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Multi-tasking to be the drivers of HR efficiency

PUNE: Human resource managers will have to strive hard to strike a balance between different categories of manpower to optimise business efficiency and profitability, said participants in a panel discussion recently. An important aspect of the future human resource development would be multi-skilling and muti-tasking, they felt.

The discussion on HR learnings from the economic downturn', hosted by the HR forum of the British Business Group, revolved around the experiences of the recent economic meltdown and the necessary strategies, as the industry takes steps towards recovery.

Thermax Limited managing director M S Unnikrishnan said the organisation design should be developed in a manner that ensures flexibility. "Outsourcing of manpower-intensive aspects of a business can work if there are reliable outsourcing partners," Unnikrishnan said, adding that the proportion of permanent employees and employees of the outsourcing partner will be critical in determining the profitability and efficiency of the business. 

Unnikrishnan cited the practices followed in Thermax that have helped the company restrict its costs in difficult times. "Cutting down the human resource need not always be the response to tough economic conditions. Variable pay can also become an effective tool to incentivise employees, provided the formula is just. However, the policy of variable pay must be well-communicated and equitable, such as a percentage of profit earned by a division coming to all who are attached to that division," he stressed.

HR professional and chief of Cerebrus Consultants, Anita Ramachandran, said recession has impacted different industries differently though the most visible damage was suffered by information technology (IT) and real estate segments.

"Boom had affected the mindset of managers in these segments and so they went bust," she said, adding that it will be important to take people into confidence now and help them digest the new reality. "Those who were used to 20-30 per cent pay rise and high bonuses are finding it extremely difficult to come to terms with variable pay that is actually' variable," Ramachandran said.

An important take away from this experience, she said, is that the professionals experienced the meltdown at a young age and therefore they will come out emotionally stronger as they address opportunities in the changed economic scenario.

For the HR managers, too, the recession brought much learning, Ramachandran said. "Congratulating people and handing them letters of promotion was one thing; and asking them to leave is a totally different experience. It is very valuable to know how you handle separation from the managerial point of view."

Anant Rangaswami, editor, Campaign India (part of the Haymarket Plc, UK) said the job market in the country had heated up because of an artificial shortage of talent perpetrated by HR managers who chased people with a career background in the same segment in which the employer was engaged.

"As the topline was rising, nobody cared to check the employee cost. So people in television channels got fatter offers from other channels and likewise people got fatter offers in the same segment in which they were engaged. Nobody thought of searching or developing new skills in the existing set of employees," Rangaswami said.

In the new set-up, where multi-skilling alone will help people keep their jobs, agility and lateral thinking will be the winner capabilities, he stressed. "Less people will now do more, and mediocred will be wiped out," he said.