Maintaining productivity with a ‘reduced’ workforce

At a construction site in Kochi. Photo : Thulasi Kakkat  

Nine out of every ten Indian organisations are now battling workforce shortage — that is the finding of an online survey conducted by Kronos Incorporated in partnership with Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) in July.

Half of them attribute the shortfall largely to dedensification and isolation policies in place to check the spread of the Coronavirus, and partly to migration of workers back to their hometowns.

The survey, in which around 200 chief human resource officers, employee engagement heads and heads of business partners participated, identified flexible work timings, creation of a multi-skilled workforce and institution of rewards and incentives as measures taken to improve workforce utilisation and productivity. Increased automation in workforce management was also suggested.

Matching competencies

Amit Sharma, CHRO, Volvo Group, points out that at any point in time, only one-third of the workers can be on the shop floor, the challenge lies in ensuring every such group have all the critical skills for manufacturing work.

“After the lockdown was lifted, the challenge was about getting the right competencies for our manufacturing facilities while maintaining the 33% upper ceiling in terms of workforce presence. So, we scaled down our manufacturing volumes in line with the lower demand. We then conducted process-wise line balancing, which is a key input process for the Main Assembly — like Paint, Weld and Pre-Assembly —in the first two weeks of the restart,” says Sharma.

Next they distributed the competencies on offer through their workforce equally across the days, by working on the composition of the three groups.

“Absenteeism was controlled by ensuring everyone feels psychologically safe and by ensuring all infection prevention protocols were undertaken at the site,” says Sharma.

Besides asking employees to be flexible about their work, Volvo started regular dialogues with the union to ensure alignment.

Multiple hats

Duroflex Mattresses reskilled its employees in the factory so that they could multi-task and fill in for those employees who have migrated to their hometowns.

Anushree Singh, Country HR Head – AkzoNobel India, says they used the early months of the lockdown to multi-skill and retrain their employees and this has come in handy.

“Having a trained workforce with fungible skills provides the flexibility to move people around. At one of our sites, where we saw Coronavirus cases increase, teams in the production function rose to the occasion and fulfilled the work demands on the shop floor,” says Anushree, adding that manpower shortage in certain functions has necessitated new ways of working and creation of new roles.

“In my own department, for instance, we have made a hybrid role that could cater to some immediate demands,” says Anushree. She believes this situation is providing employees with greater exposure and an incentive to learn new skills.

Hiring temporary staff

Navneet Singh, CEO, Avsar HR Services, says reverse migration of workers is driving the demand for temporary staff. “Earlier, we were sending 500-1000 temporary staff on a monthly basis, now in the last three months we have seen the demand more than double for a month,” says Singh. The turnaround time from clients has also grown shorter.

“We typically have two types of contract — Fixed Term Contract that is for a fixed duration of time, say 11 months, and short-term ranging from one day till the completion of the project. Increasingly we are seeing many of our clients looking for short-term contracts,” says Singh.

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2020 1:22:12 PM |

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