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From Industrial relations to HRD

Anil K Khandelwal

Designation : -   Former Chairman and Managing Director

Organization : -  Bank of Baroda & Dena Bank, Mumbai


From Industrial relations to HRD

The CEO as a key designer and strategist in IR
Contrary to the popular belief that IR and IR strategies are largely shaped in response to demands from trade unions, my research, in fact, revealed that it is largely management strategies that shape the IR environment in the context of change in environment and in government policies. Apart from his, there are organisational variables that influence IR strategies, such as the power of the unions, management politics, the CEO's attitude and orientation towards the unions, and the immediate pressure of business. Thus, several environmental and organisational factors, in various combinations, influence managerial strategies in IR.
The key decisions in union - management relations are shaped and orchestrated by the CEO.
Exclusive focus on union leaders leads to dysfunctional consequences
Although the IR strategies at the Bank changed with each CEO, a common pattern is noticeable among them. The main focus of managerial strategies both in the pre-nationalisation and post-nationalisation periods was on neutralising labour militancy by extending favours and concessions to key union leaders, yielding to their pressures, and thereby ensuring industrial peace. The management's strategy to manage IR by focusing all its energies on key leaders of the unions led to a number of consequences, culminating in the creation of an adverse IR climate at the operating level.
Management strategies focusing entirely on key leaders of the unions alienate the general employees as they feel that management did little to reach out to them.
Role of the CEO in HR/IR:
He must engage with:
1. Policy formulation in HRM : Specify key dimensions of policy in relation to various sub - systems of HR, expectations, deliverables, and accountability of HR function. Like any other business function, HR policy document should be developed after wide - ranging discussions in the organisation. 
2. Upgrade and support the role of HRM function : Ensure that there is no ambiguity in the role of HRM functionaries. The research has pointed out that mere advisory nature of the role of HR creates several dysfunctionalities in the conduct of this function. 
3. Invest in innovative HR policies : Like every other area of business, HR gets its share of new technologies and practices and HR and senior line functionaries should always show keen interest in adopting such practices (Ulrich, 1990).
4. Developing operating managers : To have an appreciation of the big picture about the consequences of their actions and inculcate in them necessary soft skills to manage conflicts, build teams, and productively engage them. Successful line managers are the best source of creating future leadership pipeline.
5. Developing appropriate structure : To put in place an appropriate organisational structure in HR that is non - bureaucratic, tech - savvy with minimum hierarchies, and in tune with high-speed decision response to respond to people issues.
Leaders as Chess Master
The IR management in the Bank during the research phase appeared more akin to a chess master's role played by the CEOs from time to time, by meddling in the internal dynamics of the trade unions, buying their support and concessions, pampering them by splurging favours and concessions to contain labour militancy, reducing the power of individual leaders, and supporting rival groups in the unions. These moves and counter - moves of the CEOs were able to contain union militancy; and at other times, it was reduced to rather highly personalised win-lose game. This would fall into the classical game of chess playing in which there are victors and vanquished. While it is not disputed that the circumstances prevailing during the tenures of the respective CEOs would have prompted them to target individual union leaders, the important issue is that in this process, the leaders failed to craft any long - term actions led to chaotic IR at the operational levels and demoralisation of employees.
The management actions or inactions can be seen as moves and counter - moves mainly to either strengthen its own power or weaken the power of the trade union leaders. It became less between two institutions, namely, management and trade union, to settle issues of principles and more between the CEO and the leaders of the unions at the personal level, staking the fate of the organisation. This resembles the typical game of chess between two opponents, each one trying to defeat the other.
What Gardener-Leaders Need to Do?
1. Need to be clear about their priorities and redefine role and behaviour to transcend from overwhelmingly 'business mindset' to 'people and organisation mindset'. Also, they need to delegate their day-to-day temptation to engage with business and elevate themselves to leadership and culture crafting work.
2. Constantly work on structure, systems, processes, and people to create an enabling culture for work and help individuals to give their best and rise to their full potential.
3. Act as 'live-in coach' on the job to next - generation leaders, making their knowledge, experience, and wisdom available to them, stand by them during any crisis, and provide meaning in their lives.
4. Foster learning by encouraging creativity, engagement, and personal growth.
5. Guide their teams on the priorities of the organisation and ensure that the execution machinery remains in motion impeccably.
6. Encourage team excellence, which alone can maintain momentum for business.
The challenge before twenty - first century performance - maniac organisations is to create the breed of gardener-leaders. The challenge is a real daunting one to the leaders who are shaping the future of their organisations and want their organisations to flourish without jerks. Building leadership is not a choice but a part of their duty to create long - term future for their organisations. Leadership development is far more challenging than what is normally thought of. Leaders will need to foster intergenerational and intercultural teamwork. To be able to build competitive strength to face the ever - growing challenges, leaders will have to strengthen leadership inside their organisation. In fact, the organisation will be in great peril if today's leaders abandon this role.