Nov 30, 2021 20 min read
HR Practices for New Age Workforce at Hardship Locations
Special Note: This article discusses tryst of a pseudo employee, named Rohit, with HR initiatives introduced by a Corporation.
“It’s not about how many years of experience you have. It’s about the quality of your years of experience”. These words are true for almost all the organizations these days. It is not only important to engage the best young manpower in our companies but it is also our prime duty to ensure that they get the right platform to grow and succeed in actualizing their latent potential.
In this context, adaptability plays a significant role in our professional lives wherein the employees get to adjust with the internal environment of the organization as well as fine-tune themselves with respect to the unfamiliar geographical territories and politico-social influences. In a developing country like ours, even access to many of the locations, continues to be a big challenge. These locations are generally termed as hardship or difficult of fur flung locations. Indeed, these locations whether so designated or not, pose a significant challenge in case of young employees posted there.
An important trait attached to employees of Oil & Gas PSUs like IndianOil is the vigor and resilience they demonstrate in adapting to any dynamic situation under any set of circumstances. Cross-country pipelines of organizations like IndianOil, GAIL etc are laid through the length and breadth of the country. Some of the critical areas they pass through are very remote, inhospitable and extremely difficult to access. It is among ground realities like these that the employees are operating these pipelines in a very smooth and hazardless manner.
One such location is Vadinar which is a small coastal town located in Devbhoomi Dwarka district in the state of Gujarat. A designated Hardship location, Vadinar is critical to IndianOil as it receives crude oil from Gulf countries. Salaya-Mathura Pipeline (SMPL), the 2660 km long crude oil pipeline originates from Salaya near Vadinar in Jamnagar district on the coast of Gujarat to bring crude oil to IndianOil's Refineries at Koyali in Gujarat, Mathura in Uttar Pradesh and Panipat in Haryana. Two Single Point Mooring (SPM) systems are operated at Vadinar to unload the crude oil received from tankers including Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) with offshore pipelines of 25 km. At Vadinar, IndianOil has a vast crude oil tank farm having 18 tanks with a total capacity of 1.2 MMT.
This article revolves around a bright, young engineer posted at Vadinar and his reactions on what is going around him in the organization.
Rohit just had a quick dinner in the officer’s mess at Vadinar. He had been posted here for nearly two years now. Like every meal just before the start of a shift, it was a speedy affair because he has to report at the Western Region Pipelines, Vadinar Pump Station for the night shift.
Having an IIT background, Rohit had always been good at studies and at the same time, was extremely active in sports and other events. While on his way to the station, the amazing breeze from sea made him remember his hometown Chennai. Rohit had joined the organization at Vadinar as Operations & Maintenance Engineer immediately after completing his B. Tech. (Mechanical) from IIT Chennai.
When he received his posting orders for Vadinar, he had to refer to the Google Maps to see as to where this place exactly lies since he had absolutely no prior knowledge of this place.
It had been two eventful years in Rohit's life since joining the organization. He has acquired a variety of professional and social skills during his assignment at Vadinar. His first off-shore experience boarding an International Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) and closely monitoring the operations still gave him goose bumps and filled his mind with zeal and excitement. The challenging task of dealing with local villagers for laying of the pipeline and involvement in outreach & CSR initiatives helped him develop a capability to develop a constructive argument where you can disagree without being disagreeable. Another interest group - a number of Contractors and their Contract Labour deployed at Vadinar for executing a variety of jobs – posed challenges of its own. All in all, Rohit had become reasonably mature for his age during this small stint.
This was yet another busy night for Rohit. As usual, his duty was replete with instances of frequent phone calls from Control Rooms, coordination with Marine and Maintenance teams and of course continuous monitoring of operations.
Two hours into the shift, he took a small tea break. He began to ponder over the progression of his life and career. The main question before him was “I am doing good at my job, but am I doing justice to my career and my life?” The more he thought, the more he was confused and got frustrated and puzzled too.
Although he liked the challenging work environment here, yet sometimes he felt de-motivated thinking that he was merely another cog in the wheel and how he could carve an identity of his own among numerous engineers in the organization, or indeed his peers at IIT Chennai who had branched off to different organizations in pursuit of their careers. He wondered, “How exactly can I get the opportunity to stand out among my peers and show the world my skills and competence?”
He aspired to achieve great heights in his career and at the same time, like almost most of youngsters, he also has great craving for all the conceivable luxuries of life starting from possessing a classy SUV to having an apartment of his own.
It was 6 AM in the morning when Rohit completed his shift, left his seat, gave necessary briefing to his fellow engineer Arun about the present status of shift operations and bid good bye. The good bye was significant as Rohit was proceeding to Chennai for an IIT Old Boy’s meet where he would get to meet his batch-mates and other friends. There was an uncanny pleasantness in the weather. The breeze was extremely nippy. He loved the ambience and freshness all around. Instead of boarding the shift vehicle, he chose to walk down the nearby residential colony so as to enjoy the pleasantness of the morning. He stopped by to admire the beautiful Sunrise. The backdrop of sea made the visual all the more special and exceptional. He looked at the flight of the birds and how they beautifully manage to navigate their way forward.
Looking the sun in the eye, the question propped into his mind whether he has taken the right decision to join such a behemoth organization or he would have been better off elsewhere. “Have I taken the right way forward or not?”
Like Rohit, there are numerous young individuals working with organizations, who may be having this thought during these crucial initial years of their job. It becomes a prime responsibility of the organization to ensure a threshold level of satisfaction, if not delight, of each of its stakeholder.
The dynamics become all the more complex especially when we look at the prime characteristics attached with being a Maharatna PSU. Being a PSU, there are certain characteristics deeply embedded in the culture of the organization. To some, it means discipline and regulation which is seen as a desirable trait, but to others, mostly newcomers, they appear to be vice-like control mechanisms which are designed to curb the creativity and uniqueness of an individual new to the system. It becomes a matter of worry for many of our young executives as they see there is a wide gap between them and the decision makers of the organization. Accordingly, mechanisms are created whereby this gap is reduced and young executives are encouraged to feel empowered in the existing system.
HR Initiatives towards Employee Engagement and Motivation
Standing by the shore, Rohit was reflecting upon some of the HR initiatives taken in the Corporation. He thought it was a good opportunity to be in readiness with his assessment of these initiatives which he could share with his batch-mates in Chennai. He went pondering over these one by one.
As the country’s flagship energy major, IndianOil foster a culture of participation and innovation for employee growth and contribution by way of investing on people. IndianOil directly invests crores of rupees every year so as to improve skills, or add to the existing level of knowledge so that employee is better equipped to do his present job, or to prepare him for a higher position with bigger responsibilities. Corporation also provides them opportunities to avail of membership of professional bodies and acquiring additional qualifications.
It was a wonderful opportunity for Rohit to interact with the best minds of the Industry when he was nominated and got the opportunity to attend the International conference of Oil and Gas companies in Delhi.
Corporation’s Recognition & Rewards scheme ensures that the innovative and creative work of employees gets highlighted at the proper platform. A wonderful initiative where all the employees are encouraged to give suggestions with respect to changes that they want to see in the existing system. Employees are encouraged to give their view point for any department and various times, it has been seen that positive changes have come into the system. Across the organization, it attained a special status because of its simplicity and ease of implementation at other locations.
It was a truly inspiring moment for Rohit to receive National R&R Award last year along with his team members from the Divisional Director for the innovative techniques that they have brought in.
Organizations across the world have undergone a paradigm shift in the last year due to ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The qualities that a leader should exemplify is Integrity, Empathy and Communication, with empathy being the top most value. In the same context HR leaders and top management of IndianOil has also taken various key initiatives for taking care of its employees as well as their family members focusing on key aspect of employee wellbeing both physical as well as mentally and offered any help possible. The HR leaders had built interpersonal relationships with the employees through their human touch and effective personal communication to gain their trust.
It was such a proud moment for Rohit when he directly interacted with the top leadership of the organization during these difficult times on various occasions. The organization not only took care of his wellbeing but also looked after his family - it has created an even bigger feeling of community-building, that one feeling that IndianOil is known for. By now sun was getting brighter and so was the smile on Rohit’s face!
Epilogue: Hardship Location to Opportunity Location
At IndianOil, numerous initiatives are underway to ensure that youngsters continuously feel motivated towards their assignments. They are continuously contributing towards the vision of the organization. The initiatives infused with the core values of Care, Innovation, Passion and Trust, which embody the collective conscience of the company have converted the hardship locations as ‘opportunity locations’.
It was a gala event during Alumni meet at IIT Chennai where Rohit was having a great time with his friends. While he was chatting with his IIT batch-mates, a senior professor met them and asked all of them about their professions. His friends mentioned about the organizations they were working for and what these companies did.
When the same question was asked to Rohit, he said, “Sir, I work with IndianOil.” Neither he felt the need to tell others what his organization did, nor did anybody seek such details. The ubiquitous IndianOil was known to all. The glint in the eyes of his professor was like an Outstanding rating for Rohit. The professor remarked, “Wonderful! What a great organization it is!”. Rohit just smiled and somewhere back in his mind, he knew that he had an ace up his sleeve. His dilemma was now a thing of the past and he was unequivocally confident that he is on the RIGHT WAY FORWARD.
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