Saturday, May 19, 2012

Why Indian Employers Fail to Get the Best From Their Employees ?

More than three decades ago, while I was still in the campus, I had great aspirations for the future that I would be having as a responsible employee of the organization where I would be joining later. At that time, I was not much sure which would be the organization that I would be joining. There was not much opportunity to understand the work cultures of the various organizations who were hiring young engineers like me for their work. 

From hearsay, we were knowing about a few large PSU companies and a few public limited companies in the private sector in our country who had been considered as good choices for the best students. Besides, the central government also hired fresh engineers from the conventional engineering disciplines for serving the civilian or military services.

The main information source for us to know about the organization was the advertisements that they used to publish for various purposes including those for selection of their fresh management trainees either in technical or non-technical streams. The advertisements used to be really attractive.
So the company where I joined was a very reputed one which used to take fresh engineers almost every year in batches through a recruitment process that was pretty impressive.

They also had an elaborate training programme for the freshers which included regular class room studies, examinations and the like held in dedicated training institutes. A few other companies also followed this methodology. The idea was to give the young recruits an overall idea about the company's activities and to give a familiarisation about its various departments and their functions.

All during this time there was nothing that gave the realities of the company's working to the freshers. The realities the fresh employees actually faced after they were posted to the actual area of posting.

The rest of the story is more or less universal in India as far as big companies are concerned.

In big companies, posting of employees, both in the executive and non-executive category, is done on a casual manner. In a majority of cases, the posting of persons are done arbitrarily without any planning. No real study is ever conducted to assess the actual need based requirements of various skills both at the staff / workmen levels or at the managerial levels.

The departments and the people to whom they are directed to report for work are pretty unaware most of the cases about such postings. It would be the task of the person to whom the people are directed to report to find and fetch essentials like table, chair, cabin, working tools, etc, etc and also the type of work he/she has to perform. Often it takes months for the organization to arrange these things for the newcomer. The newcomer also may have to fetch for the work he or she may have to carry out in the organisation.

Two kinds of orientation and attitude develop in the newcomer during this time.

If the person joined in a place where he or she was actually needed and where the department provided all the necessities for the persons further adaptation and work in the organization, the person grows with a positive attitude and a feeling of belongingness to the organization.

Otherwise the person soon learns various kinds of survival techniques to pull on in the organization. He or she becomes a part of what is known as departmental politics ! Survival in the organization becomes the main agenda of the person rather than contributing for the larger interests of the organization with a positive attitude. 

Let me elaborate these things with one or two real examples.

The first place where I got posted as a junior officer was a Captive Thermal Power Plant of our company whose business is production and marketing of saleable steel products. I was posted as the officer in charge of a section of the thermal power plant which was getting ready for commissioning. My section comprised of a water de-mineralization plant (DM plant in short) and a chemical laboratory for ensuring various chemical quality control that are required for the power plant.

The DM plant was being constructed by a company on turn-key basis under the consultancy of a reputed public sector engineering consultancy company.

When I was posted as the first line officer of this section, I was told to report to a person who is designated as the head of the department of the new power plant. He was a person with years of experience in boiler operation and maintenance. The first day of our meeting, he said point blank to me that he did not know any thing about DM plants or laboratories and it would be my responsibility to find out and organise the section the way it should be to carry out the functions of the power plant in the near future. In this case, I was required for the organization though the organization didnot know much about my job that I was supposed to do.

I had never seen a power plant before that !

I had never studied about these things during my engineering college days !

I did not know how many people would be required to do the various activities of my section and what would be their jobs.

It was a hard self learning. I had no one to ask for guidance. Yet, I was successful in organising my section, getting and training the people, getting the various kinds of tools, tackles, materials and the like, both for the plant and the laboratory and making my section perform well during the commissioning and post commissioning years of the power plant.

During those days, I found certain procedures of the company very ridiculous and illogical. It was easier for me to procure a atomic adsorption spectrometer costing millions which was not very essential for the work rather than procuring a shelf or typewriter essential for my work which costed only a few thousands. 

If I wanted a person having a chemistry background for doing my laboratory work, there was all likelihood of getting a person experienced in welding work posted for doing the work of the chemist !

It was easy to procure a truckload of caustic soda, but difficult to procure a bottle of ink !

It was easy to get people posted, but was difficult to get chairs or tables for them for working !

Later I find this kind of irrationality in all walks of life in all kinds of organisations in India.

I was interested to find the reasons for these.

For mundane things many organizations have set up centralized agencies. These centralized agencies are manned by people who are problem creators or unwanted elsewhere.

For example, many organizations  have a centralized procurement and distribution system for office furniture and consumables like paper, pen, etc. The person responsible for this work has to see that all others are getting these essential requirements in time and in required quantities. The idea is good. But imagine the situation when this responsibility is discharged by an irresponsible person ! What normally happens is that such persons would make all out efforts to make those in higher positions happy and satisfied by fulfilling their requirements, even unjustified sometimes and in that process gains such courage to discard the genuine demands of all others in the organization. The organization suffers in the long run !

One of my friends working for an American company told me that this kind of things are rare in that country. Perhaps that may the case in all good companies. But I can say that this is the case in most of the large Indian organizations which are generally perceived as not so good by the employees and other stake holders. For smaller organizations, the problem may be of a different type but similar.

The right man for the right job is often forgotten in Indian organizations.

All Indian organizations are composed of people of all sorts. Extremely bright ones are required to work with extremely lousy persons at times. The brighter ones have no option but to adapt to the speed and efficiency of the latter !

In India selections are done on the basis of both merit and reservations. I am not against reservations for jobs.

But Indian organizations need to learn more organizational dynamics and getting the best from the human resources.

Posting of persons to various organizational positions have to be done with care and proper planning. What the person is supposed to do for the organization and what the organization is giving the person to execute his responsibilities should be clear to both sides.

The leader of a work team should have a say in selecting the members of his or her team.

These are not very difficult things to achieve or implement.

But unfortunately in India it does not work in that manner.

That is the reason why Indian employers fail to get the best from their employees !

In my humble opinion, if Managements of Indian organizations give a little more attention to these kinds of things which apparently looks so simple or unimportant, then they would definitely add synergy to the organization to perform well.

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