innovative but practical solutions provider for complex HR problems. Till April, 2010, Visty held the position of Executive Director & President (Group Corporate Affairs) at Godrej Industries Limited leading the Group HR, Strategy, Information Technology and Legal functions for Godrej Industries and associate companies. Before Godrej, Visty was in Paris as leader of ALSTOM’s global project for reengineering key HR processes. Earlier he was Executive Director (HR) for ALSTOM in India. Starting career with Telco (now Tata Motors) in its manufacturing facility at Pune, he was at the Corporate HR function for Telco. Visty received the Pathfinders Award Award from National HRD Network. Visty has been a member of the CII National Committee on HR, Skills & IR and was Chairman of CII’s HR & ER Sub-committee for Western Western Region. He was also Chairman of the HR Committee of the Employers Federation of India.

H R exe xecc att attac ackk ed by by w ork er s di es, 9 hel held The Times of India (15 November 2010)

Relations (IR) which traditionally tended to give disproportionate emphasis to union relations and collective bargaining while

12 arrested for murder of Pricol V-P near ne ar C oi oim mbatore DNA (24 September 2009) M ob beat I tali an fi rm’ rm’ss CE O to de death i n I ndi a Reuters (23 September 2008) xtreme events such as these are not the

only indicators of the state of the emergent Employee Relations (ER) scenario in our country country.. At the same time, they are not just random incidents either. They are symptomatic of a tragic malaise affecting the way we practice ER. In this article I will treat ER E R as a broader and more progressive concept than Industrial



neglecting the development and engagement of individual employees. While I am in no position to comment on the specifics of the sad examples listed, I fear such explosions will become more frequent and severe unless one or more of the combustible elements that make these conflagrations almost inevitable are eliminated. In my reckoning there are four contributors to violent ER (Exothermic Reactions): 1. Ou Outm tmode oded d lab labou ourr law lawss 2. Excess Excessive ive trans transmis missio sion n of compet competiti itive ve pressure to the weakest link 3. Union Union leader leadershi ships ps with with extra extraneou neouss agendas

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Ill-eq -equip uipped ped HR HR / ER pro profes fessio sional nalss 4. Ill I would like to explain each of these and suggest how they may be neutralised. Outmoded Labour Laws

“Many laws as certainly make bad men, as bad men make many laws.” — Walter Savage Landor The antediluvian labour laws that cling to us, almost two decades after liberalisation, are sometimes adduced as evidence of the wily wisdom of Narasimha Rao in only starting with those parts of the reform agenda that could be implemented without great opposition. Since the lowhanging fruit have been gathered, however, there has been little progress on the tougher elements of reform. In the past two decades labour reform has taken no steps forward and one step back! As a result, we are still loaded with legislation that almost no enterprise in the country can implement in its currently worded spirit while remaining commercially competitive. A classic case in point is the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act.

The solution obviously lies in industrial and HR leaders working together with the Government and the unions to jettison this handicap. With the Government, I believe the most persuasive argument has to be that job creation, at the bottom of the organised sector pyramid, can only be accelerated if businesses re-orient themselves away from the capital-intensive mindset that years of rigid labour laws engendered. For such an argument to be credible, it must be made by business leaders, who alone can shift the employment-intensity employment-intens ity of their investments. Excessive Transmission of Competitive Pressure to the Weakest Link

“No, no, no, no, you don’t understand. I want to be surprised. Astonish me, pal, … don’t care where or how you get it, just get it. it . … I’m going to make you rich. This is your wake up call, pal. Go to work.” — Gordon Gekko One would expect enlightened self-interest to prompt business leaders to take the initiative in pressing the Government to speed up business-friendly (and, consequentially, employment-creating) labour reform. The reality is surprisingly

labour reform. The reality is surprisingly different. Industrialists, Industrialists, who make so much noise with the Government about other barriers barri ers (lik (likee inade inadequate quate infr infrastruct astructure) ure) that prevent them from optimising business performance, generally walk tiptoe around the subject of labour reform. This has not prevented them from demanding, of their ER managers, efficiency and flexibility that cannot be delivered if the current labour laws are saint to stop at the borderline of what is strictly observed. Not so surprisingly then, essential for competitiveness and what is most of the friction that has led to violence a nice topping to the profit pie. When has been occasioned by the hide and seek organisations start ‘managing’ the games ER managers are forced to play implementing authorities instead of around these conflicting demands. implementing the laws, the entire body of labour legislation starts acquiring an When competitive pressures grow, it becomes difficult for CEOs to live up to ‘optional’ tinge. I would be surprised if any large Indian manufacturer complies with it fully. This act, together with the inflexibilities hardcoded into the Industrial Disputes Act is the two huge albatrosses that prevent modern Indian enterprises from standing upright and proclaiming they are fully ‘compliant’. And once an organisation starts down the slippery slope of semicompliance, it requires the restraint of a

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Warren Bennis’ dictum that “Leaders keep k eep their eyes on the horizon, not just on the bottom line.” They transmit cost pressure to every part of the delivery system and there is a temptation to cut corners in organizations that put ends before means. In HR’s eagerness to live up to its newfound stature as a business partner, it sometimes does not adequately protect the corners that fall within its court and sometimes even seeks credits by pointing out the shortest diagonal across the corners it’s meant to guard. In such organisations, HR’s hands are either forced or eagerly raised to volunteer cost gains at the cost of

we have a growing and urgent need for a Fair Organisation Code (already existing in outline form) which reputable employers must voluntarily adopt and strictly follow.

employees who have the least voice within the organisation – normally those at the bottom of the pyramid or or,, more likely still, those who are on the contractors’ rolls. We sometimes forget that it is difficult to steer a path of industrial harmony after adding addi ng a large GIN (I coefficient) to the sour lime of ever-increasing disparity. Where these disparate worlds collide the ER professional patrolling the borderline is at mortal risk. It is certainly necessary to push (as indeed I have done above) for greater freedom to contract work. However, contract labour engagement must be done for reasons of flexibility or access to scarce

championing role and needs a culture where responding to employee is seen as a sign of weakness and inefficiency. If front line supervisors and line managers are increasingly expected to play the primary ER role, they must be suitably trained and oriented. Apart from the few who are naturally people-focused, the rest will require to be prompted through targets, evaluation and rewards for their positive contribution to harmonious ER.

We would be less than fair if we pointed fingers only at the apex of the organisation. Often the greatest insensitivity to employees emanates down the line. When incipient problems flare up into open conflict and violence, more often than not, there is an intolerant or poorly trained supervisor or local manager, an ER function that has abdicated its employee-

Union Leaderships with Extraneous Agendas

skills and not simply for reduction in cost. In fact, in many countries, organisations pay a premium for the flexibility of hiring temporary help. It may be worthwhile for us also to consider a Flexibility Premium to augment the Minimum Wage for contract workers even if the actual implementation has to be phased out.

Too many leaders act as if the sheep... their people... are there for the benefit of the shepher shepherd, d, not that the shepherd has responsibility for the sheep.” — Ken Blanchard

While I have belaboured the treatment

The tinder of industrial conflict in our country is kept dry by those union leaders who have many agenda priorities that rank higher than the long-term welfare of the employees they are meant to represent.

of contract workers, because this is the fault-line where we see the volcanoes erupt most frequently, the same logic applies to a variety of people practices where we allow the need for financial performance to over-ride the need for fairness – particularly outside the bounds of the organisation. On a generic basis, therefore,

Whether it is a desire to perpetuate the hold of the existing leadership, an ideology, an extraneous political goal or the all-toohuman desire for higher purchasing power, once the benefit of the people peopl e takes second place, all sorts of sub-optimal decisions decisi ons can be taken while progressive proposals are vetoed.


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yields precisely the opposite outcomes. Poorly recognised ER contribution attracts few of the best students to its study. Those and w i t haret aassociated, k i n g u p tin h ethe c apublic u s e omind, f t h e who do opt for ER jobs receive scant downtrodden. At the same time, there training and relatively low stature and are a few leaders who have a high stake attention both from general management in perpet uat ing t he status quo. quo . To and HR leadership. Innovation is at a maintain their privileged perches in the discount. It is not surprising, then, that c l o s e d s y s t e m s f o r m e d b y s o m e results are less-than-spectacular, leading to organised sect or unions, t hey do lack of recognition and perpetuating the not mind sacrificing the far greater cycle. This is perhaps as good a place as employment opportunities millions of any in this article for me to admit to having g uilty of the charge of ER neglect Indians would enjoy for generations if been as guilty labour laws and union attitudes were as any other CHRO. But a CHRO is only more business-friendly. The matter is one of the actors in this tragic drama. Let’s look at the whole cycle. further complicated bywho the have fact that several union leaders, the Whether because prospective employers st anding t o t ake a st at esmanlike, downplay the ER role, or because there is national interest viewpoint, are fairly a fear of fraught confrontations on the advanced in age and there are not shop-floor or because ER doesn’t have the always leaders of the same stature to glamour and cachet of fashionable HR succeed them. topics, just a handful of the people who take HR MBA courses in prestigious This is one element where I will not choose campuses opt for an ER career. Perhaps to prescribe a solution because my intention there is in some minds the misguided hope here is to focus on what HR professionals that unions and militancy are a thing of the can do themselves or directly influence. past. It is to such hopefuls that I would Moreover, by and large, one cannot fault direct attention to the opening bullet points Many union leaders selflessly serve the interest of the people they represent

union leaders for taking their eye ER ball and treating it dismissiv dismissively elyofforthe with

of this article as a reminder of how deadly serious the ER game continues to be and

inadequate preparation as I fear is the case with our own fraternity. Ill-equipped HR / ER Professionals

“Aristotle was one of the first Western ph il ilos osop ophe hers rs to ar arti ti cu cula la te th thre reee li mi miti ti ng characteristics that predispose humans, despite our best intentions, to fail: hubris, hamartia, and anagnosis.” — Randal Ford In a tough, catch-22 environment caused b y a rc by rcha ha i c l a b o ur l a w s, u nr nree a l i s ti c management expectations and rigid union leaders, if HR professionals professio nals are to have any hope of coping, they need to demonstrate very high degrees of commitment to and competence in ER. Unfortunately Unfo rtunately,, we seem to have a vicious cycle in operation that

how vital it is to gain g ain a sound preparatory foundation for playing it. Once the budding HR professional joins industry, there are still some corporates corpo rates that have substantive factory / ER stints for their ‘fresher’s’. ‘fresher ’s’. Unfortunately, Unfortunately, the number of such well-rounded internships is dwindling and the increasingly attractive sunrise sector sees neither the need nor no r has the means to make such assignments available. People, who have only worked for sunrise companies, where staff churn is too high for unions to precipitate, overlook the fact that the sun moves after it rises and the lengthening noon-time shadows (of which the events of 2008-09 gave us a preview) will bring disaffection on a scale they have never had to cope with. Moreover, when staff organization and Neetwo work rk Journal January| 2011 NHRDN


militancy emerges, it will be none the less virulent for being novel. Unlike the service sector, which seems to be oblivious to even the existence existence of ER, in many manufacturing companies HR seems to have been unnerved by the enormity of the renewed ER challenge and the inability of underequipped HR professionals to face it. HR in some of these businesses escapes by let lettin ting g the con contra tracto ctorr dea deall wi with th the majority of the labour, while HR limits itself to the lofty name but limited role of the ‘principal employer’. employer ’. Thus, even where the ER function exists, it is frequently saddled with the weakest resources, addled further with the least possible support or training and ignored almost completely till smoke actually turns to fire. It is the rare organisation today that gives ER the attention or standing it deserves. In fact, by a pe perv rver erte ted d pr prac acti tice ce of th thee Pa Pare reto to Principle, 80% of the population (whether on the company’s ‘rolls’ or not) gets less than 20% of the attention.

should give up the losing battle of trying to attract ER talent from high-prestige HRMBA programmes and seek to develop internal talent for ER. Some of the most effective ER managers I have come across have started their careers as shop-floor supervisors or even clerical staff and have done a remarkable Baron Munchausen act of self-development. But these have been serendipitous instances of individual initiative. To To ensure a steady stream of such talent, the process of communicating, attracting and judging the aptitude of people who show the spark needs to be systematised and institutionalised.

For Aristotle, tragedy invariably involved a great person who experiences a reversal of fortune. This reversal of fortune had to

To convert an internal stream of people who are interested in ER into effective ER managers will require a total re-thinking of the grooming they need. No longer will the ‘factory’ stint we give to HR-MBAs be adequate or even required. In its place must come theoretical inputs and skill-building in HR, Industrial Psychology, Law, negotiation and TPM/TQM. These inputs can be delivered d elivered by existing exi sting MBA institutes provided they are open to designing such a 1-2 year part-time learning syllabus from the

be caused by the tragic hero’s Hamartia Hamartia,, which is sometimes translated as a flaw

ground up and not just delivering an abbreviated version of the HR-MBA.

and at other times as a mistake. The HR function has become centre-stage in the Indian corporate sector and the young HR professional is happily the hero of the show. Tragedies of the kind with which I started this piece are clearly a reversal of the HR hero’s vaulting fortunes and ambitions. It seems to me that it is the flawed commitment, capability and credibility that HR professionals bring to the practice of ER for which are situation at least partially responsible the grim we face. What follows is one o ne (but certainly not the only) way to come out of the dangerous downward spiral in which our ER capabilities and practices are caught. Let us start with a looking at a different model of sourcing for ER. Perhaps we 128

The jobs we create for our ER mangers must be much larger than the ones we conventionally have nowadays. The ER role should encompass the tasks traditionally separated into Industrial Engineering, Training and HR process support. It should also own the productivity catalyzing role whether through TPM or other programmes. The ER leader will then have the right to be positioned and on support par with other roles key operational leadership in the factory or delivery centre. Both the general management and the HR leadership need to spend quality time on ER. This will happen only if they are evaluated on forward-looking ER indicators that are in line with the

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business / HR strategy and if innovative ER achievements in the areas they oversee are adequately rewarded. The plan which some of our business federations have launched to give public recognition for exceptional ER work is another step in the right direction. ER in India seems to have started down a tragic path. Unlike the inevitability of the

Nemesisthat catches up with the heroes of Nemesisthat Greek tragedy, however, it is largely in our hands to correct the Ham Hamart artia ia that threatens to turn ER into a fatal hazard for HR. We can instead make ER into a sturdy foundation for the sustained productivity growth the economy needs and on which the more delicately nuanced activities of HR can rest securely.

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Book Reviews Books authored by Late Dr Dr.. C.S. Venkata Venkata Ratnam

The late Dr C S Venkata Ratnam had been the Director of International Management Institute, New Delhi. Dr Ratnam had specialized in HR management and IR and held h eld numerous consulting assignments for International Labour Organization and International Confederation of Trade Unions in various countries. Dr Ratnam authored several books. Dr Ratnam was a member of the HR or IR committees of FICCI, AIEO, SCOPE, CII PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry and secretary of IIRA and Indian Society of Labour Economics.


In the area of WTO and international trade, Dr Ratnam had specialized in labour and social issues and worked for a number of international organizations. He made significant contributions to National HRD Network and the HR profession. His research, books and an d thoughts have left a profound impact on current HR/ER professionals and will guide the future generations of HR/ER professionals. In fond memory of late Dr C. S. Venkata Ratnam and his dedication to the the profession, we have picked, in random choice, three books written by the veteran.


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conomic constraints, technological progress and changes, not only in the composition of the labour force but also in the attitudes of workers, have caused workers' and employers' organisations to take a fresh look at their role in the process of collective bargaining. Negotiated changes present a perfect and all-embracing account of the way labour-management relations have changed in post-liberalised India. It reviews the response of the collective bargaining strategy to the challenges of globalisation and the restructuring of enterprises. The book under review focuses in detail on the nature of change that has taken place in the area of collective bargaining and flexibility management. This highly revealing book is a pioneering work on the changing scenario of collective bargaining in post-liberalisation public and private sector in India. It also makes viable suggestions to the three social partner’s viz. Employers, Union and Government, to adapt themselves to the new realities so as to be in sync with the changing global scenario in the world of work, constitutional proclamations, and accepted ILO standards. Based on a survey of about 236 collective bargaining agreements agreements in the public and private sectors in India since 1991 to date, this exclusive and concise study sponsored by the Planning Commission of India, covers a number of relevant issues including the legal framework of collective bargaining

in India, different kinds of cooperative arrangements arran gements to promote productivity and usher in workplace improvements;; Labour-management cooperation in restructuring and the tradeoff between jobs to improvements turn around sick units; and emerging trends towards negotiated flexibility. It also highlights the special features of public sector bargaining and the role of collective bargaining in the areas of social security and employee welfare. Ten collective agreements have been selected for special mention in this study, because of their distinctive contribution contribution to the promotion of negotiated changes at enterprise level. The book contains a highly insightful analysis of the trends in negotiated flexibility and productivity through collective bargaining process. The author has argued that in order to retain bargaining power,, unions have no choice but to “put consumers” interest first, company power company interest second and their members interest third. The author further adds that many times the Unions do not formally oppose modernisation or changes so long as this is done in consultation with them. The book highlights how a permanent bipartite mechanism as in the case of Steel industry helps avoiding disputes over interpretation and implementati implementation on of collective agreements. The book goes beyond providing mere analyses of facts and understanding of these emerging trends. It also discusses the implications of recent developments for managers, workers, trade

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unions and the state and suggests a 10-point agenda for the reforms required to tackle the challenges which are likely to emerge as a result of the changing environment. These 10-point agenda suggested by Venkata Venkata Ratnam come from the basis of his rich analysis of issues in the collective bargaining agreements covered. This decisive study of collective bargaining is both, up-to-date and holistic. It will be equally useful resource for practitioners, academics and students in the area of industrial relations. In Improved Workplace Relations, the author highlights how the permanent bi-partite mechanism has helped Steel Industry, Industry, which has not seen any nation-wide dispute over wage negotiations in last thirty years, as this mechanism not only conduct collective bargaining over wages and working conditions but also to deal with disputes arising over the interpretation and implementation of collective agreements. In Public Sector Bargaining, the author highlights the huge disparity in pay between lower level and senior levels employees in PSUs, while the former compared to their private sector peers are paid 1.5 times more, the compensation for the latter is much lower than the market. This disparity the author clearly clearl y explains is due to the in-built issues and inability inabi lity of the PSU Managements to effectively negotiate with their Unions. In Welfare to Money fare the author highlights the recent trend among Unions to demand conversion of the employee benefits in to cash, which many times defeats the purpose for which the benefits were originally conceived. Reviewed by :

Senthil Nathan, VP-HR, Citi Bank



lthough it has almost been a decade since Prof. Venkata Venkata Ratnam published this book, that human development development should be the goal and economic development the means, continues to be echoed today in several forums. Prof. Venkata Ratnam had been a part of those forums. This volume itself is a compilation of his lectures at such forums, put together in a sequence that helps a practitioner understand the issues in perspective. It is indeed perspective that the book starts with. All too often, we ignore the lessons of history in our search for 'new' solutions. Prof. Venkata Ratnam takes takes away that excuse by starting off with a concise account of how the labour movement in India has developed. Without taking any particular sides, he points out how various actors on stage - the employers, employees, trade unions and government - have interpreted their roles over time to create the drama that is today's Industrial Relations scenario. There is data, where data is meaningful, but more importantly, there is the scholarly recommendation of what must be done to ensure that demands of globalisation and harmony can co-exist in Industrial Relations.


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The examination of changing roles continues as the author describes how labour relations are being impacted by the transitions in economic philosophy, philosophy, geo-political realignments and the other forces of globalisation. It must be mentioned here that Prof. Venkata Ratnam has resisted the temptation, and rightly so, to point to technology as a force of transition. With the underlying assumption that technologies are bound to change, he laments that neither government nor academia is prepared to handle the employment elasticities that disruptive technology is bound to bring about. Another bogey that Prof. Venkata Ratnam confronts confronts is that of foreign ownership. He argues that, in conjunction with the policy of calibrated capital account liberalisation, foreign investment has been beneficial rather than detrimental. Extending the argument to privatisation, he demonstrates how disinvestment had swung the pendulum the other way, in the process making the experience completely schizophrenic. That, he maintains, furthers the belief that rather than considering ownership per se, there is a need to focus on the institutional mechanisms that are already in place, the bi-partite, tri-partite and other collective bargaining mechanisms to see how they should be strengthened in the light of the transitions in progress. Prof. Venkata Ratnam also brings out a facet of labour relations that is probably unique to India. While other countries have a more standardised, nation-wide approach to many issues involving labour, India's diversity has further accentuated the regional differences in the manner in which such issues are addressed. Moreover, with labour being a concurrent subject, both the Centre and the State Government has jurisdiction over discrete aspects of labour, even within a single enterprise and therefore the pool is further muddled. In their drive to be economically competitive, several states have modified their labour laws to attract investments. The author puts forward his position that such limited focus, on merely the laws, provides a false front of a harmony, which can be better achieved by a true spirit of mutuality between the parties The dangers of 'jobless growth' are once again re-iterated, with the author providing a framework

to deal with obsolescence of the workforce as well as some case studies on how such obsolescence can be dealt with. He further advocates the use of tripartite forums to plan for such circumstances; it is imperative to demonstrate vision and long-term thinking rather than looking to such forums to execute a narrow agenda. He points out that even though courts in India have become more activist than before, they still lack the machinery to implement their verdicts verdicts;; it is therefore essential for the parties to depend on their own inter-relationships to ensure a successful continuation of economic activity in their domains. Foreseeing changes in both the forms and the variety of the employment relationships, the author warns both the workforce and the employers, of the challenges involved in maintaining stop-start relationships without any loss of harmony or productivity for the organizations. It is this sense of anticipating trends, which makes this volume a go-to manual, long after its first publication!

Reviewed by :

R. Shantaram Director – Operations & Research, Kelsa Solutions

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3. IND INDUST USTRI RIAL AL RELA RELATI TIONS ONS Author : C S Venkata Ratnam Published by : Oxford University Press Paperback 796 pages Rs 395


ndustrial relations, is widely acknowledged as relations between representatives of employers. And representatives of employees. Various issues related related to non-unionised situations situations and management management also comes under its purview, purview, and hence, it is also referred to as 'employment relations'. Although people may feel that in some present day cultures and contexts, especially with information technology driven businesses, industrial relations has lost its relevance, relevance , but, if analysed closely, close ly, we would find a distinct distin ct void of systems, which can take care of the needs and grievances of present day industries.

The book, Industrial Relations, by Prof. C S Venkata Ratnam (Late), Ex-Director, International Management Institute, Delhi, comes as a prominent work in the areas of HRM and IR. I see the main strength of the book in its treatment of the conceptual and legal framework, labour policies and reforms, along with workforce issues in the context of globalised economy. economy. The book reflects much of what goes in the industrial set-ups, including the new era companies in the field of IT IT,, and highlights various mechanisms of resolving conflicts. It provides a gainful insight on industrial relations framework and culture with respect to development of the concept of IR, trade unionism, collective bargaining, labour administration, and labour law reforms, and also proposes an integrated and scientific model / approach to Industrial Relations. Prof. Ratnam had been one of the preeminent thinkers and experts of the field. This book reflects the accumulated experience of more mor e than thirty years he had spent as a teacher, trainer, researcher and consultant. To To quote the author - "the discussions on problems with the data and information

on labour and labour-related matters and the suggestions for their improvement are borne out of my professional experience'. The author has discussed the interface between HRM and IR as two closely related disciplines and has also provided approaches to develop sound industrial relations in an organisation or industry. industry. The dynamics as well as divergence in the perspectives of different stakeholders from the developing (as well as the developed) world has been explained quite well. The readers would find that adequate coverage has been given to international labour standards. The role of ILO in setting labour standards in the world has been explained very well. Another feature of the book is the multitude of insights provided into the complex and diverse concepts of industrial relations with multi-stakeholder perspectives. The nuances of collective bargaining, drafting an agreement, conducting membership verifications etc., which lies at the core of various processes, have been covered. The book examines contemporary IR practices in world class companies such as, Honda Motorcycles and Scooters India Ltd., Maruti Udyog Ltd., SAIL, INDAL, GAIL, DSP, etc. The key challenges faced by Indian economy have been pointed out in the initial chapters followed by tracing the origin, theoretical foundations and growth of trade unions in India. I particularly particularly,, find the chapters on collective bargaining and labour reforms in India very enlightening. Prof. Venkataratnam Venkataratnam also discussed tri-partism and social dialogue as benchmarks in IR practices.


January | 2011 NHRDNetwork Journal

The role of government in industrial relations is another important topic adequately covered in the book. The significance of reward systems, occupational health and safety issues, which would be a part of the core responsibilities of any HR and/or IR manager, have been discussed extensively. As long as people continue to be the necessary building block of organisations, industrial relations will remain an area of concern and relevance. A set of four chapters have been devoted to explaining the role of labour administration, labour legislations, labour policies, and the significance of employee participation participat ion for improving performance of organisations. The book definitely adds value to our present understanding of the role of unions in public policy and its outcomes for individual employees. The readers would find the coverage on grievance, discipline, and conflicts, along with the behavioral approaches to deal with related situations very useful. An HR practitioner would find the chapter on technological changes and employee resistance very useful for present day organisations. An important feature, which I should mention here is the focus of the book on Indian audiences along with various relevant landmark judgments of the Supreme Court. I find the book very useful for its application-oriented approach to the subject area of Industrial Relations. Various Various illustrative examples and relevant case studies provide the much needed support to the readers - aspiring HR managers as well as HR practitioners and professionals. Such a book would always be a useful read, because people come together not merely for salaries and profits, but also to protect themselves against any unfair practices.

Reviewed by:

Dr. Anamika Pandey Dr. Anamika Pandey is Assistant Professor, Galgotias Business School, 1, Knowledge Park – II, Greater Noida – 201306. She can be contacted at [emailprotected]

January | 2011 NHRDN Net etw work Journal


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Our profound thanks to all the contributors of articles, interviewers, interviewees and book reviewers who have taken time off from their busy schedules out of their dedicated interest to the field of Human Resources. We acknowledge with gratefulness the excellent contribution of the guest editors: Mr. Dwarkanath P., Director-Human Resources, Max Group of Companies and Mr.. Prabhakar L., VP-Human Resources, ITC. Mr We thank Prof. (Col) A. Balasubramanian of Balaji Society for his continuous continuo us support. We also thank Mr. Sourav Daspatnaik for appropriately app ropriately covering and capturing the Trade Union Leaders’ perspectives.

We acknowledge the support from Sunathy and Saathvika Raj of Exclusive Search. Our special thanks to Ms. Bina Raju for her painstaking editorial support. – Dr. PVR Murthy, Managing Editor (On behalf of the Editorial Team)


January | 2011 NHRDNetwork Journal

National HRD Network The National HRD Network, established in 1985, is an association of professionals committed to promoting the HRD movement in India and enhancing the capability of human resource professionals, enabling them to make an impactful contribution in enhancing competitiveness and creating value for society. Towards this end, the National HRD Network is committed to the development of human resources through education, training, research and experience sharing. The network is managed by HR professionals in an honorary capacity, stemming from their interest in contributing to the HR profession. The underlying philosophy of the NHRDN is that every human being has the potential for remarkable achievement. HRD is a process by which employees in


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