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  • Editor: Dr David HallBSc(Hons),MA,FHEA,FCMI,FInstLM

    EditorialTeam: Stephen PilbeamMSc,FHEA,CharteredFCIPD

    Gary ReesMBA,FHEA,CharteredFCIPD


    HR Bulletin: Research and Practice




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    The HR Bulletin: an introduction from the new editor

    I am delighted to take on the role of editor for the HR Bulletin and, I hope I can continue the excellent work of Stephen Pilbeam and his editorial team. Fortunately, Stephen will be close at hand to provide guidance as he continues to be involved in the Bulletin as part of the editorial team. We are joined on the team by Gary Rees, Principal Lecturer and Program Director for Postgraduate HRM courses at the University of Portsmouth Business School. I am sure you will join me in thanking Marjorie Corbridge and Mark Power for their contribution as part of the editorial team over the past four years.

    HR Bulletin content of this edition This issue of the HR Bulletin has a truly international flavour to it, with a contribution from Dr Peter Cartwright on how Dow Corning, a US chemicals manufacturer and market leader, manages Health, Safety and the Environment on a global scale through effective people management. Vijay Pereira provides a fascinating insight into the Worlds largest employer, Indian Railways, and some of the HR challenges in managing 1.7 million employees. Cara Tweedey-Smith and Dr Liza Howe-Walsh explore the role of the HR function in international mobility in their article. The findings from the RES Forum highlight some of the challenges facing HR practitioners who are responsible for international moves. Dr Cheryl Brook investigates the development of action learning and based on research carried out on how it has been used within the NHS, considers the future direction for action learning. Sally Rumbles and Gary Rees describe the phenomenon of Organisational Burn-out as organisations face of continuous change and the role of HR in this based on research they carried out. Thank you to all the contributors of articles for this issue.

    Why not become a contributor share your story and see your name in print If you would like to write an 1800 word article on a current HR initiative in your organisation then contact me by e-mail and I will send the HR Bulletin Contributor Guidelines. If you have something of interest, why not share it? We are happy to work on a draft with you and you do not have to deliver the finished product, only a draft which we will edit with you and put it into the house style of the Bulletin. HR Bulletin sponsorship The inside front and back covers are available to promote your organisation and its professional or educational services at 250 and 125, plus VAT, respectively. Please contact me if you are interested.

    Dr David Hall

    Email: Tel: 023 92 844791

    March 2011

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    Insights into managing people in the worlds largest commercial employer

    the Indian Railways.

    Vijay Pereira

    Introduction and objective

    The 21st century has witnessed India undergo sweeping economic changes. Riding on a host of factors, India today stands at the cusp of becoming one of the top four economies in the world (Capelli et al., 2010; Kumar et al., 2009). A growth rate of over 8%, prior to the slowdown, was despite the inadequacies of infrastructure. Yet, one organisation, which has shouldered the infrastructural burden of the transportation sector in Indias growth story, is the 158 year old Indian Railways (IR). IRs profits $5 billion over the last four years - are a far cry from its loss making days, which tempted the government of India to consider privatisation in 2001. The transformational turnaround would not have been possible but for IRs employees who are its true assets. The objective, therefore, was to understand the people side of IR - the worlds largest commercial employer1. The study, while looking to increase awareness of contemporary HR challenges in India (Budhwar and Bhatnagar, 2009), was attempting:

    To study the HR practices in the Indian Railways. To compare and contrast HR practices geographically within Indian Railways. To investigate changes if any in its HR practices over a period of time and the role of HR in

    its turnaround strategies

    Case study methodology

    Indian Railways comprise 16 zones, which include 67 divisions spread across the nation. Additionally, they have several public sector undertakings (PSUs) and production units (PUs) under their control. Since approaching all zones for the purpose of the study would be an administrative inconvenience, it was decided to approach those zones that would represent different geographical areas of India. Accordingly, the following six zones were approached.

    Zone Headquarter Western Railways Mumbai Central Railways Mumbai North-Eastern Railways Gorakhpur North-Central Railways Allahabad South-Western Railways Bangalore South-Central Railways Secunderabad

    The above six zones include 30 of the 67 divisions under IR. It was also decided to include two Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) - Konkan Railway Corporation Limited (KRCL) and Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC) - both headquartered in Mumbai- to provide a holistic understanding of IRs HR practices. It was also decided that the best way to achieve the aims of the study would be to focus on five key HR areas namely:

    Recruitment and Selection

    Training and Development

    Compensation and Benefits

    Employment Relations


    62 interviews were conducted, covering the five areas mentioned above. These included interviews with Chief Personnel Officers (CPOs) in the respective zonal headquarters (including the two PSUs), Divisional Personnel Officers (DPOs) in the respective divisions and trade union officials.

    1 Indian Railways (IR) has 1.7 million employees (of which 300,000 are casual workers) and 1 million


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    This data formed the qualitative part of the case study. Questionnaires, both in English and in Hindi, were also administered to the 4086 personnel in these various zones, divisions and PSUs. A response rate of 37.08% was achieved. This formed the quantitative part of the case study.

    Key findings of the research study:

    IR is a self sufficient and self reliant organisation IR is often referred to as a country within a country as they have their own schools, hospitals, housing and cooperative banks at the disposal of their employees. They also have their own federal railway budget and maintain their own security force known as the Railway Protection Force (RPF).

    IR provides an attractive employment proposition IRs employees and their dependents avail of free passes and concessional tickets to travel on all routes. Other motivational factors that excite people about a career in IR are that it gives its employees the opportunity to maintain a work-life balance and a definite career progression. Even the low remuneration vis--vis the private sector is offset via job security at all levels.

    Recruitment and selection is highly formalised IR classifies its employees in four groups. The gazetted staff, comprising classes 1 and 2, are officers selected through a national selection board which is common for all civil services, namely the Union Public Service Commission. Class 3 officers are clerical and supervisory staff, while Class 4 constitute technical and other maintenance staff - both these groups are referred to as non-gazetted staff. Selection to Class 3 is also on a national basis, through the Railway Recruitment Board (RRB), which is run by existing railway officials. Class 4 employees are recruited through Railway Selection Boards (RSBs) with assistance of the local employment exchanges. Non-gazetted staff can advance to become Class 2, and in some cases to Class 1, gazetted officers. In the case of the two PSUs, staff were recruited from the existing zones and divisions on deputation and had fixed tenures. At all zones and divisions, workforce planning was seen to be important. Interestingly MRVC recruited ex-railway staff that had relevant experience.

    Training and development is available at all levels Training is paramount to IR as it concerns transportation and hence safety. All new recruits undergo training when they join. Gazetted officers train at seven centralised training institutes (CTIs). The training needs of non-gazetted staff are being taken care of by 200 training centres located across IR. These training institutes and centres specialise in various functional training based on the different functions or departments. Railway personnel also receive periodic training in the form of refresher courses or when new methods or technology are introduced. Gazetted officers additionally, undergo management training courses at premier institutes, both in India and abroad.

    Pay and conditions - a complex structure The structure of emoluments and conditions of service of railway employees are reviewed periodically