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Member, not employee

Human resource professionals point to the practice of employee involvement as a major plus in heightening retention and productivity, writes Devraj Uchil.

india Updated: Dec 19, 2007 23:03 IST
Devraj Uchil

It has taken less than two decades for India to start emerging as a global growth hub, with companies from across the world setting up shops here. Be it India’s prowess in IT or the BPO success story, or its massive growth in the services sector, the bottomline has been effective management of human resource by Indian companies, say HR practitioners.

Rachna Saksena, vertical head - ITeS, Ma Foi Global Search Services Limited, says that “employee engagement” is the best HR practice followed in India. “The apathetic culture abroad leaves very little room for employee engagement, especially for their special needs, which can be very daunting and often affect performance.”

The involvement of employees and generating a sense of ownership has done Indian companies a world of good. “I think the straitjacket approach to jobs outside India has held back many firms from increasing productive utilisation of resources,” Saksena expands. “Taking a leaf from Indian HR practices could help such firms during restructuring, to prevent layoffs as is mostly the case.” Indian companies are banking more on active participation of their employees than being mere product churners.

Milind Sarwate, chief - HR & strategy of FMCG company Marico Limited, concurs with Saksena on employee engagement as a good practice prevalent in Indian companies. “We treat out employees like members of the organisation and not as people who’ve been just hired to work for it. The key difference between membership and employment is that members can create ‘magic’, while employment can only get you ‘logic’. And in the current competitive scenario, logic alone does not suffice.”

Nina Fernandes, HR head of IT company Mastek Limited, names practices such as performance management, career development, employee feedback and engagement process as worthy of implementation in any organization, whether in India or anywhere else in the world. Mastek has the same HR practices for both, its India and international branches. Fernandes says that for Mastek, the involvement of a cross-functional team from both Indian and onsite locations is a must when rolling out any core HR practice. This helps the system become relevant in all contexts and creates much greater employee buy-in and ownership for implementation.

The shift from ‘onus’ to ‘ownership’ has been a subtle yet a powerful HR tool. The practice turns an employee into a partner and a non-performer into a performer. Such practices can enable an open and trusting environment, allowing talent to showcase its best efforts and create an alignment between business goals and individual goals.

Not that this kind of HR endeavour will remain without challenges. For example, with Indian firms going for large M&As across borders, retaining and maintaining specifically successful employee engagement practices once the company's size expands beyond borders could become a big challenge. Perhaps allowing each entity in the group to maintain its own engagement practices could work.