Overnight, employee relations has come to a tipping point in India. Amidst the debate on what has caused Indian manufacturing industry to be at such a crossroad, it’s time for deep introspection and swift action. It goes without saying that violent means are unacceptable and we must focus on the fundamental pillars of creating high performing organizations.
Firstly, labor laws are highly skewed and have not kept up with the change in industry. Companies, by and large, make every effort to be compliant and stick to both the letter and spirit of the law, and provide a fair employment proposition to all cadres of employees. The labor law framework has to be rebalanced to reflect that reality, ensure right standards are maintained, and indiscipline/violations are dealt with swiftly and objectively. Unethically motivated external influences (a bane of labor scenario in India!) in this arena must be removed.
Secondly, processes like wage negotiation/union management need to be relooked through different lenses. Communication/transparency is the need of the hour and creative practices like involving shop-floor workers in wage benchmarking can engage unions/employees productively. On the flip side, companies must ‘do the right thing’ and remove disparities that may exist within contract/permanent workers due to short-term efficiency needs, to drive long-term effectiveness.
Finally, at the heart of the matter, is the triangle of the employee, direct manager and HR – that relationship is key to building and preserving a harmonious industrial relations environment. Too often, this relationship becomes a victim to high-pressure business priorities, cost efficiencies, and rapid expansion. That leaves the door wide open for lack of communication, lack of trust and breakdown of fundamental 1:1 relationships. HR professionals need to take an inward look at the health of this relationship, and refocus efforts on making it a priority, this is seen as ‘unglamorous’ HR work, but is at the very core of creating productive work environment.