How to make Job Rotation Work: Practical wisdom from Marico Industries


Job Rotation is the art of enabling individuals to move from one role to another across functions. For example, a Sales Manager will first move to marketing and then to HR, which makes it a totally new role and functional experience for the Manager. Marco Industries has documented its practical and successful experience in this regard. This article discusses how Job Rotation can work, based on Marico's success in this regard.

Introduction

It is always observed from the real world of Corporate India that if the owner CEO or the professional CEO takes the lead role and pilots any major HR initiative, the success of that initiative is an assured proposition. Marico Industries is an HR-driven success story for decades. This multi-unit, multi-product company had put in place a superb System of Job Rotation, thus negating the well known Peter Principle, according to which, any individual will rise to his or her level of incompetence. Marico Industries and it's very good HR practices have always found their due importance in National HR Conferences. It's commendable efforts in Job Rotation have been documented in an article in Smart Manager, a bi-monthly management journal, published by Smart Manager Media Private Limited in its issue dated Jun-July 2007, pages 30 to 37. It has since then fine-tuned far better as well. The key learning points are: a) Spend years to develop the culture for Job Rotation b) Seek to understand the need and appropriateness c) encourage people to self assess their competencies and understand strengths d) Encourage employees to have a positive mentality and e) Job Rotation has to be part of a holistic package.

Spend years to develop the culture for Job Rotation

Mr. Harsh Mariwala, the brilliant owner CEO of Marico Industries who had written the very informative article referred above, advocates each of the five important points under discussion. In fact, he advocates a five to seven-period of building trust, openness and transparency among other such initiatives to help the setting up of the vital baseline for introducing Job Rotation. This becomes all the more important in a particular cultural context of the individual organization. Mr. Harsh Mariwala also advocates the need for very progressive HR practices like the 360-degree appraisal. This method of appraisal is unique, since it does obtain constructive feedback from superiors, subordinates, peers and sometimes even customers and suppliers if the role is one that includes interface with customers and suppliers in a big way. In fact, such initiatives were very much in place at Marico Industries before Job Rotation was introduced.

BHEL stands out as a very progressive HR organization. In this public sector organization, the local trade union organizations that represent their workmen have a say in the final settlement that gets introduced across BHEL. These trade unions always reflect local aspirations too, and these are addressed as well. Such a good HR base on the shop floor makes the line managers equip themselves far better in terms of picking up the skills of negotiation, counseling, addressing personal problems of workmen and so on. The best of these managers are job rotated to HR, where they are mandated to play the Head of HR role. They are given additional skills in aspects like statutory compliance, representing the organization in labor court if necessary and so on. However, the emphasis is always on pro-active HR. BHEL is one of the pioneers of the Quality Circles movement. There are thousands of such voluntary groups of workmen throughout BHEL, that have saved crores of rupees, after implementing workplace improvements. Similarly, the organization has implemented thousands of suggestions. BHEL is a highly competitive global organization, with operations abroad. Their project management skills are also too good.

This is the sort of baseline needed for Job Rotation. As emphasized by Mr. Mariwala, it is very important to first establish the HR baseline over a five year period and then go on to introduce Job Rotation.

Seek to understand the need and appropriates

If a particular Manager is unwilling for Job Rotation, he or she should be left alone. It is not okay to implement Job Rotation in total. It has to be a marriage of the innate potential of the person and the organizational requirement. This will ensure a win-win situation for the individual and the organization, making it a very viable proposition for Job Rotation to work. It has often been a very established procedure in organizations like Hindustan Unilever that the best of talent is normally given the best of chances to work across functions. A factory manager goes into the nitty-gritty of union negotiations and so on. It is also a fact that most factories of this huge multinational are staffed with contract labor to even 90%, with all the accompanying complications. This will enable the individual to gather vital experience in industrial relations. They cost reduction responsibilities of such professionals is huge and would be a work in progress at any point in time.

This is exactly what should happen. The best are given the chances to work. Mr. Mariwala even mentions the case of one Mr. Pankaj, who was given the benefit of handling a very diverse range of roles, even when it was so clear that one day, Mr. Pankaj only wanted to set up a consultancy of his own. Sixteen years of professional HR experience, with the inevitable interface with every other function and senior management exposure were all given to Mr. Pankaj. One can imagine the kind of professional that Mr. Mariwala was and is, to this day. For example, he would spend time, discussing the individual development plan with each manager, who was involved in Job Rotation. Amazing, is that not? Well, Marico Industries is one major hop for most young MBAs at some point or the other. In the very same article, Mr. Mariwala also stresses that he would use trained external Executive Coaches to coach the concerned professionals. This is literally one practice that is not so common in most Indian organizations. There is now some sort of improvement, though.

Encourage people to self assess their competencies and understand strengths

There have been innumerable instances of organizations like Marico Industries where competency building has been an established practice. The other well-known names are the Aditya Birla Group, Axis Bank, HDFC, ICICI, NTPC, OIL, BPCL and many such. Of course, the number might just be around two hundred. It is indeed a sad state of affairs and does point out to the big famine in progressive HR practices. Yes, the professional outfits such as the National HRD Network have done and are still doing commendable work in spreading professional messages across the spectrum. However, wherever there has been hand-holding, wherever there have been openness and transparency, the professional HR practices have become far better organized and have moved on, from strength to strength. Self-assessment through 360 degrees appraisal and feedback based on it are the best exercises to get this done so professionally. There can be no doubt that the best of managers are those who get to work in the world-class 200 organizations, mentioned above. Yes, almost 90% are Indian organizations. They are headed by visionaries like Anand Mahindra of Mahindra&Mahindra. It does require professional HR practices to make self-assessment and understanding of strengths of Managers work.

Encourage employees to have a positive mentality

This will automatically happen when the organization goes on to prepare the HR baseline. A climate of openness and transparency happens over a period of time and when this is perfected, the positive mentality among all employees will happen quite naturally. It will be a happy by-product of the process of establishing a good HR base.

Job Rotation has to be part of a holistic package

Imagine job rotation when there is maximum politics in the organization. If managers are a part and parcel of this process, Job Rotation will hardly succeed. It might even be counterproductive. The trick is to take on the mantle of establishing the HR baseline as the fine art of getting the vital infrastructure in place, for Job Rotation to work. We are talking about the HR infrastructure. Once this is in place and everyone is geared up, success will automatically happen in every HR initiative. Take, for example, the enthusiasm seen in each of the team members of the Chennai Super Kings Team. The best team of IPL has in it the fire in the belly. They have the killer instinct. In the battlefield of Corporate Organizations, this is the sort of fire in the belly that will only work. Period.

Conclusion

Job Rotation can be a great success when the HR base is very good. Mr. Mariwala has provided us the vital clues in this direction. It is for us to get going in the right direction.


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