'HR is a key enabler to determine bottomlines'

'HR is a key enabler to determine bottomlines'

The stir had resulted in a production loss worth Rs 2,500 crore. Finally, the strike has been put behind and the plant is back on business said Maruti Suzuki Managing Executive Officer-Administration (HR,Finance & IT), S Y Siddiqui. Deccan Herald’s L Subramani and Umesh M Avvannavar recently met up with him in Bangalore to discuss burning issues in the field of HR. Excerpts of the interview follows.

Deccan Herald: As national president of NHRDN, do you think the HR professionals are fully aware of the changes taking place in recent times?
The role of HR is certainly undergoing a change with new perspectives. As we move forward, we need to look at ability building right at the school level and mentoring young professionals. We also connect with the campuses to get the best skilled workforce on to the industry. We are also into creating skill building for HR professionals at different industries to ensure that there are skill down the pipeline. 

DH: Value addition in HR has been an often repeated theme in this conference and in other forums. Where do you think such an approach is emphasised more?
Every professional category has its own learning’s from things that happen to businesses across the world. As for HR, we had our own bit of learning from the 2008 recession, its impact on US, Europe and our own markets. Closer home, we had the Satyam scam. This somehow brought home the point that HR should be the conscience of both the organisation and its shareholders.

From the peripheral role of payroll management and trifling admin issues, we have, over the last few years, proved we held the major responsibility of taking the skill force forward and create processes to keep organisations make the most of the manpower assets we had, be it the off-shore IT project or the shopfloors of the manufacturing industry.

Now we are moving forward to ensure businesses do justice to the triple bottom-line concept –profit, people and the planet. HR is now an enabler and right at the frontline of businesses determining how the processes they create determine the bottomlines. So, as you can see, there has been value addition in all these. Now, HR should be strategically positioned in the organisation alongside investors, suppliers etc. HR is still key in imparting value-based leadership that leads to transparency, which, if created in the organisations, would make the afore mentioned lessons more relevant and meaningful to all of us.

DH: Do you think there is something for everyone to learn from the recent labour problem in Maruti?
Manesar (trouble at Maruti plant) has shown us how the changing environment, external relations and employee perspectives have been challenging. There has been political undercurrents to the crisis. The Generation Y, in this case, has been exploited by the external forces for their own motives.

The average age of the employees at Manesar plant is 24; they are inexperienced, brash and are not aware of the realities. If the raw energy and potential of youngsters go into wrong hands, the situation could become difficult to handle. That was what happened in Maruti factory at Manesar.

Of course, all of us, including the workers themselves, have learnt from that situation and have shown willingness to put that episode behind and move forward. We, at the HR, have learnt not to leave a gap in people connect. Gen-Y requires a different kind of leadership. They need to be mentored and nurtured in the organisation. In that way, we have a lot of re-learning to do ourselves. From the worker’s perspective, they now know that the stand-off had benefited the political forces and had nothing to do with their wellbeing. In all, we at Maruti have settled the issue and are back into the business of producing the vehicles.

DH: Indeed, everyone is here for business and things have to move forward if organisations were to remain financially relevant. In this context, do you think the trade unions have a role?
Trade union play an important role in guiding our young population. Being confrontational has no real value for anyone. We must rather follow the Japanese model of constructive trade unionism, where the unions are a stakeholder in the growth of a company.

They spend their time thinking how to grow the company or how to bring positive impact on major industry sectors. Apex unions must influence policy and protect the population from recession. Unions must take this direction. For this labour laws must also change to reflect the modern reality. Our trade union act was legislated in 1926. It is obsolete in the 21st century business environment.