It helps employees gain cross-functional experience

Flat is the word not just for the IT (information technology) firms. Even the manufacturing ventures have begun to join the ‘flat list'.

Apollo Tyres is among the first few in India to go on ‘flat mode'.

The company has opted for a four-tier flat organisational structure for its state-of-the-art facility at Oragadam near here.

A brainchild of its Vice-Chairman and Managing Director Neeraj Kanwar, the ‘flat initiative' at Oragadam is a consequence of the effectiveness of a flat structure at Apollo Vredestein BV, its subsidiary in the Netherlands.

The Oragadam facility has four layers comprising team members, team leaders, group leaders and unit head. About 80 per cent of the employees are team members, 15 per cent team leaders and the remaining group leaders.

The plant has a sole head. There is no distinction between employees within a level. Typically, a team leader will be one with more job-specific experience and not a boss.

“In terms of career progression, this translates into roles which mature and expand horizontally,” according to Tapan Mitra, Chief of Human Resources at Apollo Tyres. “This allows employees to gain multi-disciplinary and cross-functional experience through job rotation, be it intra or inter-departmental,” he says.

A flat structure, he says, aids quick decision-making and implementation. “Efficiencies too go up as multi-tasking becomes a norm alongside on-the-job training and job rotation.”

This also helps in creating a larger talent pool for the organisation, he says. Apollo Tyres, he says, is keen on implementing this kind of a flat structure across all its facilities in India.

“This will, however, be not an instant overhaul,” he cautions. Stating that “people need time to adjust to this idea especially in a case where Apollo's other manufacturing units have yielded exceptionally good results even with traditional management practices,” he, nevertheless, claims that “we will get there eventually.”

To a question, Mr. Mitra says, “all the jobs here (at Oragadam) are white collar ones and there is a concept of one management team among all employees.”

In this context, he points out that Apollo Tyres has been hiring only diploma holders to run the machines at Oragadam. “Wage negotiation seems highly unlikely. A flat structure more or less thrives on recognition of merit and subsequent reward,” he says.

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