Manufacturing Industry: A Tale Of 2 HR Managers!

Two HR managers, let’s call them Mr One and Mr Two!

Both were at the same college, then attended the same B-school. In the campus interviews, they both got a job with the manufacturing industry, got almost the same package, the standard offer made to all the students.

But then, in a span of 3 years everything changed.

Mr One is flourishing in his career. His CEO asks for him in the boardroom for important discussions. On the other hand, Mr Two runs around on the shop floor, chases the production managers in the factory, waits for them to give him time for meetings. He curses the day he opted for a management education, and curses the professor who asked him to choose Human Resource management as a stream of specialisation.

What created this kind of gap in their status, in such a short time?

More than us, Mr Two wants to know!

Recently, when he attended the alumni reunion, his classmate Mr One arrived in a car. Not a fancy one, but yet a car of his own. And after the event finished, he had the guts to offer MR Two a drop at his place.

HR Managers

Mr Two declined. He took a rickshaw along with another friend. Throughout the trip, both of them kept guessing– What on earth Mr One did to achieve this success? What he had that others didn’t have?

The answer lies in 3 words: courage, initiative, numbers!

Both the classmates had joined traditional manufacturing companies, with a mandate to takeover HR responsibilities from administrative staff and set up a real Human Resource Management function in the organisation.

Both of them learnt fast that the classroom learning was of little use in actual factory scenarios. Discussing case studies about human resource policies is not the same as creating those policies from scratch, for a specific organisation, with specific objectives and budget allocations.

Mr Two started his career by having tea-meetings.

Tea meetings with production managers, engineers, even union leaders. His idea was to understand what was going on in the company. But before he realised, he got sucked up in the old company culture. It didn’t take him much time to realise that big HR management theories don’t apply in the rough-tough manufacturing sector.

He was convinced pretty soon that proxy attendance was a given in this industry. That late comers can’t be told to behave without personal confrontations. And he learnt the lesson:

Those mischief-makers were in the organisation for years and the management was okay with their behaviour.

Mr One started a little differently.

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He took courage and asked one of his alumni seniors for a meeting. The guy was a very senior officer in a leading manufacturing company.

His advice was: It’s a great opportunity to start an HR department. You are the change maker. So, don’t be influenced by people who say: Do not rock the boat, things happen here this way!

HR manager

Now this beginning was the foundation of the later difference between their careers.

When Mr Two was ordered by his CEO to create an HR policy for the organisation, he was stuck. He knew the organisation was cash poor. So he searched for policy templates on Google, downloaded some, and wrote his own policy documents.

These  policies were vehemently criticized by other department heads, employees and union leaders. The CEO shared these documents with one of his relatives, a senior HR person in an MNC company. The relative laughed at those half-cooked policy documents.

And that led to a dressing down of Mr. Two by his CEO. Poor lad’s confidence dipped even further.

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Mr One, on the other hand, asked his CFO for a meeting and asked the budget allocation for his initiatives. The CFO, a CA friend of the CEO, was curt: Try to spend as little as possible. You aren’t a profit centre, and we are spending a good amount on your salary itself.

Mr One understood one thing. While the CFO didn’t specify an amount, there was some money for him after all.

He too, went to Google. But he didn’t search for those templates. He searched for experts who could help him with authentic information. He found one! An organisation run by HR professionals who offered a ‘Do It Yourself’ HR service. On their portal he could put information about his organisation, industry details, job requirements, and other details. And on the other side he would get authentic, approved by expert policy documents. As per his organisation’s requirements.

He asked production managers, finance people and other department heads for specific information. And then used 3 free trial samples from that portal. Now he had policy documents that people couldn’t argue with.

His CEO had tried a few consultants before, resulting in disappointment. So, he was curious and dashed a one line email: Where from you copied these documents?

When he came to know the approach used by Mr One, it impressed him. And taking the good opportunity, the young guy asked for a subscription to the portal which asked only a few hundred Rs for downloading such policies.

Mr One pitched: Once we establish these policies, I can go on to fix the payroll issues, employee engagement activities and other important things.

The CEO’s face brightened up. He knew, he had got his hand on a promising HR person. He agreed.

In the next few weeks, Mr One had all the policy documents in place.

While Mr Two was cribbing in his WhatsApp group about feeling alone in a harsh factory environment, Mr One was reflecting on the power of automation and cloud services.

He already had gained initial credibility, and started focusing on tougher issues.

Payroll discrepancies were a big source of conflicts in the organisation. A desktop software was used for payroll generation of some 800 employees. Excel sheets were manually prepared & uploaded to the system and a team worked tirelessly to make the salary disbursement on time. Which never happened. Simply because it was too much work, and too cumbersome.

Mr One used his B-school learning here. They were taught the importance of Excel sheets, and even had a workshop on Excel tricks, macros and techniques. He went through all the payroll work sheets, created some advanced formulas and helped the payroll team cut their time and effort by 30%.

That gained him more credibility. People started looking to him as a young HR manager who made an impact through his disciplined and creative approach.

After a year:

It was not all so bad for Mr Two. He got a 20% salary increment, above average for his organisation. He was surely making a difference in the company. The presence of an HR manager itself changes a lot of things in an organisation. So, even if he was toiling and struggling and cribbing, he had a job.

But Mr One got a 36% salary hike. When the CFO questioned it, CEO said–

“We are lucky that we have got such a guy for so low a salary. I don’t wish to lose him to another competitor. To justify this salary, he was also awarded the promotion to the post of senior HR manager.

Employees in his organisation cracked jokes: Here comes a senior manager with no juniors to report to him.

He also laughed with them. And then did another clever thing. Got juniors for him.

He hired 3 interns from his B-school to assist him. And asked them to prepare a comparative report about the productivity levels of successful companies in his industry.

One day, the CEO and CFO had a meeting and they called him for some HR numbers. While giving them those numbers, Mr One also showed the comparative study to them.

He informed them–

Other companies were managing the same level of production with a 20% less number of workers.

CEO looked at him with a questioning eye–

‘Youngman! Our machines are any day better than their machines!

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Mr One was polite–

‘You are right sir. But there is proxy attendance problem in our organisation. And leave management issues also remain unresolved. These issues lead to dissatisfaction among workers. This is leading to bad employee experience and low workforce morale.’

The CEO and the CFO weren’t bothered about soft issues like workforce morale and employee experience, but they understood one thing:

The daily altercations in the factory was lowering the productivity. Cutting their profits.

The CEO instructed the young MR One–

“Find out, how those organisations tackle such issues?”

Mr One had already had a meeting with his alumni senior, and had the answer ready–

‘Sir, those organisations use modern HRMS solution for time and attendance capturing.’

CEO retorted, ‘Attendance is attendance! What difference does that make?’

‘Sir, those HRMS comes with sensitive biometric systems which reject the proxy rubber fingers. Also, once an HRMS is in place, the employees make sure they mark an input and out. They can’t go to administration for making adjustments. People can fight with people, but they can’t fight with a machine!’

CFO smiled. But he cut his smile short. The CEO was not smiling at all. He was deep in his thoughts.

The young MR One gathered his courage and continued–

‘Sir, because all HR processes are automated in those organisations, the shift planning is fast and accurate. The salaries can be disbursed on any given day, and they are accurate. In fact, they save a lot of money on contractor bills. Contractors can’t claim a higher attendance by their employees. Like I said earlier, you can’t fight with a machine!’

This time, the CEO too smiled.

He said, ‘my boy, no one can fight with numbers, too! If we save money and increase productivity we would like to install such solutions.’

The CFO opened his cards now, ‘I had asked quotes from some vendors. It is an expensive affair to develop an HRMS solution!’

Mr One had understood by now that confrontation is not a good strategy. He started with agreement–

‘CFO sir, you are correct. Developing these HRMS solutions is very expensive.’

The CFO smiled. He always had the last word in decision-making.

But Mr One was prepared well for such an objection.

He quickly presented some fresh quotes from SaaS based HRMS vendors.

The CEO was impatient now. He said, ‘We will see it later. There are other important matters going on right now.’

Mr One left the cabin. Fingers crossed. He had made his honest attempt.

Inside the cabin, CEO browsed through the quotes. And passed it to the CFO. Both of them knew, HRMS with a SaaS offering was a no-brainer. It would save a lot of money for the organisation, without putting too much financial burden.

They both understood numbers more than anything else.

Soon, HRMS was in place. It was a big leap of success for Mr One.
Because now people started coming to factory in time. Even the rough leaders. They tried their old tactics for some time. But the administration had a good argument–

‘Machine captures the attendance, software calculates the salary!’

While rogue elements were cribbing now, the good employees were happy. The salaries happened on the prescribed date, and accurately. Their leave applications were attended to by the managers. Overtime was getting calculated correctly. And they had a mobile app which they showed off to workers from other factories.

Their company was progressing!

HR automation software changed the way people saw their company.

Now when the CEO made a speech: Thumped the table and claimed– Friends, we are changing!–employees actually believed him.

Mr One saw the numbers with pride, as day-by day, employee turnover went down, and employee retention time went up.

The production managers were happy as the shift planning for the manufacturing plant became so much easier. Project managers gave a big thumbs-up to the initiative as they didn’t have to register their fingerprints again and again when travelling to other factories.

The administrative staff felt so light. Payroll was no more a headache it was. Day-to-day conflicts were reduced. And most importantly, compliance was so much more in control.

Most happy was the CFO as he saw contractor bills getting right.

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Mr One was unstoppable now!

Most of the manual and repetitive tasks were taken care of by the HRMS solution. He had HR numbers on his dashboard and he surprised the CEO and CFO with insights which they appreciated.

This also gave Mr One the opportunity to organise employee engagement activities in the organisation. He asked some of his professors to come and deliver lectures for them.

The Operations management professor even consulted the company and fixed inventory and supply chain management issues.

That’s how in a short time of three years he became an inseparable part of the CEO team.

The CEO now understands the importance of soft skills. Learning and development is now an important focus for him.

Let’s not forget Mr two!

He is getting rewarded for his hard work: 18% increment every year–for toiling alone, fighting with administrative department and production department, and begging with CFO every now and then. (And for all the efforts that he put into explaining to his mother, why was he so busy when everyone went home? Why can’t he meet the potential brides even on a holiday!)

He is called a senior manager now. And cribs on WhatsApp: Ever heard of a senior manager with no juniors? That’s me! Poor me!

The magic of three words– Courage, initiative, numbers– is in full demonstration in Mr One’s life.

He no more focuses on routine tasks. With numbers and data in his hand he is working towards attracting better talent with new employee onboarding processes. Talking with HR vendors to implement online video interviews and application tracking systems.

Now that the CEO has seen the power of automation software, he wishes to implement AI and analytics in his organisation. And MR One is the one who is leading the project.

His CEO doesn’t want to lose him to some MNC company and offered him 50% increment, and a cabin with the designation: HR Department Head!

HR Department

A head with a body! He has 7 people working with him, 3 of them MBA-HR from B-schools.

He is getting married to his girlfriend next year, planning a honeymoon at Singapore.

When his pictures will go up on the Facebook, two things can happen.

HR Manager

Either Mr Two would think good luck and connections helped his classmate. And crib about his own situation.

Or, he will try to learn Mr One’s secrets, take courage and implement HR automation in his own organisation.

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