Article (July-2018)


Case Analysis I - Bring business as usual and be open for dialogue

Ketan Bhatt

Designation : -   Vice president, Services

Organization : -  Secure Meters Ltd., Udaipur


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1- First and foremost, it was a wrong step for the organization to make HR report to the Administration head, Mr. Gupta, who was although an old timer, but had his own views on HR matters and was capable of using dark tactics to turn down any good HR initiative that he did not like. Many companies make this mistake of putting HR functions in wrong hands.
Secondly, it is probably not the right IR solution to make all temporary staff permanent. Many a times, it is the right mix of permanent & contractual strength which is key to success. We have cases, where under strike by unionized permanent workmen, companies have been able to carry on with business as usual, although it may be on lower scale, by deploying staff & contractual workmen on shop-floor.
Thirdly, Mr. Saxena had great ideology and vision. But he could not truly take his boss, Mr. Gupta and other HoDs along side in implementing his idea of making temporary staff permanent. As a result, a great idea was implemented so badly and turned into a catastrophe. Plus both Mr. Saxena & Mr. Gupta failed to assess the magnitude of work involved in making the temporary workmen permanent in one go. It would have been far better to do this activity in small batches to make the whole process execute in much smoother manner without causing any cultural shock or over-burden of work to HR/Admin staff.
Since these workmen have already been working with the company under fixed term contract, there should have been deliberations regarding any real need for police verification or reference check. If it was really needed, it should have been proactively taken place before hand.
Removing some workmen without following thorough process was not appropriate.
Finally, Mr. Saxena failed to judge the politics & undercurrents by other HoDs, especially Admin HoD, Mr. Gupta. Under those circumstances, it was not appropriate to continue with his straight forward & transparent style leading to his own failure. He did not even escalate this to the promoters to raise the alarm in timely manner to avoid such eventuality.
2- Mr. Saxena started with great vision & ideology. However he failed in taking along the critical mass of the leadership team with him. His peers possibly became jealous of his influence and adopted politics and dark tactics to make him fail. Although he started getting these feelers, he did not escalate this matter to the top management to seek their involvement, direction and support.
Although Mr. Saxena is right in thinking that the union and its thought process will remain unchanged and will never raise above their century old convictions. But he fails to realize that the above factors led to turning their good, loyal & committed employees into a typical unionized work force.
3- In any IR situation, it is the company that ultimately suffers, causing pain to the promoters and all the staff & workmen. Hence, it is the utmost duty and responsibility of the management team to put up such matters to the highest level at an early stage and work in accordance with the direction.
Both Mr. Saxena as well as Mr. Gupta did not escalate this in timely manner and are primarily responsible for it. The rest of management team is also responsible since they did not support HR & Admin function at a critical stage.
4- Future course :
a. First step is to start the production. Be open and allow the interested genuine workmen to join the work. Keep trying this for some times.
b. Divert staff members/even managers to support production. If possible, engage contractual workmen for support activities.
c. Look at the possibility to shift some of the work to another unit. If not possible, explore possibility to sub contract some of the work to bring business as usual. As business as usual starts, it will stop hurting the organization. So, management will have patience & courage to take right steps.
d. Be open for a dialogue. But not with external union members and those who have spread violence and are under police action. Try and work closely with the reasonable, senior & respected workers, whom rest of the workmen will trust and let them take the lead for the masses.
e. If possible, bring in new HR face. Look at possibility to move Mr. Gupta to another unit & Keep Mr. Saxena away from these discussions directly.
f. Keep the dialogue on. Be kind to the workmen but also be firm to those things which are fundamentally not acceptable.
g. Once strike ends, establish linkages and keep a very close watch on the behaviour of workmen and act immediately in case of any need. Activate works committee under the leadership of right employees & let the dialogue with works committee members continue and become foundation of resolution of workmen's day to day problems to win back the trust and confidence of all the workers.