Human Resource Management

05 Jul

NO: 1


Standard Decoy in Witchell, has been making traditional wooden hunting decoys

since 1927. Cyrus Witchell began the business by carving a couple of ducks a day by hand. Demand and competition have long since driven the company to use modern machinery and assembly-line techniques, and they now turn out two hundred ducks daily even on the slowest days.

When Steward Alcorn, Cyrus Witchell’s grandson, took over the business, he knew things needed to change. Output had not fallen, and the company was surviving financially despite competition from what he called “plastic ducks” from the Far East. But Alcorn noticed that the productivity per worker had stayed the same for ten years, even during the period since the company had bought the latest equipment. While touring the plant, he noticed many employees yawning, and he found himself doing the same. No one quit. No one complained, They all gave him a smile when he walked by. But no one seemed excited with the work.

Alcorn decided to undertake a survey. He appointed a respected worker at each step in the production process to ask each of his or her co-workers questions and to fill in response sheets. One conclusion emerged from the survey: The “fine-tuners”, as Alcorn thought of them, were the most content ones. That is, those who used fine tools and brushes to get the ducks’ heads, expressions, and feathers just right seemed to enjoy their work most. In contrast, the people who planed and cut the wood into blocks, rough – cut the body shapes, spray – painted the body colour, and applied the varnish were all pretty bored.

Alcorn had heard about a technique called “job rotation” and decided to try it out. He gave all workers a taste of the “fun” jobs. He asked for volunteers to exchange jobs for one morning a week. The fine-tuners were skeptical, and the other workers were only slightly more enthusiastic. The whole programme turned out to be a disaster. Even with guidance, the planers and the spray – painters could not master the higher – precision techniques, and the fine-tuners seemed to give them only limited assistance. After one trial week, Alcorn gave up.

During a lunch break that Friday, Alcorn was wandering outside around the plant bemoaning his failure. Then he noticed one of the rough-cutters, Al Price, whittling at something with an ordinary pocket knife. It turned out to be a block of wood that he had cut incorrectly and normally would have thrown in the scrap heap. But as Price said, “It kind of looked like a duck, in an odd way,” and he had started whittling on it in spare moments.

Alcorn liked what he saw and asked Price if he would be willing to sell him the duck when he got through with it. Price looked surprised, but he agreed. The following week, Alcorn notice that Price had finished the whittling and was getting one of the fine-turners to help him paint the duck in a way that made it look even odder. When it was finished, Alcorn offered it to one of his regular customers, who took a look at it and said, “You’ve got this hand made?” and asked if he could order a gross.

By the middle of the next month, Alcorn’s “Odd Ducks” programme was in full swing. Workers were still responsible for producing the usual number of conventional ducks, but they were allowed to use company tools and materials any time they wanted to work on their own projects. There were no quotes or expectations for the Odd Ducks. Some employees worked on for weeks. Others collaborated and produced one or two a day.

Some wouldn’t sell their ducks but crafted them to practice their skills and brought them home to display on their mantels. Those who would sell them kept half the selling price. That price usually did not amount to more than their regular hourly wage, but no one seemed to care about the precise amount of income.

The response to the Odd Duck programme was so great that Alcorn put up a bulletin board he called “Odd Letters, as a place to post appreciative notes from customers. Most of the customers, it seemed, had no interest in hunting but just liked to have the ducks around. And when Alcorn learned that some of his customers were in turn selling the ducks as “Cyrus Witchell’s Olde Time Odd Ducks,” he did not complain.


1. How did the “Odd Docks” programme enrich the jobs at Standard Decoy?

2. What motivated workers to participate in marking the Odd Ducks?


NO: 2


The Scientific Equipment Manufacturing Company is a small manufacturing unit located in Peenya, Bangalore. The company is non-unionised and manufactures analytical equipment for hospital laboratories.

Approximately one year ago, the manager of the Component Assembly Department established three production goals for the department. The goals were: (i) reduce raw material storage costs by 10 per cent; (ii) reduce variable labour costs (i.e. overtime) by 12 per cent; and (iii) decrease the number of quality rejects by 15 per cent. The manager told the six unit supervisors that the degree to which each supervisor or exceeded these goals would be one of the major inputs for their merit – pay increases for the year. In previous years, merit increases were based on seniority and an informal evaluation by the department manager.

The six supervisors worked on separate but similar production lines. A profile of each supervisor is as follows:

Amitha aged 28, single; three years with the company after receiving her degree from the Bangalore University. Has a job offer from another company for a similar job that provides a substantial pay increase over her present salary. The scientific Equipment does not want to lose Amitha because her overall performance has been excellent.

Shindhe Aged 32, married with three children; three years with the company, high school education. One of the most stable and steady supervisors. However, he supervise a group of workers who are known to be unfriendly and uncooperative with him and other employees.

Anandan Aged 34, married with four children; high school equivalent learning; one year with the company. Came to Karnataka six years ago from Tamil Nadu. A steady worker, well-liked by his co-workers, but has difficulty in learning the local language. He has, therefore, problems of communication within his group and with others.

Hemalatha Aged 29, divorcee with three children, two years with the company; high school education. Since her divorce one year ago, her performance has begun to improve. Prior to that, her performance was very erratic; with frequent absences. She is the sole support for her three children.

Eshwar Murthy Aged 27, single; two years with the company, college graduate. One of the best liked employees at Scientific Equipment. However, he had shown a lack of initiative and ambition on the job. Appears to be preoccupied with his social life, particularly around his recently purchased house.

Cheriyan Aged 24, married with no children; one year with the company after graduating from a local college. First full-time job since graduation from college. He is liked by all employees and has exhibited a high level of enthusiasm for his work.

Exhibit 11.3 presents summary of the performance of the six supervisors’ during the past year. The data include the current annual salary, the performance level on the three goals, and an overall evaluation by the department manager.

The new budget for the upcoming year has allocated a total of Rs. 1,40,000 for supervisory salaries in the Component Assembly Department, Rs. 40,000, increase from last year. The management has indicated that salary increases should range from five per cent to 12 per cent of the supervisors’ current salaries and should be tied, as closely as possible, to their performance.

In making the merit-pay increase decisions, the following points should be considered.

  1. The decisions will likely set a precedent for further salary and merit increases.
  2. Salary increases should not be excessive, but should be representative of the supervisor’s performance during the past year. It is hoped that the supervisors develop a clear perception that performance will lead to monetary rewards and that this will serve to motivate them to even better performance.
  3. The decisions should be concerned with equity, that is, they ought to be consistent and comparable with each other.
  4. The company does not want to lose these experienced supervisors to other firms. The management of this company not only wants the supervisors to be satisfied with their salary increases, but also to further develop the feeling the Scientific Equipment Manufacturing is a good company for advancement, growth and career development.
Exhibit 11.3
Supervisor Current Salary (Rs.) Storage Costs (10%) Goal Labour Costs (12%) Attainment Quality Rejects (15%) Effort Manager’s Cooperativeness Evaluation Ability to work Independently Knowledge of job
Cherian 23,000 12% 12% 17% Excellent Excellent Good Good
Amitha 24,000 12% 13% 16% Excellent Excellent Excellent Excellent
Shindhe 24,000 6% 2% 3% Good Excellent Good Good
Anandan 22,000 4% 4% 12% Excellent Good Fair Fair
Hemalatha 23,000 11% 10% 10% Fair Fair Fair Good
Eshwar Murthy 24,000 8% 10% 3% Fair Fair Fair Fair

Instructions for the exercise

  1. Each person in the class should individually determine the Rupee amount and percentage increase in salary for each of the six supervisors, Individual decisions should be justified by a rationale or decision rule.
  2. After each individual has reached a decision, the group will convene and make the same decision as noted in (1) above.
  3. After each group has reached a decision, a spokesperson for each group will present the following information to the full class:
  4. The group’s decision concerning merit pay increase for each supervisor (rupee and percentage)
  5. The high, low and average individual decisions in the group.
  6. A rationale for the group’s decision.


NO. 3


Ashwin Kumar, who has recently joined System, as a training manager, was feeling uneasy at the end of his first with Pesu Shroff, the managing director of the company.

Systems was a ten-year old unit employing 300 people. It had a turnover of Rs. 25 crore the previous year. The company traded in several products – both domestic and imported. Nearly 80 percent of its turnover came from selling electronic component products which were assembled locally from imports of semi knocked – down kits. The landed cost of its imports was about Rs. 10 crore last year. The products had an assured demand in the country, with smuggled goods from Taiwan and Korea providing whatever little competition there was. The company had been operating in a seller’s market for years and, as a result, most of its activities were production oriented rather than market oriented.

Early during the current financial year, the Government of India had announced, as a part of its economic liberalization strategy, several policy measures which made imports costlier. All imports had to be financed by exports – there were restrictions on margin money and interest rates for working capital had shot up at one stroke. With little export income in its account, Systems had no choice but to discontinue in importing SKD kits.

The company management had three option before it. First, to build up its domestic trading activity rapidly; second, to assemble at least a few of the component products from raw materials sourced locally and third, pursue after sales service aggressively both to generate revenue in the short run and to establish an enduring client-base for the company’s products in the long run.

Invariably, this meant that the survival of Systems depended on how quickly it could train its people – beginning from a handful of sales engineers – to become market – centred and customer – friendly in their approach to business.

“The days of easy revenue money are over for us,” Shroff had told Kumar, who had a formal training in HRD and had been an officer in the training cell of a multinational firm before signing up with Systems. “We have to compete now in the marketplace and sell hard to be able to secure orders. Times are changing. We have to change too. And that is where you come in. It will be your responsibility, as the training manager, to ensure that people here acquire marketing skills,” he said, adding, as a clincher, “Frankly, have always felt that a salesman is born, not trained. I have had no belief in non-technical training. In fact, have found no need so far for a training manager at Systems. But I am prepared to do anything to get more sales.”

That punching was what had made Kumar uneasy. But he decided to let it pass. Over the next few days, Kumar got busy evolving specific training packages for workers, shop –floor supervisors, administrative staff and senior functional executives and an intensive module for field salesman. Deciding to start with the salesman first, he met the sales manager to ask him to depute 10 salesmen for a training session the next day. The sales manager was skeptical and only half – heartedly consented to release people for the two – day training.

The session was a disaster. No one showed any interested in the proceedings. In fact, one of the salesmen came up to him during the coffee break and said, “You see, all this is a waste of time. Take the client for a drink and you get the sale. It is as simple as that. It has worked in the past and it will work in the future.” Kumar laughed if off but the message had been delivered.

The attendance for the second day session was thin. This lack of interest was again obvious at the session for workers next day. The works manager who had originally agreed to the idea was vague about the absence of so many workers at the training session. “They are sick, I believe,” he said, making no attempts to hide his feeling that to him to whole thing was a big joke.

Kumar had encountered such resistance in the company where he had worked earlier. He also knew that his training capsule was very effective. He was aware that training needs were universal for all companies and so were the training techniques which were also easily transferable from one set of working conditions to another and from one industry to another. He also knew that he had the aptitude and interest to become a professional trainer.

But Kumar began to realize that he had made a few tactical errors in his particular case. He should have perhaps asked Shroff to personally inaugurate the training session to give the whole exercise an air of formality and, more importantly, of authority. He should have perhaps started with the module for senior executives first.

“I must find a way out of this and bring everyone round. There is simply no way I am going to accept failure. Whatever damage there has been must be undone. I must do something,” he said to himself. What should he do?


NO: 4


It was past 4 pm and Purushottam Kshirsagar was still at his shop floor office. The small but elegant office was a perk he was entitled to after he had been nominated to the board of Horizon Industries (P) Ltd., as workman – director six months ago. His shift generally ended at 3 pm and he would be home by late evening. But that day, he still had long hours ahead of him.

Kshirsagar had been with Horizon for over twenty years. Starting off as a substitute mill-hand in the paint shop at one of the company’s manufacturing facilities; he had been made permanent on the job five years later. He had to formal education. He felt this was a handicap, but he made up for it with a willingness to learn and a certain enthusiasm on the job. He was soon marked by the works manager as someone to watch out for. Simultaneously, Kshirsagar also came to the attention of the president of the Horizon Employees’ Union who drafted him into union activities.

Even while he got promoted twice during the period to become the head colour mixer last year, Kshirsagar had gradually moved up the union hierarchy and had been thrice elected secretary of the union.

Labour-management relations at Horizon were not always cordial. This was largely because the company had not been recording a consistently good performance. There were frequent cuts in production every year because of go-slows and strikes by workmen – most, of them related to wager hikes and bonus payments.

With a view to ensuring a better understanding on the part of labour, the problems of company management, the Horizon Board, led by chairman and managing director Avinash Chaturvedi, began to toy with the idea of taking on a workman on the board. What started off as a hesitant move snowballed, after a series of brainstorming sessions with executives and meetings with the union leaders, into a situation in which Kshirsagar found himself catapulted to the Horizon board as workman-director.

It was an untested ground for the company. But the novelty of it all excited both the management and the labour force. The board members – all functional heads went out of their way to make Kshirsagar comfortable and the latter also responded quite well. He got used to the ambience of the boardroom and the sense of power it conveyed. Significantly, he was soon at home with the perspectives of top management and began to see each issue from both sides.

It was smooth going until the union the union presented a week before the monthly board meeting, its charter of demands, one of which was a 30 per cent across-the-board hike in wages. The matter was taken up at the board meeting as part of a special agenda.

“Look at what your people are asking for,” said Chaturvedi, addressing Kshirsagar with a sarcasm that no one in the board missed. “You know the precarious finances of the company. How could you be a party to a demand that simply can’t be met? You better explain to them how ridiculous the demands are,” he said.

“I don’t think they can all be dismissed as ridiculous,” said Kshirsagar. “And the board can surely consider the alternatives. We owe at least that much to the union.” But Chaturvedi adjourned the meeting in a huff, mentioning, once again to Kshirsagar that he should “advise the union properly.”

When Kshirsagar told the executive committee members of the union that the board was simply not prepared to even consider the demands, he immediately sensed the hostility in the room. “You are a sell out,” one of them said. “Who do you really represent – us or them?” asked another.

“Here comes the crunch,” thought Kshirsagar. And however hard he tried to explain, he felt he was talking to a wall.

A victim of divided loyalties, he himself was unable to understand whose side he was on. Perhaps the best course would be resigned from the board. Perhaps he should resign both from the board and the union. Or may be resign from Horizon itself and seek a job elsewhere. But, he felt, sitting in his office a little later, “none of it can solve the problem.”


1. What should he do?


NO: 5


It was a bitterly cold night, and even at the far end of the bus the east wind that raved along the street cut like a knife. The bus stopped, and two women and a man got in together and filled the vacant places. The younger woman was dressed in sealskin, and carried one of those little Pekinese dogs that women in sealskin like to carry in their laps. The conductor came and took the fare. Then his eye rested with cold malice on the beady-eyed toy dog. I saw trouble brewing. This was the opportunity for which he had been waiting, and he intended to make the most of it. I had marked him as the type of what Mr. Wells has called the Resentful Employee, the man with a general, vague grievance against everything, and in particular, a grievance against passengers who came and sat in his bus while he shivered at the door.

“You must take that dog out”, he said with sour venom.

“I shall certainly do nothing of the kind. You can take my name and address,” said the women, who had evidently expected the challenge and knew the reply.

“You must take the dog out-that is my order.”

“I won’t go on the top in such weather. It would kill me,” said the woman.

“Certainly not,” said her lady companion. “You have got a cough as it is.”

“It is nonsense”, said her male companion.

The conductor pulled the bell and the bus stopped.

“This bus does not go no until that dog is brought out.” And he stepped on the pavement and waited. It was his moment of triumph. He had the law on his side and a bus-full of angry people under his thumb. His embittered soul was having a real holiday.

The storm inside rose high. “Shameful”, Why is not he in the army?” “Call the police,” “Let us all report him,” “Let us make him give us our fares back,” “Yes, that is it, let us make him give us our fares back.” Everybody was on the side of the lady and the dog.

That little animal sat blinking at the dim lights in happy unconsciousness of the rumpus of which he was the cause.

The conductor came to the door. “What is your number?” said one taking out a pocket-book, with a gesture of terrible things, “There is my number,” said the conductor imperturbably. “Give us our fares back – you have engaged to carry us – you can not leave us here all right.” No fares back,” said the conductor.

Two or three of the passengers got out and disappeared into the night. The conductor took another turn on the pavement, then went and had a talk with the driver. Another bus, the last on the road, sailed by, indifferent to the shouts of the passengers to stop. “They stick by each other, the villains,” was the comment.

Some one pulled the bell violently. That brought the driver round to the door. “Who’s conductor of this bus?” He said, and paused for a reply. None coming, he returned to his seat and resumed beating his arms across his chest. There was no hope in that quarter. A policeman strolled up and looked in at the door. An avalanche of indignant protests and appeals burst on him. “Well, he has got his rules you know, he said generally. “Give your name and address,” “That is what he is being offered and he won’t take it.” “Oh”, said the policemen, and he went away and took his stand a few yards down the street, where he was joined by two more constables.

And still the little dog blinked at the lights, and the conductor walked to and from on the pavement like a captain on the quarter – deck in the hour of victory. A young woman, whose vice had raised high above the gale inside, descended on him with an air of threatening and slaughter. He was immovable as cold as the night and hard as the pavement. She passed on in a fury of importance to the three policemen who stood like a group of statuary up the steel watching the drama. Then she came back, imperviously beckoned her “Young man” who had sat a silent witness of her rage, and vanished. Others followed. The bus was emptying. Even the dashing young fellow who had demanded the number, and who had declared he would see this thing through if he sat there all night, had taken an opportunity to slip away.

Meanwhile the Pekinese party was passing through every stage of resistance to abject surrender. “I will go on the top,” said the sealskin lady at last. “You must not.” “I will”. “You will have pneumonia”. “Let me take it” (This from the man.) Certainly not – she would die with her dog”. When she had disappeared up the stairs the conductor came back, pulled the bell, and the bus went on. He stood sourly triumphant while his conduct was savagely discussed in his face by the remnant of the party.

Then the engine struck work, and the conductor went to the help of the driver. It was a long job, and presently the lady with the dog stole down the stairs and re-entered the bus. When the engine was put right the conductor came back and pulled the bell. Then his eye fell on the dog and his hand went to the bell-rope again. The driver looked around, the conductor pointed to the dog, the bus stopped, and the struggle recommenced with all the original features, the conductor walking the pavement, the driver smacking his arms on the box, the little dog blinking at the lights, the sealskin lady declaring that she would not go on the top and finally going.


1. Which theory of motivation do use to motivate the bus crew? Why?

2. If you were the conductor what would you do?

3. If you were the lady with the pet dog, what would you do?

4. Role play (a) conversation between the conductor and the lady with sealskin, (b) between policemen and the fellow passengers, and (c) between the conductor and the driver.


NO: 6


Chemtech was a chemical firm employing nearly 1,500 people. Since the company was operating in a sheltered economic environment, the organizational focus for many years was on technology and manufacturing. There was little accent on marketing. But a liberal import regime heralded by the Government of India galvanized the management into sprucing up its sales and marketing team. A number of people were being hired from outside the company in a long overdue exercise of giving a customer – oriented focus to the company’s operations. A few employees were also being promoted from within. In a professional career spanning over two decades in personnel function in different companies, Aparojit Das, Vice president (HRD), was closely involved with the hiring interviews. And he had always chosen well even while most of his contemporaries had been expressing disillusionment with the interview as a medium of getting the right candidate for the right job.

The secret of his success lay in a technique he had worked to perfection. As a candidate walked in for an interview, Das would quickly size him up for a first impression. Subsequently, the whole tenor of his questioning over the period of the interview would be aimed at destroying that impression. If the first impression was favorable and if it persisted till the end of and interview or if an unfavourable impression turned otherwise by the end, Das had an intuitive feeling that he had a good candidate on his hands. Of course, the assessment already made by the concerned divisional head regarding specific job requirements would be a major benchmark in the final selection of a candidate.

Das knew, however, that if he had chosen people well, it was not because of any particular skill but because he was simply lucky.

That morning, as he looked at the folder lying in his desk, Das wondered whether he was finally running out of luck. The folder contained dossiers of two candidates who have been interviewed at various levels over the previous month. As a part of the final assessment, Das himself had met them individually an hour ago. Both were internal candidates, presently working as sales executives and seeking promotion to the post of the sales manager to be based at the head office of the company. Both were highly recommended by the company’s vice –president (sales) for the post.

The first dossier was of Prem Sagar who had been with Chemtech for five years. Sagar had worked his way up and understood the company’s product end their markets. He was very keen to take on new responsibilities. The second was of Arvind Vardhan who had joined the company only the previous year. He seemed confident, sensitive to others points of view, a self starter, and a good team player Das’s maiden impression was that Vardhan was a natural salesperson and it persisted, however hard he tried to disprove himself. He was clearly in favour of Vardhan.

It was when he was about to terminate the interview that Vardhan said “Mr.Das, there is something that I think I must mention in all fairness. But before I do so, I need to have your word that what I tell you will remain between the two of us.” You have my word,” said Das. “I have been declared HIV positive,” said Vardhan, “the tests came last week.

If Das panicked, he did not show it. “I don’t see how it can affect your chances of promotion,” he said, in a voice that, much to his own surprise, lacked conviction. “I think we should talk about this separately,” he continued, trying hard to retain composure. “I will get back to you. In the meantime, take care.”

Later, alone in his cabin, Das found the burden of having to make a decision lying heavily upon him. The company’s standing orders stated that no physical disability or even a chronic health problem should come in the way of a promotion as long as it does not interfere with a performance directly. But there were two major issues, as Das saw them. First, although the HIV infected people were known to work productively for years, the risk of developing active AIDS at any point of time was real. Recovery from even a temporary about of illness such as pneumonia for example, would be longer, reducing the pace of work and effecting performance on the job. This was an angle which had to be borne in the mind while giving a promotion. Second, could the confidentiality of the information given by Vardhan be retained at all for long? It was important that two other persons be informed quickly – the company’s managing director because this was the first ever case of its kind in the history of the company, and the vice-president (sales) because he was Vardhan’s functional head.

Das further thought that once it was leaked, everyone in the company would know quickly enough. Although there was no danger of contagion from casual contact, people would surely be prejudiced against Vardhan which in turn would affect his ability to deal with them. Das wondered whether in such a scenario Vardhan could be entrusted with a responsibility which in its very nature involved greater interaction with people and higher pressure of work. On the other hand, Vardhan deserved the promotion on sheer merit. To deny what was due to him would be unfair.


1. What should Das do?

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