Article (May-2018)


Modern HR needs to move beyond rhetoric

Rajesh Kargeti

Designation : -   Vice President - HR

Organization : -  JPM Automobiles Limited, Greater Noida


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How do you see and define new age labour relations? How it differs from old age industrial relations dynamics, thought process and action approach?
RK In new age labour relations, workers are more political rather than working for real cause of workers. They are politically influenced by the political leaders to garner support for their own cause and strengthening their followings. In this process the cause of workers get diluted whereas in old age industrial relations concentration was more on genuine labour problems and improvement thereon. Workers would fight for food, increments, working hours, bonus, on time payments etc. which has now largely been addressed in new age by most of the companies and wherever it is not in practice, unrest is seen.
Do you think that Trade unions are slowly becoming irrelevant in this age of knowledge and digital economy, and if so, and what corrections they should make in their approach and perspective to stay relevant?
RK No, I don't think Trade Unions are becoming irrelevant. They still have power in our democratic set up and no government/political party will let this tool go from their hand nor is the digital economy going to impact it in our country. But in advance economies their ways of working have changed, faced with declining membership figures in few countries some unions have joined forces with others in an attempt to be more effective. Others yet have tried to modernise: in Britain, for example, UNISON, the second - largest union, now allows people to join online and has created an app which is popular with younger people. It has also changed the way; it markets itself to potential members, highlighting services such as free legal advice rather than just its ability to strike. It advertises in newspapers and on the television for joining them. But the pace of change in trade unions has often been slow. This trend is not universal. In some countries trade union membership has grown: Spain, Ireland and Luxembourg have all seen an uptick in members over the past three decades. Meanwhile there is scope for even more growth in emerging markets. Since 1981, when records for Chile began, the number of people who are members of a trade union there has more than doubled between 1992 and 2013.
To stay relevant they should remain helpful to the industry. Instead of causing sabotage/threatening, they should innovate decent ways of protest and comprehend the fact that their survival is possible only when industry survives and grow. Their undue and irrelevant move can be so dangerous for large number of workers & their families, industry and national economy at large.
Is Labour Day representing origin of collectivism losing its shine and if yes, why?
RK Labour Day was primarily invented to give a time off to the workers once in a year. Later it was used to demonstrate collectivism. Today, Labour Day is no longer about trade unionists marching down the street with banners and their tools of trade. Instead, it is a confused holiday with no associated rituals as the battle over the core issues would seem to have been won long ago.
Today, there seems to be no acute vengeance from workers side towards entrepreneurs and white collars as both prefer amicable ways to resolve issues. Education and increased awareness about the redressal procedures have played a great role in it.
In manufacturing sector, will robotics going to impact blue collar jobs negatively and if yes, what Proactive steps HR  should take in advance to maintain a fine balance in job opportunities and technology advancements?
RK Any revolution or technology update brings change. History has witnessed that such changes have more positive aspects than few negatives which cannot be ruled out. 
Due to robotic revolution, employees, who are in the firing line, are understandably worried. The concern is more about the transition pains. Most jobs that we will see being automated require different skill sets from those being created. Certainly robotics will reduce the number of people performing a job and it is meant for increasing cost effectiveness, productivity and precision.
Before HR plans to minimize the effect of number of jobs reduced, it is the law makers in education system that have to re-plan the education to be imparted which will make our future generation apt for using this robotic technology. The way we currently structure education may no longer be fit for purpose in a world where technology is changing so rapidly. The concern is that we are not updating our education, training and political institutions to keep up. If we don't move with the pace of technology we could end up leaving a lot of people behind. In our country we currently have a dichotomy where we believe that those who work should only work and do not provide them space to learn, and those who learn do not work. It is necessary to spend 70% of time doing job and 30% on learning on a regular basis. We must remain positive with robots with a belief that they will complement us, not replace us. HR may not be able to stop reduction of manpower vis a vis Robotic revolution as every organization wish to be cost effective.
How do you evaluate the objectivity and impact of labour reforms undertaken by Govt. on labour relations?
RK A good attention has been given by the Government in amending many statutory provisions in recent past. The objectivity is apparently to reform irrelevant laws vis a vis requirement of the current scenario. This should be a continuous process.
How dignity of job and respect for labour is enhanced in the industry?
RK To increase dignity of job and respect for labour, the organizations propagate through different modes as how important the work and the work performers are for the end users. In India the saying "Work is worship" is very common which denotes that work is embodiment of god. In one of my previous organizations I got 100% result in changing mindset of workers when I related their food manufacturing with the health of millions of people. Workers became very conscious when they knew any process violation may become a health hazard for a large chunk of people. This is one of the examples how one understands the dignity of job and respect for his/her job. The same is the case with any industry worker performing on various processes.
How do you evaluate the emerging scenario of labour management relationship in India?
RK In today's scenario Government is working hard to generate employment but Industries on their part are also eager to reduce the manpower and select highly skilled personnel who can perform multifarious functions single - handedly. Meanwhile continuous advent of new technology is not only making people obsolete but also the organizations which are working with old or conventional methods/technology.
Employees are unable to adjust with the new work ethics and procedures attached to their job, and they are feared about the loss of employment. Influx of cheap foreign goods and cut throat competition among various industrial units manufacturing similar products resulting in price war are leading to closure of many industries for the want of profit and finally leading to unemployment. This is how a very complex situation is emerging and if we fail in our attempt to emancipate the existing chaotic conditions of the workers who are losing jobs and their plights are not heard or redressed, and then we may see a grim situation of unemployment. Still, there are ample opportunities and resources on the part of the law makers to study and assess and take corrective action.
What qualities would you expect to see in modern HR managers that embrace ER skills and any message from you to the younger HR generation?
RK Modern HR managers need to have understanding of ground realities. They need to have understanding of the plight of poor, our social & value systems, economic conditions and political scenario which have virtual impact on employees working. Only by learning new jargons and tools of HR they will not be able to bring about change in people. A comprehensive understanding of Indian scenario and good sense of emotional intelligence coupled with proper application of HR tools will fetch desired results.
Simultaneously they also have the responsibility of advising management with emerging trends and their necessity for organizational growth.