Employee empowerment is the latest buzzword in business and a variety of Tata companies are working overtime to place their people in the driver's seat
The crowd holds its collective breath as Pakistan speedster Shoaib Akhtar prepares to strike. But the batsman, B Muthuraman, is unperturbed. The delivery is sent flying into the stands. The cheers get louder as the Tata Steel managing director raises his bat in triumph. Not real life, but an inspirational film. "It's a part of our Vision 2007 campaign," explains Niroop Mahanty, vice president (HRM), Tata Steel. Adds BN Sarangi, chief, HR/IR, Tata Steel, "The idea was to motivate employees to accomplish the impossible, like hit a six off Shoaib Akhtar." Or achieve EVA (economic value add) positive status by 2007.
The buzz in Jamshedpur is palpable. Tata Steel is not looking at incremental improvement, but a quantum jump in performance. Unlike its previous attempts, Vision 2007 is not a top-down initiative. More than 8,000 inputs from shop-floor workers and managers, contributed in articulating the future course for the lowest-cost producer of steel in the world. Tata Steel's human resources (HR) department further cascaded the knowledge to all of the company's 40,000 employees.
Assimilation of the vision was of paramount importance. Tata Steel organised one-day workshops called 'Lakshya 2007— Ek Chunauti' where employees were encouraged to write down their main responsibilities. These were then aligned with the departmental, divisional and company's key performance indices and, finally, with the vision. This innovative approach has garnered tremendous support from employees. Says Suman Biswas, Improvement Group, Tata Steel: "The employees felt important as they were made an integral element of the vision. Our commitment is total."
Tata Steel has been inundated with scores of ideas and suggestions generated at its employee workshops. It is setting up a centre to implement and even patent the viable ones, while publicising the names behind them.
Winds of change
With globalisation and competition challenging the corporate world, HR managers can no longer play just the traditional administrative and welfare role. They are expected to be effective change leaders, working at the centre of each business rather than at the fringes of the action. Today, HR helps define the business case for change, it communicates a vision of the future, shapes a sound implementation plan, and follows through to achieve sustained results. Changing times call for different and innovative strategies and a catalyst called technology.
With footprints in various geographies, IT leader Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) created systems for managing the future. The need was to deploy employees in a seamless and integrated manner. The innovative solution it engineered to meet these challenges is called Ultimatix. Designed in-house, it digitised the whole organisation in real time through the web. Every single employee was connected through this platform across the globe. Ultimatix has also been successful in cutting through layers of decision-making within TCS.
"Ultimatix has become our single employee-service window," says S Padamnabhan, executive vice president and head - global HRD, TCS. "It has ensured that employees get their services without much difficulty. They can log in with their claims, loans or even leave applications for processing. All approvals are done online. To that extent, we are a paperless organisation."
To a population that is highly mobile, virtual HR is a godsend. With deployment being a challenge to companies with the size and spread of TCS, it is a major time saver. Besides its HR policies, the organisation has taken its appraisals and employee satisfaction surveys online. It does not end here. The survey findings, along with implemented suggestions, are also posted online. Rising employee satisfaction scores endorse the popularity of...