Talent Issues for Cement Industry
Talent Issues for Cement Industry

Talent Issues for Cement Industry

Early in my career, in the 80s, one of my respected seniors used to remind me every now and then, that fundamentally, there were only two types of jobs in the world, pana-walla type (people wielding the spanner) and peti-walla type (people walking around with brief-cases). This expression typically illustrated the dichotomy between the so-called blue-collar v/s white collar jobs, albeit in desi lingo. I might have found it a bit funny and quirky in those days, while sympathising with pana-wallas all the time because I would identify with them, but as the years passed, the continuous and almost inevitable ascendancy of briefcase flaunting people was becoming more and more obvious.

If we were to take up the specific example of the cement industry, jobs in large cement plants were coveted in the 60s and 70s, and admittedly, talented professionals from elite colleges who joined reputed cement companies, made lifelong careers out of their cement plant jobs out in the wilderness. City- or town-based sales and marketing functions in cement companies were low-key in those days, given that sale of cement as a commodity was controlled by the government. And, therefore, cement jobs were predominantly manufacturing oriented. I know of a lot of people, and good people at that, who started their career with a cement company and retired from the same cement company! Obviously, organisations invested heavily into the training and development of such people resources and also were amply paid back in return.

Things have changed since then, in more ways than one. First and foremost, the country has witnessed an explosion of the services sector, in particular, the IT sector, but also financial services, healthcare, hospitality, media, entertainment, etc., and the growth of services sector has far outpaced that of manufacturing. Career opportunities in these sectors not only offer better remunerations, but also better quality of life potential, as compared to the traditional smokestack industries.

Secondly, with the gradual decontrol of cement, the marketing, distribution, selling and branding functions in the cement industry came to the forefront, and some of the cement action shifted to towns and cities, from the "back of beyond" plant locations. And all this while, a cultural shift was simultaneously taking place in our minds about how loyal should we be to our employers, and what would define a long enough stint in a job. From the erstwhile standard of lifetime employment, to 10/15 year stints in a job, to 3/4 years - our acceptability of mobility in career has really evolved, and even this had to do with the explosion of diverse opportunities available in the marketplace. The so called "War for Talent" had begun!

It will be fair to say, that amidst all these changes, some gradual and some disruptive, the core sector industries in general, and cement industry in particular, had been caught napping, without a counter-strategy to retain talent, or to attract talent. The industry needs to develop a well thought- through approach to managing its human resources.

At present, the "pana"(spanner) is losing to the "peti" (briefcase), and it is an absolute imperative for the manufacturing jobs to fight back with improved offerings.

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Indian Cement Review