Dr. Rajen Mehrotra on Industrial Relations

[Dr. Rajen Mehrotra born in 1945 is an Electrical and Mechanical Engineer with a Masters and Ph.D. Degree in Management from the University of Mumbai. He has excelled in his career in academics [NITIE], in industry [Mukand, Novartis] and in ILO. His insightful views on various subjects are candid and studied. He is a highly respected professional who is respected for his knowledge, integrity and his contribution to the HRM.]

HResonance sought his views on two questions [as a part of our celebrations of blogging 100 posts,] and here are his responses:

There is suddenly a realisation in the Industry that competenices to manage Industrial Relations [or Employee Relations] are in short supply. What is your view and why has this happened? 

The 1991 economic reforms in India led to most companies relooking at their product portfolio by restructuring their product, process and people to ensure that the business remains competitive.  The decade from 1991 to 2001 saw large number of manufacturing companies introducing Voluntary Retirement Schemes and a total shift in the way manufacturing activities are performed.  During the same period, there was a high growth in the service sector.  In the last 20 years (i.e. 1991 to 2011), professionals that have entered in HR have not had the opportunity to acquire the requisite skill of handling Industrial Relations (IR) or Employee Relations (ER) because majority of them have entered the service sector and/or deal with executives and not workmen, hence competency in this area of IR or ER is in short supply.  While the student who pass out from academic institute are taught IR or ER, but the apprenticeship of learning only take place when one goes through the experience of handling this activity which in most cases is when you have to deal with employees who are defined as workmen under the Industrial Dispute Act or when you have to deal with union leaders who represent the workmen.  Very few HR professionals are going through this apprenticeship.

        Presently one is seeing a growth in the manufacturing sector and coupled with it there is a shortage of HR professionals who have these competencies.  I am a firm believer that this is a passing phase and the youngsters when placed in manufacturing sector will learn it just the way we learnt when we were young.

There is a fear that violence in Industrial Relations is raising its head. What is your view?

My view is there may be a few incidence of violence but it is not the type of militancy that we saw in the country in the 70s & 80s.  Whenever violence takes place, there are two sides of the coin and the same needs to be viewed not only from the management perspective but also from the workmen and union leaders’ perspective. I am a firm believer that if one builds relationship and has continuous communication, is fair and just, violence does not take place.  Sporadic instances in the country can not be looked as a trend.

Thanks, Dr. Mehrotra,