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"Public Sector Undertakings - A Watermark of Indian Work Culture"

One may not be surprised to see most of the Maharatna and Navratna PSUs regularly featuring amongst India's Great Places to Work and Economic Times Top 100 Indian Companies to work for

By R. Vikraman*

'Temples of Modern India'- what our first Prime Minister of independent India described CPSEs as while inaugurating the Bhakra Nangal Dam, was not just a word of embellishment but upon foreseeing the success saga these CPSEs will script for India in coming times.

The idea of CPSEs was shaped on a vision to see India as a self-reliant, sustainable nation typifying rapid economic as well as social growth. The idea was to ramp up employment generation, expand the infrastructure, accelerate the growth of core sectors of the economy to serve the equipment needs of strategically important sectors and mobilize human resources manifold.

Wherein, PSUs lived up to his expectations and continue to excel even after 70+ yrs of independence, PSUs have also been forerunners in establishing a distinctive Indianized work culture intertwined in the spirit of constitutional values for an individual, society, greater nation cause and government at large.

All recent HR and corporate buzz words which we hear e.g. CSR; Work-Life Balance; 3Ps - People, Planet, Profit; Inclusion/Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity at the workplace - were not new to PSUs even decades ago. In fact, these have been practiced at PSUs in some form or another. E.g. Even before the introduction of Section 135 of the Companies Act; 2013, the practice of CSR was particularly not very new to the PSUs as they have been practicing CSR morally ever since their inception and however now statutorily under the Guidelines on Corporate Governance for Central Public Sector Enterprises, 2010.

The internal HR policies of PSUs have always been employee and community driven rather than profit driven. Take any survey results and you will always find PSUs faring better in terms of statutory compliances, community service or other volunteering initiatives and Employee retention across all strata including women workforce and Persons with Disabilities. PSUs have always been caring not only for their employees but also to the surroundings in which they operate. This is one reason that PSUs have consistently been doing well on Net promoter scores in the engagement surveys.

PSUs believe that the foundation of a distinctive work culture for any organization is set upon its People practices, Process design, Structure, and Systems in place. The PSUs have always been forerunners in driving initiatives by setting up systems, policy and procedures first so that initiative implementability as well as longevity/sustainability can be ensured, something which has been always emulated by private players. This is one reason as to whenever policy design and implementation talk is initiated, one is recommended to take leaf from PSUs because of the design principles which they adopt while crafting policy in line of strategic needs.

Where does one ever find in the private companies that generation after generation aspires to be a part of the same workplace, but in most PSUs, you may find employees whose forefathers too were employees at the same workplace. One such example is our own company - NLCIL as we are running with 3rd generation employment.

Where of late, financial reporting frauds and corruption indexes have been rising in the private sector, public sector has relatively been untouched, thanks to good governance, vigilance and auditing bodies like CVC and CAG.

One may not be surprised to see most of the Maharatna and Navratna PSUs regularly featuring amongst India’s Great Places to Work and Economic Times Top 100 Indian Companies to work for. They have consistently been featured above India Average on various employee engagement dimension factors. Perhaps one reason may be that work in PSUs goes beyond company to the society, community and nation cause and that is quite visible and traceable to common eyes.

I believe the following two dimensions keep PSUs at a strategic advantage in comparison to private sector as far as people practices is concerned.

Inclusivity - Guidelines make it mandatory for PSUs to induct talent from all strata of society viz. PwD, SC/ST, OBCs, Local community.

Transparency - RTI and other guidelines make it mandatory for induction of talent through national level entrance only.

However, with the sea change in Industrial policy of India also reflected in the National Common Minimum Program (NCMP), where central control is slowly being liquidated, PSUs are all geared to be part of this very transformation. Some of the not so cherished work culture attributes like hierarchy, bureaucracy, individualism, giving priority to experience rather than competence have either been shredded or are being shredded away by most of the profitable and progressive organizations.

To end, all that can be said is that PSUs will largely continue to spearhead the Indian Economy and inspire the aspirations of the vibrant workforce of India.


R. Vikraman
Director Human Resource
NLC India Limited

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