The government should not further delay a revamp of the policy relating to recruitment, training, placement and compensation strategies
A newspaper report earlier this month says, “To ensure uniform minimum wages across the country, the Centre has hiked the national floor level from Rs137 per day to Rs160 a day with effect from 1 July 2015.” Last such revision was two years back when the revision was from Rs115 a day to Rs137 per day. As more and more jobs are going out of the organised sector and employment of all unskilled labour and skilled labour in many sectors are being sourced through ‘service providers’ the bench-mark minimum wage becomes more relevant in present day India. I am not able to relate the rates of minimum wages mentioned here to the needs of individuals/families in any geographical area in India. Perhaps, some researchers may be able to guide how the nutrition needs, clothes, shelter, healthcare and post-job needs are factored-in, in these figures. Let us wait and watch.
Our country, since independence, or more appropriately, right from the First Five Year Plan has been giving due importance for a vibrant and growing public sector in the nation’s economic development. In fact, certain sectors like defense production, Railways, Post and Telegraph were almost monopolised by public sector till a change in policy became necessary post-LPG (Liberalisation-Privatisation-Globalisation). The policy shift has thrown up many challenges before the government and the organizations in the public sector.
Actually, the private-public sector divide in regard to meeting social responsibility obligations/ commitments and a discriminatory approach between the two sectors, when it comes to government policy support is a legacy of the British Raj. Once it is accepted that the resources of the country are the property of the people and irrespective of ownership (whether government or private individuals/ groups/ families/ organisations), all are handling public funds/ resources in a trusteeship sense, this divide can be bridged to a great extent.
Presently, in the above background, Indian public sector is ailing from lack of autonomy, indecent competition arising from a wrong understanding of the unique position of our country and irrelevant comparisons. Unique position because, our per capita geographical area, availability of resources, literacy rate, development needs, system of governance and so on are not amenable to comparison with most of the developed and developing countries of the world. Day in and day out, India is given a rank or rating among the assortment of nations in the world, many of them together can be accommodated in one of the states of India.
We are persuaded to believe that corruption and inefficiency exist only in government and public sector. In fact there is nothing farther than truth than this belief. The pre-IT success stories of Railways, Posts & Telegraph, Oil sector, Space Research, Defense Production and several other sectors, which functioned efficiently and where corrupt practices were brought to light quickly and remedial action initiated departmentally are easily and conveniently forgotten. Of course, now, one gets an impression that there is a vested interest working in the private sector to keep government corrupt and public sector inefficient. If Human Resources related issues in the government and public sector are given the attention they deserve, many of the present problems can be solved.
The absence of talent in government and public sector is the product of a deliberate neglect of HR-related issues by the government. The ageing top level in government and public sector is a serious issue. In the present context when performance of government and institutions in public and private sectors is being watched by the world and judged almost online, human resources development HRD at the top across sectors should become a national priority. As a fire-fighting measure, there is a need for a comprehensive look at the manpower planning and deployment of available expertise among institutions across private and public sectors and related HRD issues, which have to be handled without further loss of time.
A long-term solution may have to be found for the HR-related problems, including inability to hire experts at market related compensation (this is applicable up to the position of Secretary or CEO in government and public sector), skills becoming obsolete in short periods, employees’ reluctance to change and demands from trade unions emanating from job security concerns. There may not be a fit for all remedy, as the issues are diverse and sometimes sector or institution-specific.
A transparent guidance for a remuneration package based on paying capacity and need for skills for different sectors and ensuring social security should come from government without always worrying about what will be the impact on Cabinet Secretary’s salary or trade union demands. If the government secretary deserves a higher salary, government should not raise budgetary concerns for not paying it. Instead, merger of some departments and utilising the surplus manpower for new job opportunities should be a wiser option.
Time is opportune for both private and public sector organisations to have some introspection on their HR practices right from recruitment at the lowest level to selection of CEOs, remuneration packages, training facilities and social security measures for their employees. While organisations in the private sector may have to review the optimum pressure they can put on their executives and managers, government and public sector counterparts may dispassionately examine and modify their remuneration packages to ensure attracting and retaining competitive talent in the present market scenario. Let us not forget that the civil services, executives and staff of public and private sector undertakings have to supplement the skills of the increasing number of political masters who were not as fortunate to get trained or groomed. The nation is immensely dependent on them for carrying out the development agenda on hand.
Government should not further delay a revamp of the policy relating to recruitment, training, placement and compensation strategies across government, public and private sectors.
The Government and public sector organizations may have to consider how best the ‘Cost to Company’(C to C) principles can be integrated into their existing recruitment, training, placement and career progression policies. This may involve convincing the existing employees that the changes will only improve the working results of the government departments and organisations they belong to and they will get opportunity to share the benefits and new job opportunities and so long as they are prepared to learn new things/upgrade their skills the infusion of ‘experts’ will not eat into their career progression opportunities. Inter-mobility of executives at higher levels among comparable departments of government and public and private sector organisations should be possible, on transparent norms and strictly based on merits. Changes may have to come first in the recruitment and training procedures for IAS and relates services, management trainees in public/private sector undertakings including probationary officers in PSBs.
The revamping of Tata Administrative Service sometime back gives enough food for thought for thinking on these lines. Specialized services like one for Banking/Financial Sector could be evolved for institutions including those in the private sector and all regulatory bodies in the financial sector.
There is no denying that there is no dearth of research, studies and analyses on issues relating to prices, income and wages discussed above. Pay Commissions (Central and at state level), wage negotiations in industries as between IBA and Unions in banking industry and in individual companies/organisations and academic research by scholars cover several aspects in different contexts. But at this juncture, as comparisons and need for ‘level playing field’ across sectors and geographies make handling of HR-related matters including maintenance of industrial peace and level of satisfaction at optimum level more complicated and tough, government should consider commissioning a national level comprehensive study by experts covering all aspects of Human Resources Management in the present Indian context.
Till, perhaps ten years back, employers could depend on a growing population of educated unemployed from which they could hire and fire candidates on their terms. Position has changed with the opening up of the economy and sooner we realize it and act, the better. Dodging real issues could take us back to pre-reform days.
(MG Warrier is former general manager, RBI, Mumbai and author of the 2014 book “Banking, Reforms & Corruption: Development Issues in 21st Century India”