Bridging the corporate straits

Bridging the corporate straits

The people, in any industry are the primary asset. They help strengthen the business model of a company and bring success. However, the perceived gap between management and employees can make all the difference. Here’s what Sapna Dogra finds

Gone are the days when employees were treated with disdain and in an autocratic manner. Today, the top management can’t afford to remain detached from its employees. In order to be more productive and compete internationally, companies have to adopt employee-friendly policies, introduce effective communication and take care of employee interests, so that the whole company emerges as a single unit and there is coordination between management and the workforce. The HR department has to ensure that management and employees are aware of each other’s needs.

Usual problems

Tarun Bali Executive Director

Manpower India

According to Suresh Tiwari, Associate Director, HR, Eli Lilly, the usual problems in most companies are—poor communication, autocratic management style (I am the Boss), task-focus rather than people-focus and senior leadership’s inability to walk the talk. “The biggest flaw is that companies treat employees as machines and not as human beings, as a result of which employees lose the zeal to work and perform half-heartedly just for the sake of working,” he laments. It affects the overall performance of the company because such employees generally operate at their sub-optimum potential.

According to K G Umesh, Head, HR, The Himalaya Drug Company, lack of clear and defined goals for junior employees, no guidance and direction for juniors and poor communication between different levels of management cadre can create a chasm between the management and junior employees.

Tarun Bali, Executive Director, Manpower India says that a gap between management and workforce is the vacuum that isolates one from the other. “This creates a negative impact on communication of vision and goals and having shared objectives, employee engagement, internal cohesiveness, collaboration, competitiveness and customer satisfaction, all of which are reflected in the company’s financial and market performance,” he explains.

Unionism is a major issue for many companies today. “If companies don’t take care of their employees, people either quit or join unions. Companies should learn from the maxim that ‘if you do not take good care of your employees, then someone else will,’ counsels Tiwari. “I strongly believe that organisations will not survive or progress if gaps exist between workforce and management”, says Umesh. A successful HR department takes care of all these issues and works towards creating an atmosphere where everyone is happy.

All HR managers should understand that while dealing with people, one cannot adopt a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, explains KG Umesh, Head, HR, The Himalaya Drug Company, “While it is essential to treat each and every employee as an individual and made to feel an integral part of the organisation, there are some basic factors which help in maintaining a healthy work environment.” These include:

  • Ability to set clear cut goals for employees, and guidance in achieving these objectives

  • Continuous mentoring and coaching

  • Ability to establish and develop good interpersonal relations at all levels

  • Ability to communicate effectively

  • Ability to lead effectively

  • Lack of clear/defined goals for junior employees

  • Lack of guidance/direction for juniors

  • Lack of proper communication between top and other levels of management cadre

  • Lack of recognition and reward for good performance/talent

  • Lack of opportunity/challenging assignments matching the competencies of a person

  • Lack of personalised attention to each individual

HR- High responsibility

The HR department, because it assumes the role of developing and managing people, has a responsibility towards creating and sustaining a healthy work environment. In order to attract and retain the right people, HR should help employees take the right steps to achieve rewards and job roles as per his or her aspirations. Tiwari avers, “Each strategy, whether marketing or IT or manufacturing has a human element attached. Sometimes we run the risk of ignoring that element, which becomes the biggest barrier later.” Umesh agrees, saying that the only asset that can make or break an organisation is its people. The strength of an organisation therefore depends on the kind of people it engages.

Two-way street

It is very important that both management and employees of an organisation are concerned about the development and welfare of the organisation, says Tiwari. “It is important for the management to think constantly about winning employees’ hearts and minds, at the same time the employees should think about giving their best to the organisation, which treats them with respect / dignity and affection,” states Tiwari. Umesh concurs, adding that a company can function smoothly only if there is trust, understanding, cooperation, openness, and positive attitude amongst employees. “The values on which successful teams are built are loyalty, dedication and single-minded focus on achieving the common goal,” avers Umesh. According to Tanu Hora, HR In-Charge, Mankind Pharma, HR is an indispensable department in any organisation. However, HR management in pharma will be different from FMCG as the performance management parameters are different in pharma industry.

Unionism: A boon or bane?

Unionism in pharma has always been considered a big stumbling block. However, if dealt wisely, it can prove to be a growth enabler. According to Tiwari, unions have an important role in ensuring that employees’ interests are protected. At Mankind Pharma, Hora insists, there is no union because the company has good policies, which are transparent. “All employees are motivated monetarily and non-monetarily due to which the attrition rate is very low.” Umesh elaborates, “Personally I do not consider unions in any industry a problem. The threat of unions turning into a problem only arises when people are opposed to dialogue and negotiation and would rather direct their entire energy towards a particular cause without taking into consideration the overall good of the organisation.”

Bali agrees. According to him, it serves a useful purpose for the workforce. He says, “The management approach must be to use the union constructively. Companies should ensure that they develop a high engagement with the organisation and use them for effective communication with the workforce. Genuine concern by the management for the lives and careers of their workforce ensures that workplace issues are acknowledged and addressed as soon as they appear.”

Umesh adds that the only way to avoid conflicts with unions is by continuously educating, guiding and addressing their genuine grievances.

“This is possible if communication with union members is open, frank and honest. There needs to be a meaningful engagement with them at all times so that employees understand that differences can be resolved through discussion.”

Bridging the chasm

An effective organisational communication is essential to build and sustain any organisational culture. According to Tiwari, involving employees in decision making and role modelling are some of the skills and behaviours that help to bridge the gap between the management and employees. He emphasises that communication is of utmost importance (you can never over-communicate) to avoid a rift between the management and the workforce. Transparency and trust are the keys for a healthy relationship between employees and management, says Bali. “A clear line of sight to the corporate objectives and clarity in the role of each employee towards achieving those objectives sets the tone for greater collaboration and indeed for building trust within the organisation,” he asserts. According to Umesh, success in any organisation is a collaborative effort.

Seamless operation

Suresh Tiwari
Associate Director, HR Eli Lilly

Global best practices dictate that, in order to succeed, a company must exist as a seamless entity, with few barriers to flow of information or effective collaboration. Since organisational hierarchies are collapsing to more manageable and understandable levels, the dividing lines between management and workforce are getting blurred, Bali says, yet, there is much to be done on this front. “It is not possible for a company to function smoothly if there is either a real or perceived gap between management and workforce,” says Umesh and adds “In today’s fiercely competitive business environment it is important that all employees, whether the CEO or a worker on the shop floor, realise that the company is a single entity, understand the common goals of the organisation and work collectively towards achieving these goals.”

Tiwari also agrees that a gap between the workforce and management is one of the biggest barriers in achieving alignment, creating sense of belonging, retaining key talents and finally achieving optimum productivity. An organisation where this gap exists, cannot achieve the competitive edge, therefore, the HR department should help cultivate good coordination between management and workforce.

A company with internal issues will not only have a poor output but also create a bad impression with sharreholders and general public. Good internal communication can help cut out attrition and maintain a good ambience in the company.

  • Identify and hire right kind of talent required for the organisation, nurture and retain them.

  • Foster a performance-driven work culture. Recognise talent and give them challenging assignments according to their strengths and capabilities.

  • Create and implement comprehensive people development policies.

  • Establish and implement transparent communication systems.

  • Recognise good performance and reward accordingly: meritocracy should be the only criteria.

  • Develop subordinates. Be a mentor, coach and guide team members.