Monday, 27 June 2016

Where to from Here?

I wrote this article in 2001 and it was published in the Management section – “Avenues” of the reputed Deccan Herald newspaper. The editor had published the article unchanged but had changed the title to “Delegation of Powers”, more of a buzz word at that point of time. I still feel that given the content, my title for the article was more suitable. Now the article as it was written. Allowance may kindly be given for the time warp…

Most Indian companies have been functioning more or less like the traditional Indian families – the head of the family having total control of everything. Nothing shall be done without his approval. It is like the family/ organization is his kingdom and he is the king of all he surveys.

Although over the years a lot of changes have taken place in respect of the family, the change in the corporate world have been slow to come by. Managers have been reluctant to give any freedom to the people working with them. While in a family a father no longer expects his son to abide by everything he says, a manager expects the employee to jolly well do what he is told. Even in the public sector, where there is seemingly a lot of freedom and employees may take a questioning stance to evade work, but they would hardly ask or suggest why a particular job cannot be done differently or in a better way. The fact is that the manager may even tolerate refusal to work but is very uncomfortable allowing his people to use their heads.
So much so you find human beings who are responsible persons in their personal lives- running a house, conducting marriages, giving a suitable education to their children find it difficult to take the simplest of official decisions. Constant control in anything and everything over the years has created fear and diffidence in the employee who has become unwilling to take any risk.

Interestingly, the head of the family mind set is prevailing not only in respect of the managers and the management but also in respect of employees’ unions. Unions are as bureaucratic, autocratic and non-communicative with their members as managements. I am reminded of an incident narrated by my colleague, an HR chief in one of our production divisions in Mysore. When a serious accident was reported to him, he immediately wanted to refer the injured employee to Bangalore for appropriate treatment. However, his juniors dissuaded him saying “Sir, you are still new to the company; for making a reference for medical treatment the union leaders will make a formal request to management. As top leaders are out of station, we will have to wait, if not the leaders will take strong exception if it is done without their knowledge.”

Organizations may have got away with such functioning yesterday but they would be living in a fool’s paradise if they believe that the same style will see them through in the days to come. The funniest part is that many managers still prefer to give lip service and not do anything to build the confidence of employees for speaking their mind or involve them in the day to day working. The false sense of security that nothing will happen to me, it only happens to others or that everything will remain the same at least till the time of my tenure seems to encourage them to continue in their ways. Perhaps it is due to inertia coupled with a seducing need to conserve power and importance.

The time has come to realize that the party is over. The one and only way to be effective and survive is by involving employees- communicating to them  all matters pertaining to their job and creating a sense of ownership in the employees.
According to Ricardo Semler, CEO, Semco (one who has actually practiced what he preaches and recorded his experiences in the celebrated book “Maverick”), “There is no way to treat employees as responsible and honest unless you let them know and influence what is going on around them.” Semler further asserts that “the advantages of openness and truthfulness far outweigh the disadvantages- a company that doesn’t share information when times are good, loses the right to request solidarity and concessions when they are aren’t.”

As a first step in the process, managers need to give up control in a phased manner and share more and more information about the company with its employees. This would be difficult initially as “old habits die hard.”  Conscious effort is also essential for creating an encouraging environment so that confidence of employees is adequately built up- sufficiently for them to first start speaking out their views and then be able to accept risk and take more responsibility.

Failure to accept the reality that ‘Involvement’ is the key to motivation can result in only one thing- Indian companies whether in the public or private sector will wither away in the globalized environment. Conversely, the realization followed by concrete initiatives would lead to the Indian companies in the new millennium being a force to reckon with. 

Sunday, 19 June 2016

National Web Portal: A Rewarding Interaction with Director, Board of Apprenticeship Training ( Southern Region )

NHRD Hosur chapter organised an interactive meeting with Mr A.Ayyakkannu, Director Southern region and his team from 3 PM to 6 PM at Dhanunjayas hotel Hosur on 15th June 2016.Significance of the interaction was that it was held in the background of the recent launching of the national web portal on the apprenticeship training scheme ( ).

The meeting was an opportunity for the director to share the significance of launching such a portal particularly in the light of the thrust and vision of the country on "Skilling India for Growth".Soon after the words of welcome by the chapter president, Mr Manivannan, Mr Ayyakkannu painted a holistic picture of the focus and priority of the Government of India on skill development. The importance that the government attaches to the initiative is amply clear from the maiden independance speech of the Prime minister, Mr Narendra Modi who had declared "If you want the country to progress on the path of development, then skill development should be our mantra." He had  also stated that the "youth must get the skills that will help build modern India and also whichever country they go to, their skills should be appreciated. They should be able to win hearts through their skill, ability and talent."

The country seeks to train one crore skilled manpower in the next three years and for the first time adequate allocation has been made in this connection in the budget. A number of schemes and initiatives have been planned to achieve the objectives. The HRD minister is also closely monitoring the qiuick and effective implementation of the national web portal which would serve as the backbone  for realizing the goals. The Director ( souther region ) stated that one of the important purposes of launching the national web portal was to integrate the activities of all the stake holders namely the student, industrial establishments and the educational institutions.

The national apprenticeship training scheme comes under the ministry of human resource department (MHRD) of higher education, Government of India.It is implemented through the boards of apprenticeship training in four regions located at Chennai (Southern ), Mumbai ( Western ), Kanpur ( Northern ) and Kolkata ( Eastern ). Apprentices are provided on the job training by industrial establishments through structured training modules. During the period of apprenticeship, the apprentices are paid monthly stipend, 50% of which is reimbursed to the industrial establishment ( employer ) by the Government of India.On successful completion of one year, a certificate of profficiency is issued by the MHRD, government of India. Fresh graduates, diploma holders in engineering and +2 vocational passouts are covered under the scheme to provide them practical/ hands on experience and fill the gaps between theoretical inputs and actual work practice in the industry.

A national portal was envisaged to address the limitations of the existing scheme and enhance its effectiveness to match the challenges of the changing times. Although general guidelines are available, the four regions had tended to practice its own methods and styles of implementation. There was a need for integration and having a standardized Bible which has documented effectively all the procedures and methods. The other matters that the web portal seeks to address are inadequate performance level of candidates, lack of reliable data at national level, inadequate supply demand analysis, absence of data mining, skewed trend analysis, information sharing and reporting issues.

The web portal enables employers to have access to student data pan India.They need not settle for less suitable candidates available locally.Further,the processes such as approval for engaging of apprentices, reinbursement of 50% claim and other correspondence with the board being online,  become fast and timely. Similarly the students can upload their biodata and send it to any employer they are interested in pan India.

The portal enhances awareness regarding procedures for apprenticeship training among students, provides information about the apprentice vacancies across industries and enables tracking of progress reports.For the educational institutions, the portal makes possible close interaction and bulk updating of students data. Similarly introduction of the national web portal is a boon for the regional boards as information will now be available at the touch of a button. All correspondence whether with the student, industries or educational institutions will be quicker. The board employees can change focus from working hard with manual data to working smarter.

It was an important interactive session for all the representatives of industries who participated at Hosur as it not only explained 'What' but also How' the portal is to be used/ operated by the stake holders.It was informed that the reimbursement of stipend would  henceforth  be done only by direct benefit transfer(DBT) through the banks.It would be channelised through the national payment corporation of India (NPCI ) which arranges more than two million transactions per day.

Mr Ayyakkannu hoped that the national web portal will increase awareness about apprenticeship training scheme. A number of brochures are are also being planned to encourage more employers to join the scheme.Although a country smaller in size, Germany has 5 Lakh employers participating in their apprenticeship scheme while in India it is only 25000. The aim is to raise this number to atleast 1 Lakh in the near future. He said that there would be 9 skill sets imparted to the students  in the two major attributes viz General (6) and Technical (3) and that there would be a joint effort on the part of the board, employer and the trainee/ student to raise the standards of competency.

The trainees would be required to get 'above average' rating in atleast 3 skill sets.The final digital certificate to be issued would give full competency level of the trainee similar to that of a university certificate.The director said that the government was now concerned not with just the numbers trained but the quality of training imparted and the profficiency attained by the trainee.The four regional directors have been encouraged to visit countries like Germany where the apprentice model was working effectively so that we can pick up aspects for making our scheme more robust.

Another important initiative being planned is the cluster drive. Clusters would be made in various regions which would incude an important industrial area.As for example, Hosur industrial area would be in Krishnagiri district/ region  cluster where students from industrially backward areas can come and utlise the infrastructure available in Hosur.Similarly other industrial areas like Coimbatore would cater to the needs of the cluster of their region.

The talk by the regional director was followed by a practical session by Mr Kripa Shankar, asst director who explained the details of how to use the web portal by industrial establishments and other stake holders. At the end there was opportunity for a question - answer session for participants to seek clarification.

What I liked most about this interactive meeting was that we got information about what is happening at the ground level as against the government's declared vision of  "Skilling  India for Growth." In the absence of such information one is apt to presume that all this  is more about 'sloganeering' or hype with nothing much likely to come out of it in the end.But listening to Mr Ayyakannu gives us a clear feeling of a seriousness of purpose.This was also evident from the body language of the regional director.One could sense the pride in his voice when he stated that apprenticeship training and skilling has finally found an important  place in the annual  budget of the country.

I am happy I attended this meeting. For me it was like a connecting the dots session that gave information and features of the national web portal. It threw light on the plans of  how all the stake holders will  work effectively and in coordination for realizing the vision of "Skilling India for Growth."

Friday, 3 June 2016

Human Resource Management in Indian context- New Approaches, New Methods and New Systems

In the year 1991, when Mr D.R..Nagaraj was the National President of the National Institute of Personnel Management, the privilege to host the  national conference was awarded to the city of Mysore, perhaps the first time that a national event was being organized in a smaller city. There was a lot of excitement and new initiatives were announced. One of them was organizing the first National Competition for young Personnel Executives on the subject "Human Resource Management in Indian context- New Approaches, New Methods and New Systems ".  I was then working at Bhadravathi (a  small town 250 kms from Bangalore)  for the Visvesvaraya Iron and Steel Ltd, a unit that had around that time become a subsidiary of SAIL.

I was very excited to get the green signal to be part of the two member team representing VISL in the competition. The cut off for eligibility was 35 years which meant that I was in the border and would not be eligible for future competitions.It is another matter that it turned out to be the first and last Young PEX competition organized by NIPM. My team member, S.D.Tripathi who had recently joined us  from another SAIL plant was younger. we complemented each other, Tripathi with  innovative inputs and I with my writing skills for preparing the write up .we jointly made the physical  presentation at the competition.

Right from the discussion stage, both of us were clear that we would be true to the topic and come out with new approaches, methods and systems although it would be tempting to go after bulky text books to get adequate material (Today's time, a wonderful friend would have been the internet).In any case, being in a small town, our access to such books was very little

.I am now reproducing below the write up / written document submitted to the organizors for acceptance and on which our presentation was based.

"It is observed of late that employees are leaving the work spot before completion of the working hours of the shift.Employees are hereby directed not to leave the workspotbefore the end of shift. The sectional heads are advised to exercise strict control and take suitable disciplinary action against erring employees under the standing orders,"

The approach in the above communication is based on the belief that employees can be managed only by control and vigilance.It presupposes that the natural tendency of workmen is to shirk work and responsibility.

In the Indian context,such an approach seems to have taken roots and survived by and large on account of the following factors:-

1 Large Population

A large population implies that there are too many people for too few jobs. Hence irrespective of aptitude or interest, a person takes up any job he can get. Further there is also pressure on the employer to employ less suitable or deserving candidates.Hence motivation is a casualty from day one. The employer tends to view his employees as lacking in initiative and may well see coercion and persuasion as the only way of managing them.In view of a large supply as against the demand, the employer tends to take his workmen for granted and not treat them with respect. The docile and illiterate initial population of workmen helped to reinforce this approach.

Lack of integration of the industry into the Indian culture

An employee in the industry basically has no attachment to it unlike as in the case of agriculture.He sees it as a source of livleihood.He is not particularly concerned about the health and problems of the organization he works for.

As against this, agriculture is not only a source of livelihood but a way of life.The joys, sorrows and dreams of the farmer is linked to it. Culturally and socially his life is linked to his work. His festival time is harvest time.

In many companies in India the approach continues to be that of control and vigilance.Some of these companies are dominated by sceptics who believe that new approaches in HRD will not work "in our company." There are also companies where there has been no change in the approach, method or systems except for renaming personnel departments as HRD departments.

There have however been a few companies that have adoptd new approaches, methods and systems after considerable deliberations as  response to changing times. There are also a few companies which all the while had a humanistic approach and had not believed in the concept of command and  control  but have not gone in for new systems merely for the sake of change.

The scenario then is a mixed bag with most companies in India not having realized the need to keep up with the changing times for meeting new challenges.


The control and vigilance approach although appearing to be successful in the initial days of industrialisation,has proved to be ineffective today.It is seen that in the absence of an integration of the individual objectives & expectations and the objectives & expectations of the organisation success is not possible in the long run. Today decisions cannot be merely handed down.We must also be willing and able to give explanations for the decisions in the absence of which there tends to be hostility, lack of identification and cooperation from the employees.If this is the position today,the situation is going to be all the more difficult in the future for the 'control and vigilance' approach to handle.

New  Approaches

It is high time that the detachment an Indian workman feels towards his organisation is replaced by involvement and devotion.The Indian farmer has a strong bond bordering on reverence for his ancestral land. We need to work for developing the same attachment between the indian worker and his organisation.

The following changes in approach are suggested for achieving the basic objective of Human resources management namely "creating and sustaining a productive environment."

  • A Humane approach in dealing with employees
It is essential to see the employee as a partner and treat him with respect in all matters as one would a partner. It is only then that a  commitment can be ensured from him  for his  continuous improvement and in turn  prosperity of the organisaion.

  • Development of each employee to his full potential  
Human resources are to be seen as the real strength and asset of the organisation . Following this approach in letter and spirit ensures growth of individual employees and the organisation as a whole.

  • Integration of industry in to the culture of the Indian society
A sense of belongingness and attachment of the employee to the industry and the organisation that he is working for is achieved by such integration. This would entail active participation of the industry in the cultural aspects of the workman and the society that he lives in.


A system can be defined as a framework for accepting inputs, processing it and getting desired results. In the background on new approaches being discussed, there is a change involved in the systems as well, since systems are a derivitive of the basic approach.

An idea of the system of communication presently existing in many organisations can be seen from the example given in the beginning of this write up. It only provides a provision to inform and does not expect any feedback from the recipients as borne out by the tone and tenor of the communication.Poor speed in communication and impersonal language are characteristics that need to be addressed.

To enhance effectiveness of Human Resources Management the systems need to be reviewed in various areas such as training, recruitment,industrial relations,performance appraisal, incentive and manpower planning. Given the time constraints, the scope of this paper will however be restricted to suggestions on a new communication system.

New Communication System

We have seen that one of the major limitations in the present communication system is the absence of feedback built in to the system. we suggest a new system which provides for communication both ways. The 'Open communication system' will have a central  communication cell as its nucleus at the organisational level consisting of six  members representing various functions viz production, maintenance, administration, mateials, finance etc.They will serve the cell for a period not exceeding two years. Being the nerve centre, the cell will receive and give out all information pertaining to the company.

There will be Mini cells at the departmental level consisting of  3 to 4 members.The mini cell will receive information on a regular basis on policy matters, production targets,financial position of the company etc and  in turn will pass it on to their colleagues in the department. They will also collect feedback in the form of opinions and feelings of their colleagues and submit to the central communication cell. The central communication cell will report to the chief executive of the organisation.

It is also suggested that additionally once in six months a periodic communication exercise be organized  inviting cross sections of employees to attend and interact with the functional heads and chief executive of the company.

New Methods for implementing New Communication System

 The six  member central communication cell shall be carefully selected ensuring they possess (a) Good communication skills (b) Integrity (c) Interest & enthusiasm in the assignment (d) Service orientation.
The selected persons are to be given further training which will also provide clarity as to their role and significance to the overall effectiveness of the organisation.
The cell will have frequent interaction with the mini cells and will also play the role of follow up where action is to be taken by the management based on feedback received from the employees.

The 3-4 member Mini Cell is to be constituted in the same meticulous manner ensuring that the criteria mentioned above is satisfied.On receiving information from the Central communication cell or feedback from employees, the members of the Mini cell will first discuss the subject amongst themselves in order to be very clear themselves and to avoid distortion of any kind while transmitting the information. The Mini cell members will pass on information received in an informal manner through one to one interaction with employees during tea break, lunch time or rest time.The informal atmostphere will also encourage employees to genuinely and honestly express their feelings and opinion.

The periodic  communication exercise shall be of one day duration and organised by the training department once in six months attended by 100 employees. Four topics on matters of concern for the organisation and employees will be introduced  in the first half  which will be followed by concurrent discussions. 25 participants randomly identified will discuss and debate for a solution on each of the 4 topics.In the afternoon the solutions and suggestions that emerged in the discussion will be presented in the full house of 100 employees in the presence of CEO and the functional heads.

New Approach, system and methods for Cultural Integration/ Employee Belongingness & commitment.

For better integration of industry to the Indian culture and ethos, the following  are suggested. Introduce a "Groom your Workmen" scheme under which 50% of future vacancies of entry level of workmen is earmarked. Boys in the age group of 15 to 16 years with an aptitude for the industry are selected under the scheme, The further education and training in the polytechnic etc will be planned and monitored by the company which will meet the entire expenditure in this connection.

The candidates are periodically invited into the plant and encouraged to understand and associate with the nitty gritties of the job they would be doing on appointment after completion of education. This ensures that the candidates return on regular appointment to a work place that is not alien but familiar and comfortable.

Celebration of Industries Day every year similar to the harvest festival ( Makara Sankranthi / Pongal / Baisakhi / Onam) celebrated in various parts of the country at the end of the agricultural process  symbolising the joy and gaiety on realizing the fruits of labour.

Celebrated regularly, the industrial workman will begin to identify more with his organization/ industry and also see the connection between his efforts and the celebration.1st of April, every year when the financial year comes to an end can be celebrated as Industries day by the entire industrial fraternity.

Similarly, since festivals are an integral part of Indian life, participating in the major festivals of the region would contribute to the cause of cultural integration with employees.

Being responsive to the regional pulls and local cultural needs of employees  would contribute to a good rapport between the management and workmen and elicit sense of belonging and commitment.Industry has been grappling with the problem of absenteeism during the marriage season and major festivals.In this connection, it is suggested that these aspects be factored in while planning production.

The said period can be utilised for planned maintenance shutdowns and repairs with limited manpower. Since the matter has been planned, the employee can be sanctioned leave without heartburn. The employee also avails leave with a peace of mind with a  feeling  that his employer  appreciates his social and cultural needs.

We have suggested new Approahes, Systems and Methods,Yet it is seen that  as a country, we are not lacking in ideas,The challenge is to put them in action.we are confident that applying these will in the long run reap rich dividends..
 Based on the above paper, Tripathi and I set out in May 1991 for Mysore full of excitement and expectations.we found that the organisors had received enthusiastic response for the first ever Young PEX competition and were grappling with the manner of zeroing in on the finalists of the competition. Last minute arrangements of judges from among academicians and practitioners , in a small city of Mysore was a major challenge  As per the format designed by them, two member judging panels would listen to a fifteen minute presentation by a team of two.At the time of presentation, only the judges and presenting team would be in the room ( not even other contesting teams). Around ten teams shortlisted in this manner would make their final presentation before an audience of students, contestants and a five member judging panel.

As we made our presentation in the preliminary round, we felt encouraged by the smiles, body language and generally approving manner of the judges. However we were not selected to the next/ final leg of the competition. I was disappointed not only for the reason that we were not selected but because of the fact that all our efforts were made for the viewing of just  two people.If there was an audience as in the final round, atleast a few could come up and say "hey you presented some interesting ideas." Not being  in the selected lot, our write up would also find their way to the dustbins.

In the finals, presentations were made and winners selected but what we felt missing was the "new" approach/ systems/ methods. Quite a bit of it, with impressive diagrams and charts looked straight out of  attractive text books on subjects such as performance appraisal, buzz word at that point of time...

I am thankful to the almighty for this opportunity, so many years later to find  readers for our effort through this blog.


The national conference that included the young PEX competition was successfully completed.The finale was  the socialising dinner (that included cocktail)  with delegates from all over the country.While my  team member and I were moving around meeting people, having had a couple of drinks,  whom do we see at the other end of the room- one of our judges! I told my friend "Let's go ask him what are the aspects we need to improve to do better next time.." Tripathi was reluctant initially but we moved towards him.

Embarrassment was clearly writ on the face of the gentleman. I told him "Do you remember us? You are one of  the two people who saw our presentation.whole through the presentation. both of you were smilling, nodding and generally seemed happy with our presentation. What do you think we need to improve?"

"It's not me.I liked your presentation ..."  he fumbled.." It's him. He was adamant you should not be selected. It seems in the seventies, he had requested your company VISL  for a project work opportunity but they turned him down at the last minute. I am sorry... I was helpless..."

We left the poor man in mid sentence,saving him from further embarrassment. Yet, his explanation spoke a lot of not just one 'judge' but about  two 'judges'  and a lot more of the state of affairs? ...