Prasad reviews Abhijit's book (my review is here ) and looks at the HR lessons from it. I'd like to highlight two:
I have found that 'being at the receiving end of HR' (experiencing an HR process as an employee, especially if it is a 'not so pleasant' experience) can be a great eye-opener for an HR professional. This helps one to be more sensitive to the 'human' in 'Human Resources'. While most of us have been employees also (in addition to having been HR professionals) for most part of our careers, we often have this strange tendency to discount our experiences as employees (as internal customers of HR strategies/ processes/ policies) as compared to our experiences as HR professionals (who design/run HR strategies/ processes/ policies).
On a related note today's Corporate Dossier in ET looks at the inability to layoff people in the Indian context, from a legal and cultural angle.
In their defence, CEOs dole out a long list of compulsions and arguments. The foremost argument proffered is that of ‘Company is Family’ . Ask Kishore Biyani, chairman, Future Group who almost agrees with Goyal on the latter’s patriarchal approach to leading a . “Indians tend to be very emotional , and we treat our employees as family. Culturally, we are very different from other countries. In our society , the workforce is treated like the kutumb (family) and the CEO is the karta (a guardian, if you will) of the family. It is his responsibility to maintain the well-being of all employees. If an Indian company is firing people, you can be certain that it’s the very last resort left for the company,” he says.
When posed the same question, Harsh Goenka, chairman of one of the older Indian conglomerates, the RPG Group, puts forth a similar argument. “Traditionally, our mindset doesn’t allow us to downsize, and labour has always been a sensitive subject in this country. Companies have gone sick and died but they have refused to resort to layoffs,” he says. What they don’t realise, he adds, is that the entire workforce suffers instead of a few.
Though there have always been political dimensions to firing people, such pressures have only become more acute lately, as the Jet episode clearly brings out. “Political effects seem to be of a more serious nature since most of our unions are affiliated to political parties. Therefore, the politics takes an upper hand, compared to the business needs,” confesses Niraj Bajaj, chairman of stainless steel products maker Mukand.
No wonder then, companies are often all too careful about managing their financial troubles with socially responsible solutions. For instance , the Tata group, which has actively scaled down its workforce in companies like Tata Motors and Tata Tea, and is of the view that economics doesn’t always win.