While Indian employees are high on commitment, they are comparatively lesser valued, feels Shirish Jain, Executive Vice President at KnitPro International. A three hour long conversation with Shirish Jain revealed how for him, creating an amazing workplace is a step by step learning process.
KnitPro International is an SME organization manufacturing Hobby & Craft products for knitting industry in Noida (Delhi–NCR) & Jaipur (Rajasthan) and exporting them to more than 60 countries across the globe for the past 11 years.
Key Problem faced: Hiring employees, specially women, for their factory in a greenfiled industrial park Rajasthan, India and retaining employees in general.
Employees are the heart and soul of the company
It may sound clichéd but employees form the backbone of our company. We are what we are today because of our employees. They understand systems, operations and production at every step. When we entered this business in 2007, we got stuck in an area of production. It was a very junior worker who came up with an excellent solution to resolve this issue and help the company take off. This is an incident which brings to light the role of employees in an organization. For us, our people are extremely important.
We recruit people who display a positive attitude and willingness to learn new things and are open to new ideas.
Our industry is about creativity, DIY and we manufacture innovative products. Hence we look for people who are open to ideas and suggestions. We structure our people in such a manner, be it our junior staff, supervisory staff, managers, general managers and the Vice President, that they are receptive to new ideas.
In the international market, we are competing with large players from Germany, Japan, US, UK. Some of these players have been in the industry for more than 100 years. We need open minded people who understand our product, our target customer and are aware how globalization works.
We believe that the Last mile has to connect with the first mile. Hence, during the induction phase, we apprise our people with our facilities and the markets that we cater to. It gives them a 360 degree view of the entire product process, from manufacturing till end usage. It opens them to different possibilities and scenarios they would be facing while they work for us.
As a step towards diversity and inclusion, we never say no to any woman who comes to us for employment
Noida is a hub for labour class where the entire family is involved in employment. However, for our factory at Ajmer road, outside Jaipur city, hiring women was a real challenge. To understand and address this issue, we sent our volunteers to speak with women in the area. The interactions revealed that these women were happy performing daily chores in their households.
To resolve this issue and educate these women about the benefits of employment other than monetary benefits, we structured a programme in association with a local group in Jaipur. Our volunteers started talking to women, understanding their needs and explaining how they can improve their stature among their family members and society at large. Our efforts paid off and 2-3 younger women enrolled for employment.
Slowly the fleet of women increased, and today we have almost 325 women employees in our Jaipur factory. Special benefits have also been designed for them by providing for transport and separate reporting hours so that they are able to manage both house and work perfectly well.
We restructured our remuneration and fixed it way above the state prescribed minimum salary to help employees manage expenses
At our Jaipur factory, we used to face an attrition of 15 to 20 %. When we studied the problem deeply we uncovered two dominant factors. Workers in this region generally belong to UP, Bihar and MP and they predominantly have two important needs. Firstly, they needed to earn sufficiently enough, to send money back home. Secondly, since they were in a totally new environment, they needed avenues for relaxing, socialising and entertainment.
The first issue was addressed by increasing our minimum wages way beyond the prescribed minimum wages by the government in that area. Secondly we started helping them with their housing and arranging some excursions and outings. Employees were also encouraged them to form groups amongst themselves to help take advantage of community living.
Through our efforts, we have been able to reduce the attrition rate to 10% and we continue to make more efforts in this direction.
An American buyer told me, “you can show me all the certificates in the world, but it’s the look on your people’s faces which tells me the real story”!
Every organization should aim to become a happy work place because people spend most of the working hours at the workplace. Unfortunately in India, the culture of employers looking after the well being, happiness and satisfaction of employees was not very prevalent. I am glad that things are changing and a new culture is fast becoming popular. We too are part of this change.
We frequently organize small celebrations, contests and games to engage our staff. At Jaipur, we have an annual cultural event in November. It is a huge family event organized by our workers. They put up skits and dance programmes. We always invite our overseas guests to be a part of this event. Our people feel great pride in performing for the guests and sharing their experiences about working at Indeutsch Industries Private Limited. It makes them feel more connected.
An American buyer once told me that when I walk on your Company floor, I see the satisfaction and smile on the faces of your employees and that’s what tells me that may be what you’re doing for your people, is right.
We are definitely moving towards becoming an amazing workplace through the following steps:
Let people be themselves
Every Person is different and may have his/her own outstanding qualities. We need to identify that spark in each person and harness their energy accordingly. This is a challenge for all our managers and they work towards achieving the same.
Transparency and flow of information
One important thing that we have embarked upon is of the culture of openness. Employees have the freedom to speak and give suggestions and ideas. They can view records of their attendance, leaves, salary and loans on the intranet. It’s interesting to note that while we have predetermined budgets for loans every month, our employees decide amongst themselves whose need is more urgent and that person always gets the preference.
Employee awareness of Company’s goal
We personally do not believe in following a theoretical exercise by putting posters of our goals and values. Our effort is to make our people understand these terms and see how we implement it in our day to day working. We haven’t yet reached full awareness, however we plan to achieve it by the end of this year.
Training and development
We are currently not doing too great in this area. However, we have hired a full time trainer for enhancing productivity etc. His responsibility is to conduct regular trainings as well as create an army of trainers within the organization. Besides we always give priority to promote people internally before hiring external talent.
Our first employee from 1988 who worked at our brush manufacturing factory now is the General Manager and heads the factory, with over 800 people reporting to him.
We have started educating our people on their role clarity. Not just the white collared staff, but also the blue collared workforce is really receptive and open to ideas and they understand their roles well. Although we have not succeeded in all the places, we have seen things like productivity and engagement go up in a short span of time.
Alignment to work
We educate our workers about the journey of the needle after it’s shipped. Normally people stop caring once the goods are packed and shipped. However at our factory, we track the journey of the order till it reaches the end user and that really makes a big difference. It helps people to align to the goal of producing and shipping the right quality at the right time.
Flexibility of work
We understand that people, especially women, need certain flexibility. Hence we have introduced a rule that enables women workers to change their reporting hours at least 6 days in a month. At times we provide our white collared women employees the flexibility to work from home.
To become an amazing workplace we are working towards long term financial health of employees
We are working towards making our people a part of the growth that we have achieved. Investment schemes like SIP are being introduced for long term financial health of employees. Currently this is for senior staff, however, our effort would be to percolate these benefits further and take them to other junior workers as these people need to create long term wealth.
Organizations, to become an amazing workplace, should understand and take care of their employees’ needs
Organizations need to take care of their employees, especially blue collared employees and look after their long term needs. Financial security of employees is very important in today’s times. Besides taking care of the safety and medical needs of employees, employers should also educate employees about financial investments. These factors could actually make your company an amazing workplace.’