Maruti pushes for mindset change

The company has been going all out to introduce a slew of motivational techniques as part of its HR initiative, reports P Tharyan.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 04 May 2007 Views icon4914 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Till recently, SY Siddiqui smoked 30 cigarettes a day. The last thing the chief general manager (human resources development) of Maruti Udyog expected was a suggestion from some of his juniors to kick the habit. Actually, this was part of the 360 degree feedback system adopted by the company. Here, an employee is rated not just by superiors but also peers and subordinates. MUL hired Ernst & Young to put this in place.

“In the 360 degree system, some of my juniors suggested that I quit smoking. And these are from people who care. Last week, I only smoked three cigarettes when this used to be 10 at a meeting,” Siddiqui says.

He admits that it was initially tough for this system to be accepted within MUL. Three years ago, the appraisal system was a one-way process. “If I look at the last seven years, we have migrated in a big way towards establishing a benchmark for HR with support coming from the top management of Suzuki and MUL. Typically, when a senior guy is told that his peers and juniors are going to rate him, he gets defensive. We kept pegging away and once they began to get comfortable, the new system gradually took over,” Siddiqui says.

There are three groups operating in MUL: department heads, functional or divisional heads and finally directors. The 360 degree feedback process was first implemented at the second level where Siddiqui and his colleagues belong. “I thought we should lead the way and must admit that we were a bit unnerved initially. You will know nothing about the respondents but a lot about the responses. Some can shake your self-belief,” he says. MUL will now implement the 360 degree feedback process at the director level.

SIMPLE SUGGESTION

Employee feedback does not always focus on enhanced perks and bonuses. It could be a simple suggestion like asking the management to allow one’s car to be parked in the company’s official parking area. Interestingly, another recent input came from the staff that if any employee had to face a dressing down from his senior, it would be best if it were done in a closed room. Employees at MUL sit together in large open halls and a suggestion like this seemed only logical.

“According to them, if there is any reprimanding involved, it is best carried out one-to-one in a room,” adds Siddiqui. HR at MUL is a mammoth exercise. But it is the efforts of managing director, Jagdish Khattar that have gone down well with employees.

##### “He is a leader in the true sense. Finally, it is not about being physically present but in the way one treats people. He is accessible to everybody and is prompt to reply to an SMS or mail. Every quarter, he addresses a group of 100-and-odd supervisors and, at another opportunity, another group of 125 young managers or a select lot of seniors or department heads,” says Siddiqui.

About a year ago, in one of these quarterly meetings, Khattar devoted the last ten minutes of his speech to health. He discussed what steps the company was taking in this direction. Suggestions to set up a gymn within the premises came up and this could well turn out to be a reality soon. Talks even veered around extra curricular activities and on the subject of de-stressing. It was as a result of all such discussions that MUL today has a yoga instructor coming in at 5 pm. Groups of 15 to 20 people regularly attend the classes.

“When we focus on people development, it is very different from the conventional training and development efforts used in various companies. In MUL, there are at least 6-7 different initiatives that we take in training,” Siddiqui says. One of these is hard core which is structured but need-based. To put it simply, if there is no need then there is no training. The company uses a lot of outbound stuff to drive home the point.

INVITING THE BEST

As part of the non-conventional techniques to motivate employees, MUL has been inviting topnotch personalities to talk to senior staff. The latest to do so was Wipro’s Azim Premji. There have also been senior people from McKinsey and Boston Consultancy too who have come over to the Gurgaon facility.

“The purpose is to see some non-auto stuff because it builds our capability to interact with different kinds of people. We have also had our colleagues going into different forums like the CII, Assocham etc where they participate in seminars and talks. Personality development also involves going to management schools and giving talks while answering questions,” Siddiqui says.

He is keen that his people conduct training sessions in different parts of the world. Premji was invited as part of an IT month. “It is basically empowering guys with as much knowledge into IT applications. Our people may be doing operational roles in production, sales or in spare parts or R&D, HR, finance or IT. But in terms of actual development of the people, it is broadbasing of the mindsets,” he says. Over 100 employees attended the Premji talk.

##### Around three years back, MUL decided that HR should become consultative, decentralised and based on the way people would like to drive the function. Ownership of the internal customer was the concept behind developing the Human Resource Initiatives Development Committee (HRIDC). It involved all functional heads getting together once or twice a month where issues relating to HR were thrown up.

The committee was formed as a cross-functional team comprising people from different functions/divisions to discuss HR issues, help HR formulate people-friendly policies and communicate it effectively to the employees.

PROMOTION POLICY

“As we were going along this journey, we got a feedback from young managers that although the big guys were coming into the consultative council, it was possible to consult them directly. That is when HRIDC 2 was formed in May 2006. It’s basically a large-scale consultative process,” Siddiqui says.

Recently, MUL recast its promotion policy which would impact 2000 executives and managers. The actual one was formed in 2005. “They were not looking at top performers who would anyway get covered in the policy but at the middle level who were not outstanding but stable. The employees did not want perks like airconditioners but simply sought parking inside the premises,” he recalls.

Another change made was on travelling rules. MUL sales and marketing people suggested that the company not differentiate between people in the executive managerial and supervisory cadres. The HR department realised that the latter were on the field 20 days in a month and if the company were to go by hierarchy, the amount would end up being too paltry to survive comfortably. Changes were made in domestic travel rules. The suggestion, incidentally, came from HRDIC 1&2.

“Also, when we were defining placement in the 16 regional offices across the country, one problem we faced was that we were using internal designations for people. When the executive category or assistant manager guys were dealing with dealer CEOs or banks/financial institutions, they needed a job title that would command respect from the man across the table. We then got the concept of territory sales manager,” Siddiqui says. Just as an aside, attrition at MUL is 11 percent annually against 18 percent in the manufacturing sector.
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