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Scoring a point: How to boost productivity and encourage employee morale

Indian enterprises, near Mumbai, got trained on Workplace Cooperation module of ILO SCORE programme. They’ve recorded better productivity and enhanced manager-employee relationship.

Feature | 15 August 2017
NASHIK, India (ILO News) — Jyoti Kadam has been an employee with JP Enterprise — a Nashik-based manufacturer of auto electrical parts for Mahindra and Mahindra — for nearly five years. Her day starts with a brisk ten-minute line meeting where she assesses the needs and responsibilities of each worker in her team and plans the production for the day.

Preeti Sharma, technical HR at JP, says a 15-20 per cent productivity jump has been recorded along with fall in absenteeism after the programme's implementation.
Till a few months back, work on the shop floor used to happen in a haphazard manner – it lacked planning, resulting in miscommunication and conflicts among both workers and their supervisors. But ever since the implementation of ‘Workplace Cooperation’ – Module One of ILO’s SCORE programme (The Sustaining Competitive and Responsible Enterprises) – things have changed for the better. The programme stresses on collective ownership among workers and employers for the job they do by promoting respect and trust, breaking hierarchies between senior management and staff, knowledge sharing and exchanges so as to boost productivity, quality, innovation, well-being and team work.

Small wonder – MSMEs in India

India is home to more than 36 million micro, small & medium enterprises (MSMEs) (as per the fourth census of MSMEs) providing employment to over 106.1 million persons (second largest after agriculture). This sector fuels the Indian economy and has a large appetite for innovation, and entrepreneurship. A sector that employs a million each year, the Government has launched various national programmes namely– Skill India, Make in India with a Zero Effect Zero Defect approach to make businesses easy and fruitful. However, at a granular level — enterprises often cope with myriad everyday challenges.

The SCORE programme helps shape a narrative in which every worker and employer at every enterprise sees enhanced cooperation, productivity jumps, technological improvements, good OSH practices, smoother work flow among others.

Dharmesh Boria, owner of JP Enterprise, at first felt unconvinced of piloting this module on workplace cooperation. But when he realized that his existing HR interventions were not yielding the desired results, he warmed up to the idea of trying out the SCORE approach. “Workplace issues had persisted. But that is a thing of the past now”, he says. “There’s a visible change in the morale of the workers. Employees are now eager to contribute, absenteeism has fallen, and many take pride in finding solutions to challenging situations."

Winds of change

JP Enterprise started with bridging the gap between the workers and employers. An Enterprise Improvement Team (EIT) was set -- comprising of both top management and staff. It was the first time that both management and staff were sitting at the same table – learning about each other’s common issues and finding solutions. Rather than a top-down outlook, the focus now was to make the decision-making process participatory and transparent. A break from old patterns of working, many found this process deeply-empowering. The EIT team now meets on a weekly basis. The meetings have a 50-50 ratio - comprising of both management and operators.

Next, a ten-minute daily stock-taking meeting was soon implemented at the shop floor. Operators met with their supervisors and chalked the day’s production agenda. “In fact, one employee, who never spoke much, surprisingly, during one of the ten minute line meeting, came up with a novel idea. He piloted a simple technique to improve a production cycle – what took our machine 90 seconds to complete a cycle, now takes 60. With this we recorded a productivity hike of nearly 15-20 per cent,” says Preeti Sharma, technical HR at JP.

Chetan Patil, a mixing operator, used to be a luggage porter. Today he’s an invaluable member of the enterprise. “My role is to issue raw materials, mix batches, and prepare masters on the shop floor. My boss is very happy that I have initiated improvements. He even lets me take charge.”

“Workers used to come to me and complain often. The common grudge was that they don’t feel involved and that instructions are simply passed on to them. They did not feel valued. But now that scenario has completely changed. We are yet to decide how to link salary incentives to those who are performing well under SCORE”, says Boria.

At Shree Shyam Processors Limited, another auto part supplier to Mahindra and Mahindra, the Employee Suggestion Scheme under Workplace Cooperation module has received good feedback. Within a week of the programme’s launch, the HR put in place a suggestion box. They soon started to receive employee feedback. Most operators look forward to participating in the decision-making processes and sort out operational issues at the enterprise. “Earlier we were not able to interact with our managers but after SCORE’s programme we communicate freely. Our suggestions through the employee suggestion system is accepted. We are happy that our feedback is recognized by the management,” says Om Prakash.

Manjushree Gaonkar the group HR executive says, “The staff now thinks twice before skipping work as everyone looks forward to the daily ten minute line meeting. Also a sense of responsibility has started to build up. Employees regularly fill their leave card, inform teams and managers of their planned leaves and things move smoothly. Earlier there was barely any communication between the supervisor and the worker. This resulted in conflicts and apathy.”

Shyam Processors is aiming high. They want to reduce machine breakdowns from 29 hours to 26 hours, achieve 90 per cent customer satisfaction, a two-digit PPM (parts produced per month). Their customer satisfaction index has been steadily on the rise – nearing 100 per cent -- and for the current fiscal year the enterprise is also aiming at zero defect days. With SCORE they feel all this is possible.

Enterprise development

The ILO SCORE programme is built on the assumption that productivity can be upgraded through better people management, better organization of work processes and the application of workplace practices guided by the principles of International Labour Standards. In India the first phase of the programme started in the year 2011. Currently more than 100 pilot SMEs -- with over 7600 employees -- have been trained under the SCORE programme. While there are a total of five modules under SCORE geared towards enterprise developments, these enterprises in Nashik have so far implemented the mandatory Module 1 “Workplace Cooperation.”

Kishore Karve, trainer with the SCORE programme, says that often companies stress on meeting their delivery schedules and the involvement of workers is neglected. In the long run, this can prove to be a death knell. A short-sighted approach of only meeting targets can affect team dynamics, disrupt planning of work and hamper growth and sustainability of an enterprise.

This training makes the environment conducive for an enterprise to tackle productivity and human resource issues.” “SCORE is a unique programme,” chips in Vijay Padate, Director General of Employers’ Federation of India, ILO’s constituent. “There is an appetite among the small and medium enterprises to overhaul their systems and SCORE can play a decisive role in helping such enterprises grow.”