[This write up was prepared for my
speech on Nov 4, 2014 at the HR Meet of Hindalco. It is in
four parts. The third Part will be published on Nov 6, 2014. The fourth part carries summing up.]
Part 2: Why are we comfortable
dealing with an individual and uncomfortable with a group?
aspect I noticed is that we are comfortable talking to an individual, a single
person. But when we are talking to a group of people, we are more restrained,
we are on our guard. There is something in groups that ignites fear in our
mind. My understanding is that we have low fear of evaluation in a one-on-one
meeting; and we have more pronounced fear of evaluation when facing a group.
There is another factor
which might be at work – we know and we have experienced that people behave
differently as individuals and when they are in a group. Groups seem to wield
power and use power often to influence the other side.
Add to that the
complexity brought in by people’s exit and entry in a group. Each entry and
exit changes the character of the group, however small impact it may be.
Members of the other group are very alive and sensitive to those changes. So
when the CEO changes or a new HR Manager arrives, the union raises its guard.
And when the employees choose a new leader, external or internal, the managers
do the same.
Let us look at
relationship from an employee’s angle. They know that they are dealing with a
hierarchy. And a hierarchy has a unity of command and certain discipline. In a
sense it is like a military organisation. And an employee’s organisation or a
union is diametrically opposite. It is a loosely knit organisation which is
held together by the sheer strength of emotions.
So what is the problem?
The problem is one of continuity of approach. And hidden in it is the issue of
accountability for continuing policies of approach towards building relations.
Is there a solution? Policies as we know guide managers on acting in various
In my opinion the
solution lies in declaring the IR policy. Before I discuss policies of various
organisations, I would like to ask how many Indian companies have a declared
policy on Industrial Relations. Very few. Why? Many good Indian organisations
have continuity at the top level, so it perhaps ensures continuity of policies.
But times have changed and change at the top is becoming the rule.
What issues should an IR
Policy cover? In my opinion three aspects are important. Firstly, who is
accountable for IR, secondly, what is the organisation’s stance on union, and
thirdly what is sought to be promoted through the policy statement and how.
Apply these criteria and
examine ER policies. Some of the best policy statements are made by SKF,
Nestle, Volkswagen, Toyota, Southwest Airlines and BP. Does Aditya Birla Group
have a declared IR policy? They have declared a global compact which covers most
of the issues of policy. What about ITC? Yes they have a detailed policy. Worth
a good look. Take a look at M&M. You do not find an ER policy of Tatas on
their website. Marico? Godrej? Asian Paints?
BP in Singapore had
travelled the farthest distance. They have signed a joint statement of
Industrial Relations vision and policy. This is a very detailed one and could
serve as a guideline for many others.
And I also feel that the
time has come for Indian industries to make a statement of policy as many are
becoming MNCs. They will have to stand a different test on international arena.
They will be well advised to follow ILO guidance.
Why are they not
declaring policies? In my opinion there are three prime reasons: Firstly the
unions are weak in most industries, and secondly, the declaration will require
organisations to take stance on very sensitive issue of contract labour the use
of whom is indiscriminate, and thirdly,
declaration means holding yourself accountable – who wants to do that suo
moto? The question of managerial competence and confidence comes out here
in the open!
The point I wish to make
is that if we wish to strike consistently good industrial relations then
declaration of IR policy is imperative.
I am not talking about
how and why we should make policies. It is all about how we can march towards
industrial democracy systematically and innovatively.
Relationship is a mirror, it mirrors our persona. It tells people what
we stand for and what we do not stand for. It tells people whether we are timid
or strong. It tells people whether we are men of conviction and beliefs. And it
tells people whether we are sincere in building relationship – with groups and
"What you leave
behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the
lives of others."