Sunday, 12 August 2012

Maruti's Manesar Miseries - a Human Resource Perspective

Maruti Suzuki. The nation's passenger automobile pride. 

All was going well and Maruti was thriving in the market with new models and a proud palpable presence on the India roads.  The company was in news for all the good reasons until recently. The recent unrest at the Manesar plant is not the first of its kind. It is the fourth in a year. The plant has been facing labor disquiet for decades and unrest for the past few years. Maruti is being managed by the all dedicated Japanese Management now. Japanese have a reputation for dedication to work and make it a culture in their organizations. Then why this unrest and arson?

Reasons cited vary from cut throat political motives wrapped in caste clashes to cross border armed campaign to destabilise the national economic growth. The employee disquiet has been brooding for decades due to unfavourable labour policies which are unlike Japanese management. While taking a close look we can figure out that the Japanese management succumbed to the pressure of external forces and nodded to some uneasy practices in hiring contract labourers. It failed to inculcate the company's work culture and ethos into those people, as the contractors were expected to hire people who are fit to fit into the Maruti-Suzuki system and pull on. 

The contractors, money minded as always, hired people fit enough to do the job and it is not their job to inculcate the ethos of MSI into the people. The contract workers were being paid the salary after the contractors took their cut. Their personal issues would be dealt with by the contractors and not by the company's HR.  Any leaves or absences would be intimated to the contractors and the statutory benefits  would not come into picture as in the case of a regular employee. The contract employees would not enjoy the pay and perks that a regular employee of the company enjoys while they do the same work under a stringent system of penalty. 

It is human to get irritated when two people doing the same kind of job but getting different pay. The one gets lesser will be motivated to be callous towards the job and this attitude would spread like a vice, as it is one. Callousness ends up with a slipping performance which would end up in warnings and disciplinary actions in the case of contract labourers while in case of regular employees the company gives an option of retraining, counselling etc through the HR. Contract labourers do not get the benefits of training on the job unless it is absolutely necessary due to some process change or improvement. 

From the management stand point there are some mistakes too. In a zeal to get the productivity maximised, the management has introduced some extreme productivity measures. The break timings were impossible to follow, with 7.5 minutes to walk nearly half a kilometre and back to work on the 7.6th minute. Late comers were questioned in undignified manners putting them into humiliation. 

The argument that the equi-wage policy was not followed and that caused the labour unrest is a post-mortem analysis. The management should have ensured that the labour is being given a decent salary by the contractors who grabbed a big cut for themselves from the amount paid by the company. Even from a pure productivity stand point, restless workers cannot do the job well and the non-cooperative attitude spreads negative vibes through the work force. The workers were not able to trust the management who went on the treat the workers as resources conveniently passing the humanity buck to the contractors who supplied these Human Resources.

Well, from the management view point, this is a  clear case of employee disengagement and management dis-articulation. The employees were asking for a wage rise from a shocking unequal salary. The permanent employees were getting around INR 21000/- per month while the contract labourers were getting only INR 7000/- per month for doing the same work. This is provocatively discriminatory and becomes the duty of the management to set things right here to ensure smooth sailing of the economic activity.

Management has to give employees a level playing field and encourage competition. Instead we have purely money minded cost cutting plans, mostly applied only to lower level of hierarchy.  Such plans wreck havoc in the life plans of employees who get severely affected by such cuts. They have to bear the sorrow unspeakable caused by such cuts in their social and personal lives since we live in a continuously inflationary economy in India and a visibly volatile one around the world, watched by allegedly intentionally inert Government with a palpably paralysed policy.

This will definitely lead to a situation that businesses and investors look around for conducive places for their economic activities. Labourers would follow suit in search of self economic welfare. And finally the inertia will kill the system of the political set up.

This situation  emanates the feel that all is not well and thus people tend to act out of the  frustration caused by such feel. Anti-social elements use such feel and carry out acts of violence and destruction, thus putting the economic activity in constant danger and further spoil the already ill at ease labour-management relationship.

यत्र विधा गमो नास्ति
यत्र नास्ति धनाजम:।
यत्र चात्म सुख न्नास्ति
नतत्र दिवसं वसेत्

- नीथि शास्त्रम् 

The above given verses from the ancient Justice regulations for the society means:

If don't find in a place, any one of the important aspects of worldly human life viz. Education, Wealth and Comfortable life, don't live there even for a day.
People will definitely move on from places where they cannot find the basics means to lead a comfortable human life.
Here I remember an incident from Mahabharatha I read in Tattvaloka. In an article about Employee engagement, the author referred to an incident from Mahabharatha where Bhagwan Shri Krishna had told Arjuna to hold the enemy at bay for a while and drill the ground with arrow for water. The reason being the horses were getting tired and He had to  water them and rest them for refreshment. 

It was a WAR. In the middle of the war field the Man who donned the role of a non-playing captain of the Pandava forces instructed His trusted General to hold fort till the horses get refreshed to start the run again.  Some thing unheard of in the modern warfare. Not even the soldiers were given proper rest to get themselves refreshed for the next round of fight. We have the much quoted saying "everything" is fair in love and war. 

Bhagwan Shri Krishna set an example of how a master shall take care of his subjects, be it humans or animals. As a charioteer He was responsible for the welfare of the warrior and horses as well. He cannot ignore the horses to serve the purpose of the furious warrior whom He inspired to fight the opponents for the cause of the eternal righteousness (Sanathana Dharma). 

Likewise, it is the duty of the HR department to  ensure the welfare of the employees irrespective of their position and the relevance of their relationship with the company. Had this practise been followed, we could have avoided several labour-management conflicts, especially surely this brutal death of the HR manager at Maruti-Suzuki. 

To avert such a situation we have to create an environment of Madhuvan, a place governed by passion and devotion. We have an adage work is worship. In such a place, the employees have dedication and devotion towards the work (not to the bosses, of course) since their needs and requirements are taken care of and the work environment is friendly and pressure free. 

Nowadays, we consider business as war and  teach "Art of war" as management principle. But we forget to take care of our soldiers and keep them constantly in the war fatigues which makes them fatigued and erodes much needed enthusiasm. Any over worked human will have his own mental tension and is bound to make mistakes. 

The managers instead of resolving of the root cause of the problem, impose more regulations which adds to the burden of the employees and ends up in situations of unspeakable unease. 
Understanding what motivates and employee and ensuring he/she gets that is the best way to retain best talent and thus grow good business. 

Customers are Kings. Agreed, your Majesty! But the Generals serving the Kings have the duty of taking care of their soldiers to keep the Kings, Kings always.  


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dimpy roy said...

Nice post. Transformed from a sombre cluster of villages to an up and coming industrial hub, it has become a popular getaway destination in the NCR region. Check out all best hotels in Manesar also.

dimpy roy said...

Nice post. Transformed from a sombre cluster of villages to an up and coming industrial hub, it has become a popular getaway destination in the NCR region. Check out all best hotels in Manesar also.