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Best Practices of Employee Engagement at Larsen and Toubro

By Garima Saxena, 3EA
Best Practices of Employee Engagement at Larsen and Toubro

Larsen & Toubro Limited, also known as L&T, is an Indian multinational conglomerate headquartered in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. The company has business interests in engineering, construction, manufacturing goods, information technology, and financial services, and also has an office in the Middle East and other parts of Asia. The Company addresses critical needs in key sectors - hydrocarbon, infrastructure, power, process industries and defence. L&T has always been a socially and environmentally conscious company. "Employee Relations" is not an unfamiliar concept within the company. In the year 2012, it was ranked 4th by Newsweek in the global list of green companies in the industrial sector.

The campus of the main office in Mumbai is a green campus. They are working towards improving their other campuses and making the Powai campus a role model campus for the other campuses and seeing how their businesses impact the environment in the least possible way. When the new Companies Act came into effect in April 2014, the 75-year-old firm saw an opportunity to take a re-look at its social sector spending, which was so far centred mostly around its facilities. L&T has 12 independent companies and over 130 subsidiaries. Every independent company has its own independent employee relations department. All these departments work in conjunction with head of the employee relations team, which is located in the Powai campus in Mumbai.

L&T has a lot of employee engagement and volunteering activities that go on. There are communities and schools run by the company. L&T, through its employee relations activities, is associated with running 360 primary schools. Employees volunteer to teach subjects such as English, Mathematics etc. to the children studying in these schools. Some of the activities undertaken are ongoing activities while some are one-time activities.

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Employee volunteers teaching students

The one-time activities are not continuous projects. They are short term projects that last for a short period of time. Under the one time activities, they have a number of initiatives such as the Joy of Giving program, NGO mela etc. The employees are actively involved in these activities. Employees also go for day activities, wherein they take children from Tata Memorial Hospital twice every year for a field visit, much like an outbound program. They also conduct visits to Nehru Planetarium or Science Centre for the community children. Thus the employee volunteers actively help the employee relations department to conduct these activities.

The ongoing activities include teaching the children at the municipal schools adopted by the company. There is another interesting project called "Dubbing of Science Films", pioneered by Mr. Arvind Gupta, an engineer from IIT. He gave up his corporate career and now makes short Science films for children. He uses waste articles to conduct experiments and makes Science films which can be accessed and understood by children across the country.

He approached L&T with the idea of dubbing these films in regional languages so that children across the country can use these films to learn about how Science can be practically applied. He has made approximately 400 such short films and approached L&T asking if its employee volunteers could help dub these films in various regional languages. Over the last year they have dubbed more than 250 films and these films have been uploaded on Youtube. The volunteers also get credit at the end of the video which acts as an incentive and also enables them to connect with the videos on a personal level.

There is no incentive given to the volunteers for the activities and projects they volunteer for. Volunteering for these activities is not a part of the KRAs and is purely voluntary. It is not mandatory for the employees to engage in any of the employee relations activities. In addition to this, the employees are not allowed to volunteer during office hours. They can volunteer only after office hours or on weekends.

The employee relations department at L&T holds meetings with its various stakeholders such as the employees, vendors, suppliers, NGOs etc. from time to time, to keep them updated about the various initiatives being taken up. The frequency of communication depends upon the phase that the employee relations department is in, with regards to a particular initiative taken up by it.

For example, in the initial years the project is in the identification phase. So the number of meetings would be more since the team would need to understand what exactly the nature of the work is. Once the nature of the work has been ascertained, the team would go on field visits, take feedback from the various stakeholders, decide on what the deliverables would be in mutual consensus, finalize the annual budget for the project, decide on how the reporting format for the NGO would be, what would be the monitoring evaluation process etc.

In the mid phase, the frequency of communication generally decreases. The NGOs associated with the project may meet up once to discuss the mid-line report and any other issues that may need to be addressed. At the end of the year the frequency of meetings would again increase, since that would be the time when the team would have to submit the in-line reports and discuss what the impact of the project has been, as well as analyse what the project was aimed at and how far have they managed to reach with respect to that.

Apart from the meetings that are held, there are mailers that are sent out at regular intervals to keep the employees and other stakeholders informed about the various employee relations activities that are being undertaken. They also have an intranet portal where the employee relations activities are reported. They are currently in the process of revamping and upgrading the portal in order to make it more user friendly for the employees. They also have an employee relations magazine called "Footprints" which is circulated in the Mumbai campus to keep employees informed about the various employee relations activities.

L&T Construction, as part of its skills building strategy, has established the Construction Skills Training Institute (CSTI). CSTI was founded with a motive to regulate and promote Construction Vocational Training in India in a professional manner, in order to develop a Modular Training System for Construction related Trades, which will supply the Industry with significant numbers of workers, trained to limited but recognized skill levels, in the shortest possible time. CSTIs are located in 8 states across India, namely, Odisha, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Gujarat. Through CSTI, the company relates its business core processes with its employee relations activities.

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Career Progress Path set by L&T ECC for the trainees at CSTI

At these training institutes, a three-month vocational training is conducted for unskilled workmen. This training is provided to them free of cost. Under this, the workmen are trained in areas where the company can recruit them in the future. They provide these unskilled men with the necessary skills and offer them job opportunities at the completion of their training. It is not mandatory for the workmen to join the company post the training from CSTI. Hence they get the chance to develop their skill and the opportunity to join the organization if they wish to.

The data taken for this article has been referred from L&T Annual Report 2014-15, L&T Annual Report 2013-14 and L&T Sustainability Report 2009.

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Article by: Garima Saxena, 3EA