Synopsis: Communication For Productivity
Letters written to some 7500 Workers / Managers / Union Leaders, following a period of strike / Go slow / Murders (1979 - 1987), at Mumbai factory of Larsen & Toubro Ltd. This direct / open / honest communication led to a remarkable atmosphere of trust between Workers and Management, which, in turn, increased productivity at 3% per year (ave).
16 Mar 1983
THE NECTAR-AND THE POISON!
Sub: EMPLOYEE SURVEY
Almost a year ago, we had hired M/s. Marketing Business Associates to conduct an employee survey at Powai and City Offices. With the cooperation of the Union, some 2500 Unionised employees were interviewed by 10/12 investigators, over a period of 6 months.
I was happy that, once the objectives of the survey were explained, not only you and your colleagues joined in framing the questionnaire, you, in turn, explained the objectives to the employees and urged them to cooperate with the investigators by being open and providing frank and honest answers.
This cooperation on the part of the Union and the employees, in a totally voluntary manner, is what makes the survey unique.
It is quite possible that other companies might have conducted surveys for an equally large number of employees.
What makes our survey unique is,
· the coverage of subjects
· the depth of probing
· the treatment (conjoint analysis)
To the best of my knowledge, no Indian company has ever attempted ('dared' would be more appropriate!) to ask its unionised employees:-
'Now that we are about to begin negotiations on the Charter of Demands, what kind of a compensation-package would you like to receive?'
But we did.
And if the Management dared to think about this, you were even more courageous in agreeing to the proposal!
I am sure, both of us did not quite know what to expect when the findings were submitted. It was like agreeing to participate in the 'Dadhimanthan' - the churning of the Ocean; it could throw-up anything disregarding your 'likes' and 'dislikes'.
Except this 'Dadhimanthan' differed from the ancient, in one vital respect:
The Management and the Union did not represent the 'Devas' and the 'Asuras' - and should the survey throw-up any poison, we do not have a third-party. Lord Shiva to hold it in his throat!
You have the MBA report with you for sometime now - and I am sure you are as much surprised with some of the findings as I am. There are also a few which are more or less as expected.
If you or your colleagues need any assistance in interpreting the findings, please let me know. I can arrange for the MBA team to make a presentation.
But do not expect MBA to answer a question like
"Well, now you have found out what employees want but what are they going to get?"
The survey-findings can only help the Union and the Management to find an answer to this question during the negotiations on the Charter of Demands.
And I have repeatedly stressed that any attempt to find an answer, must have, for its basis, the acceptance of the principle of
If we wish to conclude the negotiations in any reasonable length of time, it is essential that we have an acceptance of this principle at the earliest.
Once you indicate your willingness to negotiate on the basis of this principle, we can jointly start work on evolving a suitable formula and mechanism.
I earnestly request you to give this your serious thought. As far as I am concerned, I do not see any other way employees anywhere in the world can expect to improve their standard-of-living (and not mere neutralisation of cost of living) without first and continuously raising the productivity of their organisation.