Saturday, 26 December 2015

Addressing Real Needs of Customers

In My book "Straight from the Heart-Thoughts and Experiences of an HR professional" and also in my
blogs in general, I have been calling attention to the fact that our internal customers do not perceive HR as meeting their "Real needs". In stead of  facilitating and making their jobs more comfortable, line managers  see HR personnel as those who  wake up now and then to implement another bright idea or the latest fad  that will reinforce the relevance of their existence.

In this connection even the routine activities pursued and followed up by HR, as for example the performance appraisal process,  is seen by the line as a  pain in the neck. Its completion is achieved within  the deadline through arm twisting  and  threats of denying  annual raise  in salary in case of  failure to do so. No effort is made during downtime to explain to the internal customers the significance of the process and how atleast in the long run, it would enable line managers to have competent people in their team.

Many years ago in 1996, I joined a central PSU as HOD of training department. Couple of months in to the role, I suggested to the GM at corporate office, my reporting officer, that we organize a Line-HR workshop which could throw up the real needs and issues of the production departments.Addressing these needs would earn respect for HR.It would also be an opportunity to clarify and correct any misconceptions or  unrealstic expectations that they may have from HR.As for example, many line managers, even today do not want to know and understand at a personal level about employees working in their department.The moment an IR or HR issue comes up, the tendency is to refer it to the HR department and wash one's hand off. It is similar to referring to the maintenance department, the moment a maintainance issue crops up.

Yet, the fact remains that involvement of the production staff before and during a machine breakdown by providing inputs to the maintenance engineer makes a big difference.Information as to when the problem was first noticed, the symptoms observed  about the problem etc goes a long way in helping the maintenance engineer to set right the problem faster and more efficiently. Similarly, many HR/IR related issues can be known sufficiently in advance, and nipped in the bud if the production  managers and supervisory staff are actively involved.Infact, to my mind, in view of the  line managers and supervisory staff being the first contact of employees, it is most essential that they are  equipped with the minimum human relation skills.Engineering colleges would do well to include this as one of the subjects in the curriculum.

Coming back to my offer to organize the HR-Line Workshop, the GM was aghast that I even  thought it fit  to make such a suggestion- "What is the problem now? Are there any issues between HR and line? Are you trying to create problems between the two functions?." Thus my proposal got a silent burial even before it was born. I exhort youngsters of  today to take up such an   initiative and those in leadership positions to support them  as this  could show HR in a proactive light instead of being seen as  'reactive' most of the time to the 'Real needs' of customers.

I would like to end with the submission that HR needs to continually engage and dialogue with its internal customers to find out their real needs on the ground and offer home grown creative solutions to them.Nothing much will happen if new ideas are introduced because someone somewhere has done it or because it sounds good to claim to the world that the latest fad has been implemented in one's company.It is high time that HR seeks inputs from production / line departments as to how an issue can be addressed, instead of insisting on playing the role of the expert, providing readymade solutions every time.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

A Comprehensive Review of My Book in RML

On this auspicious day (it's 25th Dec in India) , I share with readers a comprehensive review of my book "Straight From the Heart" by Ms Padmaja Iyengar, former senior executive banker, poet and the Rate my site. The Link is given below:-

This is the link for purchase of the book from

For those ordering on Amazon .com (outside India) it is

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Industrial Relations Summit-2015- Make in India Challenges for sustained Industrial Relations.

I attended the IR  summit organized jointly by NIPM Karnataka Chapter and the Karnataka Employers'Association from the evening of 19th November to the evening of 20th November 2015.On the first day there was an inaugural address by Justice Ram Mohan Reddy,High court of Karnataka and a  panel discussion in which Mr P.Dwarakanath, CMD of BEML Ltd, Mr Chamola Director HR, HAL and Mr A.S. Girish, Head (HR), Appolo Tyres and National Vice President NIPM participated.The discussion was moderated by Mr S.Raghunath,Professor IIMB.

At the outset, Justice Reddy acknowledged that a congeniality between the workmen and management is a must to keep things going and to have an atmosphere of growth which is most essential in today's scenario.He also drew attention to the fact that  industrial relations today cannot ignore the non- unionised workmen who contribute considerably to the success of organizations.According to the speaker today more than at any point of time "Money works and it is an important aspect of maintaining harmonious IR."

Justice Reddy traced the history of unionism and how political parties had seen unionised workmen as ready made vote bank.However the influence of political parties in this connection has come down considerably. Whether, we like it or not, the ease of doing business has become a need and a reality that is required to be addressed.The speaker said that Indians need to introspect on the culture that has set in over the years and need to take corrective steps.As for example even driving licenses are issued in the country based on bribes putting at risk so many lives of  the general  public.

Similarly, we should insist on employing competent persons who are perfect matches for the requirements of the  jobs. Today substandard manpower is coming out from the colleges whether it is engineers, ITI trained persons or other professionals. The speaker pointed out that the quality of the faculty in teaching institutions are compromised and  persons who have passed out this year are employed as teachers in the next academic year. "What can be expected of their prowess in teaching?" he asked. 

HR has to play an important role in challenging this mediocrity. IR problems would not arise on a later date if the right kind of people are  employed as a correct fit for the jobs. HRDians have a big role in changing the mindset in the industry towards getting the right people and keeping them motivated. Justice Reddy said that the share of GDP(Gross Domestic Product)  of the manufacturing sector was only 16% in India  as against 1/3 rd in China.The partnership of workmen is to be obtained for the cause of raising the contribution of industry to the GDP.

Justice Reddy opined that seemingly India has a lot of opportunities in the coming days given the fact that 20% of the young people of the world,  in the age group 18-22 will be from our country.Yet, in order to leverage the advantages adequate attention should be given to strengthening the education system and the core values.Today only 10-15% of the graduates are employable and even this small  number of candidates have raised their competency levels by their own efforts with hardly any  contribution from the colleges.He said that countries which see India as a serious threat are resorting to destablisation tactics  to blunt the advantages she has  in terms of a young poulation.As for example, he revealed that 65% of the youngsters in Punjab are drug addicts.The figures are 35% in Bangalore for those between the age of 7 and 16 years.

Another imporant aspect touched upon by the speaker was about the land acquired for industrial purposes and the way we treat the farmers who have given their land.The approach in Karnataka seems to be"I have taken the land from the farmer and paid compensation.I am not bothered about what happens to him afterwards" The farmer has known only one source of livelihood for ages and he needs to be supported to acclamatize him  to the new reality.In Raipur, Chattisgarh state,while taking land for developmental activities, the farmer is taken into confidence and a continuing  relationship is maintained.Employment is given to one member of the family.Care is taken to see that the farmer's houses are not broken and facilities such as electricity connection, cement concreting of roads are provided  by the industry to the farmer who has given land .

Jusice Reddy concluded his address with a few suggestions or prescriptions for ensuring a vibrant and harmonious industrial relations- (1) There should be better and regular communication with the workmen that will serve as a means of education and building trust.It also serves to create motivation and commitment to the company(2)  Investment to be made in enhancing the skills of workmen and also on retraining them (3) The contract labour laws need to be reviewed to make it more objective & rational, removing aspects that only trouble managements (4) Laws to be made more flexible for incorporating the needs of fluctuations in production needs, (5) Guidelines to be developed for payment of bonus based on productivity and teamworking results (6) Modify the trade unions act to correct the problems of multiplicity and politicisation of unions (7) Modify the laws to make them more transparent and removing the 'inspection Raj'.

In the panel discussion"Make in India challenges- IR Perspective", Mr P.Dwarkanath CMD,BEML Ltd stated that in the challenging scenario, BEML has been focusing on developing pride in the employees about their work and the company. By paying attention to 3 aspects namely (a) Training (b) 'Can do philosohpy'(c)Pride in work- "My work is the best work" employees derive satisfaction from work instead of having feelings of conflict.
He said that "Design in India" is as important as "Make in India". Towards this objective, BEML is collaborating with IITs and other institutions of repute.A recent feather in the cap of BEML is the home grown design for 200 tonne dump trucks.

Mr Chamola, Directer(HR) of HAL Ltd declared that the credibility of the management built over the years decides the outcome of IR. He said that while  collective bargaining is is a natural aspect of IR and will continue to be important, the right of the management to run the organization cannot and should not be compromised.
Mr Chamola said that HAL which already has around 32000 employees and 10000 officers is not looking at adding more work force.Infact recruitment would be bare minimum in niche areas with encouragement to effective outsourcing.In this connection HAL is focusing on strengthening the supply chain by motivating the vendors to be partners who are willing to take risks, put in money and share in the prosperity/ realities of the business.

Mr A.S.Girish,Head(HR) Appolo Tyres in his trade mark  humourous style reiterated the importance of IR which he said will be playing a prominant role not only in manufacturing but in all sectors of the economy.He said that the IR climate has to change from one of mistrust where both sides are talking to each other, holding bombs behind their backs to one of trust and openness with an intention on both sides to genuinely solve issues.
Mr Girish said that if IR fails in a unit, that unit will be shut down while the business itself will prosper, moving to a more favourable state or climate.

The second day started with the theme "IR to be part of the business strategy at board level" with a panel of speakers consisting of Mr Pratik kumar, CEO Wipro Infrastructure and Mr Kamal Bali MD, Volvo India and the moderator being Mr Pramod Mahatme, ER Wipro enterprises.Both the speakers touched upon the present economic scenario and gave considerable information comparing the GDP figures of India with other countries including details visavis various sectors and said that corrective steps need to be taken with regard to the labour laws making it in tune with the 'ease of doing business'.Since the theme for discussion was on "IR being a part of the business strategy at board level, i expected inputs on whether IR is presently considered important in the overall business strategy of the company.If yes, to what extent anf if not, what  IR/HR  people need to do differently  to get it included as a part of business strategy.

The second session on the second day-  "IR Experience in manufacturing sector and service sector" was for me the most rewarding session in the summit.The speakers were Dr Chandrashekar, President & Global Head (HR).Dr Reddy's Laboratories, Mr H.N.Srinivas,Advisor-Tata Group and Dr Manjunath,Director Jayadeva institute Bangalore.The moderator of the session was Mr Nagendra, Dean BMS Management School, Bangalore.

Dr Chanrashekar began his talk by underscoring the importance of hiring.Recruiting the right people with care lays the foundation for good HR work.Justice Reddy had also drawn attention to this important aspect of people management.I have myself felt that corporates tend to take the process of recruitment lightly and do not give it the respect and importance  it demands. My thoughts on this was expressed in my poem "Interview", the link to which is given below.

Another valid and important point articulated by Dr Chandrashekar was on the need to not separate or break people issues in to compartments such as HR hires, IR deals with the workmen, L&D focuses on training etc,A holistic approach is necessary to leverage the best from the HR function..

He spoke about the need for HRDians to invest  time and effort  to develop a solid team for the organization. The policy of merely poaching talents from competitors by paying more, backfires in the long run as the available talent is limited. Instead HR needs to build teams from the scratch recruiting people with care- catching them young. preparing them for the corporate environment and inculcating appropriate values.This exercise is what can be called "Sustainable employability" and investment on these lines will receive reciprocation from the employees who will see the company as genuinely interested in their welfare and growth.

Dr Chandrashekhar wound up his talk with the following gems:-
1) Managers should become more consultative, collaborative and engaging and  shed the fuedal mindset..Managers sabotage their own work by cutting the thread of reciprocal relationships.
2) Integrity displayed on the small activities is more important than clever strategies.

Mr H.N.Srinivas started his talk by giving an insight in to the  Tatas approach to  employee relations.As early as in 1890,Tata steel had a social audit done to understand the living conditions,traditions and aspirations of the local people who were mainly from the tribal population.In 1902, Sir M.Visvesvaraya drew up the strategic plan for the Tatas.All the stakeholder's needs were addressed in the plan.In 1920,.the Tatas Steel Workers'union was formed. Subhash Chandra bose  served as its president in 1922 The top priority of the management and union was concern for people, nation and the organiz ation in that order.The company had a collaborative relationship with the union. TQM and other initiatives were introduced  with support from the union.The Malcolm Baldridge excellence framework  was adopted by Tatas.

Moving on to the hotel business, Mr Srinivas  gave information on the "Taj Model' and the challenges of a service industry.78% of the employees in sevice industries are in touch with customers 24 x 7 aiming for customer delight.This has been made a sustainable management practice for the 24,000 Taj hotel employees.78% of the interaction with customers happen outside the purview of supervision.It is an industry in which 'word of mouth' is ten times more powerful than advertising.Out of 100 dissatisfied customers 95 do not complain to the  hotel but tell others.In such a scenario, it is very important that the internal communication is robust and employees know clearly what is expected of them with reference to the goals of the organization.The policy is to hire people for values and train them for skills.There is no compromise on values.

The challenge in respect of Tata Steel is relating to 78,000 employees in multiple locations for achieving the mission of  "lowest cost producer of quality steel in the world" in the next 3 years.what do you do differently to achieve this goal? The policy has been to reward 'customer excellence' and to reward 'goal achieving work' eg goal of ' lowest cost'.The speaker said that when he had visited Tata steel ( not working for Tata Group then)  as an external  ISO quality assessor along with a team, ordinary workmen very low in the hierarchy could explain how their work impacted the company goal of 'lowest cost producer'.A workman  said that the change in the way he is picking the ore has resulted in increase in productivity.He showed a chart exhibited at the department  which indicated figures of how much was saved in the last 3 days.The team interviewed union representatives to know how much they knew about the goal and to what extent they supported it.They said "Irani saheb (CEO) has made everything clear. He  meets us every week and we in turn tell employees of current situation and encourage them  to work hard for the goal."

Dr Manjunath, Director,  Jayadeva institute of  Cardiology shared the challenges of running a quality insttitution in the Government sector. The organization  is a government owned autonomous institute that has a strength of 640 beds, 5 cathlabs, 7 operation theatres, noninvasive laboratories and 24 hour ICU facilities.. On an average,80 angiograms/angioplasty and 15 open heart operations are done in a day at the hospital. The vision of the institute is "Quality care at affordable cost." It has NABH( National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers) accredition and by a patient centric approach has  achieved  a high level of satisfaction index.The focus has  been on quality,charity, subsidy and humanitarian approach.

Being a Government funded institution, decision making can be very slow & painful since no one wants to try anything new or take risks. Dr Manjunath, however stuck his neck out to introduce differential payment for  all classes of the employees, from doctors to to support staff  based on their  performance & involvement.  .This improved the motivational and energy levels in the organization.Dr Manjunath exhorted the audience to "take decisions if you are empowered" and gave instances of how he practises what he preaches.

Today, jayadeva institute has a single window OPD evaluation block for attending to ECG, X ray and other tests without delay.It has 40 full time cardiologists with no attrition in the last 8 years.As against 8 seats in All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, the Jayadeva institute has 21 seats for the DM (Doctor of Medicine) Cardiology course.While the Government funding is for a sum of Rs 60 crores, the institute has been able to generate 40 crores on its own through donations etc.

President Obama applauded the Jayadeva institute after he received  an E mail from a  US based non resident Indian informing  that the institute had treated him effectively( treatment  included ECG & other tests)  and with care by a  team of two cardiologists and support stafff. He was shocked when he was  charged only Rs 92 (US$2). .Dr Manujunath concluded his success story with the remark "We need to be system driven and not individual driven for sustained growth."

The last session of the summit was on "Labour reforms and the way forward" with the speakers being Dr Krishnamurthy IR consultant Mumbai and Mr B.C. Prabhakar, Lawyer & president Karnataka employers'association.The session was moderated by Mr Deenadayalan,Consultant.The first speaker spoke more about the approach to IR than on the subject of labour reforms.He suggested  that it is not laws  that will ultimately matter but relationships.He said that since conflict is natural and normal, people need to be taught how to handle conflict.

Mr B.C. Prabhakar in his talk underscored the importance of reforming the labour laws to facilitate 'ease of doing business.'.In this connection he said that the denial of right to close down an unviable business should be done away with.Similarly most of the provisions of  the outdated laws that date back to to the 1940s have to be done away with.However, he  expressed his apprehensions as  to whether this will actually happen, as the proposals of the government of the day are for fusion of a few statutes into one which retains the basic features of the original statutes.

At the valedictory session the Guest of honour was Mr Radhakrishnan Nair,Dean Sathya Sai institute.He is a product of XLRI who worked for Federal bank, Tata Group and other corporates before settling for an educationalist role.Mr Nair's valedictory address was in a way a fitting finale as it was  from a man who has seen it all and has reached a state of introspection.He wanted the HR practitioners to do the same .Mr Nair pointed out that somewhere we have failed to rise to the nobility of our vocation..HR, teaching and other such vocations, according to him  are more than just a profession.It calls for dedication.It gave me some satisfaction that I had discussed similar  issues in my book "Straight from the Heart- Thoughts and Experiences of an HR professional "published by cyberwit (

The speaker traveled down the memory lane to the times when he was a student at XLRI when his professor Neelima advised the students 'to become union leaders' She wanted that the role of educating workmen, looking after their interests and guiding them on the right path be played by educated people.Mr Nair said that it took a long time for him to understand what she really meant (create education in the masses).The speaker  opined that today, there is a disconnect between the employees of the company.Life styles have gone up and there is a huge gap between the first employee(CEO) and the last employee.Taking a cue from the theme of the IR Summit, Mr Nair exhorted the HR professionals to utilize this opportunity to educate people on what is good for our country.