Employee Relations

Aug 30, 2021

Talent woes down south-A wake up call


I remember the days when I joined my employer more than 20 years back and was posted to a very remote location in Rajasthan on my first posting. A few years later, when I became an integral part of the HR Department, my manager happened to remark that South Indians, especially Keralites, are very adjusting in nature and will not mind a posting anywhere. I couldn’t help but consider myself as a prime example of this phenomenon.

With postings across different geographical regions and rotation in different sub-functions of HR, I have gathered a few insights which are not so widely reflected in contemporary HR/ER discussions. My exchange of knowledge and ideas with my counterparts in my organization as well as other PSUs has reinforced these insights and accentuated a particular one, amongst many - a large number of employees in Southern region are from outside the Southern part of India, and their numbers are ever increasing with the current pattern of intake into PSUs.

In earlier times, it was quite common to find Keralites and Tamilians, Telugus and Kannadigas posted at locations across the Northern, Eastern and Western parts of the country. While that trend is on the wane, nowadays, it is not strange to find many people belonging to other regions of India posted in the remotest locations of Southern Region. A ballpark estimate of executives posted in Southern Region in the last 10 years or so shows that almost 30% of them belong to outside the region.

What has brought about this change, and what are the effects of these changes on our organization and society will well be worth examining in detail. Though this is a subject for much deeper analysis, I would like to put forth certain observations regarding this issue.

Some of the possible reasons for less candidates from Southern Region opting for employment in Govt. organizations / PSUs are -

  • Prosperous South – Since the advent of liberalization and globalization in the 1990s, the Southern States have seen a steady growth in their prosperity in comparison to their counterparts in some other parts of the country.
  • Employment Opportunities – This prosperity has led to massive employment generation and opportunities for the youth in the Southern part of the country. Especially, with the advent of IT sector, many youngsters have found opportunities which compare favourably to the best or better than those which PSUs have to offer.
  • Increased Urbanization – From personal experience, I feel that any small town in the is much more urbanized as compared to a city/town of comparable size in most other parts of the country, and thus offers more material comforts, which the new generation craves for.
  • Spoilt for Choice – With increasing prosperity of the Indian middle class, most of the candidates graduating out of colleges and other institutes do not feel a compelling need to accept whatever they are offered. The above factors have also contributed to the youth from this part of the country getting used to a lifestyle which they are loath to forego for the travails of an All-India service with a Govt organization / PSU which also entails frequent transfers.

 

As has been already mentioned, as compared to earlier times when there were hardly any personnel from other parts of the country posted in Southern Region, today almost 30% of the newly joined workforce in Southern Region are from other parts of the country, and if the present trend continues,  will keep increasing over the years. What are the effects and consequences of the reduced participation of workforce from one region of the country as compared to other regions?

  • Culture Shock – The language and culture of all the states in Southern Region is very different from other parts of the country. When an employee joins a PSU and is posted to a location in these parts, language, food habits and culture are the major obstacles that are faced which s/he slowly adjusts to. But after a few years, when it is time to settle down in life, it is difficult to expect the spouses and families to adjust to an alien culture.
  • Altered Demographics – Gone are the days of families consisting of single income earners. Nowadays, both the spouses have equal professional commitments which need to be catered to. And employment opportunities, especially for females, are restricted to the few big cities and towns of the country. An organization with a presence in every nook and corner of the country will not find it easy to accommodate requests of employees to be posted to only a few select cities and towns.
  • Inevitable Brain Drain – Then after a few years of service, comes the inevitable flood of requests for transfer due to the various personal reasons faced by these employees. If the organization has a pan-Indian presence, it will be easy to find vacancies in other parts of the country to place these employees. But for the units and locations in South, it is never easy to let go of talent which has been nurtured over the past so many years as it leads to a vacuum which will be difficult to fill up.
  • Difficulty in finding replacements -  Most employees who do not belong to Southern Region and who have joined their organizations in other parts of the country are very reluctant for a posting in Southern Region. These employees would have settled down in life with their families and they find it very difficult to think of adjusting to the language and culture of the Southern part of India.
  • Increasing discontent – All of this plays a big role in employee satisfaction. If employees are unable to find a proper balance between their personal and professional lives, it could lead to a festering discontent, which will have the potential to ultimately lead to reduced on-the -job performance. It also gives opportunity for other stakeholder groups with their own vested interests to take forward their agendas, which may not be in line with the vision of the organization.
  • Talent Vacuum – All of the also results in creation of a talent vacuum across the units and locations in Southern Region which have to be inevitably filled up with fresh recruits and will ultimately result in the same cycle repeating itself. If not handled judiciously, the effect that this talent vacuum creates will have the potential to affect business performance in a big way.

The issue that we now face is quite complex and has no ready-made solutions. This situation demands from all of us that we stretch every sinew of our creative thinking to analyze and arrive at a solution which maintains the delicate balance between employee needs and the organizational performance.

     

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