Good health, financially stable and growing, socially well-appreciated, emotionally strong, result-oriented (high efficiency), better relations with colleagues and enough time for family as well as self… do your workers have all these? If not, it is high time for top management to change its thinking, working and consider its Social Return on Investment (SROI).
Though industry leaders (top companies) have taken up many initiatives in this regard, but when it comes to the entire Indian apparel manufacturing industry, the scale of these initiatives is very less. Not only this, the motive behind such initiatives to achieve ‘happy and healthy workers’ should not be set by the Western world. Indian textile industry should think and work beyond compliance and CSR. This constituted most of the crux of the brainstorming workshop on ‘Promoting Employee Well-being and Impacting Business at Workplace’, organised by The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and Swasti Health Catalyst.
Poonam Nanda joined Shahi Exports 17 years ago. She was intermediate at that time and started working as a helper. Two years ago, she completed her LLB (Bachelor of Legislative Law) and now she is working in the HR department of the company. “Apart from personal growth, Shahi Exports made my life easy by various training programmes. I was unable to give enough time to my husband; so our company organised training for couple too. I wish to work my whole life for the same company,” she shared proudly amidst a full house of industry stakeholders during this workshop.
Kalyani Pandey started working with Shahi when her first baby was just of three months. Her journey is also remarkable as she got promoted from time to time and is now handling store and feeding material for a team of 720 people. “I have also started my own finishing work as side business and I call it Chhoti (small) Shahi; now I am giving employment to 28 people. I never played in school, but while working, I won at district level sports,” she informed happily.
These are just two examples shared by workers themselves, but it is not only that workers remain in benefit or gain by training. Vijendra Gupta, GM-HR & Compliance, Richa Global, Gurgaon informed, “After proper training, attrition rate remained 7 per cent while earlier it was around 20 per cent. Now fewer workers go to the medical room, while earlier, this number was quite high. There are many such good examples which helped our factories.” Similarly, Bharathy Yadav, AGM-Compliance, Orient Craft (Knits) also added, “Our attrition rate reduced drastically. Compared to 18 per cent earlier, it is now 7 per cent.” Both companies have various worker-focused initiatives like HERproject and many more.
So, the leaders of the industry have also reaped good results out of the training modules. But what about SMEs or the unorganised sector where such initiatives are very much required but most of them have not done much in this direction? This point was highlighted by Apparel Resources in the workshop. Majority of stakeholders agreed upon this. Rajesh Bheda, Principal and CEO, Rajesh Bheda Consulting (RBC), Gurgaon shared his view that in such a scenario, focus is needed at the entry level as it will be comparatively easy to implement training. Besides, maximum sharing of information about positive outcomes of various initiatives is another reason. Shankar AG, Associate Director, Swasti Health Catalyst, Bangalore informed that they are also focusing on cluster levels and taking collective efforts along with various industry trade bodies.
Through all this discussion, what came out to be more motivational was the positive impact of such initiatives which is also beyond workers and factories. A large extent of society, which has nothing to do with the textile or apparel industry, is also getting advantage due to the well-being efforts of the industry. Some of the workers of apparel and home furnishing manufacturing units are being invited to the schools of their sons and daughters to guide other parents about proper nutrition and healthy food. Thanks to the training programmes of factories with a focus on holistic approach about health.
Before joining the apparel industry, one of the female workers had a dream to become a singer but could not do anything. After attending a training session on leadership, she got motivated and learned music. Now apart from working in the factory, she teaches music to the nearby youth and sings in various cultural events.
Therefore, the obvious question is no matter whether big or small units, are you doing enough in this direction? Afterall, SROI initiatives are meant for the betterment of factories for sure!
“Along with continuous efforts for high productivity, use of robotic, AI… challenges regarding workforce are also increasing. For solution, industry has to go beyond the systems. It needs to be taken care of right from the education level, so that young professionals can deliver in this direction too… If the industry will not take up such efforts seriously, factories will be closed down,” – Shishir Jaipuria, CMD, Ginni Filaments, Noida and VP, All India Organisation of Employers (AIOE)
“Through various programmes, we are working for the industry and getting good results too. Definitely scale for such efforts needs to be increased, and this is only possible when industry will come forward,” – Shaonli Chakraborty, Associate Director, Swasti Health Catalyst
Training increased acceptance of women in supervisory roles. Earlier even some of the female operators were not happy to work under women supervisors.
To get better results, factories’management has to develop a habit to listen to workers seriously.