SCORE India Case Study: Helping enterprises to integrate migrant workers through SCORE Training

India is witnessing a huge movement of migrant labor especially from northern and eastern parts of India to Western and Southern States. While this is triggering economic prosperity for these workers and help host States meet their demand for labor, this phenomenon also brings with it unique challenges. ILO’s “Sustaining Competitive and Responsive Enterprises (SCORE)” initiative is aiding Enterprises handle some of these challenges boldly and systematically adopt methods that help absorb migrant workers as part of their productive resource base more compassionately.

One company that has taken SCORE Training in the region is Sakthi Engineering Works in Chennai, Tamil Nadu.

The factory floor at Sakthi Engineering Works in Chennai, Tamil Nadu.

“ I am satisfied with my work. I feel the change, I am proud that I can also contribute positively to my enterprise ”
Mr Rajendrakumar, Machine Operator, Sakhti Engineering Works, Chennai, Tamil Nadu

The real challenges faced by migrant workers are the same as any other worker except that the challenges are compounded by no means of organized support made available to address their unique concerns. One key issue is literacy. Many migrants come from an economic background where long shifts to earn overtime allowances are the norm. The proportion of migrant labour in total head count in these small and medium engineering enterprises will remain the same, if not increase in the years to come, attention needs to be given to manage this important part of the workforce differently, to help them realise their full potential.

SCORE Training engagement model helps integrate migrant workers through some basic measures…

a) SCORE Trainers recommend that enterprise owners introduce migrant workers to the company and culture - a formal induction program, not just on skills, but also on getting to “belong” quickly.

b) SCORE trained enterprises are encouraged to consider language training to a level necessary to handle assigned tasks effectively. The flip-side is to provide Hindi language training to local staff - especially middle management supervisors and managers to communicate better with migrant workers

c) Immediate provision of proper safety gear at work, especially to migrant contract labour as labour contractor might not ensure this.

d) Special attention to notices and verbal communication translated in migrant worker languages – especially critical announcements that impacts their actions and results.

e) Employee surveys focusing on migrant workers to periodically assess needs and address them at the earliest opportunity – which has a positive effect on morale and productivity.

Migrant Worker turns star contributor - taking the lead to meet workplace Challenges

Rajendrakumar, migrant worker from Bihar has travelled more than 2000km to make a living. He has picked up a smattering of the local Language Tamil only to do essential shopping but he struggles to understand most of what is spoken at the workplace. Language makes everything around him strange and unfamiliar. It is not the same as it was in his native small town. Uttering even one word to seek help from other employees was next to an impossible task.

Attending the SCORE Training changed everything for him for the better. Everyone now looks at him with respect and takes time to listen to what he says. As a formal member of the Enterprise Improvement Team, he ensures he never misses any meeting mainly because he can freely express his views and everyone listens to his ideas.

How is Rajendrakumar contributing and getting a sense of “belonging”?

Rajendrakumar took a personal initiative to improving the condition of worker’s toilet and availability of adequate drinking water facilities in the shop-floor. His contributions lie in involving others and creating awareness towards better upkeep of toilets and company provided facilities; in particular amongst fellow migrant workers from North.  This directly impacted and augmented the results. But Rajendrakumar was not one to rest on his laurels… He also wanted to contribute in the work he was assigned to perform...

The 10-min shop-floor meeting that takes place every day was repeatedly highlighting issues, one of which related to a bottleneck in a particular milling operation of a nut that frequently holds up production. He decided to take positive action, he suggested the implementation of a modified fixture to hold the parts by which he can hold 28 items in one setup versus the previous 20 items. This 30% increase directly affected production of just one machine, one example of the many contributions from Rajendrakumar for the business.

The daily 10 minute "shop floor meeting".

“I find team work has improved and sense of responsibility has increased amongst employees after the first SCORE Training module – Workplace Cooperation ”
Ramesh Kumar, Proprietor, Sakhti Engineering Works, Chennai

Is communication a key challenge?
Yes indeed, language and effective communication with migrant workers becomes the key challenge in enterprises that employ sizeable population of migrant workers. This is relevant for all parts of the Tamil Nadu state.

Prior to SCORE Training, Information exchange was always in local language and all displays in English. Formal meetings were conducted in English and as this required special efforts to ensure interpretation, little attention was given to verify if migrant population understood the messages conveyed.

Information sharing sessions introduced following SCORE Training with migrant workers in their language - essential for understanding and worker integration.

Is SCORE Training breaking the barriers?

SCORE Training aims to break barriers and help enterprises take vital small steps in the right direction, helping them communicate more effectively internally with the migrant labour workforce.

During the SCORE Training interventions, the Trainer tries to help improve effective communication, information-sharing through multiple avenues such as the Notice Board, Enterprise Improvement Team, Daily production Line meetings, suggestion boxes etc.

• Under the SCORE Training initiative, enterprises are encouraged to nominate migrant workers, to join training programs. With no formal education beyond the basics, and coming from poorer backgrounds; SCORE’s Training is almost always the first formal class-room training they’ve ever attended.

• While putting together a formal activity group within the enterprise called the “Enterprise Improvement Team”, it is ensured that migrant workers are also selected and included so they feel part of the improvement process and are given equal opportunities to contribute.

• During formal meetings conducted on the shop floor, SCORE enterprises have begun to appreciate this need and are now ensuring message reaches all.

• Migrant workers are prone to working extra hours for additional pay, also because they often have a limited social life outside of the factory. Attention in SCORE trained factories is given to ensure there is a healthy balance of work and rest.

• SCORE Training emphasises clean, hygienic amenities for workers and every improvement project focussing on ensuring decent work for every human being.