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BSNL gears to grapple with new challenges

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M. Dinesh Varma

It plans to put its greying workforce through a three-year training programme

CHENNAI: Faced with a greying manpower base and the challenge from private mobile operators, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) is putting its employees through a three-year training programme.

In a recent circular to circle heads, BSNL’s corporate office in New Delhi has put forth a training policy for all non-executive staff members. It takes into account their various functions and desired competency profiles.

The non-executive staff members account for 81 per cent of BSNL’s aggregate employee base, and the training plan is aimed at enhancing productivity among this segment, which is responsible for hands-on technical jobs such as handing network equipment and customer-end installations, data entry and enquiry on various computerised systems. The non-executive cadre (aggregating 2.43 lakh) also takes care of customer-care functions and office work.

“Without any prejudice to the elderly staff members, it is pertinent to take note of the age-profile of our staff. At present, 72 per cent of our total staff is above 45 years of age, while 42 per cent have crossed 50 years,” the circular said. In fact, the average age of the staff is above 47 years.

A few problems with training ageing workers have been identified as “lessened concentration/focus, low retention and low analytical prowess.” Another major challenge is the ‘legacy mindset’ among the employees caused by their long association with government-oriented systems/processes and the absence of a transparent performance measurement system. However, even as the management understands the ‘training difficulties’ in relation with ageing employees, it also appreciates their inherent ‘experience.’

The human resource intervention seeks to re-orient the training of these staff members into short, subject-based and next-door delivery formats to ease difficulties. Training sessions will be as informal as possible and will seek to enhance the motivation for learning.

The BSNL is firm that the “staff empowerment initiative” remains an employee-driven rather than management-driven exercise.

In its road-map for the future, the BSNL envisages turning its vast non-executive cadre into brand ambassadors. The prerequisite is to familiarise this category with the BSNL’s network, products and services, operation of the Internet, e-learning, digital library, customer care and communication skills. For this, the BSNL will take the training out of the classrooms/training centres and deliver modules to the doorstep as far as possible.

The crux of the three-year plan is training one-third of the technical staff for a minimum of 5 days each year in the new technical awareness courses, besides the existing need based training. The goal also involves training one-third of Supervisors/Operators for three days each year in new courses (mostly non-technical), while the Group C and Group D staff will be trained in the 4Cs mantra (Challenging Competition through Customer Care).

The BSNL expects to roll out training modules for an estimated 60,000 workers this year. The content of all the new courses will be made available through e-learning in three months, and non-technical modules in booklets. It has also mooted online assessment of trainees on various subjects. The performance of the top scorers will be highlighted to motivate the staff.

The BSNL plans to develop an online test software and a question bank by August, run a trial test in September next year and take the initiative forward from then.

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