Article: Coal India and The Human Side of Mining

C-Suite

Coal India and The Human Side of Mining

Lack of skilled workforce is a major challenge for Coal India Ltd.,shares R.Mohan Das,Director(personnel & IR),CIL
 

As a Maharatna,the largest corporate employer having employee strength of over 4 lakhs, the Board of CIL has enhanced powers to facilitate expansion of their operations both in domestic as well as global markets

 

Coal India Ltd (CIL), formed in 1973 post the nationalization of Coal Mines (Nationalization) Act 1973, has undergone a paradigm transition of sorts. Besides being the world’s largest coal miner accounting for more than 80 percent of domestic consumption, CIL surpassed Reliance Industries Ltd as India’s most valuable firm by market capitalization (albeit for a short period). CIL shot to fame when India’s creaking coal industry celebrated the country’s biggest IPO wherein the government raised about Rs.150 billion. India’s accelerating economy is ravenously short of energy, and it is herein that CIL with the vision to emerge from the position of domestic leader to leading global player in the energy sector by adopting best practices from mine to market with due care to environmental and social sustenance, plays a big role in meeting the demands from power, steel and cement sectors. In spite of its best efforts, CIL understands that it would not be able to satiate the ever increasing demand and is accordingly foraying into foreign shores for acquisition of coal properties. In the domestic front, besides struggling with policy challenges ranging from land acquisition to green clearances for mining and tariff subsidy programs, the greatest challenge is of the lack of skilled and engaged workforce.

The workforce challenge

An integral part of the labor intensive coal industry, CIL is taking requisite measures to finalize the wage revision, focus on knowledge management and induct trained and skilled workforce. In a heavily unionized setup such as CIL, finalizing the wage revisions is a herculean task. R Mohan Das, Director (Personnel & IR), CIL, shares that the first task assigned to him by his CMD was to clear the wage revision. It took approximately 13 months with nine meetings for the existing wage rates to be revised. As a proactive measure, under the guidance of Mohan Das, a committee has been formed to proactively look into the wage rate revision/settlement.

These specific measures become all the more important for CIL where fresh rounds of recruitment have started after a gap of over 15 years. However, the depleting human resources on account of retirement do pose a challenge in terms of lack of skilled workforce. The challenge of specialized talent becomes even more compelling given that there are no mining institutions that offer a specialized course. “For mining related issues we are the only one giving employment; as we did not recruit for long, people did not opt for such courses or look at mining as a career option,” says Mohan Das. These reasons are coupled with externalities, wherein given the difficult nature of the job, there are not many people willing to stick to the company and rather prefer desk jobs which is not possible in the coal industry. While CIL is now actively into internal promotions and wage revisions, the erstwhile low morale of the employees is a bygone phenomenon and the efforts of the company have been appreciated by the trade unions too.

It is for the first time that CIL introduced campus selection and visited the likes of IITs, IIMs and NIITs to attract the best of talent. Along with this, the miner has chosen to outsource the recruitment of management trainees. The open recruitment advertisement elicited approximately 1.46 lakh responses for 1,080 vacancies. In terms of its talent strategy, CIL at present is not opting to hire talent from foreign shores. Mohan Das shares, “We are only interested in sourcing talent from within India; we are trying to give the best facilities so that we can attract the talent.” Along with opting for campus recruitment, there are concrete measures being taken for internal promotions as well. In fact, there are over 1,000 candidates for promotions. Issues pertaining to career stagnation have been resolved thereby motivating the current employee base. The initiative will pave the way for employees to have a steady growth. Says, Mohan Das, “We have conducted written tests and interviews are due for 1,000 – 1,200 candidates to be selected.”

Unlike other industries, jobs in mining industry entail a lot of field work. Considering the lack of experts in the field to train the young workforce, CIL has created a separate HRD for knowledge management wherein the young workforce are imparted knowledge by the experienced lot who are on the verge of retirement or have retired. It is indeed an innovative approach to knowledge management which seeks to engage former veterans of the company to share their experiences with the new generation.

New focus areas

The response to the recruitment drive and renewed focus on career planning have been positive and going forward, the main challenge for CIL will be to retain talent. In a competitive environment, the miner is hopeful that its re-energized focus on facilities and career growth would help it retain the best people. Mohan Das shares the future plan as he says, “We are also thinking to upgrade positions to bring about parity for employees in the lower scale with their counterparts in other public sector organizations.” CIL is heavily betting on the application of IT in fast-tracking business decision making. It has also developed an in-house centralized HRMS and a new PMS using Balanced Scorecard has been put in place. “In the new PMS we are trying to link individual and company performance rating and profitability of the company,” shares Mohan Das.

The future

As a Maharatna, the largest corporate employer having employee strength of over 4 lakhs, the Board of CIL has enhanced powers to facilitate expansion of its operations both in domestic as well as global markets. While it is true that CIL needs the corporate chutzpah to stay near or at the top of the market capitalization rankings, its renewed focus on bridging the talent deficit is what will propel its long term sustainability.

R. Mohan Das is the Director (Personnel & IR) at Coal India Limited

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Topics: C-Suite, #MergersAndAcquisitions

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