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The era of informed workforce vs informed leaders



Anil Kaushik


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Many believe that technology, in a way, has fostered a better labour - organisation connect because of the perfect blend of logical and emotional approach in the interdependent relationship of the work world, while rest believe otherwise.

The world of work is changing and the dynamism is constantly reshaping the delineations of knowledge - driven economies and opposing the importance of Labour Relations. Is it time to rethink employee - employer relations in a different light? Yes, indeed, and more so as we take off on a digital journey…

May 1st is celebrated as the International Labour Day (International Workers Day or May Day) in many countries across the world, including India. This day is dedicated to labourers and the working class and celebrates their contribution. But, how significant is this day, now?

The advent of technology and digital media has brought about tactical changes in the labour relations, as it is viewed and understood today.

Many believe that technology, in a way, has fostered a better labour - organisation connect because of the perfect blend of logical and emotional approach in the interdependent relationship of the work world, while rest believe otherwise.

To understand the reality, we need to realize that, today, the workplace is no longer a game of power and supremacy, like it used to be, and managing the 'informed workers' require high calibre of 'informed leaders.'

Labour relations, balancing the change
In the coming years, there will be a new expectation from organisations to adapt to change even quicker than they are currently doing. Therefore, the task of an HR professional is only getting difficult in an informed economy where labour is educated, opinionated, ambitious and connected.

The labour relation policies, thus, need to be flexible enough that it can outdo geographies, age groups and situations and yet be sturdy enough to upheld and preserve the values and culture of the organisation.

Here, the key challenge for organisations will be to renovate the challenges and limitations into opportunities for improved labour relations. The recent technological advancements have changed the scope of labour relations and has extended its limit from the purview of workplace.

Talk of the organised sector most employees have access to social networking websites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. at work and many are even allowed to access personal email and to bring their own device. The disadvantage to this open culture and access to information are issues related to privacy and protection of intellectual property, data theft, cybercrime, etc.

Every challenge has a solution
To combat these challenges and to address these loopholes educating and sensitizing the labour has become extremely crucial. There is an urgent need to go back to the rule book and establish new standards, norms and principles of the employer - employee relationship model, especially when there is an increased engagement of contractual workforce across organisation and functions.

There is a need to review and renew the trade union system in India to monitor, manage and support the cause of the contractual workforce in the country. This group of people is still largely unorganized and there are few organised institutions to take up their cause. Hence, this group often aches a feeling of meagerness and constant denial by the employers, as it grows the cases of violence surface.

The trade unions in India also require to revisit their own operating models and try to engage themselves pro-actively in this changed labour relations scenario.

Structural transformation has to be better harnessed to promote good labour relations. The government should extend social protection to workers, especially those who fall outside the formal economy and make the existing social protection systems more cohesive across industries and organisations.

The future that will be
With the advent and proliferation of social media, there is a lot of disconnect in terms of how the labour and employers behaves, speaks, dresses and manages the day-to-day dealings in office.

The respect, mannerism, hierarchy and the code of conduct at workplace has undergone a sea change. Thus, we are seeing a huge shift in the workplace situations. Organisations must brace up for the transformation and move towards an approach which helps to maintain the workplace synchronization and sanctity of the labour - employer relationship.

HR professionals have a greater opportunity here, to assist organisations and leaders to embrace technology, adapt to new work models, etch out and abide by new norms and encourage positive changes at workplace and in the society, at large.