James Balu, CHRO of The Southern Gas Limited, Goa, feels that the government must ensure that ease of doing business improves and only then can industry create jobs for our youth
Q. Tell us something about yourself?
After my education in Mysore, Karnataka, I moved to Goa for employment. Since then I have worked across organizations and locations, primarily managing industrial relations, unions, collective bargaining, disciplinary proceedings, court matters, domestic inquiries, factory administration, OD, leadership development. My work location is though based in Goa but my portfolio spans across several states in India. Over the last three decades, I have seen Personnel transform into HR and I have tried to keep pace by reinventing myself. Overall, I enjoy my role as an HR professional as each day is new in terms of challenges.
Q. How should HR professionals prepare themselves to remain relevant?
HR professionals must focus on keeping abreast with changes in technology. Given the global compliance norms, and issues of non-compliance taking epic proportions, it’s imperative HR remains in the thick of things. Reskilling of employees is the need of the hour. Management changes, leadership development, workforce training and development, adapting to innovation and to change the strategy as per the need of the organization are some of the vital characteristics that HR pros need to develop to remain relevant and build credibility with the business.
Q. What is your view on labor reforms that our country needs? What changes do you expect from the government in this space?
Though the labor legislations protect the rights of the workmen, most of the Acts such as Factories Act, Industrial Disputes Act, Workmen Compensation Act are outdated and need amendments to be more relevant in the present situation. Government should take proper initiatives in making sure that the changes in labor legislations make life of employers easy while balancing rights of workmen. It should ensure that ease of doing business improves and only then can industry create jobs for our youth. For approval of various licenses, there should be a single window system in order to fasten the approval process. Allowing female workers to work in second and third shift in manufacturing industries should be facilitated.
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Q. In the context of the future of work what changes do you see in IR with diminishing role of unions relative to earlier years?
The phrases labor relations and industrial relations are also in connection with various forms of workers’ participation. As the business scenario is drastically changing due to advanced technology, digitalization in workplace, workers need to upgrade themselves to remain in job. The workers now are busy in on-the-job training and reskilling. Fortunately, their maximum time is devoted to doing constructive things at work. So union interactions are getting reduced due to the time constraints. One way it may help to focus more on productivity rather than union meetings and discussions. Even the management is also giving more importance to the workers to form work committee or internal union rather than external unions. Due to automation, large workforce is gradually facing job reductions in several industries.
Technology is the biggest impact in the arena of the future of work. In some of the automobile manufacturing units the paint-shop work is managed by robotic operations. Therefore, though unions are opposing such technology advancements but in order to remain competitive in the marketplace such steps are necessary. Most of the unions have transformed their approach and become a partner with management in ensuring smooth operations. They have changed their strategy of helping the management in improving the productivity and output so that workers can earn more incentives based on the target achieved.
Q. What is your success mantra?
I manage my time in a very efficient manner. In the life of a professional, time is not only a limited resource but also the most important factor and differentiator. Keeping away from gossip, time-wasters is something I am particular about. I am also very organized in prioritizing my work and that has ensured that my focus is always on urgent and important matters and I am able to find time to look at long term goals.
About James Balu
James Balu is a Goa based HR professional with over three decades of experience in IR, OD, HR and Administration across Engineering, Pharma, Food and Beverages, Chemical and Automobile industries. He is presently the CHRO of The Southern Gas Limited, Goa. Prior to his current role, he has worked in Vijaya Wires & Filaments, Svarna Chemicals, Indo-Swiss Components Ltd, CMM Group of Companies., Goa Bottling Company Ltd. and ACGL.