In a candid conversation with All Things Talent, Yashwant Chauhan, Senior Manager, Group HR: Policy and Employee Relations, GAIL (India) Limited talks about how the company, providing essential service, swiftly moved into hybrid work arrangement, adopted digital technology, and how gig workers are expected to play a huge role in company’s future
Q. How did GAIL face the pandemic and what are their plans for the future work model?
A. Much before India went on a lockdown in March 2020, Gas Authority Of India Limited (GAIL) had started preparing, almost by the 1st week of March, to tackle the Covid-19 situation. Very early on, the organisation started preparing people, sending them to different interventions so that they understand the pandemic which was imminent. Since going fully remote was not an option, it was decided that the hybrid is the best way forward. The company moved into a hybrid arrangement. Working in the office gradually kept on increasing from two to three days and eventually three to four days.
We were operating on a hybrid model or with almost skeletal manpower. Around 15 to 20% of the workforce was initially deployed during the lockdown days. Later on, we moved on to almost 30% then to 40%, then 50%, and finally 80% by the end of August this year. Also, special attention was paid to the vulnerable section of the employees within the organization, for example, women, lactating mothers, expecting mothers, people with comorbidities, and people who were infected with the Covid-19 virus.
“Special attention was paid to the vulnerable section of the employees within the organization, for example, women, lactating mothers, expecting mothers, people with comorbidities, and people who were infected with the Covid-19 virus. GAIL had the bigger responsibility of not just ensuring that the businesses thrive, but also ensuring that the economy runs right because energy is a very integral part of any country’s economy.”
Q. What is the manpower strength of GAIL in general and the HR department in particular?
A. The active manpower range GAIL has is over 4730. The manpower comprises the board level, executive hierarchy, and trainee level. Out of the total 4700+ people, it has almost 82% of people who are professionally qualified. And then there are the workmen who comprise the rest of the 18%. Apart from regular manpower, we also have close to 15,000 contract workers. Finally, there are trainees, including apprentices, who are employed and given on-the-job training to be industry-ready.
GAIL ensures that it remains lean and thin in order to remain competitive in the market and deliver on the projects with much more efficiency and effectiveness. The HR team for that matter is not very big. Given the size of our organisation and the multiple joint ventures which we handle, the HR team is made up of 200+ people.
Q. The world went through a dramatic digital transformation in these two years of the pandemic. How has GAIL navigated the same change?
A. As digital technology assumed great significance, GAIL introduced `Digital Yatra’. Till now, several initiatives under digital yatra have been undertaken. Recently, the company had the 47th digital discourse and GAIL has been doing this for the past one and half years. GAIL invites various professionals from the technology industry who are either involved in producing these technologies or conceptualising them to talk about how technology can be applied in the organisation not just across functions but even business operations. For example, GAIL has 13,700 km of pipeline network, and to ensure smooth business continuity and delivery of natural gas, the technology of e-invoicing was utilised during the Covid times.
“As digital technology assumed great significance, GAIL introduced Digital Yatra. GAIL has 13,700 km of pipeline network, and to ensure smooth business continuity and delivery of natural gas, the technology of e-invoicing was utilised during the Covid times.”
To bring about digital transformation in the organisation, it is also crucial to have a digital vision. Taking cognisance of this, GAIL embarked on a digital journey way before Covid-19 happened in 2016. Covid-19 acted as a catalyst and enabled the organisation to look at multiple options of generating business by using new platforms for ensuring business delivery on the front line.
Q. What have been your biggest learnings during these days?
A. GAIL believes that it’s an employer’s duty to genuinely care for its people. Even before COVID-19 happened, people were kept at the center of the policy formulation. We have a number of social welfare initiatives or social security initiatives e.g. in case a mishap happens or something happens to an employee on duty, an amount of Rs 64 lakh is contributed by our employees on a voluntary basis to the bereaved family. We also have a policy called financial assistance scheme where the company is taking care of its employees by ensuring a financial amount of almost Rs 50 lakh – 70 lakh depending on the level of employees and ensuring that their families are taken care of. We also introduced 30 days of casual leave for Covid infected employees. Similarly, if an employee’s family member gets Covid, even then additional 30 days of leave are granted.
Furthermore, GAIL also sponsors the medical needs of deceased employees’ family members and the education of their children right from school till college, as well as their accommodation. We not only cover those people who die due to Covid but everybody who has been working with the organisation since its inception.
The company has a childcare leave policy wherein female employees can take two years of fully paid leave for two children up to the age of 18 years. In the case of a specially-abled child, there’s no age limit. The policy has been a part of the organization since 2010.
Q. How has the business focus shifted for GAIL?
A. At GAIL, sustainability and sustainable competitive edge become part of the core business strategy. We are currently looking at exploring the avenues of converting waste to wealth by utilising technology. We already have a pilot project ready in Ranchi right now to convert waste to wealth by generating compressed biogas. So, to understand any skill requirement, we first need to understand the overall business perspective – how the entire transition is happening at the sectoral level or the economic level. Even the investors are now looking for those organisations that are going to have sustainability as part of their overall business strategy.
As far as talent acquisition for the same is concerned, GAIL has multiple channels of hiring like entrance exams, campus hiring, lateral hiring, etc. With the rise of the gig economy, we would be hiring people in those businesses that are going to operate in multiple cities. Gig workers will be playing a huge role in the company’s future going forward. The company intends to employ workers through the gig model and the policies are being devised for the same
-As Told To Bruhadeeswaran R and Moumita Bhattacharjee