Article (October-2017)


Sleeping with open eyes

Pawan Kumar Singh

Designation : -   Asst. Mgr. (Personnel)

Organization : -  SAIL-ISP, Burnpur, West Bengal


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Metallica Steel Company, a steel behemoth with five plants across India is passing through a patchy phase because of low demand of steel, high raw material price, high wage bill, low productivity and emergence of new players in the market. The company is reeling under tremendous loss because of cheap Chinese import in the Indian steel market. Poor management of these units/plants compounded the problem further.
Metallica steel company have high hope on its Shivsagar (Karnakata) unit as it is its biggest green field plant with annual production capacity of 5 million Ton of crude steel, highest by any single unit in the country.
Mr. Tanishq Wardhan has been appointed as GM (Personnel) for its Shiv Sagar unit. Before his current assignment, he was GM (Personnel) at Tosibha Steel India Ltd. with head office in Tokyo, Japan.
He reached office at 9 A.M. He was received by ED (P&A) Mr. Aman Verma. After briefing him about the company and personnel department, ED (Personnel) took him to CEO Mr. Abhigyan Prakash. CEO was pleased to meet the new GM (Personnel). He asked GM (Personnel) to have lunch with him. During Lunch the CEO discussed the difficulties and the challenges faced by the company. He suggested the GM to spend time with HODs/Line managers, employees at shop floor and identify the factors hindering the performance of the organization and come up with possible solutions.
Next three days, GM (Personnel) interacted with the HODs/Line Managers of various departments. During his interaction he found that all most all the HODs were giving "shortage of manpower" as one of the reason for the poor performance of their department. They requested the GM to expedite the recruitment process of the company. They also requested to engage more contract workers to meet the shortage of regular employees. They also showed concern for "the lack of welfare facilities at the shop floor."
Next 7 days, GM (PL) interacted with employees (regular and contract) at shop floor, employee unions and Industrial engineering department. Next, he decided to meet the officers of personnel department.
He called DGM (PL) Mr. Deepak Sood, in his cabin and offered him a cup of coffee.
GM - Mr. Sood tell me the burning issues which keeps you engaged the most?
DGM - Sir, Welfare measures across the plant.
GM - What are the welfare measures and why it is difficult for us to provide them?
DGM - Sir, welfare includes, rest room, toilets, drinking water, and canteen etc. we have installed A.C., fan, air coolers, water coolers, water purifiers, but the employees never own them. They never care for them as a result most of the time these electronic gadgets are out of gear and the onus lies on personnel department to get it repaired on urgent basis. Since personnel department do not have AMC, we have to depend upon the agencies like ACVS, utilities, water management, civil maintenance etc. to carry our repairing and maintenance. As a result we fail to address the issues on time.
GM - Ok, whatever you are saying is a temporary solution to the problem. Have you ever thought of any permanent solution to the existing problem of welfare measures?
DGM - No Sir.
GM - You and your team are spending a lion share of time in welfare measures but still the problem refuses to die. This is really unfortunate and does not show any professionalism at your end. What else is bothering you?
DGM - Some of the personnel officers' particular the junior officers are not abiding by our instructions.
GM - What is the reporting structure of junior personnel officers?
DGM - Junior Manager (personnel) reports directly to DGM. We do not have any officers in middle management level as there was no recruitment for 20 years. Junior officers are the fresh batch of management trainees joined 2-3 years back.
GM - Call all the personnel officers, I would like to meet them one by one.
DGM - Ok Sir, I will arrange the meeting.
GM called Asst. Manager (personnel) Rakesh Kashyap in his cabin.
GM - Rakesh are you enjoying your work? What else can be done to make your job interesting?
Rakesh - I am working in one of the best organization of the country. But frankly speaking I am not enjoying my work. I am always asked to visit toilets, canteen, drinking water points, and rest rooms to check if they are in order. If not, then I have to write letter to concerned agencies to get these rectified. I am not saying that I don't want to do this. But I should also be given the responsibility where I can use my creativity and my managerial acumen.
GM - Ok Rakesh, you may go. Please send Junior Manager (personnel), Mr. Evan Joseph inside my cabin.
Evan - May I come in Sir?
GM - Yes, come in. Please take you seat. Evan, I would like to know if any issues you have.
Evan - I have joined this organization two years back and till date I don't have place to sit. I don't have even computer and cabinets to keep my documents. Despite of this I work hard, Introduced new HR initiatives. I was felicitated with CEO excellence award. In spite of this, I was given lower rating in annual appraisal  because of the fact  that the higher rating were kept reserved for the senior officers and  for those whose  promotion were due.
GM - Evan you may go now. Please send Dy. Mgr., Ms. Archana Arya.
GM - Archana please feel free to say anything in your mind.
Archana - Sir, I am working in shop floor for the past 10 years. There are other areas of personnel department like HRIS, contract labour cell, OD, and recruitment etc. where I can contribute. Same Job profile for the last 10 years has made my job boring and monotonous.
I am the personnel officer of power plant. Power plant has a canteen. I have to initiate action whenever there is power cut, fault in electrical appliances, disruption of water supply, sanitation, choking of drains etc. of the canteen. I have to check the quality of food served through customer feedback and inspection but I am never involved in the process of awarding contracts of canteen, its terms and condition, short listing of contractors, drafting of contracts etc. Even I do not have any say in deciding its menu. Sometimes I feel cheated. We have spent crores over the canteen, but still we are struggling to provide quality canteens at various locations inside the plant.
GM - Who is in-charge for canteen? Who are the members of canteen committee?
Archana - Mr. Ajit Menon, (DGM-Personnel) but we don't have any committee to run the canteen.
GM - How long he has been holding the responsibility of canteen?
Archana - For the past 15 years.
GM - Archana, you may go now. It was nice talking to you. Please send other personnel officers together.
GM held a joint discussion with other junior officers. Following were the concerns of junior personnel officers:
1) Lack of cohesiveness and synergy among personnel officers.
2) Poor communication between superior and subordinates.
3) Lack of strong leadership. 
After the interaction with all the junior officers, he called all the senior officers of the personnel department.
GM - Good evening to you all. I have called you all to share my concern. Can you guess what my concern is? During my interaction with senior and junior personnel officers, one thing if have concluded is that "senior officers are neither able to work with the juniors nor are able to control them". I don't know what is the reason behind this is. I would like to know from each one of you in writing, the reasons behind the same. Our junior officers are well educated and have tons of potentials. We should motivate them rather than discourage them.
Next evening he called meeting of all the general managers of the plant. In the meeting he interacted with General Managers on the issue of manpower.
GM Personnel to GM power plant - Please tell me how you have assessed your manpower to run the power plant?
GM (Power Plant) - Neither I have assessed nor we have Industrial Engineering department for the same. Before the commission of our new plant, a team comprising three DGM had gone to a similar plant (Taxila Steel) in Kolkata to study their manpower requirement. Our assessed manpower has come from the manpower assessment of Taxila Steel.
GM (Personnel) - Strange. How come you can say that the manpower assessment of Taxila Steel is right? Currently we have 11 grades at staff level (S-1 to S-11) and 7 grades at executives. As per your data, manpower requirement of power plant is 592 (517 staff and 113 executives). Can you tell how many staff and executive you need at each grade/designation level?
GM (Power Plant) - Frankly speaking, I cannot say with accuracy that Taxila Steel's manpower assessment is right and I don't have grade wise manpower requirement.
GM (Personnel- to GM Mills) - Please tell me how you have assessed your manpower to run the mills?
GM (Mills) - There was an assessment by a committee formed in year 1989. We are following that assessment for our current manpower requirement.
GM (Personnel) - Manpower assessment done in 1989 is being used in 2017. Don't you think it is strange?
GM (Mills) - May be. New technology has been implemented in many areas but still things have not changed much since 1989.
GM (Personnel) - During my visit to BOF, I found your regular employees sitting idle. More shocking, some were found sleeping and some were watching videos on their mobile in the rest room. Multi skilling is an elusive concept when your employees are not doing their regular jobs.
GM (Personnel to GM-CCP) - How do you determine the jobs to be out sourced/to be done by the contract workers. 60% of the jobs meant for the regular employees have been out sourced by you.
GM (CCP) - Jobs to be outsourced are determined by us based on the recommendation of various sectional heads of the department. There is no point in getting any help from Industrial Engineering department as it is defunct. Yes, there is no denying fact we have out sourced 60% of jobs meant for regular employees. The only reason behind that was shortage of regular manpower.
GM (personnel) - All most all the shop floor activities are being carried out by contract workers. Strength of contract workers are double the strength of your department. A major chunk of regular staff do not obey line managers when they are asked to carryout shop floor activities beyond their self - made job profile. Employees are taking their superiors/managers for granted. 15% of your regular employees are habitual absentees. Archaic Standing Orders and poor handling of disciplinary actions by the management have made the employees fearless. We don't have control on our employees.
He concluded the meeting with the bottom line that there is no shortage of manpower. Our employees are not being properly used. They are underutilized. Fresh recruitments, underutilized employees and large number of job contracts/contract workers are eating the profit of company severely.
After his observation, he submitted a report to CEO, on the major performance hindrance factors with possible solutions.
NB - Power Plant, BOF (Basic Oxygen Furnace), CCP - (Continuous Casting Plant) are the department of an Integrated Steel Plant.
Questions for Discussion:
1. How do you define the work culture of the organization?
2. What are the problems you can diagnose in the story?
3. What actions would you prefer to take had you been in place of GM - Personnel or CEO?
CASE STUDY - LACK OF OWNERSHIP & COHESIVENESS (Mihir Gosalia -  Manager - ISO & OHSAS,  Kesari Tours Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai)
1. How do you define the work culture of the organization?
As I understand there is no work culture in this organization, employees have taken the management for granted. Senior employees are equally responsible for this situation as much as the junior employees are. Junior employees are casual in their approach towards work and tend to take things for granted but it is for the senior management to bring them in order and provide them necessary guidance so that they can be productive and perform well in their respective job roles.
There is complete lack of ownership at almost all levels barring a few junior employees in personnel department who are trying to change the things. Also, there is clear lack of communication at all levels which is increasing the problem. Most of the employees are 'Actively Disengaged' as they do not take any pride in their work and they don't have any sense of belonging towards either the organization or its assets.
There is lack of cohesiveness within the team; leaders are not strong enough to get the work done from the team. It will not be wrong in saying that function heads are actually not bothered/aware about the organizational goals leave apart achieving them!
2. What are the problems you can diagnose in the story?
  • My diagnosis is as below :
  • Alignment at top leadership is missing.
  • Inter and Intra departmental communication is a big issue.
  • Ownership is an issue at all levels.
  • Problems are not being address on time and rather they are hidden under the carpet.
  • Everybody is trying to drive their personal agenda in the organization.
  • There is no basis on which workforce planning is done and hiring has been done haphazardly.
  • Staff level employees (workers) have shown high handedness which is completely unacceptable.
  • Talent of personnel officers is clearly wasted!
  • Contractual manpower is much more than regular manpower which is a big issue since regular manpower itself is not utilized appropriately.
3. What actions would you prefer to take had you been in place of GM - Personnel or CEO?
  • I would first put my house in order! i.e. Human Resources Department. I would have a meeting with all my team members and do the following :
  • Identify strong areas of each of my team members and assign them job role accordingly.
  • Clearly state what each one of them is suppose to do in writing.
  • Conduct daily reviews to monitor progress.
  • Conduct a workforce planning and capability exercise to identify the gaps in manpower planning.
  • I would ask my team members to walk the floor and win confidence of lower most employee (I would myself also do this once in a while to assess ground reality).
  • Ask my team to have clear focus on employee welfare and make employees understand the value of company assets.
For a HR Head it is also important that he wins the confidence of his function heads, it is only then that they will have trust in him and they will believe in his ability to solve their issues. To do this I will do the following :
  • Organize a weekly meeting with all function heads to discuss their issues.
  • Help them put a manpower plan in place keeping in mind current and future business strategy.
  • Slot their issues in two buckets - short term (which can be resolved now) and long term (which will need time to be resolved). By doing this, we will focus on what is 'here' and 'now' rather than something which needs time!
  • Act as a bridge between them and top management to ensure there is synergy and both sides are on one page.
  • Ensure that there is a lot of cohesiveness within the function heads and that they are not working in silos which is currently the scenario.
Third and most important issue is contractual manpower vs. regular manpower. This can be addressed in the following manner :
  • HR along with function head has work on the manpower plan.
  • We will identify which roles can be outsourced and which roles can be given to regular employees.
  • If possible all roles should be given to internal employees.
  • We will do a skill assessment of internal employees to see whether they are scalable enough to meet future business requirements.
  • We will organize skill development workshops for these floor employees.
  • Engagement will be the focus on the floor and employee welfare will be given due importance.
  • We will launch rewards and recognition programs to appropriately reward good employees.
  • These employees will be jointly identified by HR and line manager.
  • Line managers will be trained to handle grievances effectively.
  • Slowly and steadily as regular employees fall in line, we will be able to do away with contractual manpower.
Last but not the least we will also focus on :
  • Succession Planning - We will work towards creating a strong second line leadership.
  • Training - Focus will be on training of line mangers & floor staff.
  • Coaching and mentoring of senior leaders.
  • Employee satisfaction.
  • Open forums with top management.
  • Weeding out non - performers through a systematic approach.