Star Cement, major player in the cement manufacturing business in the North East, has adopted simple yet efficient measures, to ensure that its employees feel safe and remain healthy during these troubling times. For one, it has promised to bear all expenses incurred by the employees should they contract the virus or infection. This offer is in addition to the COVID insurance cover provided by the Company for the year.
The Company’s employee strength is around 1860, which includes 100 employees each at its corporate headquarters, in Kolkata, and the regional office in Guwahati.
Sudipto Mandal, vice president and CHRO, Star Cement, says, “We believe this is the time to focus on the basics and fundamentals.”
Right on track, the full salaries for all employees, including contract workers, have been paid regularly and without fail. Immediately after the sudden lockdown was imposed, the top management at Star Cement decided to pay employees their salaries for the month of March a little earlier than the usual disbursement date. As a result, employees received their pay almost immediately after the nationwide lockdown was imposed. There have been no pay cuts till date.
“A culture of safety and well-being has already been embedded in the DNA of the organisation. Providing psychological safety to employees in terms of jobs and salary, ensuring role clarity while adopting work from home, and continuous and compassionate communication on an ongoing basis have all helped to establish trust and confidence amongst the employees in these times of adversity.”
The Company has one plant in Guwahati and a township at Lumshnong town, in Meghalaya. During the lockdown, Star Cement distributed masks and other protective equipment among the citizens of the township and arranged for all necessary items, such as groceries, to be stocked within the premises. In the meantime, all its corporate office employees working at the headquarters in Kolkata and at the Guwahati branch had shifted to working from home.
Being a manufacturing company, the shift to WFH mode was a new phenomenon. To ensure that regular work continued for the staff at home, the management shifted all necessary items, such as desktops and laptops to the homes of employees and took care of their data and connection expenses as well. A template was designed for all employees working from home, which outlined their deliverables and how to achieve them. In addition, managers were tasked with providing clarity to their team members on what work needed to be done each day. They were also required to be in regular touch with the employees, to be able to address any kind of anxiety or other issues that they may face while working from home.
Around April 20, the Company decided to get the workforce back to the plants and resume work. However, prior to that, it created stringent SOPs for all the employees. Officers workers resumed work from office only after the Unlock.
It was during that time that the employees were offered the COVID insurance cover for the year, along with a promise from the Company that all expenses would be taken care of if any employee happened to catch the infection. This policy is valid for all employees on the rolls of the Company.
Two task forces — one at the plant level and another at the corporate level — were created to ensure that all safety guidelines, procedures and norms were strictly followed at all places and at all times.
The plant inside the township at Lumshnong, according to local norms, is allowed to operate, being within the premises. On the other hand, the Guwahati-based plant has been allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity after the relaxation of the most recent lockdown.
As for the corporate offices, Mandal says the new workspaces are bigger than before and have enough capacity to accommodate all employees and ensure social distancing at the same time.
Preventive measures within the office include sanitisation before going in, toothpicks in the lifts to facilitate touchless entry and exit and constant sanitisation of all high-touch areas within the office, such as doorknobs and handles among others. For the canteen, a no-food-from-outside policy is in place, and employees are encouraged to bring their own food. All cutlery has been replaced with disposable plates, cups and other items.
In Mandal’s words, “These are simple ways to reassure the employees and automatically earn their trust.”
He further adds, “A culture of safety and well-being has already been embedded in the DNA of the organisation. Providing psychological safety to employees in terms of jobs and salary, ensuring role clarity while adopting work from home, and continuous and compassionate communication on an ongoing basis have all helped to establish trust and confidence amongst the employees in these times of adversity.”
Star Cement’s approach to taking care of its workforce has been simple and effective. By ensuring that the primary requirements of individuals are met, in terms of job security and financial security, it has assured employees of their psychological and physiological safety during this pandemic.