Nurturing the Employee Community

In a broader perspective, corporate responsibility includes not only the community outside but also the human community within the organization. Here again there are well known role models like Tata steel in India or SEMCO of Brazil. But in this article we are presenting the example of a less known Indian company belonging to small scale sector which is able to produce impressive results in the bottomline with people-centric policies.

The Company

Prabha Engineers is an auto component manufactures with 400 employees with a strong emphasis on “harnessing and constantly rewarding human potential of every individual in the organisation.” The Company has achieved remarkable results in several parameters of corporate performance format. Here are some of the major achievements of the company, as described in its website:

bullet Won some of the best awards in the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector
bullet No union till today
bullet Only 5% absenteeism
bullet Attrition averaging not more than 2%
bullet Indiscipline cases-practically Nil
bullet No strikes and lockout and no lost man-hours.

The Human Resource Development (HRD) practices and achievements of Prabha Engineering are reported in many business and trade magazines like Business Line, Auto Monitor, Business and Financial Express.

Why Prabha is a Happy Place to Be In

(A report on Prabha Engineering in Autocar Professional Collector’s Issue – Dec 15, 2006.)

FROM A SMALL Company with barely ten people on its roll in 1987 to a successful component maker with nearly 400 highly skilled employees at its plants in Hosur and Alwar, Prabha Engineers has come a long way.

During this journey, this Tier 1 supplier of front end structures to Ashok Leyland has managed to create a positive culture of trust and transparency. All this has led to good business growth as well as high employee morale and customer satisfaction.

A recent survey done by a private research firm indicates that the attrition level of managers in the manufacturing sector is 27 percent. The shift is largely towards the service sector which offers better salaries. The worst affected in this scenario are small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

This is where Prabha has reason to feel pleased. Attrition in its managerial cadre is less than two percent while this is five percent at the shop floor for the last five years!

How did it manage to weather this storm? C. Sivakumar, its chief executive officer, attributes this to meeting specific needs of employees first and letting them be fully involved in the growth process to achieve customer satisfaction.

It is not as if this happened over-night and was the result of a carefully planned out strategy. In early 1995, Sivakumar initiated a growth plan with a focus on the five Ms – men, machines, money, material and methods. By the end of the day, man is the only asset which can make a difference given that technology, processes and products can be emulated or replicated.

Prabha then began the process of change. Realizing the customer satisfaction could not be achieved by the top management alone, it resorted to theatre methodology (training) where the lowest cadre played the role of a king and the top management that of a subordinate. The experiment was a huge success and there was a greater feeling of equality on the work spot.

Training programmes conducted between 1995 and 1998 focused mainly on employee-related issues and the results were more than positive in terms of bonhomie. “Today, the team runs on ‘auto mode’ and needs the management only to steer them towards greater heights,” Sivakumar says.

In his view, it is important to be a people-centric organization first. Prabha advocates total transparency and workers are made to feel that their contribution is at par with the top management. Business plans at Prabha follow a bottom-up model where employees formulate a plan, guided by the CEO.

The company has evolved a slew of creative techniques to promote a positive attitude as well create a passion for excellence.

For instance, ‘Opening Shot’ is a daily morning session of positive preparation while ‘Trigger’ is the strain drain and a positive signal for achievement. ‘Fun at Work’ breaks inhibitions and equalizes level of hierarchy and ‘Outbreak’ is an adventure trip to gain confidence in doing things that were never done before. ‘Sports Day’ celebrates the human potential.

The security officer of the company is the ‘Officer First impression’ as he is the first contact for a visitor or customer. Unless he is well behaved, the opportunity of converting the first impression into the best could be lost.

Sivakumar believes that the family of employees must get involved in the growth process of their wards and the organisation. Spouse training sessions are conducted periodically giving them insights into parenting, home budgeting, talent promotion etc. The ‘Generation Next’ programme involves children of the employees attached to a mentor.

Prabha’s employee selection programme is based on the individual’s need and whether he/she can meet the company’s expectations. It has an extended induction programme to make new employees feel comfortable. Leveraging the strength of individuals is also given top priority.

Attrition resolved, the SME way

(Excerpts from a report on Prabha Engineering in Business Line Monday, September 17, 2007.)

Loud clapping, piercing whistles, gleeful shrieks and a toffee are not exactly things you’d expect of a wooden box. But the ‘ideas box’ in Prabha Engineers’ plant in Alwar, Rajasthan, does exactly that. If a worker takes the trouble of writing out a suggestion for improvement on a piece of paper and puts it in the box, he gets an instant reward.

Prabha Engineers, a supplier of components to Ashok Leyland, has come up with many such fun-filled ways of interaction within the organisation. For instance, people dress up like demons and sit at places that need to be negatively highlighted, such as unclean areas, or areas with an inventory pile-up or where work is left unattended.

Underlying these pranks is a desire to make the workplace fun to be in. And, behind this desire is another motive – employee retention.

Today, when even large companies are finding it hard to retain trained workmen, what is the plight of the small and medium enterprises, which cannot match the big companies in salary scales or the money spent on training. Neither do they have a brand pull to keep their flock together. Yet they have to work in the same competitive environment, as the large companies.

But SMEs such as Prabha Engineers have a few tricks up of their sleeve – something the other SMEs could learn from. Through innovative combinations of fun at work, opportunities to earn extra and job satisfaction, they are able to tackle the problem of retention.

Inclusion of Employee’s Family

Prabha probably became the first and only SME in the country to extend its large heart to 3 generations of an employee family – to us caring for the worker meant including his entire family as well…- his parents, spouse and children.

A Spouse Training Programme is organized each year, help the spouses to learn many new and interesting skills. The learning that they take home, along with an enhanced personal worth, all translate into making the home atmosphere peaceful, harmonious and congenial.

Generation Next is to help every child of the employee through mentoring and guidance in the areas of education and career choices to enable them to realize their full potential.

A Parents Meet is organized every year for the parents of the employees. Each month Prabha remembers the parents of each employee by a unique gesture. Prabha sends Rs.25/- to them as a token of love and appreciation for sending their wards to work in the company.

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