Mantra for success – Productive and innovative workforce

Ever since industrialization started in early 19th century, the industry was always finding ways for improving productivity. More than a hundred years back, economy was a small fraction of what world is exhibiting today and things did not change much over decades. Technology too was changing after a long gaps and it was common for a generation to see little change in their way of life.

productivity2The challenges for industry that primarily constituted of manufacturing was about improving the productivity of the workforce. Labour was in plenty as industry mostly needed only hands that would do the given task and do little or no thinking. Industrial revolution moved to mass production and assembly lines that needed even more labour and intense need to regulate the quality of production by training the labour workforce to follow a motion based on time and motion studies conducted by industrial engineers.

It was a very mechanical and boring. Workers clung to their jobs as there was nothing else for them to earn and loathed the working environment that forced them to do things that needed them to behave like machines. Over period of time, they would adjust to this lover level of work needs and reduce themselves to just hands that were needed to do a defined work every day, year on year at the same place without taking any pride in what they did.

New machines and any effort to modernize the process that threatened the livelihood of the workforce were opposed using all techniques including strikes. This continues even today in a small number. It was constant tiff between the management and labour workforce, for reason that stemmed out of the facts that workers did not take pride in their work and the management used the workers as machines. Later, to bring better harmony Industrial relations started gaining traction. Workers too started coming under common umbrella of unions to bargain better deals for themselves.

Workers who took no pride in their work, hung on to their work as they had no option for their livelihood. Over a period of time factories closed and workers lost their jobs and a lot of churn happened as change was resisted from both sides. Since availability of labour was high, management did get their way more often than not even though labour unrest started giving rise to a different kind of socio-political dynamics.

The famous quote by auto manufacturer Henry Ford ‘Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants, so long as it is black.’ appears very comical today. Those times when customer had little choice, anything manufactured could be sold. Today, even the best product is challenged and a competition to that is ready in no time.

Now, more than a century later the industry is needing absolutely different way of managing workforce. The service sector and even manufacturing sector who now depend on highly skilled workforce have set new paradigms for workforce management. The core reason even after a century later remains the same ‘Productivity’ and a new mantra ‘Innovation’.

Need for productivity and innovation is pushing companies to hire the best, retain their best talent, train their workforce well and create an environment where productivity and innovation can foster itself in a sustained manner.

This is a subject that is close to my heart and I have myself been very active in experimenting various models of bringing productivity and innovation in my own company. In the series of my blog for next few weeks, I will share some innovative ways companies are discovering and redefining new ways of managing their workforce.

Alok Kumar

Alok Kumar is Managing Partner of SRKay Consulting group, a private equity company, nurturing innovative ventures. Alok also serves on the board of ICCL (Indian Clearing Corporation Limited - A subsidiary of BSE- Bombay Stock Exchange) as an external advisor for technology and information security. Prior to this, Alok had been Managing Director of Sears IT & Management Services India Private Limited (SHI) since its inception in December 2009 and served in the same position till very recently. Having been in senior IT management positions in Fortune 500 companies, Alok has won several national and international awards. Alok is instrumental in planning and setting up SHI and thereafter growing it to a multi-locational thousand-plus people organization. Over the last five years, with his strategic vision, Alok helped SHI grow roots in India, develop and support technology applications and infrastructure across core mainframe, cutting edge e-Commerce and big data technologies. With his unique people-oriented transformational leadership style, Alok turned SHI into one of the most valued investments of Sears, garnering great ROIs, and creating value much beyond cost arbitrage. Under his tutelage, SHI has filed two patents and is recognized widely for its best practices in various areas, the latter, currently featured in Indian Institute of Management (IIM) case studies. SHI also became a CMMI Level 3, PCMM Level 3, and ISO 20000 certified organization. Alok is a widely acclaimed corporate leader in India today. He regularly participates and leads various forums as a keynote speaker and is an author of several books in different genres. Alok has several awards to his credit. He is particularly known in the industry for his people management skills and innovative ideas in improving the productivity of employees through unique people practices. He has been credited with the following industry awards: ¬ Emerging Leader of the Year award 2013 by ¬ Game Changer CEO of the Year 2013 (SHRM) ¬ CIO 100 - The Bold CIOs - 2008 (Reliance Infosolutions) ¬ CIO - Ones to Watch Award 2008 (Reliance Industries) ¬ Extended Manager Award - CIOL 2004 (Tata Teleservices) As an able leader of SHI, Alok got SHI recognized widely in the industry with the following several awards: ¬ CII Award for HR Best Practices in 2014 ¬ Global Excellence in Outsourcing Award - AIOP (Phoenix 2013) ¬ IT Innovation Award (Design & Engineering) - Computer Society of India 2012 ¬ Golden Company of the Year - Economic Times 2011-12 ¬ 7th Employer Branding Awards - World HRD Congress (Mumbai, India) 2013: • ‘Asia’s Best Employer’ Award • ‘Best HR Strategy’ in line with business • HR Leadership Award • Talent Management Award by Bloomberg TV India ¬ Employer Branding Awards - World HRD Congress (Singapore, Asia) 2013: • 7th rank in ‘Asia’s Best Employer’ award • Award for ‘Best HR Strategy’ in line with the business • HR Leadership Award Other recognitions: Alok had served on the distinguished panel of NASSCOM's GIC (Global In-house Centers) National Council members. The council members play a key role in major initiatives of the industry and include the torch bearers of IT industry as panel members. Books and Papers: Alok is an established author, with three books to his credit. Alok’s third and latest book, a novel, “The Spy from Unaula” is a 2015 publication. A handwriting analysis enthusiast, Alok collaborated with his wife Nandani on the book, “Handwriting Speaks” in 2006. “Value Sourcing – Future of IT Outsourcing” was co-authored with Keith Sherwell (currently CIO, Altice USA) and was released in 2013. Alok also researched and published two whitepapers: a. “Creating next generation captives” talks about the best practices that are helping generate higher value from the IT company captives.

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