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Significance of Human Resources Leadership and Corporate Success

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Human Resources Leadership, notoriously gets its renown through absence. Be it an Airline Passenger Transgression or a Nation’s end-to-end swings while tacking Covid;  what is essentially wanting is deft Human Resources Management. No collective, positive human endeavor succeeds without conscious and careful managing of Human Resources. HRM acquires special significance in the Corporate World when we see how impactful it is when the Staff of Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Mumbai give up their lives to save Guests and when many employees resign and those who remain give a thumbs down to the new Twitter CEO, in a Poll, ordained by the CEO himself. How the Human Resources are handled in a company almost always determines the company’s fate. And much of what becomes a company’s HR Script is determined by the HR Leader. 

Seasoned Business Leaders know getting an astute HR Leader is not an easy task at all. Company Values are literally put into practice through the HR Leader. HRM is  one arena where a ‘Yes Man’ spells an assured doom. A principled approach in times of headwinds is a task not for the faint-hearted. Knowing the business, returns on investment, seen/unseen challenges, and being future-ready are indispensable for the position. Therefore, the vision of the HR Leader is paramount on the mind of a company’s head. Much planning, 360-degree scrutiny, a proven track record and selection from the best in the leadership pipeline is resorted to while selecting an HR Leader to head a company. After all, it’s the HR Leader who nurtures the most invaluable asset of a company and prepares it  to face storms and overcome the stiffest of challenges.  

Coming to PSUs, the role of  an HR Leader acquires special significance since these companies not only deal with the exchequers money but through them many a Government policy,  be it removal of unemployment, equality, removal of discrimination, inclusive corporate environment, transparency (most have open performance evaluation systems), career progression on merits, functional & developmental training, welfare amenities, medical facilities, educating customers,  effective CSR etc. get fructification.  Much of all this is hidden from the common man. The calls of customers and owners (majority is the Government of India) can often be contradictory and handling this is not easy. It takes a special skill set to head the HR vertical in a PSU. 

The selection of the HR Head in a PSU is also a very long and elaborate process. There are strict set of prerequisites and years of specialized service requirements. The person has to come up to the strict evaluation standards and is selected by the PESB, the recommendation is in turn subject to Vigilance and other clearances. After the mandatory clearances, comes the  portion of  approvals from the Government machinery where the credentials & desirability  are put to strictest inspection by the  highest of Government Offices. All this  entails spending  time and costs borne by the exchequer itself. Strictly on monetary terms, the profits or its likelihood can even out the costs of actually running a PSU on exchequers money. However, the process of an elaborate system of checks and balances after recommendation by PESB &  Mandatory Clearances;  the actual assertion  by various Governmental Agencies is a sunken cost. Furthermore, the latter,  appears to be an executive process which has no provision of  appeal. It’s an administrative act but with judgmental attributes. Being a rather non transparent process, human nature being what it is, prejudices  and undisclosed factors cannot be totally ruled out. 

A piquant situation arises when a directorial candidate is young at time of selection and upon appointment, his designated tenure gets over before his superannuation,. Such a director, as per rules, stands reverted to his so called substantive post of DGM/GM/ED. This almost tantamounts to punishment of awarding a demotion to lower grade. Historically such reverted executives prefer to resign, than continue working in the same organization, at a  lower post. Of late, the numbers are alarming with instances of HR and Non HR leaders not getting extensions in ONGC, GAIL, NBCC, HUDCO and maybe in HR, IOCL as well (in coming days). This is a sheer wastage of money of a PSU which invests considerable amounts to groom candidates to take higher leadership positions. Unless such non extension is on disciplinary grounds there is no need for a show cause notice also. But it cannot be denied that since the particular person has not superannuated, just to let his appointment, abate at passing of the designated period, without citing any reasons, seems harsh and unjust. To conclude, the principle seems to be –  the tenure of a Director of a PSU is incumbent upon the satisfaction of concerned appointing authorities, who need not even expressly state the same. Obviously, an appeal as a remedy, in such instances, does not exist. 

Of late, it is noticed that if a Director’s  tenure does not get extended the practice of giving additional charge comes in very handy. Many CEOs’ and Directors’ are only happy to accept these additional responsibilities, especially when they are not much burdened as in  PSUs,  Board Level decisions are taken unanimously, hardly any agenda is put to vote. It is a matter of serious concern to the citizens, with whose money these PSU companies run, that appointments at the highest of levels are left to the designs of few high functionaries in the Government without adequate safeguards. As regards the impact of such decisions on the morale of employees, less said the better. Experts are of the opinion that such practices not only ruin the professional side  of good PSU executives, who put in their best years of life, for the service of the nation but also disillusions the youth and common citizens of the nation. 

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